So I’ve been given this wonderful opportunity to do my exchange in the City of Love – Paris. Before I go on and talk about how amazing Paris is, this post is not about Paris. I’ll have a separate post dedicated to Paris. This post is about a city that may be not be as hyped up as other cities like Paris and Rome, but has just as much to offer. Besides, it is just a stone throw away from Paris. So here’s a guide to help you start with the planning of your trip to Brussels and it answers the question of what comes to mind when people talk about this lovely city.
Destination: From Paris to Brussels, Belgium Guide to Brussels
Duration: 4 Days
Date: 17th Jan 2014 – 20th Jan 2014
Amount Spent: Approximately 150 Euros
Amount Spent on Transportation: 18 Euros Nett for return tickets
Price is inclusive of all taxes and passengers are allowed to bring one piece of luggage.
Reason for choice: The main reason for choosing this mode of transport is because of how economical it is. There was a promotion going on and thus, we were able to get such low rates for our 5 hour journey to Brussels. Overall, the iDBUS experience was quite good. Although the connection is not very stable, there is wifi provided on the bus. Also, the seats are rather spacious and comfortable. No complaints from me 🙂 Guide to Brussels
Amount spent on accommodation: 56 Euros per night. (The total of 168 Euros for 3 nights is split amongst 3 people)
Reason for choice: I always prefer to use airbnb instead of hostel when I travel. For a start, it is definitely more value for money for me. Most of the time, I am able to find accommodations on airbnb that is about the same price as that of the hostel. Only difference is that it is better furnished and you don’t have to share room with 14 or 19 other people.
This accommodation is within walking distance to the Grand Place and many other attractions. So we did not have to spend much on public transport when we were in Brussels. The only issue I had was that the room that I got (the one in the pictures) is different from the one shown in the pictures on airbnb. Since the room given was still good, I was fine with it. Just a point to note though. Guide to Brussels
Must See in Brussels
1. Grand Place (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) Guide to Brussels
This place is dubbed “the most amazing medieval square in Europe” by Tripadvisor and also my favourite place in Brussels. If you go during the right time, you may even be able to see THE flower carpet. Once every two years in August, a huge flower carpet would be set up in the Grand Place for a few days. Sadly, I wasn’t lucky enough to see it this time. This place has its charm both in the day and at night. So if you have the time, do visit the place twice during your trip!
Visit the Brussels City Museum if you want to learn more about the historical overview of Brussels. If you are curious about the rich history behind the Grand Place, this is the place to find out more.
2. Royal Palace of Brussels
This is the official palace of the King and Queen of Brussels. Although they do not live in this Palace, they hold most official events there. The palace is open for admission ONLY during the months of July till September. Admission is free-of-charge. Unfortunately, since I visited in January, I did not manage to go into the Palace. But the view from outside was good as well! Guide to Brussels
3. Coudenberg Guide to Brussels
Visit the archaeological remains of the former Palace of Coudenberg that was built in the 11th Century. For nearly 700 years in the past, this castle housed many kings, counts and dukes. It was only until 1731 when the castle was severely destroyed by fire that the ruins were removed to make way for the new royal district. The remains of the castle makes up the archaeological site.
Entrance via BELvue museum
Mont des Arts
Place des Palais 7
Tuesday to Friday: 9.30 to 17.00
Weekend, July and August : 10.00 to 18.00
Normal – 6 Euros
Seniors – 5 Euros
18 – 25 – 4 Euros
Below 18 – Free
4. Manneken Pis
The Manneken Pis is another iconic structure of Brussels that is a Must See for many. It is a bronze structure of a naked little boy urinating. The story behind this structure varies. For all the different stories, you can once again visit the Brussels City Museum. The structure is much smaller than I thought it was but I guess you can’t visit Brussels without paying the Manneken Pis a visit.
When you are in Brussels, you can also drop by Jeanneke Pis a visit. This bronze statue of a naked girl urinating is said to be a parody of the Manneken Pis. Guide to Brussels
Location: Junction of Rue de l’Étuve and Rue du Chêne
Location: Impasse de la Fidélité 10-12, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
5. St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
Although I have visited numerous Cathedrals in Europe, the stunning architecture of these buildings never fail to amaze me. St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is one of the most spectacular and famous cathedrals in Belgium.
Address: Place Sainte-Gudule, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
6. St. Hubert Gallery
This gallery is a 19th century covered arcade with more than 70 luxury boutiques. Even if you are not into luxury shopping, this place is definitely worth walking through. Guide to Brussels
If you are a hot chocolate lover, Neuhaus located in St. Huberts Gallery serves pretty decent hot chocolate!
Food in Brussels
Just like everywhere else, Brussels has its very own list of Must Try when it comes to food! If mussels and fries, chocolate and waffles does not ring a bell, then you’ll have to read on to find out more!
It doesn’t matter whether you are having it for snack or dessert. What matters is that you have to try Belgian Waffles at least once during your trip in Brussels. Since waffles are so popular in Belgian, price of waffles ranges from just 1 Euro to more than 10 Euros. I did not have the chance to visit too many waffles place during my short stay in Brussels. But I did manage to try both the 1 Euro waffle and the more expensive ones in Maison Dandoy. Needless to say, there was definitely a difference in the standard of the waffles, but I must say that you could find decent 1 Euro waffles as well.
Maison Dandoy is dubbed as the “best belgian waffles place” by trip advisor. This could be one of the reasons why it is so popular amongst tourists.
A combination of two of belgium’s best: Chocolate & Waffles. What more can a girl ask for.
To be honest, although the waffles from Maison Dandoy are good, I don’t think they are worth the few extra euros because you could really get good waffles from the streets at 1 Euro. If you are on a tight budget, I highly recommend hunting for good 1 Euro ones!
Other than waffles, Brussels is also well-known for its mussels and fries (Moules-Frites). Restaurants selling Moules-Frites are literally everywhere. Like the waffles, the price of Moules-Frites varies as well. You can get it for as low as about 10 Euros to about 25 Euros. Restaurants are usually quite generous with their serving of mussels.
Famous mussels-frites joints include:
1) Aux Armes de Bruxelles – 13 rue des Bouchers, Brussels 1000, Belgium
2) Chez Leon – Beenhouwersstraat 18, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
For cheaper options, explore the streets around the area where Chez Leon and Aux Armes de Bruxelles are located and take your pick amongst the many options. It is quite common to find restaurants for one drink, one salad and one main for only 12 Euros. So keep a look out for it!
Must See in Ghent
Since Brussels is relatively small, 2 whole days of moules frites and waffles is definitely more than enough. So my friends and I did some research to decide on which city in Brussels to do a day trip to. Antwerp and Bruges are popular option but we decided to go ahead with Ghent because many people who went there were raving about the place. And true enough, we were not disappointed. I must say that Ghent is one of the few beautiful cities in Europe that does not receive its due attention from tourists.
1. Gravensteen Castle
Gravensteen Castle translates to Castle of the Counts in Dutch. Built in the 1180s, this castle is one of the most picturesque castle in Belgium. Other than enjoying the astounding view of Ghent from the top of the castle, you can also find out more about the different kinds of weapons used in the past. In certain rooms, items that used to be from torture chambers can be seen as well.
Address: Sint-Veerleplein 11, 9000 Gent, Belgium
2. St. Nicholas’ Church
Most cities in Europe has their renowned church. Ghent is no exception. St. Nicholas’ Church is the must see church for Ghent. Before the Belfry Tower was built, this church used to be most important guard post. This church looks amazing not only on the inside, but the outside as well.
Pictures speak a thousand words. Need I say more?
Address: Cataloniëstraat, 9000 Gent, Belgium
3. Belfry of Ghent
This medieval tower, is listed as one of the many UNESCO Heritage sites. Apart from marvelling at this stunning piece of architecture, you can learn about the process in which bells are made and the history behind this tower.
If you have spare time on your visit, do drop by Julie’s House for tea. I chanced upon this pastry house while I was in Ghent and it was a lovely place! All the pastries look so amazing that you feel like buying one of each item. (Or at least that was how I felt 🙂
It is a pity that I was in a hurry and did not have time to take more pictures of the place. All I got was this picture. I guess you’ll just have to check the place out yourself!
Enjoy your time in Belgium!!