Every time I mentioned to someone that I would be visiting Brussels on my Eurotrip, they warned me not to spend too much time there. “There’s nothing to see,” they would tell me. “Don’t worry” I told them, “I’m only there for a two days, but one of those days I am going to Bruges.” Most people were thrilled, they all claimed Bruges was a must-see.
Well, they were right about Bruges, but I would have loved a few more hours in Brussels… mainly for the food.
Safety in Belgium
My family worried about my safety in Brussels. With all of the security threats occurring in Brussels, I was a bit worried, as well.
As I stepped outside the train station in Brussels, I realized my worries had been cured. There was armed security everywhere. Military and police personnel monitored all of the streets and high-activity areas.
I have never felt safer while traveling through Europe than I did in Brussels.
The Walking Tour of Brussels
Sandman’s New Europe is the leading company for free walking tours all over Europe. Their Brussel’s tour was my first experience with the company and I loved it. Their tours are available in 18 cities and if you are interested make sure to visit Sandeman’s here.
The tour is FREE. It is a high-quality experience because the tour guides work based on tips. They do an outstanding job to ensure you gain the most from your experience, because if you don’t, they don’t get paid as well. It’s as simple as that. At the end of the tour, the participants pay the tour guide whatever they feel the tour is worth. Why pay for something that you don’t even know if you will enjoy?
The tour is offered daily at 10 am, 11 am, and 2 pm, with a starting point of City Hall at Grand Place. This is near most of the hotels in Brussels.
What you see:
On their website, Sandeman’s lists the following places as included in their tour: Grand Place, Town Hall, Maison du Roi, Comic art scene,The Stock Exchange, Galeries Saint Hubert, Manneken Pis, The Monnaie Opera, St Nicolas’ Church, River Senne, The Royal Square, and the Mont des Arts.
La Grand- Place
The first stop, which is also the meeting point, is Brussel’s La Grand-Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Grand Place consists of several buildings including the City Hall, the Royal Palace which is now the Museum of the City of Brussels, many guildhalls, and the Beer Museum. Once every two years in August, a flower carpet covers the Place, a site that I would love to see one day.
The tour continues to the second stop, a mural on the wall of a Brussels building. The mural? A comic, showcasing the comic art scene present in the city. We found murals like this all over the city. Underneath the comics, the Tourism Board of Brussels has provided a map. The map provides interested visitors a guided path around the city to see all the comics. The tourism board encourages adventurous visitors to roam freely and find the art on their own.
The third stop? A crowded street corner with hundreds of tourists and a little 61 cm tall statue of a peeing little boy. Why yes, it’s the Manneken Pis! The sculpture, whose name translates to “peeing little man”, has several legends behind it’s creation, dating back to the 1100s.
Continuing on the tour, we took a break at a brewery near the Galeries Saint Hubert, where we were encouraged to sample local beer and fine chocolate at the Galeries.
The tour kept led towards the Cathedrals of St. Michael and St. Gudula, built in the early 16th century. Here Adrien told us the story of the Saint Gudula and her never-ending desire to help people.
From the cathedrals we carried on through the Parc de Bruxelles. The largest, and most beautiful park in Brussels, where we ended our tour looking at the Royal Palace.
The Food in Brussels
It is impossible to accurately describe Belgian food in words…
Let’s start with the basics: Belgian Chocolate and Belgian Waffles.
The two most famous Belgian chocolatiers are Leonida’s and Neuhaus. A trip to Neuhaus is a must, as the salespeople will ask you about your preferences and pick out the perfect piece of chocolate for you.
A delicacy known all around the world, until you try Belgian Waffles in Brussels, you haven’t lived! There are waffles on every corner, ranging in prices from 1 euro to 4 euros. The list of possible toppings never ends: strawberries, kiwi, bananas, chocolate, Nutella, whipped cream, powdered sugar… the list goes on and on. Belgians prefer their waffles topping-less. As a result, that is exactly how I ordered my waffle.
Now let’s talk about the really yummy stuff: Frites and Mitraillettes!
Frites (or as Americans know them, French Fries) are so much better in Belgium than anywhere else in the world. Their unique way of cooking them (double friend in beef fat) makes frites better than any French fry anywhere in the world. My favorite spot for frites? A little stand near the Grand Plais called “Belgian Frites’n Toast”.
Mitraillette literally translates to a Belgian Machine Gun. This sandwich consists of a baguette bun, some type of fried meat (a burger or sausage or frikandel), fries, and a sauce.
I ordered a frinkadel mitraillette with mayo, and let me tell you, it was a mind-blowing experience. I topped the mitraillette with grated carrot, lettuce and tomato. According to Adrien, our tour guide, he survived his teenage years by only eating these.
To be honest, every meal I ate in Belgium included waffles or frites. Furthermore, if waffles weren’t a part of the meal? I indulged in them an hour or two after.
What Else to See
We did have a second day in Brussels, but decided to take the day trip to Bruges. We originally had intended to wander around, but because our tour guide told us he was leading a day tour, we decided to join the Sandeman’s tour.
If you have any extra time to spare in Brussels, make sure to visit any of the museums! All museums are free and open on Sundays. Consequently, they remain closed on Mondays! I also wish I got a chance to visit the famous Atomium and nearby Mini Europe Park (which is not free)… there is always next time!
Have you ever been to Brussels? What are your favorite spots in the city? Let me know in the comments below! I also would love to hear about any experience you had with Sandeman’s!