Easy to walk around, and easy to get to – Brussels, Belgium offers a diverse experience of cuisines, languages, history and modern art. Just a wander around the streets and you’re bound to discover great food, historical sights and fabulously abundant public art. And being tri-lingual (French, Flemish and English) you can almost always communicate with the locals.
We took a late Spring long weekend break with our family of five to this vibrant and diverse city. We are not ones to seek out tourist destinations, and with a baby that is not the best sleeper I was after a low impact itinerary (read: no itinerary) so we could play it by ear according to how much or how little energy we all had.
We booked an apartment right in the centre of town and headed over on the Eurostar from London St Pancras (there are ten trains a day). It is a short trip of just over two hours, and as we were having a total screen detox the kids played cards while I read a magazine (with a surprise upgrade to Business Class, which was delightful). The time passed easily and before we knew it we were there. Going through immigration at a train station seems so much easier than at an airport.
We got off the train and just a few Metro stops later we were at our apartment right next to the library in the city centre. Here was the view, not bad huh?
A couple of blocks away from the apartment was everything we needed – the old city, buses to flea markets, and loads of chocolate shops. The organic food in the supermarkets was also delicious and not too pricey, and for a reasonable and casual healthy breakfast, you’ll find EXKI outlets all over Brussels.
Nearby St Catherine’s Place was where I found my favourite coffee shop. The coffee is amazing as they actually have a shop in Medellin in the heart of coffee-country in Columbia. It is called Café Velvet (Brandhoutkaai 27, 1000 Brussel) and you can sit outside and have a drink in the sunshine if you get a good break in the weather while you’re there. St Catherine’s Place is a wonderful spot for the kids to run around too.
Rue de la Poissoniere a block or two away has a swathe of tasty restaurants for seafood lovers, and we literally had the best chicken dinner of our lives at Kip Kot Chicken around the corner.
Sights To See
Strolling through the Old City is pretty much all we did for two days. It is a grungy and bustling place, especially on the weekend, affording interesting moments around every corner. If you can get your kids past the waffles and chocolate shops you’ll find the Mannequin Pis (pissing boy statue) that Brussels is so famous for, you’ll likely stumble upon the UNESCO World Heritage La Grand-Place, a gold-encrusted marvel of 1600s architecture, and you’ll easily get great food and treats all along the way.
The other absolutely wonderful benefit of walking the streets is the huge amount of public art. It is honestly everywhere, large and small. Being a fan of street art, I was very happy to see the lively artist community displaying their work so freely.
All in all, Brussels left us feeling full of delicious food, excellent beer, art and a new and enriched understanding of this highly under-rated city.