Friday, July 6, 2012

Brussels - Insider Tips

Brussels is close to my heart as I spent a few years of my life growing up in this part of the world. (Check out my blog post from that time – Bienvenue au Belgique. Le Coeur d’Europe). I moved back a year and a half ago for work, in which time I have learnt lots more about the city itself – a pleasant city to live in, which offers more than one would expect!

Some people may just pass through Brussels for the Belgian fries, chocolate, beer and waffles. I can completely empathize as all of these things are a real treat, but I must say that Brussels definitely has more to offer.  I am always very excited to show people my favourite spots in this city. So in the spirit of sharing, here are the things I love and recommend in Brussels:

Cathedral of Saints Michel et Gudule - See more below
For your ‘1 Day in Brussels’ Itinerary, see below. This is a list of random favorites of mine
  • Place du Chatelaine on a Wednesday - Enjoy a beautiful foodie market throughout the day (13:00 – 19:30)
  • Place Flagey Farmers Market on a Saturday morning – Fresh fruit & veg, meats, cheeses, baked goods etc.
  • Place St. Boniface (In Ixelles) – A beautiful square with a large Cathedral where you have a choice of over 5 beautiful restaurants to choose from (3 of the restaurants are suggested in my list below)
  • Place Londres (In Ixelles) for lunch during the day
  • Have fries on Place Jourdan and sit at one of the cafes around the square with a Belgian beer. They allow you to bring the fries along. Make sure you get a side of mayonnaise with the fries…Belgian style!
  • Have a picnic in Bois de la Chambre (Brussel’s biggest park) on a Sunday. They close the park off for cars and you will be surrounded with life!
  • If you like Greek Gyros or Pita, check out the ‘Pita Street’ next to Grand Place (actually called Rue du Marche aux Fromage).
  • Check out the Itinerary below...
Manneken Pis

Restaurants I love:
City Centre
  • Le Paradiso – Italian hole in the wall where the chef greets every customer with a big smile and a big white chef hat. Home made pasta.
  • Belga Queen – An old bank restored. Beautiful Interior architecture. Everything from fancy cocktails, to oysters to beautiful main meals...c’est tres chique ;)
  • La Manufacture –Used to be a leather manufacture warehouse. Really good food. The dessert are to die for…all of them, so get a tasting plate J

Ixelles (Elsene)
  • L’Amour Fou – A gourmet burger restaurant. Great cocktails, burgers, salads and fun staff. Attracts many expats.
  • Racontes Moi de Salades – Beautiful salads prepared as main meals. Interesting combinations, which all taste lovely. The restaurant has a garden at the back and staff is very friendly.
  • Le Pain Quotidien – It may be a chain but it is still amazing! The interior look and feel is always a pleasure to experience. Go here for Brunch, lunch, baked treats, a simple coffee or if you are craving quiche! They serve up beautiful quiche.
  • L’Ultime Atome – A typical Belgian Brasserie. Quick service, good food and great selection. Perfect place for a quick, simple but good dinner. Maybe before you head to the cinema (Toison d’Or is close by). On Square St. Boniface.
  • Boniface d’Asie – Simply great Thai food! On Square St. Boniface.
  • Mano a Mano – Excellent pizzas and pasta. Really fresh topping. On Square St. Boniface.
  • La Quincillerie – Typical Belgian Brasserie made sexy. An old nail shop restored so its narrow inside which adds to the charm. Excellent food. Slightly pricier than your average meal.

EU Area (Close to Schuman)
  • La Brace – Great pizza! The crust is amazing and the food gets served quickly.

  • Le Mess – Organic, healthy food. Beautifully prepared. Your meal WILL be amazing! Slightly more pricy than your average meal.
  • Chalet Robinson – On one of the FEW warm evenings in Brussels, make sure you check out this place in Bois de la Chambre. Situated on an island in the beautiful large park, it offers you the perfect venue for a beautiful evening. You even hop on a little ferry ride (100m) that takes you to the island.

Want to drink?
  • Bar Mardi on a Tuesday evening – the venue always changes (after work drinks)
  • Place du Chatelaine on a Wednesday evening
  • Place Luxembourg on a Thursday evening – Crowd is complete with EU & Parliament youngsters. Great vibe.
  • Apero Urbain – Over the summer months, you will find an Apero every Friday in a different location. Very cool.
  • Café Belga on Place Flagey on a Sunday evening – Live Music and young crowds

Want to dance on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday?
  • Havana Club – Slightly small and usually over-crowded, but great music and good Mojitos! Happy Hour until midnight (2 for 1 Mojitos….worth it!!)
  • Les Jeux d’Hiver – A place to see and be seen. Sometimes not easy to get in but worth a try!
  • Spirito-Martini – A beautiful club. Good music and not too big.
  • Mirano Continental – A club where you can dance

More tips:
  • Best Bread: Paul Bakery
  • Best Waffle: Belgaufre or Vitalgaufre Waffle
  • Best Belgian Cookie: Speculoos Cookie
  • Best Chocolatier for praline gifts: Neuhaus
  • Best Belgian chocolate to buy in a grocery store (good value!): Cote D’or
Brussels Grand Place. Flower Carpet in August

Brussels in one day:
I found this list online but thought it was a great summary. Made some changes to point you only to the good stuff J

              1. Marolles - Flee market at the Place du Jeu de balle 
Quartier Marolles, Brussels, Belgium 
Discover the most authentic neighborhood of Brussels. Every morning, on the “Place du jeu de balle”, a flea market takes place. Once you have found a vintage lamp or mirror, get a simple breakfast from one of the popular cafes around the place.

             2. Grand Sablon 
Place du Grand Sablon, Brussels, Belgium 
Visit Notre Dame du Sablon, a masterpiece of neo-gothic architecture and enjoy one of the oldest neighborhood of Brussels, with beautiful old buildings. Get a look at antique shops and art galleries.

                3. Try the finest chocolates in the world at Wittamer or Marcolini
Fine Belgian Chocolate boutiques

              4. Lunch at the Pain Quotidien
Le Pain Quotidien is an organic bakery and communal table that was created in Brussels in the late 80s. Sells bread and pastries and serves tartines (open delicious sandwiches) and salads.

              5. Justice Palace (Palais de Justice) 
Justice Palace (Palais de Justice), Brussels, Belgium 
The Palace of Justice, Brussels’ law courts is an imitation of ancient Greek-Roman style and it dominates the city skyline.

                6. Walk to Royal Palace (Palais Royal) and take a stroll across the Brussels park 
Royal Palace (Palais Royal), Brussels, Belgium 
Neo-classical palace where the king of Belgium does not reside but works. Brussels Park is a nice little city park in front of the royal palace and place royale

           7. Old England - Musical Instruments Museum 
Musical Instruments Museum (Musee des Instruments de Musique), Brussels, Belgium 
On your way down to the center of town, admire the Old England which now house the musical instruments museum.

               8. Admire the cathedral of Saints Michel et Gudule 
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (Cathedrale St-Michel et Ste-Gudule), Brussels, Belgium 
Great example of gothic architecture from the 13th to 15th century, the magnificent cathedral is inspired by famous French cathedrals and has been restored in the 90s.

9. Get overwhelmed by the magnificent beauty of the Grand Place of Brussels 
Grand-Place, Brussels, Belgium 
Considered one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe, the Grand Place is the heart of Brussels, where many historic buildings dating back from the 13th to 16th century are located.

              10. Have a waffle at one of the many waffle places along Stoofstraat. My favourite waffles are still the ones from Belgaufre (yellow/blue waffle stands). Alternatively, if yu are hungry and want something HEALTHY, there is a great place called EXKI just next to Grand Place. Healthy salads, sandwhiches, soups, etc.
               11. Say hello to Manneken Pis 
Manneken Pis, Brussels, Belgium 
Landmark of Brussels, although not so much interesting, this little statue of a boy peeing is a must-see for anyone visiting Brussels.

           12. Walk through the rue des bouchers 
Beenhouwersstraat / Rue des Bouchers, Brussels, Belgium 
. Narrow cobblestone street near the Grand Place, lined with seafood restaurant. Very tourist area but nice to see. To make sure to avoid a tourist trap, try mussels "Aux Armes de Bruxelles".

Or go to one of the restaurant suggestions above J
          13. End a busy day with beer tasting at the Poechenellekelder 
Poechenellekelder, Brussels, Belgium or at Delirium Café. Belgian beer is world famous

Belgian Beer

Belgian Waffles

Rue de Boucheurs

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