Chocolate, Waffles & Street Art – A Brussels Weekender

AAB716A5-E364-48CF-8600-858E28791F70If you are looking for a city you can easily visit in 2-3 days be it an easy weekend escape for those living in Europe or a add on to a European holiday, then Brussels should certainly be high on your list.

The city of Brussels is iconically known as “The Capital of Europe”, so it should come as no surprise how culturally European this city feels for tourists, even for those living in Europe themselves as I felt. Did you know that the EU headquarters is in Brussels? A visit to Brussels can provide for a fun couple of days eating and drinking your way through the city, strolling to see the great architecture and bumping into the array of art that fills its streets.

See my top recommendations to make the most out of a trip to Brussels bellow and start planning your own visit.

Considering visiting multiple cities in Europe from Brussels? Be sure to visit my “Country Guides” section for inspiration on other close places to visit in Europe including Germany, England and Spain. (FYI: Paris is a short hour train ride from Brussels.)

 

Airport To City

Brussels South Charleroi Airport to City – If your flight has you traveling to South Charleroi Airport keep in mind that this is a 45+ minute journey to Brussels city center and either cabs and Ubers will cost around 100 Euros. Instead consider using the shuttle provider, Flibco which offers shuttle service to the bus station, Gare Nord with shuttle times leaving every 20-30 minutes, 7 days a week.

For tickets and to view the schedule click HERE.

Brussels Airport to City – If your flight has you traveling to Brussels Airport (BRU) the Intercity direct train system can easily get you into the city in under 30 minutes for 12.10 Euro each way. Tickets can be purchased at the station or online HERE. 

 

Tips

Cash – Cash is still king in many tourist attractions, neighborhoods and restaurants in Brussels so be sure to withdraw some from ATM’s or exchange money before you begin exploring the city. Many establishments will post this but if they don’t, they do seem to allow you to visit an ATM to withdraw money without putting too much of a fuss. In any case, be sure to ask first.

Restaurant Culture – Expect longer times at sit down restaurants in Belgium. This is definitely a culture where service is slow and it’s expected to be. Be sure to leverage this knowledge and go to sit down restaurants for dinner after spending your day sightseeing to maximize your time in Brussels.

More Days Available – Have more than a weekend to visit? A day trip to Bruges is a must if you have the time. From Brussels the train to Bruges is only 35 minutes and a quaint little town known for their Christmas market if you happen to visit in December. If visiting any other time, consider a bike ride strolling through the farms, windmills and neighboring villages.

 

Getting Around

Cabs – Cabs are everywhere in Brussels but cash is king here so be sure to have cash when traveling in the city.

Uber – Uber does operate in the city of Brussels allowing for easy travel around the city which is always useful.

Need to download UBER? Use my $5 promo code for a free ride on your first trip: “r83uv”. Download the app HERE and enter the promo code to redeem.

Train – There are many train routes in Brussels making trains a great option to get around the city or to visit other cities near Brussels. Ticket machines maybe a little difficult to figure out as the way you select your option is by twisting the knob (Which isn’t very clear on the machine even in English mode. Lucky for you, your reading this blog so now you know and can navigate without issues.)

E – Scooter – What seems to be a trend in Brussels is using electric scooters to get around the city. You will spot many of these electric scooters scattered throughout the city which can easily be rented by the hour/minute/mile etc. using your mobile device and downloading their app.

Check out the various companies providing this service in Brussels HERE and pick your e-scooter. (FYI: My travel partner and I used “Lime” but due to rain on the day we tried to give this a try and accidents from my past life I decided to not use the scooter option to navigate the city.)

As always be sure to practice safety and read up in advance the rules of the road for scooter riding in Brussels to ensure you don’t stand out too much as the reckless or unknowledgeable tourist.

 

Languages

French is the prominent language spoken in Brussels with German also spoken in other parts of Belgium due to their historical ties during WWII. Many people speak English in Brussels so you should not have a problem. Regardless, still have some basics under your belt to show you’ve made an effort to speak with them in their spoken language.

Basic Phrases

Hello! Banjour
Good day! Bonne Journee
Yes Oui
No Non
Thank you Merci
Thank you very much Merci Beaucoup
Sorry Pardon
I don’t speak French Je ne pas parle Francais

TIP: A month leading up to my trip, I used the “Memrise” app to brush up on my French learned in high school. I chose Memrise over Duolingo as Memrise focus’ on speaking opposed to grammar and writing which is exactly what I needed for the trip.

 

Where I Went

  • Grand Place Area – FYI Brussels City Museum and Town Hall is also in this iconic square.
  • Palais de Justice
  • Manneken Pis – This adorable pissing boy is worth a visit and won’t take up much of your time. At certain times Maneken Pis gets dressed up for all sorts of occasions and if you get lucky like I did you get to see him donning one of his many outfits.
  • Manneken Museum – Want to see the full closet of Manneken Pis and learn more about this Belgian icon then this is the place to visit.
  • Atomium – While I was able to see Atomium in the distance overlooking the city of Brussels; due to train service being canceled abruptly while attempting to get to Atomium, I was never able to actually visit the direct site but certainly do add it to your visit. From the city center it is a 25-minute train ride.
  • Royal Palace of Brussels – While no longer an active palace this is still a beauty and tours are available.
  • Brussels Park – Beautiful park and garden in the center of the city.
  • Mont des Arts – This area has tons of museums including the library and fine art museum and it comes with beautiful views to the lower part of the city.
  • Bibliotheque Royale de Belgique – The Royal library is another architecture masterpiece but I’m also bias based off my love for libraries.
  • Galeries Royales Saint Hubert – A stunning glass ceiling marketplace with upscale shops and eateries.
  • Brussels Canal near MIMA – Beautiful views of the canal with the hipster neighborhood in the background.
  • Brussels Street Art – Stroll the city looking for your favorite street art including the famous Tintin murals.

TIP: Searching “Tourist Attractions” while in Brussels in Google maps app on your phone will include many of the iconic street art in the city. My partner and I created our own scavenger hunt / private street art tour this way which included stops enjoying hot chocolate, waffles, frites and spotting the various breweries hidden all over the city.

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Additional places to add to your visit – Given unsuccessful attempts to get to Atomium we missed some places but this certainly doesn’t mean you should.

  • Cinquantenaire
  • Triumphal Arch
  • Le Botanique

 

Where To Stay

  • Citadines Toison d’Or Brussels – A contemporary apartment hotel perfectly situated in the city center, close to public transportation, luxury shopping and city attractions without breaking the bank. Do keep in mind that the hotel chain does have other locations throughout the city but I particularly enjoyed this location as it wasn’t situated in the heart of the touristy hub which allowed for a wonderful balance to the relaxing weekend I was hoping for the weekend.

 

What To Eat

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  • Gaufre/Wafle – There is nothing better than a Belgium waffle, be it savory or sweet. You will find stalls everywhere in the city offering them with an array of toppings. Whether you add toppings or not, even the plain waffles won’t disappoint as the batter is made with sugar giving the warm off the griddle waffle a hint of sweetness.
  • Chocolate – Belgium is said to be one of the countries purveying the best chocolate in the world. Given the number of chocolateries in the city and tasting your way through all the options, it’s hard to deny them. Be sure to sample the famous Belgian Pralines and if you love chocolate in liquid form the way I do then make it a must to indulge in hot chocolate here (TIP: See below where to have Hot Chocolate to ensure you save time for other things like eating chocolate and deciding which is your favorite.)
  • Moules – Mussels in sauce are certainly a staple here. They are usually accompanied with frites and the mussels can be cooked in an array of sauce based on your preference from beer, white wine or broth. (TIP: Use the empty shells to pick up the loose mussels from the broth.)
  • Frites – Any Belgian will tell you that French Fries actually originated in Belgium and they sure eat their share of fries here. Fries in Belgium are thicker, crispier and usually topped in an array of toppings with mayo being the classic.
  • Carbonade Flamande – Belgian’s version of a slow cooked beef stew made in beer sauce. It’s a perfect meaty dish to keep you full all day especially since this stew is usually accompanied with you guessed it, frites.
  • Belgian Beer – With over 200 breweries in the country and many having locations in Brussels similar to chocolate, you will certainly have your choice. Do a tour or visit one of the many brewhouses in the city to enjoy a pint of flight for yourself.

 

Where To Eat

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  • Au Vieux Bruxelles – A cozy little restaurant known for their Belgian dishes including their mussels and beef stew. Very authentic and very delicious. Definitely recommend if you are looking to treat yourself by splurging a little for a very delicious traditional meal in a very authentic restaurant in the city.
  • Waffle Factory – A delicious and quick way to get your waffle fix while you sightsee in Brussels. Don’t be deterred by the fast food chain restaurant as this doesn’t take away from the taste. Waffle Factory is one of the best places to get waffles in the city and they are one of the few restaurants that offer savory waffle options too. I can vouch to this claim of being one of the best after eating waffles from “Maison Dandoy” considered another top waffle place in Brussels and being very disappointed despite it being more upscale. (FYI: Meal deals at the Waffle Factory include both savory and sweet waffles so you will get the best of both worlds.)
  • Le Delire Parisien – This French restaurant is a great place for mussels and other classic French dishes. The atmosphere and service are superb minus the fact that they are a cash only establishment. My top picks; mussels in sauce, granitized mussels and their French onion soup.
  • Pierre Marcolini (Location in Galeries de la Reine) – Brussels is filled with chocolates galore so it’s a must to taste your way through all the options from their famous pralines to their macaroons. BUT for hot chocolate; Pierre Marcolini is the place to go! I’m somewhat of a hot chocolate aficionado and their hot chocolate stands as one of the top hot chocolates I’ve had in the world. Thick, rich and decadent.

If you too are a hot chocolate aficionado and traveler like myself, make your way to Poland to visit Karmello in Poland. See my post HERE on how to make the most out of your trip.

 

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