Everyone knows to try Belgium chocolate, waffles and fries. But you might me surprised by how multiculturaly rich is Brussels, especially when referring to food. I was amazed to find such an open community, as well as unforgettable art at every corner. I’ll share how my perception went from fearful to this being one of my favorite cities. It was overwhelming at first, but it’s so easy to get around and meet people in the capital of the European Union.
Brussels at First Glance
I looked to the window next to me and saw a big, beautiful butt.
My first perception of Belgium was culture shock. I arrived in Brussels at Gare de Nord (North train station) and stepped into a gray sky, looked to the window next to me and saw a big, beautiful butt. First I thought it was a mannequin, but IT MOVED! I wish I knew before going to Brussels that it has a red light district. I was standing in the middle of it! I’ve been to Amsterdam before, but I was well aware of the existence and location of the red light district. This time, it took me by surprise.
The second thing I noticed were the mothers and little girls begging for money to eat. They didn’t speak French, nor did it sound to me like Flemish (native tongue in parts of Belgium) so I suppose they were refugees. I, unfortunately, had not a dime of cash nor a bite of food with me since I had been traveling in Germany for about a week and I had recently lost my debit card, BUT that’s another story.
I was tired, sweaty, carrying my luggage and trying to find my hostel with a broken heart. I wish I had at least some snacks to give these people, but then again, that wouldn’t even be close to solving the problem. During my stay in Brussels, I met other immigrants who also arrived in Belgium as refugees and can now share success stories. That definitely changed my perspective of the city, as well as the beautiful Grand Place.
If you think that Grand Place is beautiful during the day, wait until you see the lights of the baroque building reflected into the dark-shiny floor at night, turning the Place into a beautiful dark sea of lights. Absolutely breath-taking.
Surrounding the Grand Place were several narrow streets brimming with souvenir and chocolate shops, as well as mediterranean restaurants, waffle and frites (aka french fries) stands and bars with a wide variety of Belgian beers. Despite all this deliciousness, one of my main reason for visiting Bruxelles, besides Belgian beer, is Le Boutique de TinTin. I’m a nerd for comics and I absolutely love TinTin, but no more than I adore his pup Milou, the true hero in the stories. The shop is more of a museum, unless you’re willing to spend about €70 in a figurine. I did get a €2 postcard as souvenir that is now pinned to my wall.
Bruxelles, land of TinTin and Delirium beer.
If you’re a fan of beer, Delirium alley is a must! In this alley you’ll find Delirium Cafe, Monasterium, Taphouse and even a Tequileria. People drink their beers in any of the bars or even in the alley on hot days (or nights). Delirium has a wide selection of beers from wheat, stouts, IPAs, sours and lambics. You also have a choice of size or beer flights if you want to taste a few. Remember, Belgian beers tend to be stronger. Keep an eye on the alcohol % so they don’t sneak up on you. The bartenders are friendly and speak English so don’t be a afraid to ask for a taster before deciding on one.
How to Get to Brussels
Something important to know is that Centraal Station is the closest to the city centre (closest to the Grand Place), there’s also Midi and North station. Most trains stop at all 3 stations which are about a 20 minute walk from each other. If you’re coming from Charleroi (south airport), the first station is Midi, then Centraal, followed by the North station (opposite if you’re coming from the northern airport). The shuttle bus to the southern airport (Charleroi) departs from Midi Station.
What to See in Brussels
Just to mention a few more:
- The Atomium sculpture
- King’s Castle,
- Royal Palace, not to be confused with Place Royale (the original Royal Palace)
- The still standing Notre-Dame church
- Brussels Park where I accidentally found a small free rave on Easter
Brussels is definitely one of those cities where no matter where you turn or which street you take, you’ll find something interesting. Defintely a good idea to have your camera ready and charged at all times.
If like me, you’re a fan of street art, you’ll find a beautiful mural by Okudart right outside the North station. There are also many murals based on comics around Brussels. My favorite is, of course, the TinTin mural, shown above. You can also see the Smurf’s passage, leading to Centraal Station, as well as the Caroline Baldwin and the Broussaille mural.
A perfect way to end the day at Brussels is by enjoying the sunset and the live music performer at the steps in Mont des Arts (featured image on top). This is a very picturesque and romantic area with a beautiful sight in every corner. I was on my own (#foreveralone) but didn’t mind all the embracing couples around me because I was in love with the moment and the colorful sky. I also had a delicious chocolate covered waffle to keep me company ❤
Where and What to Eat in Brussels Center
You’ll never taste french fries the same way, since you’ll soon realize they’re actually from Belgium and they’re called Frites! Waffles with maple syrup will no longer suffice either, it’s strawberries, chocolate and chantilly or dead!… ok, maybe I’m taking it a bit to the extreme but there’s a reason why Belgians take great pride in their food.
Frites and waffles are musts in Belgium. I also found mediterranean food to be very popular in Brussels. Here are a few inexpensive and delicious places with great customer service, as well as English speaking staff:
- L’Express (Lebanese)
- Hellas (Greek, cash only),
- Mykonos (Greek)
- Lotus Vert (Vietnamese) for colder days.
Here is the Google mpas list of every place mentioned in this post. Don’t forget to download the Brussels map in Google maps so as to save data and time when roaming around Brussels. This city is a great place to just walk around and get lost. You’ll find wonderful things to see or places to eat and drink everywhere you go. Follow me on Instagram joyzcortez for more travel pics & ideas. I hope you make the best of your time in this amazing city and always, BE PRESENT.