I haven’t done one of these in a while, but the Interactive Travel Guide is a semi-regular feature on LandLopers. The idea is to highlight one city or country and then get the best recommendations from you all. By the end of the week, we hopefully will have created the best tips not from guide books, but from real people.
I have a selfish reason for this week’s destination, Brussels. In December we will be spending a week in the Belgian capital city, using it as a base to explore some of Europe’s best Christmas Markets. We will make sure though to spend plenty of time exploring Brussels itself, but I need your help.
We’ll probably only have a couple of days and I want to make sure that we don’t just hit the travel guide highlights, but find the cool, quirky places that make Brussels so great.
I’ll start things off with what is number one on my list, the Winter Wonders Festival – the Plaisirs d’Hiver. This massive winter festival takes place every year in December and features everything from a Christmas Market to amusement park rides and even an ice skating rink. Like all things Belgian, the feature here is bound to be the food, something the Belgians do particularly well. I cannot wait to stroll around the grounds of the Grand-Place living in a wintery dream. Spending the week before Christmas in Europe has long been a dream, and I think that Brussels is the perfect city to use as our home base.
NOW it’s your turn. Please comment and tell me your favorite thing to do, see or eat in Brussels. If you haven’t been yet, please let us know what you would most like to do.
11 thoughts on “Interactive Travel Guide – Tell Me What to do in Brussels”
Check out what bands are playing at Botanique!!! Its a super cool venue with great bands always coming through. GO see the dinosaurs at the natural history museum. Or hop on a train and visit amazing cities like Ghent, Antwerp, and Mechelen
My favorite Belgian waffles are from the two little stands that you pass while walking from the Grand Place to the Manekin Pis. You’ll recognize the shops…hard to miss them, they have samples of their wares out for demo on their little street-front displays. I usually go to the one closer to the statue.
From a window seat upstairs at Le Paon in the Grand Place, you can watch them light up the square in the evening.
Grab a beer at the Delirium Cafe off Rue des Bouchers, or if a little more adventurous, cross the street to the Floris Bar for a sampling of their huge Ansinthe selection.
Two of our favorite Christmas markets not too far from Brussels are Liege and Aachen! And you have to check out Brugge at this time of year…
That’s my favorite shop, too! Very familiar with it.
In other ideas, check out the Tintin museum for some very cool comic and world history.
I agree with Jade, hop on a train and visit Ghent. Or like Brett suggested, visit Brugge, it`s lovely, especially around the Holiday Season. If you cross the border, I prefer Cologne above Aachen.
As for Brussels, check out Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast and/or lunch. And the Place du Grand Sablon if you want to try some chocolates :)
For more practical info and tips on Brussels, check out: http://www.isabellestravelguide.com/belgium-travel-guide.html
Cologne has an awesome market too. I chose Aachen because my last time in Cologne was a gorgeous Saturday, and seemed like half of Germany was at the Cologne market. Perhaps it’s TOO good…
Letting my comic book geek flag fly high, I’d recommend a visit to the Herge Museum (http://www.museeherge.com/), a celebration of all things Tin Tin; and the Belgian Comic Strip Center (http://www.comicscenter.net/en/home), housed in a former Belle Epoque department store designed by Victor Horta, the city’s greatest architect. When I was in town one December, I stayed at the well-reviewed Hotel Welcome, where every room is based on a different country and you’re only a half-block from the city’s biggest Christmas market: http://www.hotelwelcome.com/
Thanks so much! We’re actually staying in an apartment next to the comic book museum, so you better believe we’ll visit. :)
You have to go have the best frites in Brussels at Chez Antoines in Place Jourdan. Since you only have a couple of days – I’ll save you the time of doing all of the research! – http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/best-frites-in-brussels/
Take out a week’s subscription for the Villo! bike share scheme. Very cheap and once you have replaced them in the racks and waited for the double beep, you no longer need to worry about them being stolen. I’d suggest a tour on foot or by bike of the Bande Desinee wall murals or even of the Bonom Street Art (brochure available from the Bozar Museum).
The metro art is very good also with each station featuring works by major artists. If you are looking for an art museum away from the main drag, my favourite is the Folon Foundation at La Hulpe South of the city. You can combine with a visit to Waterloo if you like.
If you are there the first Wednesday of December then remember that the big state museums have free entry in the afternoon.
Personally, I think Chez Antoines in Place Jourdain is trading on a reputation earned in past times, but it is very popular. You could visit place Flagey on a Sat or Sunday morning and browse the market then get some frites there. For a good selection of eating places drop into Ixelles, the African quarter known as Matonge. My favourite Brussels food is Moules et Frites, though I am partial to Stoemp, but wouldn’t thank you for chicon gratin.
Delirium is a good choice especially on Thursday’s and Saturday’s if you like open mic nights. They have the world’d largest selection of beers, sadly none from Wales!
Some of the other pubs with character are La Mort Subite and La Becasse. Try to go for beers not owned by huge multinational Brewing companies, like Chimay, Orval or Zinnebir.
Obviously the light show on the Hotel de Ville at grand place, as shown in your photo is worth 15 minutes of your time.
The Christmas market around the Bourse and place St Catherine is quite magical if there is some snow on the ground. The designs of the children’s rides are real steam punk.
I really like Liege Christmas market as well and Ghent and Leuven are both close and worth a visit.
I would highly recommend Ghent over Brugge. Brugge is totally touristic and very over priced. Ghent on the other hand is a huge university town so has a very hip culture of it’s own. It is becoming more and more touristy and you can do all the usual things there – take a canal boat, ride in a horse drawn cart, eat mussels by the canals. But look past this and the city has some great pubs, a very cool castle, and lots of character. You can get lost in the back streets and get some great food for a reasonable price.
Belgium is beer. Make sure you investigate it! Premium beer is becoming very popular all over Europe now and Belgium has long been at the forefront. Ghent is a semi-undiscovered gem and I agree with the recommendations. But Bruges is worth seeing, and I think I´m right in saying the oldest pub in Europe is there. Be careful with the ale though Matt, it can be extremely strong (over 10 percent). The Atomium is worth a visit although a little past its prime (I´m a bit of a fan of old glories). On a darker note the Belgians have covered over their gruesome past in Congo but traces remain and are worth seeking out.
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