Brussel is the capital of Flanders, Belgium and Europe. It started life as a fortress, then developed into a market square and then blossomed into the economic, political and social centre of the Flemish capital.
I’ ve heard about Brussel and not in a pleasant way. It was also described as a grey city. Brussel can be a fine place where to spend a weekend, but only if you know what you look for. It’s not as welcoming to the unsuspected tourist as London or Paris are. But do expect to spend a surprising weekend if you want to. I had three days’ worth activities for my birthday in Brussel in October: a weekend that changed my mind about Brussel and revealed the secret charme of this city. Tailor it to your trip and stay and enjoy yourself as much as possible. Brussel is small and you can walk around most of it. If the weather is awful, you can take advantage of the public service that is pretty cheap! Let’s start !
1st Day Friday Evening
My sister Lory welcomed me at her magic appartment in the city centre.
Of course we celebrated my arrival drinking a glass of white wine and talking about our lives all the night long. The living room was big and bright, just like the rest of that magnificient house at the third floor of a beautiful and modern building. After the usual delay of my Ryanair flight and the waiting time in Pisa’ s airport, my urgent priority was to sink into a soft and comfortable bed, like the one I had for my first night in Brussel!
2nd Day Saturday
Lory works there as Italian teacher for Foreigners. She is one of my closest friend. She is Sicilian and I met her many years ago during a special time of my life, when we attended a special course dealing with tourism in Palermo. Her school was very nice and they organized lots of things for learning Italian especially the ones related with cinema, concerts, educational programs and face to face encounters with writers and artists. And being a Sicilian girl Lory does never lack joy, Wine & Food in her lessons! After my visit to Lory’s school, I walked to a central Market in Place Eugène Flagey , where it was possible to admire the colours of the fresh food that contrasted with the grey of the Belgian sky and to smell the freshly baked bread and croissants . The boredam of that rainy saturday was gladdened by a plate of giant oysters served with a spicy sauce and a glass of Muscadet! Oysters and Muscadet are a “platinum matched pair”! Nothing better! The drizzle was on its 24th hour and it suddenly began to increase its intensity. The best thing to do for me was to go to“Royal Museum of Fine Arts” to appreciate the Magritte’s art . There were beautiful paitings never seen in my life. Magritte was a surrealist artist and his paintings were brimming with dreams and biographical anecdotes. They caused confusion, made me stop and think, were provocative, repulsive, inspiring and astonishing all at once. The museum was not very big , but it was very interesting and above all guests had access to a rooftop terrace with a splendid view over the city.
Evening arrived and I was a little bit tired and hungry. After hanging around, and done some shopping of course at “Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert” .
This unbelivable gallery lined up with luxurious jewellers and chocolate shops that offered some of the finest and best products, Lory came to take me and went dining to a typical Indonesian restaurant. It imade me happy! We had lot of delicatessen and the atmosphere was amazing. For working off all that delicious food Lory and me went to have a walk to take photo of the most best-known symbol of the people of Brussels “Manneken Pis” (pissing boy) : it’s a small bronze sculpture (61 cm) depicting a naked little boy urinating into a fountain’s basin that embodies their sense of humour and their independence of mind.
3th Day Sunday
Me and Lory decided to hold my birthday lunch in Bruges .
Designated by Unesco as a World Heritage City, Bruges feels like it popped out from a fairytale with its cobbled alleyways, charming squares, picturesque canals and beautiful architecture . Bruges has a compact size and can easily be explored on foot, by boat or a horse carriage. Despite its small size, there are many things you can do and see in Bruges. The “Market Square” is located in the centre of the city, and it’s a traffic-free square renovated in 1996. The square is dominated by a medieval bell tower “Belfry” (13th century) , but there, are other fascinating buildings around it like the “Provincial Palace” rebuilt in 1887 in Neo – Gothic Style, and the statue of “Jan Breydel” and “Pieter de Coninck”, heroes that played a major role in the “Battle of the Golden Spurs “in 1302. Just in front of the “Belfry”, you will find 2 canteens selling the best, fried potatoes I tasted in Belgium. After a walk through the alleys and canals to admire the unique atmosphere, we had our lunch in a local restaurant eating the traditonal Belgian food “mussels and fries” with a cold Chimney Beer. I didn’t enjoy our meal, because the fries were really cold, the waitress was unpolite and above all it was really expensive. I wrote a very negative review about this restaurant, because it’s not a question of money , but of professional attitude and kindness of the staff !
We went back home , had a rest and a hot shower and we were ready to head out into the nightlife of the city ! Actually Lory arranged a meeting with two friends of her to dinner together, but when we arrived there there were 10 people more! I was really happy with spending time together with all of them. I realized they were Italian hearing them talking aloud while approaching us! It started raining and without esitation we entered the first restaurant nearby. We were lucky , because it was really nice with special food and beer. I established new friends relationship that night with those nice guys, and after dinner we had fun at “Delirium Cafè”, where I was eager to try the “Lambic Beer” that I didn’t like at all! Belgian “Lambic Beers” are left in open vats where wild yeast and bacterias are allowed to take up residence! Once the fermentation process begins, the beer is stored in barrels and left to age for up to three years. It tasted a bit like a goat smells and drew in your cheeks as if you had seen something saucy happening in the pantry. For those familiar with modern beer, first impressions of this left-field liquid can daunt and dumbfound. With their dryness, sourness and acute acidity, they’re closer in character to cider or fino sherry while the method of their production is closer to winemaking than brewing. That place was so crowded , that the moment had come for us to go out! It kept raining and despite the cold weather we made a turn of “Gran Placè” , the central square of Brussel, surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the City’s “Town Hall”, and the “King’s House or Breadhouse “. “Gran Placè” is the central square of Brussels. Due to its beauty and uniqueness, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is also the birthplace of Brussel itself. In the 10th century, Charles Duke of Lower Lorraine constructed a fort on this site, which was the seed of what would become Brussels. Its beauty was amazing. I wasn’t lucky with the weather, but I could notice that the buildings looked different, with elaborate ornamentation on their facade. We ended up buying some chocolate to warm up in that cold night. When you are in Brussel, there is one thing you shouldn’t miss: Brussel is stuffed with chocolate stores, which are called “Confiseries”. There you can buy delicious creamy chocolates that are a Belgian specialty. They will melt in your mouth and I can highly recommend them. All over Brussel, you’ll see the stores of the following brands: Leonidas, Neuhaus and Godiva. While we were going back home, Lory pointed out how Brussel seemed to have a very friendly attitude towards public art: there were lot of murals scattered all over the city! They seemed to blend in very well with the surroundings, and I didn’t have the impression that they were mainly considered as a kind of damage to property, on the contrary, they were well-kept and an integral part of public life.
I loved Belgium for its delicious food, amazing architecture and its undeniable cool factor. But don’t limit your visit to Brussel and Bruges only. Antwerp and Ghent , where I had been years ago, are special too. Belgium is perhaps an unexpected destination, but one I know I will never get tired of visiting. Brussel is very much about the chocolate and beer there’s so much more to see and do if you have the time and desire to explore!
Bye Bye Brussel!
Enjoy it !