Having been to Bruges (numerous times) and Ghent in Belgium I expected more of the same from Brussels….how wrong was I? This is a city, which marches on at a quicker pace than the smaller towns I have previously visited.
Brussels is the largest city and the capital of Belgium with a population of approximately 1.2 million people. The main language here is French and there are plenty of things to see, do and taste…yes taste!
My Brussels Top 5
1. Grand Place (Grote Markt)
The Grand Place is the central square in Brussels and is, in my opinion the most beautiful place in the city. In fact it was voted the most beautiful square in Europe in 2010 and in 1998 it was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to the Town Hall, the Breadhouse and a number of opulent guildhalls. It is a large square (It measures 68 by 110 metres (223 by 361 ft)) with numerous bars and restaurants where you can sit and watch the world go by. In 1971 the first ‘Flower Carpet’ was laid in Grand Place which was made of over a million begonias. This proved to be so popular with locals and visitors alike this has been repeated every other year in August – maybe a great time to visit as the photographs look amazing!
2. Manneken Pis
Many people had told me to keep my eye out for this little fella and in reality if it wasn’t for the crowds of people around him I could have easily walked straight past, he’s very small, in fact tiny – only 61cm tall! What is Manneken Pis you ask? Well, it’s a bronze statue of a little boy taking a leak into a basin below! He was made in 1619 by Brussels sculptor Hieronimus Duquesnoy the Elder however he keeps getting stolen so the Manneken Pis that is there now is not the original he only dates back to the 60’s. He is a stylish little chap with many different outfits which he is dressed in on a regular basis, he even has a judo suit! There are many stories behind Manneken Pis, each different – which do you believe?
3. Street Art
Street art is everywhere in Brussels and I love it. What a way to jazz up the side of a building?! By street art I mean amazing pictures drawn/stencilled/painted etc by very talented people, not just mindless, pointless mess that can be seen in many cities. These pieces are a pleasure to look at. They are very detailed, colourful and plentiful (over 50) therefore turning the city into an outdoor art gallery. They are world-famous and many people visit Brussels to visit them. If you are planning on visiting Brussels and specifically wanted to see some/all of them then the map for the Comic Book Route is available here.
Mmmmm chocolate! Belgium is famous for it’s creamy goodness and you will not struggle to find a chocolate shop in Brussels. I brought loads back as treats from friends and family – I’ll admit I found it difficult to part with it! Traditional Belgian food is not great if you are concerned about your waistline but oh so tasty. Here are a few examples of the local cuisine (yum):
- Fillet Américaine – similar to a French beef tartar
- Stoemp – a traditional Flemish style mashed potato with stewed vegetables mixed inside
- Meatballs in tomato sauce – served with fries
- Lapin à la Kriek – rabbit’s leg in Kriek (or other beer)
- Cuisse de Canard – preserved duck’s thigh
- Mussels – (moules)
- Frites – fried potatoes
- Waffles – a sweet sensation for the taste buds
Plus many, many more!
Again not great if you are counting the calories but when in Rome (well Belgium – you know what I mean). I’m not a great fan of blonde beers so found a lovely pils called Maes, we found this on tap in most bars and restaurants we visited and if this wasn’t on tap we had Stella, in fact one night in Bar Des Amis (Rue Sainte-Catherine, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium) we had quite a lot of Stella (hic!). We found a lovely little bar called Casa Manuel Taverne in Grand Place which offered beer tasting, this was a great thing to do, it consisted of five different local beers. We also ordered a plate of cheese to share. Considering this restaurant is in the middle of Grand Place I found the €24 (for 2 lots of tasting beers and cheese) price tag very reasonable. It also changed my mind about blonde beer and gave me the opportunity to try Kriek (a cherry beer) – it was very tasty but very sickly. The taster was just the right size for me.
Interesting fact – did you know the Smurfs came from Belgium 🙂