Years ago, with tickets to U2’s last tour concert in Europe in our hot little hands, we headed to Brussels for a four-day summer break. We had a fabulous time. Want to know more about what to do in Brussels? Here are some of my favourite things from back then to share with you:
What to do in Brussels: Walking, walking, walking
Our feet were really all we needed. We took all five metro rides the whole four days we were there.
When we arrived at our guesthouse, the owner gave us a map of Brussels and then very quickly started squiggling and writing all over it – his top tops for a few days – a mix of touristy and off the beaten track.
What to do in Brussels: See some cultural places
- Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert – this is tourist central. Still, suppose you can block all the crowds from your mind and simply enjoy the architecture. In that case, this is an exceptional place, not to mention the buskers playing fab music just outside the main entry.
- The World of Steve McCurry exhibition – held at the Brussels Stock Exchange. His iconic photos were hung in this remarkable space separated from each other only by voiles evoking a sense of mystery as you wandered amongst the 200 odd pieces. Whilst this may not be on when you visit Brussels do some online research to find out what current exhibitions are on.
- The Magritte Museum – laid out chronologically, you start out at the top of the museum and go through the levels bearing witness to how Magritte’s artistic style and focus developed across the years. I can remember studying his art at school and loved seeing these works in real life.
What to do in Brussels: Shopping!
Having just bought a new (but old) home and with grand plans of renovating it while keeping nods to its history evident, we took to Rue Haute, Minimes and Blaes searching through Antique stores and the bric-a-brac market in Place du Jeu de Balle. Whilst I didn’t rate the market at all, think more junk than treasures, the antique shops and design stores dotted along these two roads were great. My three favourites were 125 Rue Blaes, Galeries des Minimes and Stefanick – all rabbit warrens of treasures. Whilst the range was fantastic the prices were even better – significantly cheaper than buying similar items in France.
- New de Wolf Plus – everything you can imagine that a décor store needs with the choices a little off-centre, which really appealed to me.
- K-Loan – industrial style furniture and accessories that were so well designed and made that this store is a must-visit if that is the style you are looking for.
- Flying Tiger Copenhagen – one of my all-time favourite cheap and cheerful, I shopped up a storm in the ten minutes I had before having to head to the train station. Lots of little bits of housewares, fun things for the kids, basically you name it, they have it.
- Housewares – I have fallen in love with the chain store Dille & Kamille. A large selection of housewares, including my favourite enamel dinnerware in a load of colours, spices, sweets and other useful ingredients.
You can not leave Brussels without visiting a chocolate shop. Whilst I was not a fan of the hot chocolates around town, I did enjoy the bite-sized chocolates. Most tourists buy their chocolates from one of the many Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert stores. Although for me, the best place to go is Grand Sablon – all the iconic chocolatiers have stores here, their prices are the same, the tourist numbers are limited. Hence, service is quick, and they have a little more time to spend with you to help you choose which beautiful box of treats to take home with you.
What to do in Brussels: Enjoy the food
There are a few things that Belgium is famous for – the waffles, meat/cheese nibbles while having a drink, beer, pots of mussels and their fries. A few places we tried and really enjoyed were:
- The Rugbyman 2 – an excellent fish restaurant located on Saint Catherine Place. As with most European restaurants, there were a la carte options and house menus. Opting for the latter, we were not disappointed; I tried lobster for the first time and a fab crème brulee.
- Berlin Fabrik – a perfect lunch stop or place to catch up with friends over a beer.
- JAt’ café – a trendy lunch spot for Brussel-ites with delicious bagels, cakes by the slice and yummiest salted caramel cupcakes I have ever had. Quite a funky yet straightforward interior to boot.
- MIM Café – sitting on the top floor of the Musical Instruments Museum, this café has some of the best views in Brussels.
- Arion Café – tucked in Louise, this café was a hub of activity with locals passing through for a quick drink or meal. Lots of delicious options would be great for an early snack through to a large meal.
If you know where you are heading in the evenings, I would highly recommend booking in advance as both The Rugbyman 2 and the Arion Café were turning people away.
The final verdict on Brussels
We absolutely loved Brussels! There are numerous things to do for a couple of days at an easy pace. We would love to be back again to do more shopping and sightseeing.