Give boring Brussels a break – a quick guide

in Travels

Brussels is always on the news for all the wrong reasons. If it’s not being blamed for some controversial EU legislation, it’s being dubbed the hub for terrorism following the recent attacks in Paris. Poor old Brussels – the city that gets called some pretty horrendous things. People call it boring, grey and gloomy – and recently, dangerous.

A recent initiative, #CallBrussels, attempted to defeat the latter perception. People from outside of Brussels were asked to call a set of fixed lines installed throughout the whole city of Brussels, and ask people passing by whether the city was indeed dangerous or not. 12,688 calls from 154 countries were registered in just 5 days.

I stumbled across this video on Facebook yesterday and it genuinely made me smile. This is mainly because I feel like I have a special bond with Brussels. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in any of my posts until now, but I’ve lived in Brussels for a couple of months in 2014. My special bond with the city probably stems from the fact that it was the first time I had lived abroad and alone. I had visited a couple of times before moving there, but living there made me change my perception of Boring Brussels to Beloved Brussels. Cheesy, I know. I decided to compile a list of places I used to enjoy visiting, and some general tips and tricks to the city.

Shopping for vintage items made easy

The greatest discovery during my stay was definitely the Place du Jue de Balle. I like to describe this as the equivalent of Camden/Bricklane area – i.e. gorgeous people wearing the hippest outfits, vintage clothing stores, and obviously the place where the daily vintage market is held. The brocante, as it’s known by locals, is the ideal place to grab a bargain, or find some cool clothing for ridiculous prices. My favourite shop in the area was definitely the Melting Pot Kilo, where one pays for their items according to how much they weigh.

Go to the BOZAR expo for art

I used to hang out here every Sunday, like a proper nerd. The events change weekly as far as I know, so you’ll never get bored. Many of them are free to attend. This is within walking distance to the Grand Place area – so it’s worth checking their website for their programme if you’re heading to Brussels soon.

The Grand Place is as majestic as it looks

Some touristy places are really, really worth visiting. The Grand Place is one of them. My favourite thing was to sit in the Starbucks which had just opened there, and people watch. The area around the Grand Place gets super busy on the weekend, with tourists flocking the restaurants and chocolate shops around it. However there’s always a lot to see as well, with street artists, and shows entertaining the crowds. Definitely worth the hype.

Grand Place 1

People watching at Starbucks
People watching at Starbucks
The Grand Place at night!
The Grand Place at night!

The best place to catch a sunset

I’m a sunset junkie, as you might know. I personally think that the best place to catch a sunset in Brussels is definitely Place Poelaert, which is situated quite close to the Louisa area. This spot offers a great view of Brussels’ landmarks – which means it’s also worth a visit during any other time of the day.

Sometimes I get lost in the details and forget the bigger picture...
Sometimes I get lost in the details and forget the bigger picture…
Sometimes I look up...
Sometimes I look up…

The best waffles ever

With ‘best’ being very subjective. I’m the messiest eater, and also always that person who gets nauseous after every meal – so discovering a waffle place that did not test both of my issues was indeed a blessing to my glutinous self. Vitalgaufre is the name, heaven is the game. The place I know of is situated exactly next to the huge H&M on Rue Neuve. I’ll try my best at explaining why these waffles are better. Basically usually waffles are served with chocolate (and any other topping) on top of them. This usually results in too much chocolate (yes that is a thing) and soggy waffles. On the other hand, Vitalgaufre serve their waffles with chocolate sticks inside of the actual waffle. Once these are heated up, the chocolate melts inside of the waffle, resulting in the literal definition of heaven.

Worth-every-single-calorie fries

Place Jourdain, Maison Antoine. There is nothing that can compare to these frites. You can enjoy these whilst walking across the park found close-by – Parc Leopold, or before stumbling back home  after having one-too-many beers. Either way, they’re worth every single calorie.

Parks

Brussels’ park game is strong. My favourite park was definitely Parc Cinquantenaire, which is so huge and beautiful it actually makes you forget you’re in the middle of a bustling city. Parc Leopold is also a favourite, which is situated exactly next to the European Parliament. One park I had discovered by incident is this which has a passageway that is full of quotes and sayings from different people – a treat for the bibliophile I am.

Studying in Parc Cinquantenaire

Some of the food is healthy…

Hard to believe this statement in the land of beer and chocolate. If you want to grab some quick (and healthy) breakfast or lunch, stop at Exki. There are a number of them scattered throughout the city. There’s also free wifi – which makes them great working cafes.

Mornings @ Exki
Mornings @ Exki

Drink up

Personally my favourite drinking activity was Plux Thursdays – i.e. Happy hour from 6pm-7pm in Place Luxembourg (i.e. the one in front of the European Parliament). Students and workers alike flock to the different pubs and bars situated on this square – and do not leave till the early morning hours.

It’s well-connected

Brussels is one of the best connected cities I’ve ever visited – and the cities around it are worth a try. The Gare Central (i.e. the central station) connects you to Belgian cities such as Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges which are really, really worth visiting.

Disclaimer: The photos included are the ones I took with my old phone when I used to live there. So apologies for the poor quality! I think it’s a decent excuse to go back to Brussels again. Anything else you think I should visit when I’m there? Let me know below! 

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