Oh, Brussels… Land of chocolate and waffles. How can you not love this sweet, sweet city? But the capital of Belgium has so much more to offer besides its great food.
My first day there was all about learning my way around the city, initially by bus and then by foot. And because the bus tickets seemed expensive to me (2,5 euro for a ride if you buy the ticket in the bus and 2,10 euro if you buy it from the ticket vending machines), I adopted very quickly the idea of walking. And since I’m talking about walking, I would like to make a nice reminder to myself to pack warm clothes next time I come to Belgium. It’s pretty cold, cloudy and windy even in the middle of the day. That’s why it was a shock for me to see that Brussels’s parks have lounge chairs instead of regular benches. What are those for? Does anybody expect to get a tan in the occasional 5 minutes of sun that shows up everyday? Just kidding, I’m sure that in the summer the sun is out of the clouds more often and maybe for 10-15 whole minutes!
Ok now, let’s get back to serious business: the sights that are a MUST SEE in Brussels!
St. Michel and St. Gudula
I’ll start with the Cathedral of St. Michel and St. Gudula. The fans of Gothic style will have a deja-vu, as the cathedral is very similar to Notre-Dame de Paris. Please take your time to visit the interiors of the cathedral, it’s free and I guarantee you that the gigantic stained glass windows will leave you in awe.
The Grand Place
Next stop is the Grand Place, where you will find the city’s Town Hall. That’s an impressive building for its Gothic architecture and for its high tower that measures 96 meters. The Grand Place has a solid historic background, some stories being tragic and funny at the same time. For example, in 1695 the French army attacked Brussels, with the intention of making a diversion. The bombardment aimed mostly at the Town Hall, but ironically the building remained the only one standing, the others around being teared down almost completely.
Across the Town Hall there is the King’s House, which is currently hosting the Museum of the City of Brussels. The buildings around are guildhalls and they are also pretty impressive, so take your time to admire their beautiful facades.
The Manneken Pis
Not far you will find the landmark of Brussels, the Manneken Pis. There are lots of legends associated with the small statue, some you might already know, but what I bet you didn’t know is that on that very spot there once was a urine market. I know what you’re thinking: Why on earth would somebody buy urine? Well, the answer is simple. Back in the days, urine was used for leather tanning (because it contains ammonia) and this place was the place to buy it or sell it. Don’t you just love when you learn new and exciting things?
St. Nicholas church
Ok, time to move on. Be sure to also check out St. Nicholas church, which is the oldest church in Brussels. It’s rather small and quiet, but that’s exactly what makes it a perfect getaway from the outside buzz.
Beer. Waffles. Chocolate
Now it’s time for a treat! Wander the streets, buy some souvenirs, pick a pub and order local beer, eat some waffles from the small shops around and of course try different types of Belgian chocolate. If you are planning to start a diet, this is definitely not the time.
Brussels Park & The Belgian Parliament
After so much shopping, I rested for a while in Brussels Park, which apparently is the largest park in the center of Brussels. If you ask me, it’s very small. So small that you can see it’s end from the entrance. Around the park you can see the Royal Palace of Brussels and the Belgian Parliament.
Just 2 minutes away, if you dare making a few turns left and right, you will find this beautiful panorama, so don’t be afraid to explore the surroundings:
The new part of Brussels
It’s time now to go in the new part of the city, to see the European institutions. After all, Brussels is the capital of the European Union and we might find something interesting there. Here’s a sneak-peak.
Also, I can’t hold back to not share with you this piece of urban landscape:
Parc du Cinquantenaire
Moving on, you’re going to see in the distance a U-shaped arcade. You will find there a huge park, called Parc du Cinquantenaire, with a string of buildings and a triumphal arch in the middle.
That’s only a small part of what I’ve experienced of the city and still, after three days I left wanting more. Brussels has at the same time the spirit of an old city and of a new city and definitely has something to offer to any tourist what’s willing to walk it’s streets.