Welcome to the land of gourmet chocolate, warm fries and musician Stromae. I was naturally drawn to Belgium for its French influence because it’s French, y’all. It’s an interesting mix of both French and Dutch cultures, both the romantic and practical architecture. Although this isn’t my favorite destination of all time, there were some moments spent I’ll cherish for a long time. Here’s your city guide to Brussels, Belgium:
1. Mannekin Pis
Why a little dude taking a piss is a tourist attraction, I’ll never be able to wrap my mind around. But this fountain of a small boy peeing is on virtually every list of things to do in Brussels. It’s worth a peek because of all the hoopla it gets — hehe.
2. Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
Did someone say shopping? This indoor-meets-outdoor shopping strip is the most glamorous mall you’ll ever strut through. We bopped into a fun toy shop and, of course, a chocolate store.
3. Stuff your face with chocolate
At least, I did, and it was wonderful. Two stores that were recommended to us were Neuhaus and Leonidas, and I preferred the latter of the two. I went to buy gifts for my family and friends and naturally had to get some for myself. And you know it didn’t even make it to the end of the hour.
Although this wasn’t my first choice, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed our tour. I’m gluten-intolerant, which means I can’t even drink the beer, but I paid a reduced fee to spend time with my friends and learn about the history and types of beer. Our tour guide had the sickest accent and knew more about beer than you even knew existed.
5. Make a stop at Delirium
And the beer tour ended at this huge bar. I asked for the menu at this famed pub, and I was handed a dictionary of beverages organized by letter. It was intense, let me tell ya. I asked the bartender for a good gluten-free beverage, and I thoroughly enjoyed by apple strawberry ale. This bar has multiple floors, and they carry different vibes, making it a great spot for whatever you’re feeling that night.
6. Eat french fries
And you’ll have plenty of opportunities. They serve them in a handheld paper cone and toss on your choice of sauce. When in Belgium, do as the Belgians do, right?
7. Take a walking tour
We spent several hours on a walking tour of the city. If I’m being real, I wasn’t crazy about our walking tour, but this could’ve been avoided. It was awfully chilly and rainy and just not a good day for a walking tour. I could’ve dressed warmer, which would’ve made a dent on my discomfort. Also, before you choose a walking tour, get a list of what you’d be seeing. Although our tour guide took us to some off-the-beaten-path spots, we missed a lot of major Brussels sites. I would’ve rather seen the big stuff on my first trip to Belgium.
8. Vertigo Cafe
During our freezing cold, windy walking tour, we took a break at this quaint cafe. I sipped on my thick hot chocolate in this dim-lit cozy spot with exposed wooden beams. The warmth, sips and couches were a great perk up on a long day.
9. EU Museum
For those who want to understand more about the history and political influence of this city, the EU Museum is the place to be. This interactive museum lays out the history and impact of the European Union. (They might have to make some changes soon @Brexit.) Before you go through security, don’t miss out on the fun and free photo booth they offer. (They email the photos directly to you.)
10. Nanuk and Atelier en Ville
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably sick of all those dinky souvenir shops, so when I find a cute boutique, I have to dish all about it. We stumbled into Nanuk, a new boutique with candles, jewelry and the kindest shop owner. I spoke French with her, and our three-minute conversation led to an invitation to hang with her in Marseilles.
Another darling boutique worth stopping by is called Atelier en Ville. Vintage Life magazines decorate the wall, and a cafe overflowing with plants is connected to this charming clothing boutique. This spot is nestled off the main stretch and greets you with the shops name in large Scrabble-like tiles.
11. Volle Gas
This came as a recommendation to us, and I’m here to pass it along to you. This was one of my favorite experiences from my time in Brussels — eating juicy steak and sipping bubbly champagne. The staff was kind enough to split our checks, and I was happy to linger in this classic Belgian restaurant. Looking around, I noticed almost every other diner had a bucket of mussels to themselves. I took a bite of Hongyu’s but wasn’t a fan. (I’m just not a fish person, what can I say?)