Weekend In Belgium
Belgium….Land of chocolate, waffles, great beer and beautiful cities. Over the weekend between Christmas and New Years we decided to make the short road trip to Brussels. Where we live in England it’s a short drive to the ferry over to Dunkirk, France and just a two hour drive from there to Brussels. Along the way you’ll pass Bruges and Ghent which if you have the time I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about both those cities. I plan to go back and see both go them hopefully this summer!
We chose to use the DFDS ferry and it was a smooth and easy process though if you are driving. The Chunnel is a much faster route, I believe it’s about 20-30 minutes where the ferry is about 2 hours. We enjoyed the ferry because we could park and get out to grab a bite to eat and let our toddler run around for a while. They have a little duty free store on the ship with a few different coffee shops and eateries to choose from, even a small children play area. Once we docked in Dunkirk it was all highway right to Brussels and was a very smooth and easy trip.
Normally I wouldn’t suggest driving into any big city and Brussels wasn’t any exception but we just parked in a garage and walked everywhere else, Brussels is a very pedestrian friendly city with most places in walking distance. We stayed at the Best Western Royal Centre which was great! They had a wonderful continental breakfast (It was an extra fee per day to eat) that included lots of pastries, fresh fruit, cheese, toast, orange juice and a pretty decent coffee machine. We would grab a couple apples or oranges to take with us for snacks throughout the day.
The first night there we only had time for dinner and that was about it so we found a place not far from the hotel with great reviews called The Beat. We had what they called Belgium cuisine so I’m going to trust that they know what they are talking about. My husband had the salmon filet which he really enjoyed and I had the BEST risotto I’ve ever had! We tried the De Koninck and La Chouffee beers, both were fantastic! Dinner and beer cost us €59.
Day two we went full on Brussels starting with the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula, it is free to go inside the even on a rainy day the stained glass windows were absolutely incredible. Wandering the streets of any city and just getting lost in the culture is by far one of my favorite parts of traveling. Stumbling upon some fantastic chocolate shops we decided to buy ours from Mary’s which I had read had the most traditional flavors and is the oldest chocolatier still around. My jaw dropped when I walked inside the classic shop that looked as though it hadn’t changed it’s decor since it opened but for me as a vintage lover I was in heaven. Not to mention as soon as we walked in we were greeted with samples that just blew away our tastebuds, we ended up get a pre packed box which was gone before the end of the day. Besides Mary’s there is another famous chocolatier names Pierre Marcolini which you can find their store fronts just about as easily as Mary’s in the Grand Palace centre.
One of the “big” attractions in Brussels is the Manneken Pis and it is a pretty small sculpture of a little boy peeing into a fountain. Why this is so popular I don’t understand but people flock to it and line up just to get a picture. Of course we had to check out what all the fuss was about and sadly was disappointed and it in fact kind of grossed me out but when in Rome I suppose? Manneken Pis also has a sister Janneken Pis over by the Delirium Cafe which we later visited. There is a dog version of these sculptures as well but seeing the first two was enough for us we didn’t need to hunt down the peeing dog when we had such a short time to enjoy the city. We decided to grab the infamous BELGIUM WAFFLE, there are a ton of places down there with waffles and we tried a few but our favorite place was Masion Dandoy which had a line out the door and you gotta think to yourself with a line that long it’s probably pretty great and well it didn’t disappoint. We tried the Brussels waffle with strawberries, Belgium chocolate and fresh cream on top (€7.50), I died and went to waffle heaven! We later tried the Liege waffles at Gaufre De Bruxelles and it was also pretty fantastic.
THE BEER…. We love trying craft and local beers wherever we visit and similar to Germany, Belgium was one of the top beer countries we have visited! Most Americans know Blue Moon as the most popular Belgium style beer and if you like that kind of flavor you absolutely have to try as many as you can when visiting it’s native land. We chose Delirium Cafe to try a few beers because they offer so many different types and you can basically build your own flight and choose as many as you want and they will serve you a small portion of any kind of beer. We tried Floris White Wheat, Delirium Red and Waterloo (€10), we enjoyed all three of these! On the way back to the hotel for our son to take a quick nap we grabbed a quick lunch which consisted of a caprese panini and Wurstenbroodjes which is a sausage in a pastry. The cuisine overall was fantastic!
In the Grand Palace it was still decked out for Christmas with a massive tree, full size manger scene and a free nightly light show. It was absolutely beautiful and full of life! This area is the hub of all tourist activity but history as well. There is plenty of restaurants, pubs, shops and photo opportunities. Our last day we walked the streets and visited our favorite waffle place… AGAIN. No shame! The city is also known for being the birth place of the Tin Tin comics and street art which intertwine with the massive street art of Tin Tin. We also found an great ceiling decked out in the Smurfs! I love taking pictures of street art, I am so not artistic so even though to some it’s just graffiti I envy these peoples vision and ability to put it out there. Lastly we visited the Royal Palace which houses a little museum inside which we did not go into but the building itself and the park nearby were impressive.
Overall Brussels did not disappoint, it was a truly magical city with plenty to do and see, I only wish we had more time. We made a little day trip to Amsterdam while we were there which I will write about later on. I swear trips go faster than regular life, do you ever feel that way? So much to do and see and so little time. I am happy with what we were able to fit in during this trip and would love to go back one day to see more.
Feel free to ask any questions about anything I did not cover and I would be happy to help out in any way I can! I would also love to hear about your Belgium experience too!