Brussels city break

City Break Spotlight: Brussels

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Brussels gets overlooked sometimes, but I think it’s a wonderful city. It has grand architecture like Paris but with a more laid back atmosphere. That vibe is a big part of why I think Brussels makes a great choice for a city break. Take some time to see the sights that make Brussels unique, and relax!

Brussels city break

Brussels highlights

Start your trip in the main square. This is where the Grand Palace is. Most days there is a market set up in the square where you can buy flowers, souvenirs, fruit, or whatever happens to be on hand that day. It’s a nice place to sit and watch the world go by while admiring the details of the Palace, city hall, and the other buildings on the perimeter of the square.

Brussels city break

In August of even numbered years, Brussels holds a flower carpet festival in this square. It only lasts a few days, but it’s an amazing sight to see. This year’s festival is August 14-17, 2014, but check here for dates in the future.

Brussels city break

A short walk from the square, you’ll find the famous Manneken Pis. This peeing boy statue is often dressed in silly outfits, and you never know what he’ll be wearing from one day to the next. He has 800 outfits!

Brussels city break

The Royal Palace opens its doors to the public every summer and it’s free of charge. A number of rooms are open for you to see, sort of like a museum, with some impressive displays of antiques and art. This years dates are July 22 – September 7, 2014. Check here for more info and future dates.

Like comics? Belgium is known for them. The Smurfs originated here, along with many others. Visit the Belgium Comic Strip Center for a closer look at the humor.

Another entertaining attraction in Brussels is Mini Europe. It’s near the famous Atomium, so you could see them both on the same day. Mini Europe has displays from every country in the EU that represent the country in miniature form, complete with moving planes, trains, boats and more. Fun for kids, but even as an adult, I think you’ll enjoy it. I certainly did!

Brussels city break

Brussels food

Belgium is known for several different types of food. It’s reasonable that this might play a big part in your trip. Taste frites (fries, but don’t call them French fries!) with a wide variety of dipping sauces. Try decadent Belgian chocolate. Sample amazing and creative Belgian beers throughout Brussels. Grab some fluffy waffles from a street vender or a fancier version for dessert one night. Seek out some mussels from Brussels. Missing your veggies while on vacation? Maybe order some Brussels sprouts.

Brussels city break

Food in Brussels is incredibly tasty, and spending a week there would only scratch the surface. Aside from all those foods they’re known for, Belgian food often has an interesting French influence, though the country’s small size means there are other influences as well. This is one of the areas that can really benefit from a longer stay. By basing yourself in one city for more than a few days, you’ll have more time to try different local foods. Ask around for recommendations while you’re there. The best restaurant recommendations usually come from the people who live there.

Discovering the quirky side of Brussels

In between seeing the famous sights, take time to wander off to find other details hidden around the city. Did you know there are still a few pieces of medieval walls in Brussels? How about a park with giant statues of the city’s iconic food? There’s interesting street art all over the city, two lesser-known peeing statues, and so much more. You just have to dig a little deeper.

Brussels city break

It’s a bit difficult to give solid direction on how to find those little things that give a city its charm. The things that strike you as intriguing might be boring to someone else, or vice versa. But when you stay in one place for a week (or even longer!) you’ll feel more relaxed and less rushed, and this goes a long way in helping you wander around and just see what pops out.

Enjoy your Brussels city break! Keep an eye out for more about possible day trips from Brussels, as well as other cities in city breaks month!

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  1. Matthew Cheyne

    I love your take on Brussels. I’ve read about the city before on other blogs but I love in particular your emphasis on the quirky side of the city.

    I think for me when I consider a destination, one of the things at the front of my mind is the question ‘what makes this city really stand out?’ For Brussels, it’s really three things – the Manneken Pis, Belgians fries, although they don’t call them that and the big one that stands out for me: Belgian Beer. I suppose there is the fourth one in that the Belgians can really play Soccer as they showed at the recent world cup.

    The Belgian Comic Strip Center would be awesome for me. It sounds kinda like a permanent Belgian take on Comicon. I must plead ignorance on comics. I only ever read Tintin as a kid. But I do know one important fact – that the original Captain America was Buddhist. The new one I’m not too sure about. I’m hoping he’s a disciple of Samuel L Jackson. If you’ve seen any or all of his movies you’ll know exactly what I mean 🙂

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Matthew! Brussels is such a great city, I really think it’s a shame it gets skipped. And yes, the beer is probably the biggest thing that stands out to me. The fries are delicious, and the Manneken Pis is entertaining for a couple of minutes, but the variety and depth of the beer culture is wonderful. I don’t know much about comics myself, but even still, there are hints of Brussels’ history of comics throughout the city and it gives the city a lot of character.

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