Hello and welcome to Brussels!
Despite all the not so nice news you might have heard about Brussels in the past year, Brussels is a cute, dynamic and international city that will conquer your heart once you go beyond the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis.
Brussels is the capital of Belgium, located at the center of the country, a melting pot of cultures and languages! As you know, Brussels is regarded by most as the capital of Europe. Here we have the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission: this is where everything is discussed and decided.
But Brussels is also the city where Flemish and Walloon culture meet and coexist. Throughout your visit I suggest you to notice how all official signs and directions are in 2 languages, Dutch and French, how the metro stations are announced (first French then Dutch, and the next one will be first Dutch then French – equality!) and the way sellers in shops welcome you (ex. “Goede dag Bonjour”).
Brussels in also a very green city, with parks, big and small, at every corner. And it’s the cradle of Art Nouveau, introduced by Victor Horta.
Now, are you ready to explore my beloved city?
Day 1: 09:00 – 14:00
Start your visit of Brussels at the Schuman Roundabout. This is one of the key places for the European Union. On one side you can notice the Berlaymont building you might have seen on tv various times, and right across the street you’ll see the Justus Lipsius, headquarter of the Council. If you visit in the weekend you will find this area very quiet and even a bit boring but if you happen to be there during the week you will find yourself amongst thousands of people rushing to their meeting whether in any of the buildings you see or to one of the many restaurants of the area. Beware that the roundabout is closed to public during summit days, so check it out!
At your back, there’s the Cinquantenaire , a big park with sport grounds and museums, perfect for a picnic if the weather is nice. From Schuman walk down towards the cozy Leopold Park and from there walk uphill towards the European Parliament in the famous Place du Luxembourg. Head there if you are in town on Thursday nights, that’s where Eurocrats meet for a beer and a chat.
From here either take the metro at Maalbeek (sadly famous for being one of the location of the Brussels attacks) towards De Brouckere station or walk along the Royal Park and the Museum quarter. Check the Musical Instruments museum if you have time. Once you reached the center, you can’t miss to take a lift up to the 10th floor of Parking 58 to enjoy the 360 degrees view of the city. On your way you can stop for lunch at Arcadi , this café catering also for vegetarians has mouthwatering cakes you can’t miss.
Day 1: 14:00 – 19:00
With your full belly it’s now time to follow Spotter Ianthe’s steps and to head towards Place St Catherine, and the Vismet. This is where, once upon a time, boats where docking to delivery fish to the city. If you walk a bit further, you will reach the Canal that connects Brussels to Charleroi. Across it you have reached Molenbeek, the infamous neighborhood: you will see its’ miles away from the area you come from, but there’s nothing to worry about, it’s just another one of the multiple faces of this city. Head to the town hall square (Place Communale) or visit the newest addition in the museum scene of Brussels, the MIMA.
Heading back towards the center, walk along Rue Dansaert and Rue de Flanders, as Spotter Nettah says. This is the heart of the Flemish quarter, with many designers shops worth checking out. You can check out the Brussels Beer Project the newest (and already very famous) brewery in town.
If you feel in need for a break, head to L’Imaige Nostre-Dame, for another immersion in the Brussels’ medieval charm.
You are not far from the heart of the city, the Grand Place. It’s a jewel worth seeing while passing through on your way to the most famous boy in town: the Manneken Pis. If you like the concept, you can check out the Jeanneke Pis (the little girl) and the Zinneke (the dog). While you walk around the area called Ilot Sacre, check out some of the art galleries (like Galerie Bortier), records (like the Collector Record Gallery) and bookstores (like Het Ivoren Aapje) These stores are some of the favourite hang out places of many of the Brussels spotters. For the traditional postcard to send to your loved ones, head to Avec Plaizier as Yamina suggests.
Day 1: 19:00 – ???
After such a long day, you surely deserve to check out the first of the many famous Belgian beers. St. Gery area is the best place to start your journey, with dozen of bars (like Cafe Gecko) to your liking. Do as Belgians do: order your beer with a portion of cheese and salami, and enjoy your aperitif mixing the taste of the beer, the cheese and the mustard always served with your platter.
For dinner, La Fin de Siecle or the nearby Greenwhich Taverne are the guarantee for great Belgian food. Try one of the many dishes cooked in beer sauce (Rabbit in Kriek sauce) or the Stoemp, a Belgian variance of mashed potatoes to which they add vegetables and a sausage.
For your evening you can continue your beer drinking in St Gery, or check out the nearby Bonnefooi for some free concerts and dancing. Another excellent choice for your evening is heading to the Rotonde concert hall at Botanique to listen to some upcoming bands for a reasonable price.
Day 2: 09:00 – 14:00
Start your day right in front of Gare du Midi (the South station) where you can shout your love or thoughts to the world at the Pasionaria megaphone! Continue your day in Place Jeu de Balle , where ou should definitely stop at Bernard Gavilain vintage – the “local pharaoh of style” according to Spotter Davy. You are in the Marolles neighborhood and Rue Blaes is your best bet if you are in search of some antique gems. Walking around this area make sure you check out the walls of the houses for comics murals depicting all the most famous Belgians comics characters.
To join the “high town”, take the elevator from Rue Haute up to Place Poelaert . Enjoy the view of the city and of the Justice Palace which has been in restoration ever since I came to Brussels in 2003! You are now in the Louise area, where you can find shops of all the big brands. Moving quickly, unless you are on for shopping, head to St Gilles, the neighborhood of the Art Nouveau. Follow the advices of Spotter Nettah and head to Rue Vanderschrick for an open air gallery of architect Ernest Blerot. I would suggest as well to visit the Horta Museum: this is the masterpiece of the Art Nouveau architecture.
For your lunch you can head to Parvis de St Gilles. It has many bars and restaurants where you can have a big variety of cuisines but our favorite pick is Brasserie Verschueren. Not far there’s one of the many controversial graffiti pieces that have appeared on walls in Brussels in the last months (disclaimer…there are talks about removing them…so hurry up!)
Day 2: 14:00 – 19:00
It’s now time to change commune and head to Ixelles. It’s either a nice stroll across the Chatelain area (with nice shops, restaurants and art nouveau houses) or you can take tram 81, dropping you off after less than 10 minutes in Place Flagey, the very heart of the Ixelles movida. Here you have everything to entertain you for the entire afternoon and evening.
If it’s Sunday, head here before 2pm, to check out the local market and its food stalls where you may bump into me – I’m a regular there!
Spotter Nettah has some good suggestions for the area: Brüsel for a wide choice of comics books and then the Pessoa Memorial for a stumble on yet another culture. Portugueses have colonized this neighborhood and you can find plenty of restaurants and bar. But the most famous attraction is Garcia, where you can savor the delicious Pasteis de Nata.
For a nice walk, go along the Ixelles Ponds and reach La Cambre Abbey before heading back to the square. Remember your biggest deadline of your trip: 7.30pm when the beer temple Malting Pot closes. Here is where you will buy the beers you will be drinking back home while telling your friends all about your amazing time in Brussels.
Day 2: 19:00 – ???
After so much walking, you must be hungry and you are therefore ready for your truly Belgian experience: the frites (French fries). Some of the best fries in town are not far away: either Frit Flagey or Maison Antoine. The choice is yours… Get the fries cone, get the sauce, get some frikandel and sit around people watching.
And if you are into the underground scene, do like Spotter Wouter does and check out Recyclart for exhibitions, concerts and parties. The location is underground in itself, at the Brussels Congress train station like Spotter Davy explains us.
I’ll leave you with a tip for the lovers of arts and entertainment: every weekend there are plenty of event scattered all over the city. Especially when spring comes you will have tough time choosing which one to attend. Check out agenda.be for an overview for what’s going in town.
So, are you joining us in our love for this city?