Brussels is a very lively and crowded city. In my opinion, it is a mixture of cities that I had visited before: London, Paris and Madrid. London because it also has a more modern district with skyscrapers and glazed buildings, the European parliament area. Also, a bohemian atmosphere that you could easily find also in London. Paris for its infinite churches (they are not infinite but it has many) with baroque styles, in fact, they have a Notre Dame cathedral too. And Madrid for how lively the centre is and the many bars and restaurants that are both monumental.
For me it has been a challenge to be in Brussels for a weekend, I knew that the chocolate is famous, but that the streets in the centre smell like chocolate and waffle are another story. It becomes practically irresistible to try a waffle.
We arrived on a Saturday morning and returned on a Sunday night that gives us almost 48h in Brussels. We are walkers and this couple of days is enough to see the city, if you want to deepen and visit the many museums that exist, it is better to extend the stay a bit.
Arriving on Saturday morning we took the train from the airport to the city centre. There we went to the information office to locate ourselves a little in the city. With the places that were recommended to us, we thought that we would have to go from end to end of the city and that we would need the subway to see everything we wanted. Nothing could be further from the truth: we did take a 24-hour metro voucher but we did not take it too much, the distances are very short, less if you want to reach the parliament area and the Parc du Cinquantenaire (about 30 min walk from the centre).
I put by points the most important places we visited so you can organize a city break with the essentials:
In the morning we were walking around the centre, visiting the Grand Place, which is where tourist information is set. It is a square surrounded by very impressive and spectacular Gothic buildings.
After observing it for a while, we walked along Etuve’s street to Manneken Pis, the place is full of waffle and chocolate shops, and of course, they use the tactic of having the extractor in the street so that you get all the aroma and you want to eat one of those amazingly-looking waffles. We had just arrived in the city and we didn’t want to start spending money so much to my regret we went to the famous Manneken Pis.
The Manneken Pis, for those who do not know, is the bronze statue of about 60 cm of a child peeing in a fountain. That’s it, just that. It is overflowing with tourists taking pictures and guides there explaining its legend. Unintentionally, we heard the legend and it says: In the fourteenth century, Brussels had long been besieged by a foreign power, whose attackers had the plan to place explosive charges on the wall, but a child was spying on them and saved their city by urinating on the burning wick.
Apart from the Manneken Pis, there is the Jeanneke and the Zinneke Pis (the girl and the dog that pee). You can look for them in the city, they have nothing in particular that makes them essential to visit.
Notre-Dame du Sablon
As I said before, they have their Notre-Dame. It doesn’t look too much like Paris’s one. Inside I found it brighter, whitish and smaller walls. Still worth your visit.
The current building dates from the thirteenth century. During the Alliance War, the French bombed Brussels in 1694 and the building was damaged. It was subtracted in 1866 and later in 1989. Maybe that’s why it looks so clean and new.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
They are located a few meters from the Grand Place and are about 200 meters long. They are covered by a glass dome that shelters dozens of jewellery, fashion and chocolate shop windows. The latter especially caught my attention, very well decorated with some chocolates that had an incredible amount of ingredients. But that was all I did, look at them.
Jeu de Balle Square
A vintage market is held there. I love going to the market, I go many times and distinguish whether there are things of value or not. In this case, it is curious to see the atmosphere: surrounding music and a bohemian atmosphere, but if you take a look at what is sold you will probably be disappointed.
The Cinquantenaire Park occupies several hectares of the European quarter, where several institutions are located, including the European Parliament. At the bottom of the park, you can see the palace with two semicircular arcades and in the middle an arch of triumph reminiscent of that of Paris.
It is called the Cinquantenaire Park on the occasion of the commemoration of the 50 years of Belgian independence at the time of the World Exhibition of 1880.
The Royal Palace is at the top of the Mount of Art. It is a monumental and huge building. On one side it overlooks the views of the city and on the other side, it overlooks a very lively crowded park where people go to play sports.
To get to know the Brussels European Parliament better you can visit the parlamentarium. It is free, with lockers and audioguide included.
In it, you will find the history of the different countries until the formation of the European Parliament and until today. It is an interesting but dense exhibition.
That said, we need to talk about food. I have practically already said that you should eat a waffle if you visit the capital. But another typical dish is mussels with french fries. Everywhere you will find bars and restaurants that offer them, we went to this one, and for a reasonable price, where we had a great dinner.
Another place where we ate was in an Ethiopian restaurant, you may think but why? Well, because it had been recommended to us and because we wanted to try it. The restaurant is called Kokob, and if you have never been to an Ethiopian restaurant I recommend you try it (this or any other that is closer), you eat healthy and good food with your hand. An experience that has made me think that a trip to Ethiopia would not be bad at all …