Greetings from Brussels in Belgium! 🥞🇧🇪
I spent the past two days exploring the beautiful city of Brussels. 💙
From the comic book street art to the heavenly sweets, traveling through this city has proved to be another unique European adventure. For starters, this was the first time I’d ever used a website called couchsurfing. 🛏
On this website locals offer their couch or spare room for FREE. You start by making your own profile, which lists information about yourself, and why people should host you (i.e. you speak many languages, you are very clean, you play an instrument). Then, you search the database for hosts and request to stay with them. They have the right to accept you or refuse you based on their availability and the common interests listed in your profile.
I got denied by many people that were too busy, but finally got accepted by this Spanish guy from Madrid. Here’s his cozy apartment with a stunning view. He also hosted two Russians, so he had a blow-up mattress and a couch on offer. He even made us breakfast with coffee in the morning. 🙂
What’s the catch?
It can be unreliable and you need to watch out for weirdos. Plain and simple. The host can cancel on you at any point, and they can also turn out to be a major creeper. Hah! 😂I’ve heard some horror stories, which is why I recommend only requesting to stay with hosts that have plenty of references and recommendations. Mine had over 20! He just moved here from Madrid and was hoping to meet people from other countries. On the day I arrived, the four of us went exploring around the city center and tried some traditional Belgian foods.
What to See and Do in Brussels
Brussels has an incredibly compact city center, which can be easily explored on foot. There are many historic buildings dating back to the 13th century. Highlights include The Grand Place and The Palace of Justice, plus numerous religious buildings, such as the Notre Dame du Sablon Cathedral and the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral.
La Grand Place is the central plaza of Brussels.The buildings here appear very ornate with neo-classical Flemish façades and gold trim.
Many of the building were actually owned by guilds-wealthy tradesman who dominated Belgian society in the 1600s.
One of the best places to witness this sophistication is at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, the oldest shopping mall in Europe. It’s full of expensive boutiques and home to some of the finest Belgian chocolatiers. 🍫
Some of the most famous chocolate brands include Maison Pierre Marcolini and Neuhaus. The flavors were very exotic like passion fruit, yuzu, pineapple, and mango.With the hefty price tag, we all just looked through the windows and drooled, then bought some cheaper chocolate at the grocery store later on. 😛
There are also plenty of green spaces here, like Brussels Park and Monts des Arts, which is a museum complex with beautifully sculpted gardens.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
On this sunny day, it seemed like the thing to do was relax in the park with a picnic lunch and beer, or lounge on one of the city’s many quaint terraces.
Now one of the strange oddities I found in Brussels is a famous statue called, Mannekin Pis.It’s basically this guy peeing into a fountain. I’m not sure if it has something to do with all the beer people drink here, but they are definitely obsessed with peeing. Hah!😂 Apparently it’s lucky if you throw a coin in the fountain. They dress the statue up in different outfits depending on the day as well. When we visited, he was dressed as a street cleaner. There are also two other ‘pis’ statues in Brussels. One is the mannekin’s sister and the other is his dog. Now speaking of beer, one of the must-do things in Belgium is to try the food and drink. Contrary to the city’s name, I could not find a Brussels sprout in sight! Hah! Instead I found lots of beer, waffles and fries. Fine by me! 😉
For beer we went to Delirium Cafe. 🍺They have a literal bible of beer, with over 3,000 microbrews to choose from! 😮Apparently each beer even has a designated glass. I had a sample of the cherry beer, but I don’t think you could make a bad choice.Cost: 2-7 Euros per beer depending on size
To soak up the beer we relied on carb-licious fries and waffles. Ironically, French fries were actually invented in Belgium, and here you can have them topped with a variety of unique sauces. 🍟 We went to Belgian Frites to share a sausage roll topped with fries and an andalouse sauce, which was made with mayo, lemon, peppers and tomato. Other choices included a garlic mayo and a curry ketchup.Cost: 3-5 Euros for sandwiches or fries
For a sweet treat we went to Le Funambule. There are many types of waffles in Belgium, including the Brussels waffle and the Liège waffle. Brussels waffles have a light, yeast-based dough, which makes for a thin and crispy waffle, while Liège waffles have thick dough mixed with chunks of sugar, which makes for a heavy, caramelized waffle. The Liège waffles can also be topped with chocolate, caramel, whipped cream and fruit.Cost: 2-6 Euros depending on toppings
On day two I went wandering on my own to explore the Comic Book Route in Brussels. Essentially, there is a famous Belgian comic called, The Adventures of Tintin.This 20th century comic series stars a courageous Belgian journalist who travels all over the world, and even outer space, to report on current events and solve mysteries.
It received a lot of criticism for its potentially racist and ethnocentric content, especially in its depiction of life in Soviet Russia and life in the Congo.
Despite this, the comic is a significant part of Belgian history, and to memorialize it, the city of Brussels has painted gorgeous Tintin murals around the city.
They even have a website where you can find out the location of each mural. I decided to test my luck, and went wandering without the map. In doing so, I found tons of other street art along the way.I also made it to the Atomium, a famous landmark statue located on the outskirts of the city.
Overall I really enjoyed exploring the outer burrows of Brussels.I noticed a large immigrant population here, and read later that 16% of residents here are immigrants.In fact, Belgium grants more new citizenship than any other nation in the world. It makes sense that Belgium would be an ideal choice though. The country is very affluent, with one of the highest standards of education, and offers an excellent quality of life. As well, they speak French here, which makes for a smooth transition for those coming from African nations. Despite this influx of foreign citizens though, the Belgian culture seems to still prevail. In fact, while wandering the city, I came across a group of traditional Belgian folk dancers.
Anyway, I decided to end my evening watching the gorgeous sunset in the city, then meeting up my host and the Russians for dinner. He made us chicken pasta, which was very sweet. 🙂In the end, I originally planned to spend only one day in Brussels and one in Luxembourg, but I felt like Brussels warranted the full two days. I found so many beautiful sights, and felt like quality time in one city was better than trying to rush through two cities. Anyway, that wraps up my adventure in Brussels. Stay tuned for the next city on my radar- Amsterdam! Until then! 😀
To get to Brussels from Barcelona, I flew with Vueling, a budget airlines in Europe. I like to use Skyscanner to find cheap flights deals.To get from the Brussels airport to the city center, the cheapest option is bus #12 or 21. The cost is 4.50-6 Euro depending if you purchase the ticket beforehand or on the bus.