Living in the European capital since 5 years, I have fallen in love with this city. Brussels is a vibrating city that has a lot to offer to its visitors: from events, concerts, and exhibitions going on to sights, street art, beautiful parks, good food and drinks to be tasted. Here below are my tips for your visit of this wonderful city full of good vibes!
As you may know, there are three languages used in the whole Belgium: French, Flemish and German. But in Brussels it is fine to speak English and/or French. Here are some French words that might come handy.
- Bonjour – Hello
- Salut – Hi
- Au-revoir – Bye
- Bière – beer
- Vin – wine
- Où se trouve le toilet? – Where is the bathroom?
- Amis – friends
- S’il vous plait – please
- Merci beaucoup – thank you
- J’ai besoin de… – I need…
- Je viens de… – I am from…, ex. Je viens des États-Unis – I am from the U.S.
- Je m’appelle – My name is
- Marché – market
- Train – train
- Aide – help
Food and Drinks That Are a Must
Once you find yourself in the center of Brussels, you will have to face many food temptations. Famous Belgian beers, chocolate or French fries are a must once in Belgium.
- Belgian beers: In Belgium, there are around 180 breweries producing wide range of beers, but the specialties are Trappist and Abbey beers. Belgium is also excellent in producing various beer flavors such as cherry, banana, chocolate, or honey beer.
- Belgian chocolate: It is a good quality chocolate produced in Belgium since the 17th century, but mainly the “pralines” that made Belgium known in the world. You will be amazed by the number of chocolate shops in the center of Brussels! Visit some of them and try various brands!
- Belgian waffles – when wandering in the streets of Brussels ‘city center, you will sooner or later bump into the stands offering waffles – just follow the smell! They are served natural, with chocolate, fruits and/or cream, or even ice cream.
- Belgian French Fries – Do you like fries? If not vegetarian or vegan, you will love the Belgian ones even more! They are fried twice, and the beef or pork fat are used instead of oil, which makes them so special. Brussels’ streets are full of stands called “friterie” in French or “frit-kot” in Flemish that serve fries in a paper cone and you pick a sauce of your choice.
- Chicon gratin – tasty chicory wrapped in ham, baked in the oven with béchamel sauce and grated cheese.
- Stoemp – mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables such as carrots, leek, or chicory, served usually with sausage or stewed meat.
- Carbonnades Flammandes/Stoverij – beer and beef stew seasoned with thyme, bay leaves and mustard, served with French fries or boiled potatoes.
- Waterzooi – originally from Ghent, waterzooi is a stewed chicken/fish with vegetables in egg yolk, cream and broth sauce that used to be a favorite dish of the big emperor, Charles V.
- Boullettes à la liégeois /Boulettes sauce lapin – originally from the province of Liège, these mixed meat balls with sour-sweet sauce (onion, vinegar, sirop de Liège and bay leaf) are served with French fries.
- Moules-frites – mussels from the North Sea, cooked with vegetable and white wine broth and served in a huge pot and accompanied by fries, are considered as an unofficial national dish.
- Tarte au riz/Rijstevlaai – pie with rice pudding filling, originally from the province of Liège, can be found in almost every bakery in Brussels.
- Speculoos – famous gingerbread cookies are often served with tea or coffee, but they are also used in preparation of some desserts such as Tiramisu Speculoos.
The mix of different cultures in Brussels has definitely influenced the local culinary scene. Besides the Belgian restaurants, you can choose from Thai, Irish, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Indian, Vietnamese, Lebanese and many others.
Things to See and Do
- You must see the most beautiful square in the world, Brussels’ Grand Place, where you can admire stunning architecture covering 5 centuries! Every two years in mid-August, visitors can admire the flower carpet here. Not far from the Grand Place, you will find the Manneken Pis, a miniature statue of a peeing boy that became a symbol of the city. If you are lucky, you may see the statue in special suit, as his wardrobe contains over 900 suits for different occasions.
- Not far from Grand place, you will find Galleries Royales St. Hubert, one of the world’s first indoor shopping malls. You will find luxury boutiques and chocolate shops inside the arcade.
- Atomium is another symbol of Brussels. Lying out of the city center, it is accessible by public transport. You can visit an exhibition inside or have a dinner in the highest atom of the Atomium.
- Belgium is a country of comic strips and the center of Brussels is beautifully decorated with scenes from comic strips as wall frescoes. Stop by at the tourist office once at Grand Place, and take a map of Brussels Comic Strip walk as follow the route!
- For the fans of churches, I recommend you the Gothic Cathedral of St. Michel and Gudule, a beautiful Roman Catholic Church dating back to the 9th century. It serves as a national church and it is here where the royal ceremonies take place.
- Have a romantic walk in the small streets of Marolles, see a house where Take the elevator to Place Poelaert to admire both romantic sunsets and the Palais de Justice, a majestic courthouse.
- Choose at least one museum: In Brussels, there are many diverse museums, from Mussée de Beaux Arts, Chocolate museum, Autoworld, Comics Art Museum, Musical Instruments Museum, Horta Museum and many others. My favorite one is René Magritte Museum, devoted to the famous Belgian surrealist painter.
- Enjoy one of the Brussels markets: Wednesday late afternoon market at Châtelain, Saturday morning market at Flagey or Sunday morning a huge market at Gare du midi.
- If you visit Brussels during the summer months, when the Palais Royal is open for public, do not hesitate! It has spectacular interiors with a cherry on top: a hall with a ceiling made from Thai scarabs.
- Relax in the park. Brussels has many wonderful parks suitable for walking, jogging, or relaxing. My 3 favorite parks are Parc Cinquentennaire, Parc Leopold and Bois de la Cambre.
- Go out! Brussels has got a vibrating nightlife and if you know when to go where, then you will have fun. Place Châtelain is a market place that goes wild later with the surrounding bars on Wednesdays. Place du Luxembourg is where all the expats get together on a small square surrounded by bars in front of the European Parliament every Thursday. And for the end of the week, the best parties are around the city center such as the lively bars at St. Géry and St. Catherine.
I really love Brussels and I think that you will always have a good time here if you know what food to try, what to do and which places to see! Not planning to visit Brussels soon? Save it for later or share with your friends on FB or twitter, who might need it soon! One last advice: Do not forget your umbrella!
|About The Author
Michaela is a Czech girl who moved to Belgium after her studies and made Brussels her new hometown as she felt in love with the local culture, lively spirit and international atmosphere of this city. Besides her passion for good vegetarian food and baking, she loves to travel to discover new places, meet new people, try the local food and take pictures of everything that she finds interesting or funny. Her blog 1001 Voyages Gourmands is a place where she shares her recipes, but also travel experience and travel tips. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.