Posted 10 March 2023 in Travel Wanderlust
Here’s why Brussels should be on your bucket list
There can be a single word to describe Brussels for tourists - wholesome. With its brilliant architecture, innumerable museums, plethora of art galleries, many places to eat, multiple shops, and vibrant nightlife, Brussels is a must-visit for every tourist who wishes to enjoy both culture and modernity in a single place. It is the capital of Belgium as well as the richest and heavily populated city in the country.
The city is known to be a gastronomic delight in the European Union. Alongside, Brussels also has several historic and cultural landmarks many of which have landed on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Brussels is also known to many as the capital of comic strips because of the long tradition of Belgian comics. The city lies in the north-central part of Belgium in the valley of Senne.
Places to visit
- Grand Place: Located in the heart of Old Brussels, Grand Place is the city’s main plaza identified with its unique architectural buildings, guilds, ornate decorations, and rich stonework carved in the buildings here. Most buildings here were built between 1696 and 1700 with baroque style, in collaboration with Flemish influences. However, the most prominent building of Grand Place is Hotel de Ville or Town Hall which was built in 1402. The Grand Place stands to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in Brussels.
- Mannequin Pis: It may not sound as appealing at first but along Rue de l'Etuve in Central Brussels, Mannekin Pis is probably one of the most visited tourist spots in Brussels. It features the statue of a small infant and is often referred to as the oldest citizen of Brussels. This statue is known to be made in 1620 and during the special occasion in Brussels, the statue of this little infant is dressed up.
- Saint Michael Cathedral: Brussels is an old city that has its history dating back centuries. Saint Michel is one such monument that was founded in the 12th century and completed in the 15th century. This church was dedicated to the patron saints of Brussels, St. Gudula and St. Michael. This beautiful cathedral featuring 69-metre-high towers and tinted glass, with stunning interiors, is jaw-droppingly beautiful and scenic, a monumental proof of Brussel’s historic grandeur.
- Belgium Comic Strip Centre: Built in 1906, this building is where cartoon characters Smurf and Tintin were born. The building features a rotating exhibition that shows 200 comic strips by various French and Belgian comic artists. Adults and children, along with comic enthusiasts, will see their dreams come alive here.
- Palais Royale: This is the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Belgium Royal family. The Royal family currently resides here. If you are in Brussels between July and August, then you can visit the Royal Palace and get one of their free guided tours to the interiors of the palace. The palace is larger than life because of its sheer size and capacity, emitting beauty and shine from within.
- Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts: This place combines four different museums which together stands to be one of the largest and well-stocked, as well as most visited museums all over the globe. The four museums house paintings and works of some of the finest artists from different times, each artist segregated in the different museums according to the time period they belonged to.
- Notre-Dame du Sablon: This late Gothic church of the 15th century is one of the grandest churches in Belgium, especially because of its stained glass. The church has quite a historic significance, not to forget religion as well. The interiors of the church are overwhelming, so it would be wise to take a guided tour so that you understand the significance of everything you see.
Places to stay
Being a city that is frequented by tourists, Brussels offers both budget-friendly and high-end hotels for travellers. Some of the best hotels (along with their best features) to put up at while in Brussels are as follows:
- Hotels N H Collection (allows pets)
- Stay Safe Brussels (no-smoking property)
- Best Western City Centre (both bar and restaurant available)
- Secret Suits Brussels Royal (best for bigger groups or families)
- Warwick Brussels (pets allowed, fitness centre for all guests)
- B & B Hotel (pets allowed)
- Le Chatelain Brussels (fitness centre for guests)
- Penta Hotel Brussels City Centre (pets allowed)
- Hotel Avenue Louise Brussels (full laundry service and complimentary breakfast)
- Sofitel Brussels Europe (breakfast, free parking, and pets allowed)
- La Troupe Grand Place (complimentary breakfast, restaurant, and bar available)
Food and cuisine
Belgium as a whole is known for its waffles. Worldwide, Belgian waffles are sold but the truest pleasure lies in trying the authentic waffles made in the country itself. Nevertheless, there is more to Belgium, and Brussels, than waffles. Here are some of the most delicious food choices that you can make in Brussels:
- Moules-Frites: If you have not tried mussels before, then this is your chance to have the best mussels of your life. Even if you have had mussels, trying moules-frites will make you forget about any past experiences. These mussels are fleshy and meaty, even more than the ones you can find in France. Moules-frites is probably the unofficial national dish of Belgium and can be found anywhere in Brussels all through the year.
- Belgian fries/Frietans: Fries were invented in Belgium. Being their home, no other place can make fries as good as they make in Belgium. Anywhere you go in Brussels, they make potato fries in animal fat and not vegetable oil, giving a rich and unique flavour. You can either have it with mayo or other dipping sauce options, as available.
- Waterzooi: This is what is considered to be comfort food in Belgium. Waterzooi is a creamy soup or broth made with fish or meat, eggs, vegetables, and local spices. It can be served hot or cold, with bread.
- Stoemp: Stoemp is made of mashed potatoes along with vegetables like kale, carrots, onions, and Brussel sprouts, served as a side with a steak of your choice. Stoemp is a Belgian speciality as people here prefer the healthier version than eating just mashed potatoes.
- While booking your hotel, look for hotels that are centrally located and within walking distance of most tourist spots. To save time and utilize it, choose to stay somewhere in Sablon, Grand Place, or European Quarter.
- You can ditch public transport and do as the locals do - walk. Brussels is a beautiful city to walk about and explore the beauty of the city.
- There are three railway stations in Brussels. Make sure you know where your train leaves and where you ought to get down.
- If you are under 26, then you can buy Go Pass 1 at a very affordable rate to travel anywhere in the country with the Belgian train system.
- Always keep your travel/tourist visa and passport with you at all times.
- While in Brussels, memorizing the French and Dutch train stations names can be very helpful, as not many stations have English subtitles.
- Research on well-known cafés and restaurants before going to any restaurant and ordering food.
With lots of great places to visit, along with amazing food to eat, what more you can want for a holiday. So, book a holiday to Brussels and enjoy the experience.
How to reach?
- By road: Brussels is well-connected to most major cities of Belgium with highways and bus routes. If you are travelling from a different country, then you may avail bus services. Eurolines offer luxury as well as normal buses from various countries to Brussels and stop outside train stations. From there, you have to avail trains and reach Brussels. Several daily buses from London, Paris, and Amsterdam offer inexpensive travel options to Brussels. Some of the bus services are Dutch-speaking and some can be German or French-speaking as well, as a result of which the drivers may not understand English or other languages at all. Keep a track of your bus stop and be informed about the same beforehand.
- By rail: Brussels has three functional railway stations in different parts of the city for easy access and travel. The Central Railway Station is located close to the city’s centre, Midi-Zuid is towards the south of the city, and Nord-Noord is to the north. However, most high-speed and long-distance trains stop at Midi-Zuid only. Several trains connect the city to some of the major European cities like Paris, Amsterdam, London, Cologne, Luxembourg, and Rotterdam. Buses, cabs, and other private vehicles are available readily outside the railway station for ferrying passengers to the city.
- By air: Brussels Airport, also known as Luchthaven Zaventem, is an international airport located northeast of the city of Brussels in Belgium. IndiGo flights make the journey from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and other major Indian metropolitans to Brussels regularly.
Being influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, Brussels has a sub-oceanic type of climate all year round. The climate is mostly hot and humid with cold, but not freezing, winters and mildly cool summers. The average temperature of Brussels does not usually go below 1°C in winters and does not go above 23°C during summers.
Brussels can get very chilly in winters during November, December, and January when the temperature stays at its lowest. Although snow is not very common, on certain days in January, one may expect to see and witness some sparse snowfall. Brussels receives almost the same amount of rainfall as does London and Amsterdam; the sky gets overcast and there is a sudden downpour.
As for the sun, Brussels does not have many sunny days. However, when the sun is out, the sky turns bright blue. And, if you happen to be in the city during one of those sunny, Brussel days in May, it can prove to be a beautiful day to walk and explore the city beneath the soothing warmth of the sun.
Best time to visit
If you are a traveller on a tight budget, then the months between March and May, along with September and October, is the best time to visit Brussels. With fewer tourists in the city, hotels will be in less rush, and you can get pretty good deals and discounts on your bookings. Visiting during these months will also give you good, sunny days along with the freedom of sightseeing most tourist spots without having to push through crowds.
September and October can also be good for travelling, as the weather is pleasant and not too chilly yet. Tourist crowds are still less and you can enjoy at least 10 hours of daylight and check out the city and its tourist spots. Once it is November, tourists start coming in till January when the season is at its peak. There may be a rush during this time, however, the city comes to life especially during Christmas. If you do not mind the crowd, paying a pretty penny, and pre-booking your hotels, visiting Brussels during this time may be a good idea as well.
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