Brussels is a city that is easily walked and explored. The beauty in this city is evident in the intricate architecture, waffles and chocolates and rich history on every corner. Brussels is the unofficial capital of the European Union, and this sense of importance can be felt through out the city. Walking around the streets of Brussels you will hear Dutch, French, German and English spoken. This is a culturally diverse city largely in part to its strong foothold in international politics. If Brussels is the unofficial capital of the EU, that is because it is already the capital of waffles, chocolates and beer. Each of these should be considered when planning any trip to Brussels.
Views not to miss:
Mont des Arts
This elevated vantage point of the city begs you to take a seat on the steps and enjoy the perfectly manicured garden with the town hall tower visible off in the distance. Plenty of people make this a stop along their tour of the city, so the people watching is also worth adding this stop to your itinerary.
The Grand Place is Brussels’ most notable destination and it has to be one of Europe’s most ornate town centers. In 2010, the Grand Place was voted Europe’s most beautiful city square, not surprisingly. This square offers 360 degrees of opulence as each building is laced with gold details and intricate sculptures. It’s hard to take in the beauty all at once. If you are in Belgium in the Fall, check to see if your trip aligns with the “flower carpet” event. Every 2 years in August, the entire Grand Place square is filled with begonias essentially creating a carpet of flowers.
Things to do:
Visit Grand Place
The Grand Place is at the top of my list for views not to miss and things to do. Not only is it a breath-taking panorama view, there are also many cafes, restaurants and shops to spend time exploring.
Eat Belgium Waffles
Americans know a simplified version of waffles. In 1962 Walter Cleyman, a Belgian man, introduced waffles at the Seattle Century 21 Exposition, which were further popularized at the 1964 New York World’s Fair by Maurice Vermersch, of Brussels, Belgium. Vermersch introduced a simplified recipe and, while noticing that many Americans weren’t aware that Brussels was the capital of Belgium, he called them Bel-Gem Waffles. Hence, American’s Belgium Waffles as we know them today. There are plenty of places to stop for a famous waffle tasting, but we really enjoyed our chocolate and strawberry waffle from Los Churros & Waffle near the Grand Place.
Whether you are more suited for the demonstration of how chocolate is made, casually drinking champagne while tasting chocolate on patios (me!), or browsing displays of different and unique chocolate flavors to pick your favorite, Brussels has what you need to get your chocolate fix. Below are suggestions of chocolatiers with rich history and long-standing status in Brussels as not your average tourist chocolate. Try one or try all to partake in the so called chocolate trail, either way, don’t miss out.
Alex & Alex, Rue de la Paille 32 – Champagne & Chocolate Bar
Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier, Rue Ravenstein 2 D – Chocolate factory workshop
Godiva, Grand Sablon-Grote Savel 47/48 – Traditional Belgian Chocolatier
Mary, Galerie de la Reine 36 – Artisian Chocolatier since 1919
Wittamer, Place du Grand Sablon 6 – Macaroon & Chocolate Boutique w/ pink tea room
Zaabär, Chaussée de Charleroi 125 – Chocolate factory workshop
Come for the over 2000 + selection of different beers or the unique atmosphere. This is also a great place to meet people from all over the world. While sitting an enjoying a few different types of beer we chatted with a family from Mexico and a couple from Denmark! By the time we were finished, we had spent a little more time than planned here, but it was time well spent.
Places to eat:
‘T Kelderke, Grand Place 15, 1000 Bruxelles – Belgian Restaurant
When in Brussels, try the mussels! This cozy restaurant is in an original 17th century cellar underground with vaulted brick ceilings. We suggest grabbing a drink on their patio overlooking the Grand Place, but to sit inside for dinner to experience the cozy atmosphere. This restaurant is right off the Grand Place square, and for the location it is not overly touristy. Also to note, the staff is extremely friendly and even let us bring our dog inside the restaurant (we tried to eat outside on the patio at first). The menu is a bit more expensive than grabbing a waffle or fries on the street, but it is worth the splurge for some home-style Belgian cuisine. They have a variety of traditional pot roasts (Stoemps), meats and fish. We went for the mussels in white wine and garlic sauce which we will be recommending to anyone going to Brussels as they are the best mussels we have had to date!
Bourgon Dish, Grand Place, Bruxelles- Wine and Cheese Bar
This restaurant has only been here for a few months, but we stopped for a afternoon snack of cheese and wine. There were plenty of small bites to choose from on the menu and from the looks of what other people ordered, you can’t go wrong.
Another good street to stroll for a restaurant is Rue du Marche aux Fromages, which is right off of the main Grand Place square. We have walked by here several times around dinner time and the cafes and restaurants are pouring out onto the streets with people enjoying a dinner al fresco. There is a tone of variety in the type of food you can find here too, from Greek to traditional Belgian to Italian.
The fun part about Brussels is the different streets that feel like you stepping into Chinatown or the French Quarter. Our favorite French street is Petite Rue des Bouchers, right off from the main street, Rue des Bouchers, which has even more variety of restaurants to choose from.
Cheers to a great time in Brussels!