It was a sunny November day in 2010 when at the junction of Rue de la Bourse and Boulevard Anspach I smoked my first cigarette. The filter tasted chocolate – like the whole city itself – and I felt very dizzy. Between one cough and another, I tried to listen my redhead Greek friend giving instructions how to draw on the cigarette properly. Then the whole chocolate heaven run down on us: pralines, waffels, chocolate fountains… Well, because Brussels is not only about the European Parliament and diplomats in designer suits.
The chance for spontaneous sightseeing of Brussels came during my student exchange in Essen, Germany. I chose the Ruhr valley as I wanted to practice my German. My university tutor mocked my decision: It’s an industrial grey, dirty region, why can’t you choose the Mediteranean Sea? The dormitory, however, quickly became my home – a multicultural microcosmos – and Essen turned out to be a great starting point to many interesting cities nearby (Cologne, Aachen, Münster). Moreover, within two hours by train I could visit other countries! (Paris, Amsterdam, The Hague, Maastricht, Brussels). Paradise!
There are many ways you can make the best of visiting the city. If you happen to be a fan of comic books and heroes, don’t miss the comic strip trail. If you are a beer connoisseur, explore the most popular breweries and visit a museum dedicated to the history of beer. If you prefer to visit museums and see the architectural landmarks, check them out on Tripadvisor.
To be honest, I don’t remember most of the spots I’ve seen – it wasn’t the point of the trip. It was just a wonderful time spent with my new friends hanging out and enjoying random things encountered on the way. Sipping hot coffee with pralines, crunching nutella waffles and dancing Greek dance somewhere on a square to get warm. It was really, really cold that day. And the air smelled like hot cocoa.
Little man Pee
Mannekin pis located at the junction of Rue de l’Étuve and Rue du Chêne is a small bronze statue which has drawn sightseers for centuries and there is always a lot of tourist gathered around. There are many legends about it.
The number of souvenirs with the little man was a bit overwhelming. ;-)
Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a glazed luxurious shopping arcade built between 1846-47. I could afford only window shopping. ;-) I loved the chocolate displays at Neuhaus, a notable Belgian chocolatier which manufactures and sells luxury chocolates – one of the oldest manufacturer in Belgium, next to Leonidas.
The Grand Place / Grote Markt
It is a central square surrounded by opulent guildhalls and many architectural landmarks, e.g. the city’s Town Hall and the Museum of the City of Brussels. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It looks stunning after dark!
Brussels is one of the places where it is good to forget the map and follow your feet. There are many tiny streets and spots your guidebook won’t tell you about!