My first international work trip was to Brussels about 16 years ago, and I hadn’t returned since. I spent 6 weeks working near the airport and probably only got into town once or twice the entire time–so it’s almost like I hadn’t even been. I vaguely remember a dinner near the Grand Place. Most of my Belgium experience revolves around the food favorites: chocolate, waffles, and mussels with fries. You can’t go wrong with those 3.
On my work trip to Europe last month, I was given the chance to re-visit. Briefly. Again, my work took me outside of the city, and I made the decision to rush into the city center after work on my last night there in order to do a “speed tour” of the main square and grab some dinner. I suppose Brussels and I are only meant for short term flings.
I’d probably check out the Atomium and Mini-Europe if I had time. Maybe go see Bruges and Antwerp. Maybe some day.
Grand Place: Smack in the center of town, the Grand Place is a lovely courtyard surrounded by museums and a huge church. It’s beautiful and quaint. The streets around the Grand Place are lined with shops and restaurants and you can be very touristy if you’d like.
Mannekin Pis: “Little Man Pee” in Dutch, he’s essentially the mascot of the “rebellious spirit” of Belgium. He’s a tiny little guy and was built in the 1600s. There are lots of legends around who the little guy is, and they dress him up pretty frequently (he was nude during my visit). The street to find him is just off the Grand Place. There are many entertaining souvenir shops where you can get his likeness in the form of a corkscrew or bottle opener.
Brussels Grill: Originally, I had selected a “local” place near downtown to get my moules frites (mussels + fries) but ended up at this spot, a half block from my hotel. It was actually filled with locals, has a cosy fireplace, and great service. A few different choices for flavor on the moules and very tasty frites. Not too shabby for a “I just stumbled upon it” kind of place.
Gaufre (Waffles): I also sampled a few different waffles from a few different spots–there are a ton of “1 euro waffle” joints around. Stop at many of them, because waffles are delicious. You can get any number of things loaded on them. I went “au naturel” on mine.
EXki: Want something healthy and fast? EXki fits the bill. Salads, sandwiches, etc.
Chocolate: Did you know the Brussels airport sells the MOST chocolate of anywhere on earth? Now you know. You should probably get some as a souvenir for someone.
Novotel Brussels off the Grand Place: Modern, tidy, close to the center of town, a good mid-range choice.