If you have just one day in Brussels and are thinking – ‘How do I go about it and what should I do first?’ – we suggest you to start your day from the magnificent Grote Markt! The grandeur of the buildings from the 17th century surrounding the square will leave you spell bound. Beautiful architecture with splashes of gold. Each one made with an effort to look better than the next one. Get a cup of cappuccino or hot chocolate (even better), relax and take your time to soak in everything. Chances are that you won’t see a place like this again.
Usually around 10am and 2pm you will see a lot of walking tour guides holding their umbrellas at the Markt. If you are interested in the history and want to cover the city in about 3 hours, take a tour. We went with Sandemans New Europe free walking tour and they are extremely good. Our tour guide was funny, incredibly knowledgeable and gave us recommendations for places to eat, drink, shop etc. For us, this was the perfect way to be introduced to Brussels. We learnt a lot about Brussels, the history of Flemish region and fun facts about Belgium.
Post the tour have lunch in one of the many cafes. As recommended by our tour guide we went to a place called Le Pistolet and had huge jumbo sized sandwiches for 3 euros each. I couldn’t believe my ears when the owner said that the bill was 6 euros total. So cheap and so yummy! After our expensive meals at Bruges (its expensive because it is sustained by just tourists) this was a welcome change for us.
Spend the rest of the day loitering around the city, eating Belgian Chocolates, window shopping at Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hurbet. Rest for tired body and feet in a pub by enjoying some Belgian beer (the peach one is mind blowing). Walk towards the Turkish market and buy some fresh cherries and baklawas. If you wish to, you can follow the comic murals through the city. Mind you, all this walking will get you tired and exhausted. We are guilty of going back to the hotel for a quick nap. It was 30 degrees and we have become Irish. Too hot for us to tolerate. 🙂
We did go back to the Grote Markt again in the evening to click some photos. We ate waffles and even though they were cheap, they were not as good as what we ate in Bruges. Our dinner was simple frites, but I have to give the Belgians the credit they deserve. The best we have ever had in our life! They know their shit! Have them hot and you will never go back to McD fries again or any other for that matter. If you are non-vegetarians, don’t forget to try the mussels. They seem to be omnipresent and we could see people devouring bucket loads of these!
End your day relaxing in a pub tasting some more of their beer. On a funny note – we will never forget the way our tour guide spoke about Belgian beer. He kept going on and on about how good it was and how much variety they have for good 10 minutes. He went on to say – ‘Guinness is nothing like Belgian beer. I consider it on a different level.’ At this point one would go on to think that Guinness (famous Irish beer) is nothing compared to what Belgium was offering. He finally added – ‘Guinness is the nectar of God! A different level altogether.’ and everyone burst into laughter. Turns out our tour guide was Irish and Irish people love their Guinness like no other. Small world isn’t it?
Did Raga enjoy his beer in Belgium? Well, that’s one question you will have to ask him only!
Let me leave you with 5 fun facts about Brussels / Belgium –
- It was Belgians who invented the fries and not the French. Well, if you go to Belgium that is what everyone will claim. Belgians are trying to get back their deserved fame and call the French Fries as ‘Belgian Frites’ instead or simply ‘Frites’!
- Brussels has proclaimed itself as the comic book capital of the world. It has the highest comic book authors per square mile in the world. Where do you think Tintin came from?
- Waffles is considered as finger food to be had as a snack after 11am. It is one very messy affair!
- Manneken Pis in reality is a very small statue (61 cm tall) but Belgians love this little guy. His wardrobe counts more than 900 suits and every year hundreds of designs are submitted to a non-profit committee called ‘The Friends of Manneken-Pis’ and out of these a few are selected and produced. The costume changing ceremonies are really fun to watch where they distribute free beer to people passing by.
- Belgium is very popular for chocolate but no one speaks about beer! They have literally 1000+ variety starting for regular wheat beer to peach beer to cherry beer. You think of the most outrageous taste and chances are that there would be a beer to satisfy your thirst. Don’t forget to visit Delirium Cafe where you can find over 1000 varieties of beer!