A small European country with a huge potential. Coffee, croissants, a chance to practise my very limited French, charming, little streets and the main square everybody talks about- Belgium and its capital city, Brussels that is only one hour flight away from the UK.
My friend and I spent just over 48 hours in Brussels and I feel we managed to see the main sights and landmarks in the city as the place is very compact and all the major highlights are easy to reach by foot. We also had some time to soak in the atmosphere of the city, enjoy the weather, its peaceful parks and the busy old town. So join me on a little wander around Brussels, in no particular order (we did get lost a couple of times so sticking to any kind of itinerary would not have been possible anyway!) let me introduce some places that we visited on our short excursion to Brussels.
There will be no surprise if I start with Grand Place- I will take a guess saying that the square is no. 1attraction in every single guide book. We walked over to the old town just after 9 and the place still looked a little bit in a slumber, cafes opening slowly, people dashing to work, small groups of tourists strolling around the square. You cannot help but stare in awe at the wonderfully decorated buildings, decorations dazzling in the summer sunshine. From Town Hall to Houses of the Dukes and Guilds and King’s House- I don’t think I could name my favourite. So matter what you knew or heard about the square- be prepared to be mesmerised by the beauty of this spot. Grab a coffee in the afternoon, find a spot (anywhere really) and enjoy the views!
The Manneken Pis
Your visit to Brussels cannot be complete without seeing the famous urinating boy! Can I just say that I was disappointing a little bit by his size (the size of the figure to be precise!)! He might be naked when you visit or might be dressed in one of his 800 suits. Once you snap that perfect photo of the statue, make sure you stroll down the narrow streets- it is a perfect chance to get waffles and chocolates from one of the little shops, stuff yourselves to the point you cannot walk and sit on random door steps to catch a breather!
Never underestimate a map- remember that the distances do look smaller and shorter on paper maps than in the real life. However, if you do love walking then strolling to the Haysel area will be your cup of tea! The walk takes you out of the old town, through some picturesque districts and streets, most of them very pleasant. The Atomium is visible from afar and is quite impressive. You can also visit The Planetarium and Mini Europe while you’re in the area- look out for tickets combining the cheaper access to multiple places.
The European Parliament
This stop during our Belgian adventure was kind of compulsory- we are part of the European history, we are writing one of the chapters, and who knows how we will be judged by the next generations? The importance and historical values are tangible while you’re there- the original piece from the Berlin Wall, Solidarnosc and how it shaped modern Poland.
Parc de Bruxelles and Palais Royal
A vast park, completed in a French style, with beautiful fountains and shady alleys is just opposite Palais Royal. It is used mainly for ceremonial events but if the royal family is present, you will see a flag on the flagpole near the entrance.
Mont des Arts
There are plenty of parks and spots where you can relax and the gardens of Mont des Arts in one of my favourites. You walk past the statues of King Albert I and his wife Elisabeth facing each other and you get to the immaculately designed gardens. Walk up the stairs and you can admire a beautiful panorama of the city. If you are a culture vulture, then this is an ideal place to spend more than a couple of hours as you are surrounded by the museums and galleries.
While visiting Brussels, we walked up and down some charming little streets and squares- postcard perfect. Unfortunately, it was difficult not to notice a problem that many bigger cities struggle with- rubbish on (too) many corners of the streets. Some spots were particularly unpleasant to look at and smell and I really was surprised that the authorities don’t crack down this potentially tourist off putting problem. Oh well…I will always have the image of the spectacular Grand Place in my mind!