As I was on the train from Amsterdam to Brussels, I had this realization that I had no idea what to expect of Belgium. What language did they speak in Belgium? What are the main attractions of this city I am venturing into? The only thing I knew was that the Brussels square was iconic. Gold trimmed buildings and expensive chocolate, that’s all I could picture. Those two things do exist in this city, but there is much more to see.
I arrived in Brussels in the early morning and left the next day in the afternoon. I had just about one full day and one full night here and although that sounds rushed, I felt as though I was able to see most of the main sights of this city.
My travel companion Anmol and I decided to rent out an apartment on Airbnb. For those of you that have never used this amazing online service, you are missing out. Airbnb is wonderful for both short and long vacations. The apartment we rented was only about $70USD a night! Split that between two people and we were each only paying $35 to have all our own space, including a full bathroom and well equipped kitchen.
Our apartment was located about a 5-minute walk away from the main square or the “Grand Place”. This area is very charming but still felt busy and populated.
Things to see:
- Of course, the Grand Place needs to be first on your list. The architecture of the buildings and the grandness of the entire atmosphere is a must see. I personally think the square is the most beautiful when it is all lit up at night, but seeing it during the day is lovely as well! The winding streets surrounding the Grand Place are full of cafes, bars, restaurants and a TON of chocolate shops.
- If you venture a little further out of the main area you can visit the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. This church has a similar exterior look as Notre Dame in Paris and you can go inside for free! The inside is remarkable; this cathedral is so big it feels as though it stretches on forever. Be sure to admire the stained-glass windows and the historic tiling. You can also visit the catacombs under the church for only ONE euro.
- The Royal Palace of Brussels is located right next to Brussels Park which is lovely to stroll through. The Palace itself is very beautiful, it gives off a very traditional “royal” feel. I don’t believe you can enter this palace, it is still used today as the residence for the King and Queen of Belgium. In the summer, I have heard they offer tours, but only to limited areas. Seeing it from the outside is still nice.
- The road you walk on to reach the park and the palace is called Koningsstraat. Walking along this road in the opposite direction of the Palace will eventually take you past the Botanical Gardens and to a church at the end of the street. This church was closed so I was not able to go inside but it was beautiful! Walking Koningsstraat is well worth it as you also pass many chocolate shops with tasty truffles 🙂
Belgium waffles are known throughout the world and for good reason, they are delicious. There were two main types of waffles in Brussels, one called the traditional Belgium waffle and the other, the Brussels waffle. The Brussels waffle was crunchier and my FAVORITE. Be sure to get a waffle, or two, or three while in Brussels.
My travel companion Anmol had heard from one of his friends that a traditional Belgium dish is to have mussels and fries for dinner. This might sound strange but true enough, there were so many restaurants advertising this meal. If you are a fan of mussels, you must try it out! We ate mussels and fries for dinner and it did not disappoint.
The beer Stella Artois was created in Belgium and is brewed at a brewery in Leuven, Belgium. This city is a bit out of Brussels so unfortunately we were not able to visit it. However, we drank many a Stella at a local bar! Stella is one of my favorite beers and I would recommend drinking quite a few while in Belgium because in my opinion, they taste better in their homeland.
They do speak French in Brussels which gives this city a very Parisian feel. Many times, while walking down cute streets I had flashbacks to my trips in Paris. I would consider Brussels to feel like an interesting combination between Amsterdam and Paris. This of course makes sense because it is located practically in between those two iconic European cities! The architecture resonates with the same style as the Dutch and the language and atmosphere resonates with that of a French city.
Brussels was a city I had passed over during other European trips so I am happy I finally made the trip out to Belgium. It was a very interesting two days!