10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT BRUSSELS
Let’s be honest, Brussels is overlooked by travelers more often than not, mainly because it is considered to be a boring destination with no exciting things to do. Hopefully this blog is evidence to the contrary! After sharing the reasons why I love Brussels and many great foodie and fun spots in town, I really wanted to bring together in a post some of the reasons why you should include Brussels in your travel itinerary!
1. The Grand Place
The Grand Place is a masterpiece – it’s no coincidence that I’ve picked it as the starting point for my 48 hours in Brussels guide! Voted many times round as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, it is definitely a reason to visit the EU capital. Surrounded by exquisite buildings, it’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lined with restaurants and lively cafes. The square is decorated with an impressive flower carpet every two years in August, so if you happen to be in town during that period don’t miss it!
2. The waffles
Regardless of whether you have a sweet tooth or not, Belgian waffles are so good that they will make you consider not just travelling to Brussels but maybe even moving permanently! Every single visitor I’ve had has commented how the air smells like waffles all around the city centre, so it is practically impossible not to give in. Make sure to spot the little yellow waffle trucks or head directly to Maison Dandoy (my personal favourite!) for the best gaufres in town.
3. The comics
Comics in Belgium are serious business. With hundreds of comic book authors and famous characters like Tintin and the Smurfs, the country has a rich tradition when it comes to the so-called “bandes dessinées”. Brussels hosts several shops specialized in comics and the Belgian Comic Strip Centre but my favourite is the comic strip route, a great way to see the city while admiring beautiful murals. The project started back in 1991 and is still enriched with new paintings (see here and here).
4. The chocolate
If waffles did not convince you, then I’m sure Belgian chocolate will do the trick! Brussels will tempt you time and again with its chocolate shops, so this is the place to indulge. Browse the creations of famous chocolatiers (Laurent Gerbaud, Pierre Marcolini and Frederic Blondeel are my favourites), buy some for your loved ones and make sure to learn how to make your own chocolate next to the masters. Your trip well definitely become a sweet experience!
5. The architecture
Brussels is the capital of Art Nouveau. This is where architects Victor Horta and Paul Hankar designed the first Art Nouveau buildings in the world: Hotel Tassel and the Maison Hankar. Besides visiting the Horta Museum, you can also admire many beautiful Art Nouveau buildings like the Maison Cauchie and MIM just walking around the city. What is perhaps lesser known is the Art Deco heritage of Brussels. Luckily, the Van Buuren Museum, the Flagey building and Villa Empain are vivid reminders. And if you have a thing with architectural details like me, make sure to pay attention to Brussels’ beautiful doors.
6. The frites
Just like Belgian waffles, the famous frites are almost addictive. Sure, they’re not the healthiest or fanciest snack out there but they’re crispy, tasty and indeed cheap like chips! Sold in small stalls around the city, they’re fried twice in beef tallow and come with different sauces. Spotting the best frites is a serious affair in Brussels and everyone has their favourite “fritkot” but mine is Frit’Flagey. Get in the line (there’s always a queue but it’s part of the charm!), buy a cone with frites and enjoy them by the Ixelles Ponds.
7. The flea markets
They say that visiting a flea market is the best way to get a local flavour of a city and this is very true in the case of Brussels. There are many great markets organized around the city, so no matter the day or area you are in the chances are there will be one to explore. Some are more noisy (e.g. the Marché du Midi on Sundays), others more young and lively (e.g. the Chatelain market on Wednesdays) and then there are those that are simply a foodie’s (e.g. the Flagey market or the gourmet market in the Sablon) or vintage lovers heaven (e.g. the flea market in Place du Jeu de Balle).
8. The beer
Belgians love their beer and Brussels is an ideal place both for beer experts and travellers who’re curious to discover more about it. There’s a beer for every taste and countless bars around town where you can get a pint. My favourite spots are Moeder Lambic on Place Fontainas, A la Mort Subite but you can also go directly to the source and visit some of the local breweries like the Brussels Beer Project, Brasserie Cantillon, En Stoemelings. Feel free to enjoy different kinds of beer and don’t worry – it’s always beer o’clock in Belgium!
9. The outdoor festivals
Brussels is a very lively city. People of all ages and nationalities come together to enjoy its great outdoor festivals throughout the year. There are way too many options but here are some of the ones I’ve really enjoyed over the years: Jazz Marathon, Fête de la Musique, Eat! Brussels, Nuit Blanche, Ommegang, Food Truck Festival, Royal Park Music Festival, Belgian Beer Weekend, Comic Strip Festival. See, there’s something for everyone! And there are just as many indoor festivals if you’re that way inclined.
10. The day trips
Last but not least, you should definitely include Brussels in your itinerary if you are keen on combining your visit with day trips to a few other destinations within or outside Belgium. Pick a city and hop on the train – will it be Amsterdam, Bruges, Cologne, Ghent, Lille or Paris? Or how about visiting the Blue Forest and the largest Japanese garden in Europe?