48 Hours In… Brussels

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Brussels; the city of waffles, sprouts and multicultural European identity. Recently, the word “Brussels” has become synonymous with messy politics and delayed deadlines. However, this dynamic European capital has so much more to offer than botched Brexit negotiations.

DAY 1

The best way to start off any day is with a big breakfast, and where better to get one than the waffle capital of the world? Belgian waffles are renowned for being delicious and tend to come smothered in chocolate and strawberries. Personally I would recommend visiting Aux Gafres de Bruxelles, on Rue du Marche aux Herbes, but good waffles aren’t hard to come by in this area!

From there, take a leisurely stroll in the area surrounding the Grand Place. This is one of the most touristy areas in Brussels, and for good reason. The famous Grand Place, with its varied architecture, has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1998, and is the perfect place to have a stroll and pick up some souvenirs. As you wander the surrounding streets,, keep your eyes peeled for the impressive TinTin murals, and the Manneken Pis statue on Rue de l’Etuve. The ‘oldest citizen in Brussels’ is emblematic of the city- depending on what time of the year you visit him, he might even be dressed up!

From there, after grabbing a quick lunch, you can enjoy a 30 minute walk to the very heart of Europe itself; the European Parliament building. Once inside the building, you can pick up a headset and enjoy a guided tour of the building and learn more about the EU and how it works.

I would also highly recommend visiting the nearby Parlamentarium, a museum dedicated to the history of Europe and the EU. After a tour of the Parliament building, the nearby Parc du Cinquantenaire is the perfect place to relax before dinner.

Grand Place. Credit: Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

Not being much of a foodie myself, I was content to survive on fast food; however, there is a wide variety of interesting and reasonably-priced places to eat in and around the more touristy areas. Not only is it well-known for its chocolate and waffles, Belgium is also famous for its delicious and cheap beer. Beer tours are very popular in Brussels, but for a more authentic experience, I would recommend bar-hopping in some of the less touristy bars such as A la Becasse, which is near the Grand-Place.

 

DAY 2

After treating yourself to another hearty Belgian breakfast, I recommend heading to the Notre-Dame-du-Sablon church. Built in the 15th century, it’s a wonderful example of Gothic architecture, and taking in these sights is the perfect way to prepare yourself for another busy day of sightseeing.

If, like me, you enjoy a good museum or two, there is no shortage of places to choose from in this European capital. The area around the Parc de Bruxelles is choc-a-bloc with museums such as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Magritte museum, and the BELvue museum. However, in my opinion, the Musical Instruments Museum (Musée des Instruments de Musique) is clearly the most interesting. Located in the former Old English department store, the museum is renowned for its collection of over 8,000 musical instruments from all over the world. It also has an impressive rooftop bar and cafe, perfect for those who want to enjoy their lunch with panoramic views of the city.

After eating, take a walk through the Mont-des-Arts area. The site contains a public garden, the Royal Library of Belgium and the National Archives of Belgium. After spending some time here, take a short walk to the Palais de Bruxelles, a stunning neoclassical palace that overlooks the Parc de Bruxelles. And then what better way to finish off a day of sightseeing than with dinner and more Belgian beer?

Parc de Bruxelles. Credit: Peter PZ [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr
If you’re fortunate enough to have more than 48 hours in this wonderful city, here are some more interesting sights and activities offered by this European capital:

  • Atomium– this impressive structure is located a little bit further out of the city centre. Constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo, it is now a museum which offers breathtaking views of the city.
  • Brussels-Charleroi Canal– the canal area offers boat tours, interesting restaurants and even more museums!
  • Belgium Comic Strip Centre– Belgium is famous for its role in the production of comic books, especially the Tintin comics. This museum offers the opportunity to learn more, not only about Tintin!
  • Jeu de Balle flea market– this market, which runs on from 6am-2pm on weekdays and 6am-3pm on weekends, offers an eclectic mix of traders and the chance to pick up some quirky bargains.

Brussels is a wildly cosmopolitan city which has a lot to offer any tourist. It’s the perfect place for historians, foodies, beer enthusiasts, politics nerds, you name it. Take it from me; travel to this cultural hub and you’ll see that there’s a lot more to it than sprouts and Brexit!

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WS Sub-Editor 2019/20. Final year languages and linguistics student from Northern Ireland. Lover of books, classical music and coffee.

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