I had very limited expectations on our arrival into Belgium. I’ll be honest; I didn’t know all that much about the city before the visit. Of course, I knew some of the world’s best chocolates came from here, but that was almost the limit to my knowledge of the city.
And now, I feel ashamed I did not know more about this amazing city or that I didn’t have it higher on my ‘must see’ list. There is much more to Brussels than overindulging on tasty chocolate – Although that in it self is worth a visit, trust me!
Brussels is rich with intriguing history and as someone from a young country, like Australia, this fascinates me. Witnessing architecture from the 17th century still standing proud is quite astounding. If only those walls could talk; the stories they could tell would be astonishing.
What I loved about the architecture in Brussels is the diversity. On the same intersection you could see art nouveau (pre war), art deco (post war), modern and Parisian influences. And what’s more, it all works so well together, complimenting each other nicely.
Everyone knows Belgians know how to make chocolate but they do not get enough credit for other tasty treats they are so proud of. Take for example Speculoos; a heavenly shortcrust biscuit with a splash of cinnamon and sugar. Of course, Belgium is also responsible for waffles, beer, cheese and fries. Belgium is definitely a foodies paradise.
I found it really interesting to learn that Brussels has three national languages; Dutch, French and German. Most Belgians can speak French and/or Dutch, while about 10% speak German.
My favorite place in Brussels was Grand Place. We have witnessed some amazing ‘squares’ in our travels, but I would dare say Brussels has the most beautiful square in the world. As you stand in the middle of the square you are surrounded, on all four sides, by the most magnificent structures I’ve ever seen.
You will find three variations of architecture in Grand Place; Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV. Back in the day, this area was a marketplace where people would buy/sell all types of food. Now days, it’s a magnificent square for one to admire the stunning buildings that surround. You will find great restaurants here too… and of course many chocolate shops!
Our hotel was from a different era too, but not quite as far back. Vintage Hotel is a retro style boutique hotel, which makes you feel you have stepped into an Austin Powers movie. Everything was vintage retro from the fluffy cushions to the moon chairs to the shag pile carpets. I absolutely loved it there and that it wasn’t like every other hotel we’d been to before.
Comics are huge in Brussels. They have three schools for comic artists, and their biggest comic claim to fame; The Smurfs. I had no idea The Smurfs where Belgians. There are comic murals painted on walls throughout the city, which is really cool. We took a Comic Tour which not only showed us some of the 50 murals, but also talked about the history of Brussels. I highly recommend it.
I wont lie to you – My favorite part of the 48 hours we spent in Brussels was the chocolate tour we went on. We taste tested our way around the city, experiencing the best of the best in Belgium chocolate. As a lover of all things chocolate, this was absolute heaven. However, I am sure I will now be disappointed going back to standard chocolate. My pallet will now expect only the best Belgium chocolate. Luckily, some of the brands can be found worldwide!
As much as I love my chocolate Michael loves his beer. So of course we also enjoyed a bit of beer tasting. We were given around 8 different types of Belgium beer to try, including a raspberry beer – Interesting! I am not a huge beer drinker so I was more impressed by the meat and cheese platter that came with the beer. I think the Belgians might be almost as good at making cheese as they are chocolate – Almost!
Be sure to explore the areas outside of Grand Place also. Grand Place is beautiful, but you really should experience other areas throughout Brussels too. The trams make getting around the city very easy, and you don’t have to go too far to really enjoy the surrounding suburbs.
After 2 days in Brussels I can honestly say this city deserves much more credit than we give it. We will definitely visit Belgium again and spend more time exploring this amazing country.
Have you been to Brussels? What did you like best?