Last weekend I traveled to Brussels, Belgium. Brussels is a great entry hub for European travel and it is worth spending a day exploring the city if you happen to be connecting through here. I decided to stay in the Brussels region rather than go by a 30 minute train ride to nearby Ghent or hour train to Bruges which are the two more popular medieval cities in Belgium, along with Anthwerp in the north.
Brussels is not a bad city. It is definitely one that on the surface seems just ok, which it did to me given my whirlwind tour. But I could tell from my quick tour that there are many a nook and cranny that the city has to offer but it just takes more time to explore or in lieu of the touristy hotspots you could spend more time meandering the streets and going along the Mural walk (Brussels is filled with murals from its famous comics). Nonetheless I had a great 24 hours in this city. The food was delicious and the Christmas light show in the Grand Place (main square) was surreal and itself worth a visit.
I stayed at 9Hotel Central just a short 2 minute walk from the Brussels Central Train station where you can take the train to and from the airport as well as to anywhere else in Belgium and even onwards to Amsterdam or Luxembourg. I’d recommend booking directly with the hotel’s website as the price was better and even got a free upgrade at check-in.
- Arrived in the morning at Brussels Airport, took the train from Airport to Brussels Central station for around $10 one way.
- Checked into the hotel, thankfully a room was ready.
- Headed back to Brussels Central station to take a 1 hour, two-train commute to Louvain-La-Neuve to visit the Herge Museum. Belgium has its share of famed comic artists and writers, most famous of whom is Herge (his pen name) who created the world-wide sensation of The Adventures of Tin Tin. I have always loved Tin Tin and so decided it was worth my time and money to check out this very nicely designed and curated museum going through the life of Herge and dedicating another part of it to Tin Tin of course.
- I then took the train back to Brussels, got off at the EU Parliament and walked to the original Maison Antoine, said to be the best Belgian Pomme Frites stall in town. Stood in line and got myself some Frites with curry sauce, delicious.
- Took the subway back into downtown Brussels. Took a break in my hotel before heading to Mokafe Tavern in Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, for some Belgian Waffles with strawberry and hot chocolate.
- Walked to Mer Du Nord, next to the Sainte-Catherine Church, to have some local street-side seafood. Steamed Mussels and grilled shrimp with a Belgian beer really hit the spot as I watched families walk by and enjoy the Christmas Market along the street.
- I then walked along the Christmas Market and onwards to Maison Dandoy, for some more waffles. Here they have two kinds, one thats crunchy and fluffy and one that is sugar coated and more chewy. At Maison Dandoy stick to the sugary chewy one and for the crunchy fluffy kind go to Mokafe.
- Just down the street from Maison Dandoy is the Tin Tin Comic Mural, and around the corner from there is one of Brussels’ most famed attractions, Manneken Pis, the peeing boy statue, dressed in his Christmas outfit no less.
- From there I walk to grab and taste some chocolate at a bespoke Belgian Chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud, delicious handcrafted chocolates.
- Returned to the hotel for a break before heading out for the evening.
- Headed to the Grand Place for the Christmas light show, that happens every 15 minutes or so from 5:30PM-8PM during the Christmas Market season. The light show was magical and for me the highlight of Brussels (other than the Herge museum).
- I then strolled through the Christmas Market, got some mulled wine, some raclette sandwich and some Christmas Beer.
- I then walked towards Delirium, the world famous beer pub serving between 2000 to 3000 beers, but on the way I stumbled upon a popular bakery Aux Merveilleaux de Fred, and bought some croissant and a chocolate chip Brioche bread (the chocolate chip brioche is what is famous and it is oh so good).
- Finally arrive at Delirium, this is definitely a place to come with family, friends or anyone really. Had a couple pints before heading out back to the Christmas Market for some German brats.
- Next to Delirium is Jeanneke-Pis, manneken pis’ sister, she is less famous and quite frankly a bit more vulgar than her brother, its hard to spot her as she is tucked away behind a cage-window.
- I end the night at Floris Bar, an Absinthe bar across from Delirium serving a variety of absinthe, if you are unfamiliar with absinthe, no worries the friendly bartenders can help! I tried two kinds, both quite good and better than the usual green liquid absinthe that is commonly found everywhere.
- I then return to the hotel for a good night’s rest.
- Wake up at 7AM to take a 7:50 train to Brussels Airport from Brussels Central
- 10:30AM flight back to the United States.
Like I said, if you have time Brussels is definitely worth checking out, and if its during the winter holiday season definitely stop by the Grand Place for the light show. If you are a comic fan, adventurous soul, one who loves travel, politics, current events and history then I do recommend making time for the Herge Museum.
As for Christmas Markets, I still Germany has better ones especially Nuremberg.