I wanted to split this post into ‘Do’s’, ‘Can-do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’, but I genuinely couldn’t think of any ‘Don’ts’, so that should give you an indication of how much I enjoyed spending the weekend in Brussels & Bruges.
We travelled using the Eurostar because damn is that convenient. However I was in charge of planning and once we arrived in Brussels, I realised I had no idea how to get to the hotel. Oops.
LUCKILY using the Metro is SO EASY. Especially if you’re sort of used to the Underground in a non-Londoner-but-someone-who-goes-to-London-sometimes kind of way. We made our way to the hotel (the Pentahotel) which I found on Secret Escapes. I gotta say, I like a hotel where the bar doubles up as the reception desk. Definitely a nice hotel, but a bit out of the centre. I probably wouldn’t recommend because of that reason, but if you want to be somewhere a bit quieter (and we were near a lot of good restaurants and designer and high street stores) then take a look and see if there’s a deal somewhere. I wouldn’t bother upgrading to the next level after basic room though – much more space than you need on a city break.
After checking in, we headed straight back out to the centre of Brussels, and to get chips. THE CHIPS. They are not like ordinary chips. Forget everything you think you know about chips. Just try the chips.
Apparently they taste the way they do because they never change the frying oil, but after you taste them you won’t care.
We meandered down the Galerie St Hubert and when I say meandered I mean walked a few steps, looked up at the architecture, walked a bit further dodging other tourists doing the same thing, and repeat. We maaaaaaay have also chomped on a few chocolate samples in the many shops along the way.
In the sunshine, the gold on every building in the Grand Place reflects beautifully and it really was a sight to see. By chance there was a free jazz festival on, so we grabbed a table in a café, got some (cherry) beer and people watched for a couple of drinks. This is when I first realised that Brussels is EXPENSIVE.
The next mission was finding the Manneken Pis. Harder than expected. And once we were there it was as busy as I should have expected, but I had underestimated. It’s worth going to see if you’re in Brussels, but just to say you’ve seen it rather than anything else. The real winner (in my opinion) is the Jeanneke Pis. The girl version that is much closer to the centre, waaaaaay less busy, and is a girl statue doing a full on squat. Much more worth my time.
I had booked dinner at Chez Leon, and if there is one place you go for food in Brussels, make it this place. It is by no means a secret to tourists but there are so many twists and turns inside that I couldn’t guess how many people they could sit at once. We booked online which was handy, but for a couple of people you could probably just walk in, especially at lunch time. THE MUSSELS. Disclaimer: I don’t like mussels. These ones though. We went twice during our time here. The first time I stole half of my boyfriend’s mussels, and the second time we got a dish each. SO GOOD.
Bruges Day. We got the train (bought tickets at the machines in the Bruxelles-Midi station) and headed over there with all the other droves of tourists. I think the best way to describe this city is that Bruges is to Brussels as Cambridge is to London.
It is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. Even the alleyways are picturesque. We had to practically remortgage the house for the croque madames we had for lunch, but then we did pick the first place we saw that had a riverside table free.
Every review I read said that the canal rides are a ‘must do’ – but I don’t think you’d miss out if you decided not to. Definitely nice to do, and we did (luckily jumped on the last one of the day) but if you’re short of time or have already spent all your money on a croque madame, I wouldn’t say it’s the end of the world. You can see pretty much everything by just walking around anyway.
I love art, so I knew we were going to go to the Picasso museum. My boyfriend does not even really like art so he walked through it for about 10 minutes before going for a nap on the steps outside. They’re not Picasso’s greatest works by any means, but if you’re into art and want to see the variety of work he created, then go. If you’re not, then you could probably miss this one out.
As I said before, Chez Leon again. We also got chips again, and more ice cream (from this place, just off the Grand Place – definitely recommend), because what is a weekend break in Europe without doubling your bodyweight? This was a more chilled out day where we wandered around a lot, headed to the Parc de Bruxelles next to the palace, and had a little nap in the sun (me in the shade with factor 50 on) listening to some terrible band that was performing. I thought I’d planned the trip pretty well, but we seemed to have spare time on this day. To be honest this suited us after a very hot and busy two days, but still, I feel like we must have missed something?!
Round – Up
I loved Brussels and Bruges and would definitely go again. Our proximity to London makes it pretty easy to get there with the Eurostar, and while it isn’t a cheap weekend getaway, it’s a very nice one. I would love to find less tourist-y stuff to do in the future, and maybe explore a different part of Belgium as well. But I would undoubtedly return to Chez Leon everytime. THOSE MUSSELS.
Have you ever been to Belgium? What did I miss out on, and where else should we go to explore?