Chocolates, waffles, Brussels sprouts, French,pardon, Belgian fries, beer, EU institutions; all these clichés and more make up our image of Brussels. It’s been my wish for a while to visit Brussels (the capital of Europe in a way) and we finally did it in April (2015).
I’ve come to realize that my view of a city and the whole experience of a trip depends little on the city/trip itself but much more on the other subjective circumstances such as myself and my state of mind, my travel companions, the weather and other variables. So, this weekend trip wasn’t supposed to happen actually. Our honeymoon was to be our last trip for a while but things didn’t go according to our plan and we decided to go to Brussels. I’m telling you this because my experience of Brussels was tainted by the fact that my mind just wasn’t into travelling anymore.
My first impression of Brussels wasn’t great simply because we got slightly lost after exiting the train station Brussels Midi and ended up in some slightly dodgy area on our way to the hotel. I reluctantly admit that my husband possesses better orientation skills than I do. Or is it just that I get confused when I’m on a trip with him because I usually pride myself on never getting lost. So, after finally arriving to our hotel and after some nap time for him we ventured out to explore the city. Our hotel was in Saint-Gilles area in the Louise shopping district and near the Palace of Justice, which according to Wikipedia is bigger than St Peter’s Basilica in Rome (Vatican). The building is being renovated but I liked the view of Brussels’ Lower Town from the square in front of it. There is also a lift which connects the Palace of Justice and the square (Upper Town area) with the Lower Town (where the famous Grand Place is ).
I wanted to see the infamous statue of a peeing boy Manneken Pis on the way to the main square the Grand Place. We could have chosen another route to the statue but as it turned out our way lead again through some not so nice streets and then all of a suddenly there he was: a small statue of a naked boy peeing in the fountain surrounded by chocolate&waffle shops and by a throng of tourists.
Of course, my mood lifted up once I’ve eaten a big chocolate&strawberries &caramel sauce waffle but I did feel cheated since there were all these signs advertising the price of waffle at 1 euro when in reality it cost much more since you have to pay for all the toppings. The cheapest option is to get a waffle with sugar at just 1.50 euro.
I didn’t find the main square (Grand Place or Grote Markt in Flemish) that big actually. I guess I expected it to be bigger but it was definitely grand with all those stunning guild houses. It looked even more spectacular in the evening with all the lights on, especially the Gothic Town Hall. After my husband’s obligatory picture in front of the Hard Rock cafe (which is at the main square) we wandered around the side streets and did some souvenir shopping.
If you like beer you’d be in heaven because there is a multitude of beer shops and pubs and brasseries. On the other hand, If you are like me, a self-professed and not ashamed of it chocoholic, then you’d enjoy walking around the square Place du Grand Sablon which we did earlier on our way to the center. All the well-known Belgian chocolateries are here such as Godiva, Leonidas,Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini , Wittamer and many more. Of course, since you’re in Brussels chocolate shops aren’t just here but they’re practically on every corner. And that I enjoyed very much. In the end I bought my Belgian pralines in a cute shop in Brugge (read my other post). We also had our obligatory portion of Belgian fries which are slightly different to so called french fries which are actually Belgian; the fries were thicker and greaser and you can have them at a few places around the town.
On my to-see list was also the main cathedral St Michael & St Gudule’s but unfortunately we only saw it from the outside. I also wandered around the Royal St Hubert Galleries , a luxurious-looking 19th century shopping arcade.
We finished our day at a tavern dating from 1886 and near the Stock Exchange after almost walking around in circles because I couldn’t make up my mind on where I wanted to have a drink. So, we ended up in this beautiful, old-fashioned tavern where I had a glass of wine and he tried Duvel beer. There was one unexpected guest too; a big ginger cat was sprawled on one of the chairs. All in all, a quite nice end of a day that didn’t begin well.