Belgium is a place I knew very little about, but quickly fell in love with. First off, let's just talk about the food that the country is known for: fries, waffles, and chocolate. Um, yes please?! Brianna and I arrived to Brussels after spending a week together in Dublin. We were so excited to explore a new country together! The first obvious adjustment we had to make was the language barrier. There are various languages spoken in Belgium because it is bordered by so many countries, including Germany, France, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. We found the primary language spoken to be French.
Upon arrival to Brussels airport, we took a train to the closest stop to our AirBnB. The reason I suggest our AirBnB so highly is because it was literally across the street from the train station! It made our travel arrangements that much easier! We also used the train station to get to Brugge, but I'll get to that a little later. As far as tickets go, just buy them at the kiosks upon arrival.
Our AirBnB was a total hit and I'd recommend it over and over again! Our host did not speak very much English, but we only interacted in person when we arrived and everything else was on the app, so translation was automatic. The apartment was across the street from the train station and only 15 minutes away from the center square. It was a prime location. Apart from the location, the apartment was very quiet and clean. Though we only rented a room, I don't think I heard a single other person throughout the weekend. If you're in Brussels, you must stay here! Also, did I mention it's $37 a night?! Not a member yet? Join here and get $40 of travel credit!
To be honest there is not a ton to do in Brussels, but fortunately, it's easy to take the trains to nearby cities. The architecture is stunning and we spent most of our day walking around admiring all of the beautiful buildings. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Grand Place: The center square of the city with stunning architecture. The gold detailing on each facade was remarkable and so photogenic!
- Manneken Pis: Better known as "The Pissing Boy," this small statue has gained quite the following. It's not the most impressive statue, but I guess it's just something you have to see while you're in Brussels.
- Jeanneke-Pis: "The Pissing Girl" Same deal: not so impressive, but just something to see.
- Palais de Justice: This regal building was unfortunately closed for restoration and I was so bummed! It has free admission to the public, so check online to see when it reopens! It was constructed in 1883 and is a domed law court which is Europe's biggest building. Outside, there's panoramic viewpoints looking across the rooftops towards the Atomium and Koekelberg Basilica, one of the world's biggest churches.
- Royal Palace: This was another building that was closed during our visit. The pictures online looked absolutely gorgeous, so we were super upset that we missed out, but next time!
- Atomium: Left over from the 1958 World Fair, these nine house-size metallic balls are linked by tube-columns containing escalators and lifts. You can actually go inside an explore the structure, which represents an iron crystal lattice enlarged 165 billion times.
- Waterloo Battlefield: Okay, first off...is anyone else an ABBA fan? The entire weekend, I couldn't stop singing their 70s hit "Waterloo." If you haven't been graced by this groovy jam, please listen here. Your life will be changed forever. Anyway, I didn't make it to the battlefield, but this is where Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered. It's actually a pretty big deal for European history, so if you're into history tours, get yourself down there. It's a quick train ride away.
We didn't hit as many restaurants as I would have liked, but the main thing you need to know is: fries, chocolate, waffles, repeat. That's all you really need to be concerned about during your trip in Brussels. You will pass at least five shops on each street and each of them are equally delicious. You can get waffles & fries as low as 1 euro.
- Aux Merveilleux de Fred: You can watch bakers make pastries from outside on the street. I got a pastry with chocolate chips which tasted like a chocolate croissant.
- The Sister: This quaint cafe right is located right off the main square. They have so many healthy options. I got a Belgian meatball and peppers sandwich that was to die for!
- Delirium: There's a cafe called Delirium, but it's also the name of the most popular beer in Belgium. There are over 2,000 beers served with live music on Thursday! You can get Delirium at any other bars, though. A lot of places serve a sampler of different beers which is a good way to try the local beers if you're interested!
- Maison Dandoy: If you're looking for the mother of all waffle places in Brussels, here it is! The only downside is that there isn't seating to enjoy your waffles, but I guess there could be worse things in life.
We decided to visit Brugge on a total whim, but because we were so close to the train station from our AirBnB it was super easy. The train goes from any stop in Brussels city to Brugge. Once you're in the city, everything is super walkable. From the train station, center city is 20 minutes away.
- Choco-Story: If you're a chocolate lover, this is your place. Learn about the history of chocolate, watch demonstrations by Belgian Chocolatiers, and try lots and lots of samples. *Note, it's not worth buying the ticket to the fry museum. We were thoroughly disappointed with the quality of the museum and found it to be a waste of money. They didn't even give you fries as a part of the ticket!!*
- Canal Tour: This was definitely the best part of the day even if it rained! The canal (in any city) is the best way to see the city. For 8 euros you get a 30-minute guide. Buy your tickets upon arrival.
We found food in Brugge to be super expensive so beware! Brianna paid 6 euros for a small water without realizing!! There are tons of restaurants lining the center square, but expect lofty prices.
We kept saying how much Brugge and Brussels reminded us of a fairytale. We also wished we could've seen the famous Brussels Flower Carpet, but that's only out in the main square during August. It features over 600,000 flowers! If you need a visual check this out! I'm so thrilled I was able to check another country off my list with Brianna. Au revoir, Belgium!