In 30-something years, I still had never visited Brussels. So we used the excuse of Andrew’s 30-something birthday and the fact that one of my cousins lived there to go for a short summer escape. We spent 2 and a half days there and that is all it took for us to fall a bit in love with the European capital.
Andrew wanted to make the most of his car (someone got himself a nice Italian vehicle) so rather than taking the Eurostar we went on the Eurotunnel and in about 4 hours we were there.
Day 1 – Arriving in Brussels and the European Quarter
We arrived in Bruxelles around 1pm and headed straight to the European Quarter which we knew would only take us half a day to visit. After finding a parking spot we headed to the European Parliament.
We had done very little homework to plan this trip so we just wandered around and discovered that we could visit the Parliament’ Amphitheatre for free. All you need to access it is an ID, so make sure you have your passport or identity card with you when going.
We had the choice between a guided tour and an audio tour and opted for the audio one to have more flexibility. The visit only takes around 30 minutes and is very informative.
Once out, we headed to Place Jourdan which unfortunately for us had been turned into a construction site. This is very common in August in Europe as cities take the opportunity of the quiet summer time to do maintenance work.
We walked back up the hill and went for a coffee and a snack at one of the terraces on Place du Luxembourg.
We ended our afternoon walking through the streets of Leopold neighbourhood.
Ending our tour at the Royal Palace just before it started raining.
After dropping our bags at my cousin’s we went for some drinks (Belgian beers of course) and dinner at Edith Café Belge.
Day 2 – Uccle, Ixelles, City Centre and Beer Tasting
We stayed in the Uccle area over the weekend. A very charming neighbourhood a bit off the beaten track. We used it as an excuse to wander in its beautiful streets as well as the ones of Ixelles on our way to the city centre. Both neighbourhoods are famous for their Arts and Crafts houses and it took us about 40 minutes to explore.
We swung by the Courthouse square which has unspoiled panoramic views of the city.
Once in the city centre, we started our visit Place du Grand Sablon where we drooled over the many chocolate shops windows. On the very charming Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés we found Jacques Brel statue.
Our next stop was the very famous Manneken Pis, the rather unusual and not very politically correct emblem of Brussels.
Walking along Rue de l’Etuve we decided to stop for waffle and got ours at Le Funambule, whipped cream and caramel for him, just chantilly for me.
Further down the road, the most beautiful sight was awaiting us. The Grand-Place of Brussels is majestic, to say the least.
After taking it all in, we moved on to another beautiful and iconic place in Brussels the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert. The most elegant shopping centre I have ever been to!
Our last stop before lunch was the Cathedral which happens to be playing the loveliest tunes on the hour. Check out the video where I included the 1pm ‘track’.
For lunch, I had a very specific place in mind. It was a little walk away but completely worth it. De Noordzee on Place Sainte Catherine only has seafood on the menu and it is delicious!
There was a lot of walking involved that day, so after lunch, we headed to the Parc de Bruxelles and took a break at a terrace for a coffee.
I had booked a little surprise for Andrew’s birthday and on the way back in town and after admiring the view from the Mont des Arts, I broke the news to him that we had a beer tasting planned in the evening.
You just cannot visit Belgium without including some sort of beer-related activity. It was a lot of fun and we woke up the following day with slightly sore heads.
Day 3 – Bois de la Cambre, Botanical Garden, street art & the Atomium
We decided to take it easy on the morning of our third day and went for a walk in the Bois de la Cambre. It is a peaceful and very green oasis.
A short walk away is the Abbaye de la Cambre, its grounds are stunning and it really worth a little detour if you have time.
After a light lunch back home, we headed to the Botanical Garden.
The parc isn’t huge but the views of the old glasshouse named ‘Le Botanique’ mixing with the surrounding modern towers are stunning.
We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the city centre hunting for comics book murals and street art spread across town. It was fun and a walk down memory lane as it reminded me of some of my favourite childhood books.
And of course, we couldn’t have visited Brussels without taking a (quick) look at the Atomium.
We ended our time in Brussels with a birthday celebration dinner at L’Ivre de Cuisine. The food was excellent and we went to bed very happy to have discovered a great city and looking forward to a day in Bruges (coming soon!).