24 Hours in Brussels
I arrived early morning and made my way to Pullman Brussels Midi - a modern, eclectic and very centralized hotel. I quickly became acquainted with my "home away from home" and before heading out, saved my go-to spots on Google Maps.
Tip: "Favorite" your hotel/airbnb on your device so you can easily find it in case you get lost or forget which little street will actually get you home.
First order of business - find a place to eat! I used Yelp to find a restaurant nearby and Houtsiplou popped up. Cute restaurant with a young scene (like I’m so much older). The menu came in different languages, including English. Small table, outside, amid the perfect (and crowded) lunchtime. I was sure, I was going to start sweating profusely from the anxiety of eating solo for the first time, run away in the middle of my order, or look like a creep for starting at my crotch for a little too long. In reality, it wasn’t bad at all. I sat there and played with my phone for a bit trying to find free Wi-Fi but soon gave up. I took a deep breath, looked at the action all around me and enjoyed the moment. I was after all, in Brussels!
And so it begins...
By day, a bustling square with vendors and tourists from all over the world. By night, a bustling square with tourists but with multi-colored lights reflected off the buildings. This is a very impressive landmark and one of the most iconic sites in Brussels. All the alleys that lead to Grand Place are filled with boutique shops and chocolatiers. Not surprising, the closer to Place, the more expensive.
One of the greatest things about Brussels is that you can get lost in the alleys yet never feel lost. You can wander through to find chocolatiers, bars, restaurants, bakeries, and boutiques...everywhere! You could easily spend a few hours walking around and glancing at beautiful displays, most of them crowded by fascinated tourists but nonetheless beautiful.
Bring comfortable shoes because walking through cobblestones in stilettos will not be fun!
Upon exploring the intricate streets, I ended up in front of Manneken Pis. I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, seeing a large crowd of what I could have only guessed were tourists, frantically taking pictures pointing at the same direction. After taking shade under one of the bakeries, I finally noticed little Julien aka Petit Julien aka Mennen Pis.
The petite statue stands at the junction of Rue de l'Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat (in Belgium, you will see French and Dutch versions for streets and basically anything they can translate). To find it, take the left lane next to Brussels Town Hall from Grand Place and walk about 25 mins southwest via Rue Charles Buls/Karel Bulsstraat. You can also just favor it on Google Maps and walk towards it. The latter is a lifesaver.
When you indulge (why wouldn’t you?) on the infamous Belgium waffles, keep in mind they are usually around 1 EUR with just powdered sugar; if you add chocolate, banana, strawberry or anything else, be prepared to spend a few extra EUR. Adding banana and Nutella (my faves) would be around 3 EUR. They may advertise it as 1 EUR with toppings but does not, I repeat, does not include toppings. Some bakeries may sell at 5 EUR, especially the ones that provide seating or offer “Free Wi-Fi”.
Caffe Du Sablon
I normally skip public transportation and just walk everywhere. Not only is it budget friendly but it lets me see more of the city and burn off the cals from the four waffles and three gelatos I found myself devouring. When I need a break from all the walking, I usually do so at a coffee shop. I order a delectable pastry with an invigorating latte to sip away. At the end of the day, walking becomes an excuse to enjoy tasty delights a bit more.
There is such a big coffee culture in Europe that you're likely to come across a local find on every corner. I don’t’ have to tell you to stay away from big chains or any place facing the Eiffel Tower. Unless of course, you have always imagined yourself sipping a cup of cappuccino while admiring the Eiffel Tower.
Jardin Du Petit Sablon
On my way to the Palais De Bruxelles, I passed by a quaint park; I couldn’t resist and walked through it to check it out. At the end of the park was a beautiful fountain. I sat down for a few minutes, took some pictures, and headed out. A bigger park was waiting for me.
Parc De Brussels
I love parks, especially when the weather is so nice! It was a no-brainer for me to stop at this wonderful park. I entered through one of the gates and immediately, the smell of flowers hit me. It was so wonderful to walk around and see people having picnics, lying on the grass reading while others meditated. I sat on one of the benches and started looking at people walk by Forest Gump style. Right in front of me was a gazebo. I envisioned a group of people dancing inside, to 1930’s classic hits.
I found my dinner destination on TheFoodalist.com - a blog dedicated to reviewing restaurants primarily in Belgium and other parts of the world. I decided to try my luck and showed up without a reservation. Upon arrival, I shared my enthusiasm with the hostess for wanting to try the place, she looked through the book and found a spot for me but kindly advised that they would need the table in two hours. She sat me at a table for two towards the back of the restaurant; more privacy and clear view of the kitchen and restaurant.
Transportation in Brussels
From the airport, there is an express train that takes you to the city and vice versa. Buy a two-way ticket if you are planning to head back to the airport. It’s cheaper.
Tip by a local: A local (the guy that sat next to me on my flight to Brussels) that the nicer areas are located on the south side. He also gave me some tips and restaurants to check out. Also, UBER is legal.
Mussels: Chez Rene Friture Nice neighborhood: Chatelain, Etangs Ixelles
Try to eat: 1. Gauffre Liegoise @ Le Chalet Robinson in the bois de la Cambre 2. Filet Americain. @ Vieux Saint Martin 3. Fries @ Friterie Barriere Saint Gilles