Brussels is an underrated city. Everyone knows that Brussels is the capital of Belgium and the centre of the European Union, but that’s it. They don’t think about taking a trip to this city. I mean, if you had to choose a weekend getaway, you’ll rather think of Brugges of Antwerp. It’s a shame, because there is so much to do and to see in Brussels.
While every travel guide will guide you to the Manneke Pis, I’m going to be quite honest with you and say this statue is not that extraordinary. It’s a small statue in the corner of the ‘Stoof and Eikstraat’. Without the pile of tourists in front of it, you will hardly notice it. It’s nice to see it once in your lifetime, but that’s it.
But what then? What is worth visiting in Brussels? Answer: plenty! Brussels is a city with a lovely atmosphere that you should just enjoy. No map, no strategic plan to visit all the sights, just wander around. Take a left, then take a right. This is the way you discover the pretty streets of Brussels.
During my stroll through Brussels I noticed this city has two sides. Or actually it has three sides, if you count EU Brussels. I let this third, less fun, side pass for now.
# 1 Old Brussels
Grand Place. All the streets of Brussels come together at one point: at the famous Grand Place. No matter what, you will end up here. This square is surrounded by guildhalls with striking names like ‘Den Sack’ and ‘De Wolvin’. If you turn to the other side of the square, you’ll find two beautiful gothic structures: the Breadhouse and Town Hall. The atmosphere of the square is amazing. It’s feels like you’re taking a stroll through the Middle Ages, a time full with nobility, tradesmen and guilds.
Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert. Not far from the Grand Place you’ll find the luxurious Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert. This glass-covered shopping arcade reminds me of the GUM in Moscow (see Russia: the four sights of Moscow). The two hundred meter long gallery is the home of five of the best chocolatiers of Belgium.
Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is the work residence of king Filip. This is definitely worth visiting. It’s an impressive appearance and reminds me of Paris because of the royal charisma, the gardens and the nearby Brussels Park. It’s strange to find out that the palace is actually modeled after the Buckingham Palace in Great Britain. Off course, the Belgian version is twice as big.
# 2 Brussels, the city of comics
During my stroll through Brussels I was pleasantly surprised by the enormous wall frescos of some well-known cartoon characters. These frescos came into existence in the nineties as a reaction to the policies of king Leopold II. He made a plan for broader streets, but partly executed this. The result was a ton of useless walls. The local authority started to fill these walls with cartoon characters. Many comics come from Belgium with the all-time hit The adventures of Tintin. If you want to see all the comic walls, you can follow a special comic route. Brussels also organizes an annually comic festival in September.
Soo… visiting Brussels next time?