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mistybleu Brussels - A travel report by Amanda
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Brussels,  Belgium - flag Belgium -  Brabant
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mistybleu's travel reports

Moules Mariniere et des frites

  11 votes
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Food for thought in this little city with a big heart! Enjoying this city is about doing what everyone else does and more, whether it’s hunting for silly souvenirs or trying the famous dishes, drinking beer and of course a little sightseeing.

Grand Place - in the heart of Brussels
Grand Place - in the heart of Brussels
Brussels is made up of 19 communes forming one of the three regions of the federal Belgian state and is the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium withand a population of just over 2 million.

Brussels is also the European capital the city as it is home to the European Commission and to the Council of ministers of the European Union (EU). It is defined as the archetypal "melting pot" and lies at the crossroads of cultures in Europe.

One of the paradoxes of Brussels is that although mostly French-speaking it is the capital of the Dutch-speaking (Flemings) area of Flanders. However the city is bilingual with both French and Dutch as official languages and street names and traffic signs are always in both languages.

Brussels was the former capital of the medieval Duchy of Brabant; with its Gothic buildings, cathedrals and churches that are next to gracious classical facades like the buildings around the Royal Square or beautiful art nouveau and art deco houses. But much of the city was torn down to make way for the new European buildings, but nonetheless is an interesting city to explore.

The best place to start getting to know the city is from the Grand Place (Grote Markt), the heart of the city. This historic market square has wonderful guild houses and a stunning Gothic Town Hall; it is widely considered one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe.

The public transport system is very good; they have a very efficient metro system with trams and buses proving fast and convenient. The country also has one of the world's most dense railroad networks, putting most other cities and towns within easy reach. If using the Eurostar the trains arrive in at Gare Mid and then it just a taking a connecting train one stop to Brussels Central station where you’ll be in the heart of the city, within easy walking distance to Grand Place.

Favourite spots:
Chocolate shops
Chocolate shops
Being completely shallow, but the best things about being in the city for a day is visiting the chocolate shops. Some of them are rather charming, and have a period feel about them. They have so many different kinds to chose from and they will ususally offer a sample, which wasn't a bad way to entice me to buy.

I don't know why, but I was suprise to find a chocolate museum in the heart of the city, that offered tours. I'm sure it is a good experience, but I don't think I sad enough as yet to part take.

I shopped in two but only remember the name of one of them. The other was on a covered arcade that had a few restaurants and cafes. With the chocolate shop drawing my attention. It was the kind of place that made you feel special buying there and then when they packed you box with their goodies that too made you feel good. But really isn't that what chocolate is all about - the feel good factor.

What's really great:
The unusal - Chocolate Museum
The unusal - Chocolate Museum
I suppose if I’d spent more than a day here I could probably be very creative and come up with a very unique side to the city that is worth exploring. But as it happens I was only here one day and most of that was spent around the Grand Place.

This is the heart of old city and has some superb old buildings, cobbled streets, chocolate shops, pavement cafes and bars. There is a quaint charm about this area.

The square is fabulous and the buildings live up to their billing; honestly you can never be disappointed. But what was really nice, was just milling around and talking to a few locals and tourists. There were a lot of students around and I even got to participate in there school project – well it makes exploring European cities a little different then the norm.

Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis
Brussels is a fun yet tiny city, with a lot of the tourist attractions in close proximity; some of the main attractions include:

Grand Place - the main square; Manneken Pis – this little statute is world famous; the Atomium - originally a symbol of the 1958 Brussels World Fair in the design of an atom; the Comic Strip Centre, also some strips are dotted around the city; Mini-Europe, a permanent outdoor exhibition in small scale some of Europe's most famous architectural sights, including the British Houses of Parliament, Belgium’s Grand' Place, Venice’s Palace of the Doges, Eiffel tower, Parthenon and so much more.

A few other include: Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark, Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog on the east side of town inside Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark and Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwersstraat.

Around and about
Around and about
If you are coming on the Eurostar – the main station is Brussels Midi, then you can get a train to Brussels Central, which is just one stop along and the great thing is that you don’t have to pay as the Eurostar ticket will take you to any train station in Brussels. In and around the Brussels Central vicinity there are many of the well known hotels including Best Western, Novotel, Ibis, Le Meridien and Hotel Amigo. Really there are so many hotels you are really spoilt for choice – I also noticed a few two star hotels that seemed quite pleasant.

The Music Village
The Music Village
As I was only spending the day in the city I didn’t actually go to any bars or out for dinner, but I came across the cool bar/restaurant. It was cool because they had live music while dining. I think they must have been rehearsing as when I walked passed as the music that was coming out of the joint was hot. If I had time I would have definitely return. I will be back in Brussels next year, so I must remember the name.

The Music Village located on one of the roads leading from Grand Place; I think programmes are billed under the Jazz Cafe banner, but it really sounded fun.

Chocolate shop
Chocolate shop
I love Belgium for the iconic food we have come to enjoy and love. While walking the streets you must try some chips in a cone with some mayonnaise. Extremely bad for you – I mean a heart attack waiting to happen but you only live once.

For lunch stop in one of the many restaurants in the centre of the city and have the steam mussels with chips or fresh fish. The smells and taste are fantastic and all over the city you will see people with a big pot of mussels and a spare bowl next to it – to be fair it is quite comical with everyone doing the same things.

Then as an afternoon snack – a must – getting a waffle; you can have it dusted with sugar, chocolate, jam, with strawberries and cream, banana or even ice cream.

Now just before going back to the hotel or the train station, depending on your trip’s duration, you have to stop in a chocolate shop and get some snacks for later. Really Belgian chocolate is the best and let’s not forget the beer to wash it down with!

Other recommendations:
Grand Place
Grand Place
Try one of those hop on and off again buses to see the city; it hits all the main sites and the tickets last 24 hours (costs 18€). I think the best way to do it, if you have more than one day in Brussels; jump on and do the whole tour, it should last an 1 ½ hours, have some dinner and then get up early the following day and hit all the sites you heard about. The buses run every 40 minutes, but this way you can be more selective with your time; this is not to say there is a huge amount to see.

It is really easy to spend a day or weekend in Brussels as I live in London the best option is to use the Eurostar. Generally the Eurostar runs between London St Pancras and Brussels for as little as 1 hour 57minutes and as little as £59. But owing to the fire in the tunnel (September 11th) things are a little different. It would probably better to travel once services are back to normal as the delays really cut into your time; I think if I’d known I would have definitely cancelled.

Published on Sunday February 1th, 2009

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Sat, Mar 28 2009 - 10:00 PM rating by shubh

Indeed a good report. It will definitely help many to plan their trip with more confidence and will reduce their dependency upon the possible biased opinions of the travel agents.
Travel.justluxe adviser

Tue, Feb 03 2009 - 10:32 AM rating by frenchfrog

Great report! It was unlucky than the Manneken Pis was not wearing a costume! (Every time a president/King or Queen is coming to town he/she is supposed to bring a little costume for him.) But yes Eurostar is great for a day trip to Brussels from London....!

Tue, Feb 03 2009 - 05:16 AM rating by louis

Only one day there and such interesting report. When I was in Belgium I tried spaghetti with moules in garlic sauce - delicious. Great report Amanda

Mon, Feb 02 2009 - 06:42 AM rating by krisek

Nice one, Amanda. I am just typing my own report on Brussels (and a couple of other places in Belgium), so I will wait with the publication. I am being less enthusiastic about mussels in my report ;) Thank you for sharing.

Sun, Feb 01 2009 - 11:29 PM rating by gloriajames

Great report, as usual, only the best from u!
Btw...what does the title of the report mean? Besides figuring out that it has to do with food. Oh....are the Belgium chocs live up to expectations of being the world's best?

Sun, Feb 01 2009 - 06:16 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Très joli récit, merci beaucoup !

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