Doe-doei Amsterdam and bonjour, Bruxelles.
I have to say, I was less than impressed when I first arrived. The city was very much over-exaggerated by my family and some friends that had previously visited so I was feeling rather letdown by my expectations. Perhaps, that was my own fault. With the weather just clearing up from a rainy day, I decided to take off on my own into the city in search of Sunday brunch and a visit to the Unesco Heritage site, Grote Markt. Maybe this is just me but it was almost impossible to appreciate the beauty of this site with the hundreds of people in the square at 3pm in the afternoon. I will admit that it is beautiful because I had the opportunity to see it three other times when it wasn’t quite so crowded. I can finally understand what my family was talking about.
Brussels Tip #1: Go anywhere on a weekday.
Popular tourist hangouts get very busy during the weekends and after work-hours so plan your trip around that if you can. If you’re not able to go during the week, then unfortunately you will have to deal with large, obnoxious crowds of tourists that will step on you just to get the perfect picture (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything).
Although Brussels is a primarily French speaking city, it is still rather forward as many people can speak some English and will if they are able to. I found this very interesting because it allowed me to practice some of my very limited French before heading to ruthless Paris. It was a lot of fun to try and converse in French because it was mostly a game of charades between my conversation partner and me. I felt terrible because most of the time the conversations would look like this:
*me attempting some form of very broken French while they stare at me like I’m insane*
Me: “Parlevoux Anglais?”
Them: “A little bit”
Then I’d get super excited and finally be able to ask my question. I guess we both got a little practice – just in different languages. That is what I found to be the toughest part about conversing with city locals.
However, Brussels totally made up for it with my amazing hostel-mates and just how beautifully photogenic the old city is. I had met some incredible people through my hostel (Meininger Hotel Brussels City Center); making for some great nights out on the terrace. Sometimes I think of them and wonder how they’re doing. Their travels look amazing on Instagram and a part of me wishes we could’ve travelled in a similar direction but at the same time, I’m so glad to be travelling on my own.
Anyway, I think my favourite place in Brussels was potentially the Mont Du Arts Garden opposite the Grand Palace. It’s this giant park with all these beautiful sculptures scattered around, making it seem more like a museum than a park. I can only imagine what it would look like during the peak of summer. I had the opportunity to explore the park and its surroundings with a new friend and it was one of the best times I’d had in Brussels. Besides the waffles at Peck 47, of course. Their leek waffles with smoked salmon and psycho sauce are amazing and the service there despite its business definitely makes it the perfect spot for a quick bite.
Brussels Tip #2: 100% would recommend getting waffles!
Other than that, I would just recommend walking all over Brussels. It isn’t a very large city and I was able to get around mostly on foot. Unless it is late at night, I would always recommend walking in large groups or just taking a cab. Your safety is more valuable than anything else – Brussels is a prime target area for pickpockets so be wary, even of small children, and keep your belongings close to you. On foot, you will never know what you could find and you’d truly be able to explore every inch and crevice of the city. One of the best ways I know to see the city is by going on one of the many free walking tours offered by various companies – I’d highly suggest the SANDEMANs New Europe Tour. You get to learn a lot about the city you’re in as well as meet various different people while getting some exercise and sightseeing in. A big plus here is that you’d get to ask your local tour guide (that probably speaks English) where to get the best food/beer in the city.
Brussels Tip #3: Walking Tours. Just do it.
Stay tuned, I’ll be sending you updates about Paris and the hopefully amazing rest of this trip quite soon.
A bientot, ma cherie.