Just like Paris is overrated, Belgium is underrated, and I can’t believe that I hadn’t visited until this year. In my opinion, the Ghent canal is prettier than any place in Amsterdam, Belgian food is as good as the French (and their fries are better), and Belgian architecture is some of the most impressive I have seen in Europe. They also have the best chocolate in the world (not just my opinion). So if you decide to visit this little gem, here are my recommendations for what to do in the capital city, Brussels.
Eat a €1 waffle. Everyday.
I spent a long time researching where to get the best waffle in Brussels – which ultimately was a complete waste of time. I ended up paying around €6 for a waffle in one of the most highly recommended places I could find on the Internet, but honestly you can find stalls selling them everywhere for around €1-2 and the one I had on the street was actually better… moral of the story, expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better and cheap doesn’t mean bad, when it comes to Belgian waffles. Because after all, you are in Belgium. Don’t bother visiting if you’re on a diet because I think I ate a waffle every single day I was in the country (how are all Belgians not obese? It’s a mystery.)
Forget French Fries, Belgian Frites are best!
So Belgian Fries (‘Frites’) are a thing. Who knew that ‘French’ fries actually originated in Belgium? Apparently, the Belgians have been enjoying double fried crispy fries since the 1600s, so they’ve had enough time to perfect the art. Again, no need to research where to get these amazing fries… they are everywhere! Make sure you ask for the Belgian’s favourite ‘Andalouse’ sauce with your fries (it’s a delicious spicy mayo – see pic below).
Discover the reason Belgium is famous
There are chocolatiers on every street in Brussels, many claiming to serve the best chocolate in the world, and one of them surely must be right. You’d be mad to not try as much chocolate as possible here, and again you don’t have to pay a premium for good chocolate (just avoid the main tourist areas). So do your friends a favour and bring home some authentic Belgian chocolate.
Grand Place is the main square in Brussels, and as the name suggests, it’s full of grand gothic and medieval architecture. The most popular tourist destination in Brussels, and for good reason.
Explore the side streets
I guarantee you won’t get bored wandering the streets of Brussels, even in the rain. From Grand Place explore the side streets around for cute winding streets of ancient buildings, chocolatiers, coffee shops and boutiques.
Shop at Galleries Royales St Hubert
Right next to Grand Place you will find this arcade of shops. Many chocolate and sweet shops, as well as cafes and restaurants are inside. It’s worth going in, even if just to look at the cool architecture inside.
Be a tourist (or laugh at them)
Of course, no visit to Brussels would be complete without visiting the infamous Manneken Pis, which is literally a small statute of a small boy peeing. It’s on the corner of Rue de Chene and Rue de l’Étuve, and here you can join the crowds of tourists snapping away and getting selfies. You can never know if he will be naked or dressed up in one of his 700+ costumes…
Personally, I was gutted that he didn’t look like this when I saw him (picture courtesy of bleuetsdebruxelles.blogspot.com )
Another tourist hot spot is the statute Everard ‘t Serclaes, just off Grand Place. People touch (or in some cases stroke the entirety of his body) for luck. It’s actually very entertaining to observe.
Tintin’s creator Hergé originates from Brussels and spent all his life in the city. There are 40 murals dedicated to Tintin throughout the city, so if you are a fan you can go on a hunt to find them. One that you can easily find is on Rue de l’Étuve – the route that links Grand Place and Manneken Pis. You can even stay in a Tintin themed room at Hotel Amigo, go on Tintin guided tours; eat at the Comics Café, and shop at dedicated Tintin shops.
Enjoy the views at Jardin du Monts des Arts
Walk up the hill from Grand Place and you will get to Jardin du Monts des Arts, a flower garden which is a great place to relax, and at the top you can get some great views of the city.
Parc de Bruxelles
Just a short walk from Jardin du Monts is Parc de Bruxelles. It’s a large park, often hosting festivals and other social events. It’s great to walk around and chill here, and from here you can see or visit Palais Royal and the Palais de la Nation.
Explore other cities!
Belgium is small and most cities are only an hour on the train away from eachother. If you have time, it’s easy and relatively cheap to take a day trip to other Belgian cities such as Brugge, Ghent or Leuven. From Brussels I went on to visit Brugges and Ghent, so subscribe to the blog or check back soon for more blog posts on what to do and see in Belgium!