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Lively, cute and charming: exactly what I thought of Brussels when I visited. Here are my seven tips for an utterly underestimated city: It took 25 years of my life for Brussels to make my bucket list. The circumstances were even more curious: when scrolling through MEININGER hotels, the first to catch my eye was the Brussels hotel in a former brewery. Apparently, I would find the remnants of some street art here, in a red brick building by the canal. I was hooked, and decided to find out more about Brussels. A short time later I made it to the Place de la Bourse: the autumn sun was shining, happy people were dancing round me to the music of street musicians and boys were shooting around on their skateboards, with a hip scene simply sitting out and enjoying the sun. Why is Brussels so very underrated?
Seven tips in Brussels: dancing on the Place de la Bourse / Beursplein
If you read any tips about Brussels, they always tell you that you must visit the Grand-Place/Grote Markt. They’re not wrong: after all, the square with its gothic city hall and baroque façade is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an impressive city landmark. However, at the end of the day it is just a square with a pretty façade. I found the Place de la Bourse to be much more evocative: the blocked street is bustling with life – at least when the weather is good! Street musicians play, even the street sweepers stop and dance along, and there is a constant hum of rolling skateboards. I have to admit that this square made me rather envious of the city.
Seven tips in Brussels: 30 seconds to the Atomium
I don’t tend to go chasing after the typical attractions which you can see in photos, and so I didn’t want to ‘waste’ any time visiting the former Expo area. Nevertheless, somehow we ended up at the Atomium, and I have to say: go check it out! Seeing the huge spheres above you, reflecting the entire sky, is truly awe-inspiring. You can go from sphere to sphere via the tunnels – how fun is that? Although the queues can be long, the lift makes up for the wait, taking just 30 seconds to travel nearly 100 metres.
Seven tips in Brussels: find the best Belgian fries
No visit to Brussels would be complete without trying Belgian fries! You can buy them on any street corner, fried twice in beef dripping, but the internet has strong opinions about the ‘best fries in Belgium’: Frit Flagey on Place Eugène Flagey/Flagey Plein and Maison Antoine on Place Jordan/Jordan Plein. I couldn’t find anything between them in terms of flavour, but for location alone I would recommend Frit Flagey, set as it is in a district with other cool, hip discoveries to be made. Maison Antoine, on the other hand, is located opposite the European Parliament.
Seven tips in Brussels: rummage through comics in Brussels
Endless well-known comics come from Brussels, including The Adventures of Tintin, the Smurfs and Lucky Luke, to name but a few – so it is no surprise that comic shops are springing up everywhere, with murals featured on every other house or garage wall. If you want to find out more have a browse through the Belgian Comic Strip Center museum, or do as I do and just wander through the comic stores – in my view, much more interesting. Try the Brüsel store near to the Frit Flagey fries stand.
Seven tips in Brussels: waffles, waffles, waffles
Belgium is truly waffle paradise! Starting at the landmark that is the Mannekin Pis, they have their very own street in the historic city centre devoted to selling waffles, with rows of stands one after the other. The motto is more cream the better: mmmm, fine by me…
Seven tips in Brussels: a regal stroll through the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
If you are out and about in the historic centre of Brussels, you absolutely have to drop in here to the heart of the city: near to the Grande-Place you will find what is probably the prettiest street in the district, Grasmarkt/Rue du Marché aux Herbes. The nearby Galeries are home to top chocolatiers (including Neuhaus, the inventor of praline) and a guaranteed supply of souvenirs.
Seven tips in Brussels: coffee chit-chat on Rue Antoine Dansaert
If you are looking for stylish cafés in Brussels, you just have to stumble out of the MEININGER Hotel, located as it is just a few minutes’ walk from the middle of the street running through the city centre. This street has rows of hip cafés, including Barbeton and Walvis.
When I was researching Brussels, I came across descriptions of it as a ‘filthy’, ‘ugly’ city more than once. Where does this idea come from? I would say that Brussels has its own particular, very French flair. Some of the houses may be a little run-down, but to me that is simply ‘shabby chic’. Instead of busying themselves looking after expensive show apartments, the people of Brussels prefer to be out in the squares or investing in good cuisine in cute cafés and stylish restaurants – which Brussels has in droves! Have fun exploring…