BELGIUM: Brussels in a day

Continuing the series of “why go far when there is so much to see close to home?”, here I am with another post about Belgium. This time featuring my own capital; Brussels.

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Last week a friend from Germany came to visit me, so I was able to become a tourist in my own country while showing her around. And actually I had so much fun and even discovered some things that I hadn’t seen yet.

Since she arrived by plane in Brussels, we decided to start off by visiting the capital. Unfortunately, the weather was the worst. It was sort of misty and drizzled the entire day. Typical Belgian welcome! But because of that, we also hardly have any pictures of that day. So mostly this will be text. I’m sorry.

We started off at the Central Station of Brussels, which on its own is already quite beautiful. Especially the big entrance hall. There is a big memorial for the victims of World War I.

From there we headed through Kunstberg or Mont des Arts, which is a lovely little park with already a great view on the city center of Brussels, to the Royal Palace. You cannot visit this palace this time of the year, but during summer it is opened to the public for free. It is quite wonderful to visit so if you want to see it, come to Belgium in summertime!

In front of the Palace, you can also find a really lovely park, the Warandepark. Nice to just stroll through, especially now in autumn with all the lovely colors.

From there we walked past the central station again, toward the Royal Galeries of Saint Hubert. This is a glazed shopping arcade in Brussels which was constructed in the 19th century. Now you can find many chocolate and designer shops, but mostly the building is just lovely.

One of the most famous streets in Brussels is without a doubt the Rue des Bouchers (Butcher’s Street). This medieval street complex has about a hundred restaurants so it’s quite a tourist attraction to have lunch or dinner there while in Brussels. Beware, the restaurant owners will lure you in with cheap food prices and then sell expensive drinks, so know that it’s not always cheap to eat there. In the Rue des Bouchers you can also find the female version of our famous little peeing guy Manneken Pis, namely Jeanneke Pis. She can be found in a little side street since 1985.

From there, we headed towards the Munt or Koninklijke Muntschouwburg (Royal Theatre of the Mint). It’s Belgium’s leading Opera house and the third construction on that site. The first one was built back at the end of the seventeeth century.

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The street that runs in front of the Munt, is the main shopping street of Brussels, so if you’re interested in some shopping; that’s the place to be!

Next up was the La Brouckère Square. This is probably one of my favorite places in Brussels. The facades of the houses there are really nice and it also gives me the atmosphere of a big city, especially with the big light advertisement of Coca Cola. The headquarters of the company I work for are situated close by and I just adore passing this place when I have to be at the headquarters every once in a while.

When you want to have a nice view over Brussels, everyone always immedialy thinks of the Atomium. And while that is indeed one of the most famous sights of Brussels with it being constructed for the World Expo of 1958, it’s also really far out of the center. Since we only had one day to see everything, we didn’t exactly have the time to go all the way over there. Plus there is also a price tag attached to that view. But luckily there is another easier and cheaper option as well. Also for the Expo ’58 they’ve made a huge car park building called “Parking 58” close to La Brouckère. It’s 10 levels high, so from the top you also get a nice enough view on the city center. Just take the elevator up and enjoy!

When you follow the street from La Brouckère, you will come across the Brussels Stock Exchange. It was founded in the second half of the nineteenth century.

And then it was time for the highlight of Brussels; the Grote Markt (Central Market Square). This is by far the most beautiful place in Brussels. It is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city’s Town Hall, and the Breadhouse building containing the Museum of the city of Brussels. It’s also on the UNESCO world heritages list. The first mention of the square was  back in the 10th century.

Every two years in August, the entire square changes into a lovely flower carpet of Begonias. The first flower carpet was made in 1971 and up until now they still keep the tradition going. Lots of tourists come to see it, so know that when you visit that time of the year, it might be a bit crowdier.

When you take a little side street of the Market Square, you will first pass a statue called Everard ‘t Serclaes. This man is famous because he recovered the city from the Flemings. People believe that it brings luck to touch him, so many tourists do so.

Continuing that street, you will come across our most famous statue; Manneken Pis. This little peeing guy dates back to 1618 and has become the mascot of the city. There are several legends to the foundation of this statue, each one more funny than the others.

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Next we headed for the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. This is a roman catholic cathedral of which the foundations date back to the ninth century. Back then it was just a chapel for St. Michael, but in the 11th century it was transformed into a church, which was then given the status of Cathedral back in 1962.

Since we had some time left before our train home, we decided to go see the Law Courts of Brussels as well. This is a bit out of the center, but still easily accessible by foot. There even is an elevator to take you up if you come from Rue du Miroir. From the Law Courts Square you have a stunning view on Brussels  (if the weather is clear).. You can even see the Atomium in the distance.

You can actually visit the Law Courts for free, but you first have to go through a security check. It’s the largest court house in the world and was built between 1866 and 1883. Back in the nineteenth century it was even the largest construction at the time. You’re free to roam the halls, but the most impressive place is definitely the large entrance hall.

Around the Law Courts you can also find the Kleine Zavel Square en Grote Zavel. That neighborhood is also lovely to walk through on your way back to the Central Station.

And you of course can’t go to Brussels without tasting a Brussels Waffle. We have two kinds of waffles in Belgium; the Brussels Waffle and the Liège Waffle. Since we were of course in Brussels we had the first one. I actually prefer the second one, but when made properly the first one can be so delicious as well. Just one note; the shops always display the waffles with a shitload of extras on top of them but that’s not at all how the Belgians usually eat them. We usually take them with just sugar or nutella  and occassionally some whipped cream. .

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And that was it for Brussels. There is much more to see and we have plenty of interesting museums all around the city but since we only had one day we had to focus on the main attractions. For more information, you can always check visitbrussels.be or contact me.

After arriving in my home town, in West-Flanders, we went to the French Fries (which are not french at all -.-) take-out restaurant for a delicius meal of real Belgian fries. Perfect ending to a rainy but lovely day!

Until next time,

With love, Ellen

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