You could be forgiven for neglecting Brussels on your inter-railing or backpacking through Western Europe, but you’d be missing out on one of the most unique cities you may ever visit.
Many people forgo Brussels, the quiet capital of Belgium, imagining drab government buildings or grey streets and opt for the photogenic canal-saturated town of Bruges. But Brussels is a European capital worth visiting, even if the EU isn’t your thing. Here are 3 reasons why you should consider Brussels as more than a train stop on your way between Paris and Amsterdam!
If architecture is your thing, then you could easily spend days strolling through the various neighborhoods of Brussels, admiring the works of famous architects. Imagine Paris, but with ten times the number of styles present. This city is as diverse in architecture as it is in people. Art nouveau is probably the most prominent and most jaw dropping, but beautiful Medieval, Art Deco, Flemish and Modernist buildings make an appearance throughout the city.
You also can’t miss the Medieval gilded buildings that once belonged to craftsman that line the Grand Place, a former market place, now a beautiful city center square. Although many of the café’s that line the area are more expensive than many other cafés, you are welcome to enjoy a beer with friends on the square itself thanks to Belgium’s relaxed public drinking laws. On summer nights, the whole square fills up with young people enjoying these grand buildings around them and plenty of other lively characters. Year round, events take place on the square including a jazz festival in May and a beer festival in September.
2. Complete Indulgence
- The unique sour Gueuze beer, served at room temperature at A La Morte Subite, a famous café preserved in its early 20th century decoration
Belgium’s far larger neighbor, Germany and the international attraction to the country’s most famous event of Oktoberfest often overshadows Belgium’s reputation as a renowned beer producer. However, if you know anything about beer, then you might have heard that Belgium actually produces the largest amount of beer per capita, with over 170 breweries producing over 1,000 types of beer. Belgium has been producing beer for hundreds of years; first as an alternative to unsafe drinking water, then as a means of living for both monks and nuns and now for pure indulgence and tradition.
Macaroons in the window of the famous chocolatier Pierre Marcolini
Besides beer, you can really indulge yourself in the good things in life in Brussels. Known for its waffles, skip the ones with whipped cream and chocolate drizzled on them and opt for plain: they are filled with sugary goodness on the inside and really don’t need toppings! Chocolate shops align many streets in the city center, including on the Grand Place. From internationally recognized brands such as Godiva and Leonidas, to the more independent but high quality Galler, Pierre Marcolini and Frederick Blondeel, you can find chocolates made from traditions present all throughout the world. Colorful macaroons, sweet meringue-flavored cookies like the ones pictured above, are also abundant throughout the shops in Brussels. And naturally, you can pick up a morning croissant or a pain au chocolat in every bakery, shop or café to start your day off right.
3. Weirdness everywhere
It’s true, Brussels is bizarre. The city produced the world-famous Renee Magritte, the surrealist artist most known for his juxtaposed paintings, such as the top-hatted man with an apple in front of his face, or the painting of a pipe that reads, Ceci n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe). Besides having an entire museum dedicated to the work of this artist, you can expect a lot of weirdness from a city that inspired such artwork.
The 9th art, comic books are revered in Brussels and there are over 20 murals around the city featuring scenes from famous Belgian comics. Belgium is home to Tintin and the Smurfs as well as hundreds of other lesser-known characters.
Comic books are taken very seriously in Belgium and you can find scenes from famous comics all over Brussels. This is one from the gay friendly neighborhood of Saint Jaques, with the Grand Place in the background
And yes, the national monument of Belgium is a little peeing boy. He is only 20cm (less than 8 inches) high and is often dressed up in costumes that he receives from heads of state from around the world. On special occasions like Saint Patrick’s Day, he pees Guinness instead of water. There is also an entire section of the city museum dedicated to Mannekin Pis’s outfits!
The national icon of Belgium, Mannekin Pis. Throughout the year, he is dressed up in costumes, or otherwise, naked! The epitome of weirdness in Brussels
The previous was a guest post from Elizabeth Eckert from http://brusselsandbeyond.