Grand Palace Guild Houses Brussels

Greetings from Brussels

The Heart of Europe

I write with Greetings from the Beautiful Brussels, the Heart of Europe!  

I don’t speak French and most people here don’t speak English…  In other parts of Belgium, they speak Flemish and it’s much like Afrikaans.  In fact, I had a wonderful conversation using Afrikaans while I was spoken to in Flemish.  Same same.  

Brussels is a whole different story.  

I pretty much decided that I plan on losing myself in the city, knowing I would get lost.  And when I did, I would just Uber back to the hotel.   Thank god for Uber!   In one of the normal local taxis, the driver could speak nearly every European language, but not English.  He had a full-on (one-sided) conversation with me, but I had no idea what he was saying.  It was hilarious.  Eventually, I turned to Google Translate which helped a lot.

It was quite fun exploring a city this way.  The amazing thing about Brussels is that there are so many alleys, you turn into one street and find an alley branching off in that street, which branches off again in another.   Each street and alley has something to offer in terms of architecture or beautiful doors or windows.   I was admiring the buildings, pathways, shops, and murals so much, and the people too!   There is a blended culture, a complete European mix in the city.   

I was definitely in foreign territory and I loved it.

Good to know...

1.  Brussels is The Capital of Belgium

It is also the Head Quarters of the European Union and referred to as the capital of Europe.

2.  Best time to visit:

In terms of weather, May to September is your best time (late Spring, early Autumn), but it is still fairly cool and you should expect rain at any time.

3.  The weather is Wet

Don’t forget your umbrella when visiting Brussels.   It doesn’t matter the season, there will very likely be rain.

4.  Public Transport.

There are trains, busses and taxis.  You can purchase tickets at GO machines found at metro stations or at the largest bus/tram stops, but good luck figuring out how to operate them when you do not understand French.  There is an option to select English, but it is not a straight-forward – ah there is the correct button scenario.  Best bet is to buy from the kiosk at the metro station.  If you are lucky you may have a person on duty who understands English.  Haha, I have to laugh.  It was quite an eye-opener how few people spoke or understood English.  Google Translate will be your friend in Brussels.

5.  Electric

They make use of two-prong plugs.

6.  Currency

The currency used is the Euro.  Many cafe’s, stalls or pop-ups prefer cash, especially when buying street food.  Restaurants don’t accept tips by credit card.  So tipping is appreciated in cash.

7.  Traffic rules

Drivers do what they want, so look carefully when walking.  I had a friend come to Brussels from another part of Belgium and we drove around the narrow roads forever trying to find a parking space.  You pay your parking ticket via a parking box on the street … via your phone.  I thought that was quite cool.  If you realise you will be longer than anticipated, you can juts extend your ticket via your phone! 

8.  Sightseeing

There is the Hop-on Hop-off bus, which remains a favorite for me because as long as you know where all the stops are, you can hop-off spend time somewhere you like, and hop-on again on the next bus in 15 minutes.  Or like me, walk off, end up at another hop-on location, and continue the tour.  They supply headphones on the buses and you have a selection of languages to chose from, including English!   Just don’t expect that the driver understands English…  

I do recommend not staying on the bus.  Stay on foot as much as possible because many sights are hidden away and can only be accessed via alleyways.

Another option is a guided tour.

Worthwhile getting is the Brussels Card that allow free access to some museums and monuments, and discounts for certain guides and stores/restaurants/bars.

Street art and artists.

Street art is something I always look out for.  I have a love of art but especially the out of ordinary kind.  Graffiti and murals are everywhere.   The city itself is like an exhibition space. It’s buildings have become a canvas for many artists.  Some of the better known ones are:

Vincent Glowinski (also known as Bonom)
Olib-B
Eyes-B
KoolKoor
Parole
Denis Meyers

Thee are many more artists all of them unique in their own way.  Bonom is quite bizarre and I saw one of his alien murals on a wall in the City Centre.  He is better knows for his ‘out there’ body part paintings that are in plain sight.

Some of the art is so large, and high up on buildings that I can’t imagine how they produce it.  I could spend hours walking around looking up, hoping I might see another one.

There is a guided tour (only in French).  You can check it out here.  OR learn more about the art and artists here and go seek them out.

The photo I’ve placed here is one I took on a cloudy day.  It is of the comic art,  Gaston Lagaffe playing with a yo-yo.  Artist:  Franquin.  Location:  Rue de l’Écuyer 15.

Comic Street Art Brussels 2

Food & Drink

1.  Flemish style Beef Stew

It’s a beef stew in a rich but very tasty gravy, usually served with mashed potato.

2.  Rabbit cooked in “Geueze” Beer

Hmmmm, I’m not really one for eating rabbits.

3.  Vol Au Vent

Puff pastries with fillings.

4.  Meat Balls

Very popular, served with sauce.  Mouth-watering yum.

5.  Mussels

Oh the mussels!  I can’t stop talking about the mussels.  They are just divine.   They have many different ways of preparing and serving them, but the garlic steamed dish was just AMAZING!

6.  Waffles

You did not live if you did not try Belgium waffles!  

7.  Chocolates

I mean, … they have a Chocolate museum…  So you learn to understand just how important the sweet affair is in Brussels.   I can vouch that chocolate has never tasted this good.

8.  Beer

There are so many beer varieties, I bet if you lived in Brussels you would still not be able to taste them all.  But this is the place where you would have some of the best beer in the world.   The motto here is:  save water, drink beer.

Falstaff

Possibly the best restaurant in Brussels – Falstaff.

It’s been around since 1903 and is a brasserie restaurant in art nouveau style.  The building is classified as a historical monument and offers authentic Belgian cuisine.

I love mussels and it is one of Belgium’s specialities. I chose to have the Gratin of Mussels in Garlic and of course beer.   There are so many different varieties and I kinda found my favorite!   A blend of barley, oats and wheat.  This blend was discovered from the Carmelite monastery back in 1679!

Falstaff Entrance
Falstaff Window
Falstaff Indoor Glass Roof
Falstaff Garlic Steamed Mussel Pot
Tripel Karmeliet Beer
Tripel Karmeliet beer in Brussels

Chocolate Galore

Chocolate Museum Entrance
Chocolate Museum Piece
Chocolate Museum Snake
Chocolate Museum Cacao
Chocolate Museum Cacao Grater Stone Board
Chocolate Museum Chocolates
Chocolate Museum Swivels
Chocolate Museum Making Chocolate
Chocolate Museum Manneken Pis

More Chocolates

Chocolatier
Chocolate House
Brown Chocolate
White Chocolate

Sweets & Waffles

Sweets things
Waffles with chocolate toppings
Waffles with fruit toppings

Cheese

I’ve died and gone to heaven.

 
Cheese in Brussels
Cheese in Brussels 2
Cheese in the shop window

Architecture

Brussels City Hall Building

Brussels is brimming with gothic and art nouveau styles.  You will also find neo-renaissance and contemporary buildings.  

The photo here of the City Hall is neo-gothic, and I wish the photo was more clear so you could see the many statues on the walls.  It is found in Grand Place Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The main photo on this post is also from the Grand Place.   It is breathtakingly beautiful and you get there via a small alley way.   

 

Bourse

Bourse – The Brussels Stock Exchange

The neo-renaissance has some second empire style and was built between 1868  and 1873.  It’s situated in one of the major squares in Brussels.

 
Brussels Bourse 1
Brussels Bourse 3
Brussels Bourse 2
Brussels Bourse 4
Brussels Bourse 5
Brussels Bourse 6

Manneken Pis

I don’t really get the fascination with the peeing statues. He’s quite a famous little fellow. There is also a peeing girl,… and dog.

Manneken Pis has been peeing here into the fountain since 1619… The fountain played an important role in the distribution of water.

Manneken Pis 1
Mannekin Pis 2
Mannekin Pis 3
Mannekin Pis 4
Mannekin Pis 6
Mannekin Pis 7

La Monnaie

The Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, or The Koninklijke Muntschouwburg in Dutch, is a famous opera house in Monnaie Square.  It’s been in operation since 1695.  The neo-classical style building hosts a number of international programmes including concerts, theatre, opera, recitals, musicals and ballet to name a few.

Royal Theatre Brussels 1
Royal Theatre Brussels 2

Black Tower

The Black Tower is a medieval tower in Brussels built in the 13th century.

Black Tower Brussels
Black Tower Brussels Enlarged

Eglise Sainte Catherine

This is Saint Catherine’s Church (also known as Sint-Katelijnekerk).   This building is somewhat gothic  with a baroque bell tower.  It was built in the 15th century!  Opposite the entrance is an open space where there is a daily market

Sainte Catherine Church Brussels
Sainte Catherine Church Brussels 2
Sainte Catherine Church Brussels 3

Other buildings and alleys

Old England Building
A Building in Brussels
Random Building in Brussels
Random building in Brussels 2
Pretty Street in Brussels
Alley road in Brussels
Building with a Coca Cola sign in Brussels
An alley in Brussles 4
Comic Strip in Brussels

Need more time...

There are many many many more sights to see.  I spent most of my time in the Central District but what I want to mention is that there are so many places to enjoy the ambiance and catch the city’s vibrant vibe.   If you have time, do seek out some of the jazz clubs, live music, shows, comedy shows. and entertainment. 

Next time I will for sure venture out into the other districts!

While in Europe I had a combined trip to Germany.  You can read about it here.

Royal Galleries of Saint Hubert, Brussels
Happy travels!
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