Nothing is better than starting your birthday in another country. 32 introduced me to Belgium, my ninth European country. I spent majority of my time in Brussels (the capital) but also ventured out the city of Bruge and Ghent. I had wanted to see Antwerp, but a fellow American I met there told me it wasn’t much to see. Brussel has a lot of diversity from people to food. I tried everything from African dishes and Afro burgers, to octopus and beers, and chocolate to more chocolate. The weather in October was PERFECT, warm (60f or 17c) during the day and cooler in the evening.
Geographically located in western Europe, Belgium is centrally located to many countries making a great place to pop in for a day or two visit. Brussels, the capital of Belgium and European Union is another reason for the diverse culture; the main languages are French and Dutch but English is spoken throughout the city.
Things to do/see:
1. Grand Place & Mannekin Pis : Go at night when the buildings are lit up and grab a Belgium waffle with all the toppings.
2. Atomium : This is one of Brussel’s major tourist attraction. Try to go during the week when it’s less crowded – confirm closing hours – they are later in the summer. Has a sky high view of the city. Unfortunately, it is located on the outskirts so what you see is limited or in the distance. It’s easily accessible from the Heysel metro stop.
3. Mini Europe: This is a cute little park especially if you have kids and it’s right next to Atomium, so why not kill to birds with one trip.
4. Place Poelaert – This is in the center of Brussel and provides an awesome panoramic view of the city.
5. Royal Palace – This is the official palace of the King and Queen of Belgium.
6. Galleries Royales Saint-Hubert – there are lots of shops around this area. Lots of chocolate and desserts, I recommend trying some Marys chocolate while there. I promise you won’t regret.
If you have extra time:
1. Visit Brugges
a. Try World of beers
b. Take the horse and carriage ride
c. Try mussels for sure. All the dining place serve roughly the same thing… so don’t look too hard.
2. Visit Ghent
a. Visit Missy Sippy bar (during the week there is normally a live band)
3. Check out a wine shop called Vin Sur Wijn (ask for Yann) – near Montgomery metro, which also has a nice fountain
4. If in town on a Sunday, check out Flagey (it’s similar to a farmers’ market). Get some wine, cheese, olives and people watch.
5. Make some chocolate. Belgium is known for their chocolate so why not do a little chocolate making. I went to Zaabar —they also had so many other samples of chocolate to choose from there as well.
Public transit in Brussels is amazing. Belgium borders France, Germany and the Netherlands so getting there from other countries is a breeze. You can get a train into any of these countries with no problem.
They have buses, trains and trams throughout the town as the cities are very busy.
Currency used is Euro. They accept major credit card everywhere. The weather can be up or down so pack an umbrella and a light jacket.
The Louisa metro stop will put you in the middle of EVERYTHNG in Brussels