To be honest, I didn’t know very much about Belgium before traveling there. Of course I knew it was known for waffles and french fries, but outside of that, I didn’t know what to expect.
So when my husband and I spent 3 days in Brussels last May, we were surprised by how much there was to see and do. And obviously, how many waffles we encountered…
In Brussels, we stayed at Hotel NH Collection – Grand Sablon. Although the city is somewhat spread out, this hotel felt central. We were able to walk almost everywhere we went.
Of course, we had to start our trip at the Grade Place (aka Brussel’s central square). Some of the detailed buildings lining the square date back to as early as the 12th century. Yet today, it is still a iconic spot for people to gather any time of the day.
A short walk from the Grand Place, we had a delicious lunch at Peck 47. It’s a small restaurant, and most likely has (worthwhile) wait.
If you’re needing something sweet after lunch, look no further than Aux Merveilleux. It’s a chain bakery worth your attention — I happen to look for it every city we travel too in Europe. They have THE most delicious warm, buttery, sweet, chocolate chip rolls — the size of your face! They’re absolutely heav-en-ly. You don’t even want to know how quickly I can eat one.
With full bellies, we made our way over to the Atomium — which is sometimes known as “Europe’s most bizarre building”. Constructed for the first post-war universal world exhibition, it’s an unavoidable icon (although, somewhat of an eyesore).
We did not make our way up and through it, but from what I understand, inside it offers a museum, a restaurant, and a great view!
Next up was another (somewhat strange) Brussel’s attraction: Manneken Pis. You won’t believe how many people will gather around to see a statue of a naked little boy peeing into a fountain. It is thought to embody Brussel’s sense of humor and independence.
If you like to go to iconic bars while traveling, Delirium Pub is for you! This pub has every type of beer you could ever imagine. My husband was lucky enough to convince to make two trips here (during our 2 days in the city). There is a ton of seating and bar space on the main floor, where you will find many groups of people enjoying beers together. But you can also go upstairs to the “Hoppy Loft Bar” where they offer a smaller selection of beers and the seating feels more intimate. If you want to try some one-of-a-kind “girly” beers I recommend: Pink Killer (downstairs) and the Caramel Fudge Stout (upstairs).
After a few drinks, we enjoyed walking around searching for and admiring all of Brussel’s street art. Some people spend hours trying to find them all.
We were happy to snag a late dinner at Mercado. A little further out of the city, but worth the trip if you have a way of getting there.
For our 2nd day in Brussels, we decided to take a day trip 40 km (25 mi) north to Antwerp. Antwerp is located on the Scheldt River and is home of one of the largest ports in the world.
Ladies, Antwerp also happens to have the largest diamond district in the world! 84% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through their district. We spent a short while walking up and down the “diamond quarter” in disbelief of the amount of stores in one area. I happily got to try on a beautiful pair of earrings before my husband pulled me away to “stay on schedule”…. 😉
Close by the diamond district, you’ll find Antwerp’s Central Station. Dating back to 1905, this is possibly the most beautiful train station I’ve ever stepped into. Definitely worth a stop — if anything, it offers fabulous people watching.
Due to a sudden rain shower, we ended up at the Coffee House for lunch. Although its main priority is coffee, our lunch was surprisingly great! I’m sure with a bit more research we could have found other restaurants more worthy of praise.
After lunch we walked over to Antwerp’s market square: Grote Markt. Grore Markt it really neat — cobblestone streets, many restaurants, shops, City Hall covered in flags and so much more. I’m not sure I’m allowed to say this, but I actually preferred it over the Grand Place!
A block or two from the square you’ll find the Cathedral of Our Lady. It also happens to be on a lively square. Honestly, I wish we had spent more time in both of these areas.
If you are interested in doing some shopping after sightseeing, De Meir is the street for you. Here you will find hundreds of people walking past and in many lovely stores. More importantly, you will also find The Chocolate Line (which happens to be casually located in Napoleon’s former palace). Definitely recommend enjoying a few chocolates from here!
If shopping isn’t your thing, you might enjoy walking along the marina to see the bridge and Steen Castle instead.
Our third and final day in Belgium was spent back in Brussels.
The Jardin du Mont des Arts offers one of Brussel’s best views (and photo opportunities!)
If you keep walking SW from the top of this hill, you will run into the Royal Palace of Brussels, which is directly across from Brussels Park.
Brussels Park is a wonderful park. You will find many people spread out on blankets, playing games, music, or enjoying a picnic.
We had originally planned on finding somewhere to eat lunch after walking through the park, but then we stumbled upon Brasserie de la Senne! It’s a small pop-up restaurant in the middle of the park that offers a small but yummy selection of wraps and cocktails. They even had live music! This was a perfect surprise of a meal stop.
After lunch, we were craving something sweet (do you see a theme?) so we finally made our way to the ever popular Maison Dandoy! Maison Dandoy is known for its 2 types of waffles: belgium and leige. Of course we had to try both! One with chocolate, and the other with fresh fruit and ice cream. I’m happy to report that neither disappointed.
After slowly making our way back to our hotel to freshen up, we were quickly out the door again in hopes of making the most of our last night in town.
We enjoyed strolling down Rollebeek Street (just down the street from our hotel) and then through Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert as the sun was starting to set. These are both lively areas stocked with restaurants and people.
Finally we made it to our dinner reservation at Aux Armes de Bruxelles. To be honest, this was not a foodies dream. A bit outdated… but good food, great service — can’t complain.
Belgium may not be the highest on our list of favorite places we have traveled so far… but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a trip!
We felt 2-3 days was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the city of Brussels. Although it seemed to lack “famous” attractions/sights/museums/etc. in comparison to other European cities, I think its small-town charm (and desserts) made up for it 🙂
Next time we’re hoping to make our way to the city of Bruges — which we’ve heard could very quickly make us fall madly in love with Belgium…
Until next time…