Friday, 15 July 2016

The Best of Brussels

Brussels is often overlooked as a city for a short European break but as the centre of the European Union this is a city that definitely has a buzz about it and after three days there I can say it is definitely worth a visit!

We travelled to Brussels on a super cheap Ryanair flight booking it in advance it worked out at about 23 euro one way so look out for those deals! We were staying with a friend so thankfully didn't have the added cost of accommodation so keeping to that student budget proved easier.

Belgian waffles and fries are a must try for any foodies and I can honestly say it was the first time I had ever tried a waffle but anyone who has a sweet tooth or is a chocolate lover this a must try. Tiny waffle eateries and frite-haus are all over the city with most places offering waffles starting at €1. It is sweet enough to eat by itself but of course given the huge selection of toppings available we had to try them out . I went with nutella and strawberries which was a heavenly combination.

Brussels has the most amazing transport system and we bought a 24 hour card for €7.50 which allowed unlimited transport on trams, metros and buses to save you all the walking. We also did hop on a few trams without paying but sssh... you do risk a fine! We wanted to do all the usual tourist attractions and headed to the Grand Place and to see the Mannequin de Pis which unfortunately wasn't dressed up the day we went to visit.

The Grand Place is a gorgeous square surrounded by amazing buildings such as the most ornate town hall you have ever seen. The Mannequin de Pis was a little bit underwhelming as it was very tiny and you would nearly miss it (pun unintentional). We were still glad however that we got to see the usual touristy sights. Brussels is very popular with Asian tourists as you will see and trying to take a photo without someone getting in the way proved difficult.
We had heard a lot about the Atomium and Mini Europe and decided to hop on a tram to take us to BruPark. You just get off at the last stop at Heysel. Its kind of like an area where a good few of the touristy attractions are grouped together which does make it handier as a one stop shop. You can also visit the aquarium and the planetarium there and when you group tickets together for attractions it will work out cheaper overall...
We had heard the Atomium wasn't worth going inside, but it was spectacular to look at from the outside and we had great views of it from Mini Europe. Mini Europe was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Brussels. It basically has monuments of all the famous landmarks in buildings of countries in the European Union - it was definitely worth a visit and we spent about three hours there stopping for ice cream of course as it was one of the hottest days of our trip when we were there! We also cooled off with a cocktail or two (they were the cheapest and strongest we had found!) for only six euro in one of the bars at BruPark. Ask for the Cuba Libre.
Nightlife wise, Brussels proved to be a tough nut to crack. Flagey was the main square near where we wee staying and we returned to CafĂ© Belga the three nights we were there as it was the only lively place we found nearby with a younger crowd and some 90s tunes and a laidback vibe. Belgian beers are a must try over there. I'm not a beer drinker but I drank it when I was there as you can get cherry and raspberry flavour 'kriek' as its called which goes down a treat. A round of three flavoured beers will only cost you about €8 or 9. Wine was also super cheap ranging from €3.20-€5.20 depending on glass size so if you like beer or wine this is the place for you. All cocktails and sprits were as expensive if not more expensive as Dublin. Watch out for some of the super strong Belgian beer! Other recommendations beer wise are Duvel verte and Leff Blonde.
The lakes near Flagey are gorgeous to sit by in the early to late evening and a lot of students take advantage of this and public drinking doesn't seem to be an issue just make sure you clean up after yourself.
A plus of the outdoor pub life is a lot of places allow you to bring food in to enjoy with your beer so you can enjoy some of the traditional Belgian frites or kebabs, burgers, meatballs with your beer for extra soakage!
Eating out, there are a lot of Italian restaurants we noticed so we went for a delicious pizza one of the days near Schuman called La Bracce. We also went to The Black Sheep for burgers...this is where I discovered that Belgians like their cow nearly mooing on the plate. If you aren't a fan of rare burgers I recommend asking for your beef to be well done. I can handle a pink steak just not pink burgers!
A lot of Turkish/Arab men live in the area of the Flagey and we did feel uncomfortable at times with men openly staring and making comments towards us in the street. It is most definitely a cultural thing and we didn't experience this in Amsterdam. I guess they don't see a lot of blondes in Belgium! It's the one thing that could kind of leave a sour taste in my mouth about Belgium. When you travel you don't usually need to factor in an expectation of street harassment!
Despite that, Brussels is a great starting point for extra travel to the nearby cites of Leuven, Antwerp, and Bruges. We discovered Bruges for a day and I can confirm that it is well worth a visit...
***More to follow in the next blog post***


  1. This is excellent timing Katie! A couple of weeks ago we booked a trip to the Christmas markets in Bruge & Brussels for the start of December! Great tips! X

  2. Ah delighted you will get some use out of it, i never got around to doing a blog post on Bruges but I absolutely loved it! We wished we stayed in Bruges, might get a post up on it before you go but its such a cute little town. There's beer tours and a chocolate factory that is supposed to be worth a visit x


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