My husband and I just finished spending our weekend in the lovely little country of Belgium. We had so much fun that I had to break this post into two parts just to cover all the cool things that we did. I have to admit that my main reason for wanting to go to Belgium in the first place was to indulge myself in their well-known specialties of chocolate, waffles, and frites! However, I quickly discovered that there is much more to Belgium than just a warm and crispy sugar-coated waffle with whip cream on top (although insanely delicious). We learned that this country is a diverse combination of French, Dutch, and German influences all rolled into one fantastic European destination worth taking the time to travel to.
We travelled once again on Eurostar from London and over to Brussels. I have to say that we have really preferred traveling Europe by train because it is so stress-free, easy, and you can get some pretty good views of the countryside. After arriving in Brussels we were welcomed with rainy and dreary weather (ugh) but luckily it was nothing major to hold us back. In case you were wondering, summer is completely GONE in Northern Europe, and fall is definitely here bringing all the rain and brisk weather along with it. You’ll notice in the pictures that we had to keep ourselves really bundled up and I had to ditch all attempts at trying to be somewhat fashionable.. it’s all about comfort! Anyways, we spent the beginning of our day exploring the beautiful city of Brussels. As soon as we got off the train we headed right to Maison Dandoy to test out our first waffles in Belgium. We were delighted with what we ate, and I highly recommend on getting the pure Belgian waffle with brown sugar on top. That’s how the locals eat it and it was soooo good.
Next we went to see the center of the city at Grand Place (main square in Brussels). Seeing Grand Place for the first time was so magnificent! The ornate buildings, the nearby chocolate shops, and lively entertainment made Grand Place one of my favorite things I have seen yet. We loved walking through the square because there was always something fun going on and such amazing architecture to look at.
The tops of the buildings were made to look like the back of a ship!
The following thing that we really wanted to see in the city was the famous Mannekin Pis which can be translated into English as “Little Man Pee”. This famous landmark is literally a statue of a little man peeing into a fountain (hehe). This icon of Belgium can be found replicated throughout the entire city as it seemed like the people here were absolutely obsessed with it. We followed the signs from Grand Place that led us to see the Mannekin Pis. We were expecting the sculpture to be a pretty good size but we were completely shocked when we saw the most TINY statue ever! Seriously??!! It was the most microscopic and disappointing thing, except for the fact that they dressed him up in a funny little outfit which apparently they switch out several times a week. It’s worth going to see what all the fuss is about, but man it was just laughable at how small he really was. You have to admire the Belgians for their funny sense of humor and love for all things quirky and random!
We decided to check out some of the shopping over at the nearby Galleries Saint-Hubert. This is a really neat enclosed area of shopping that has many unique stores but is known specifically for their endless amount of gourmet chocolate shops.. aka chocolate heaven!!!!! I can’t really explain what happened to me the moment I stepped inside this place. I felt like a kid in a candy store or maybe a chocolate monster? But something inside of me snapped, and 5 chocolate stores later I found myself leaving Galleries Saint-Hubert with bags of chocolate and a huge smile on my face.
Another thing we were wanting to do in Brussels was to visit the landmark of Atomium. Originally built for the Brussels World Fair in 1958, this strange structure was created for the exhibition and over the years has become somewhat of a major icon in Belgium. As I mentioned earlier, Belgium is known for some quirky things and seeing Atomium for the first time felt a little bizarre. We didn’t know quite what to expect but decided what the heck, and bought our 8 euro ticket to go inside and check it out.
The inside was simply fascinating. It felt as if we were on a space ride at Disneyland! A rocket elevator shot us up to the highest sphere of the structure, where we were able to see an awesome panoramic view of Brussels. From the top, you can also get a great view of the nearby attraction Mini Europe which showcases an entire little mini-sized theme park of Europe.. this would be something really cute to do if you have kiddos. After the top, you can take the descending escalators down through the pipes to the different spheres. This was our favorite part because the escalators were lit up and music was playing as we got to the light show sphere which was our choice sphere of the day. Complete with techno music and strobe lights inside.. this was sooo random but so cool at the same time! The rest of the spheres included a restaurant, history center, and even a sleeping area with little pods to snooze in. Atomium was quite odd, but we had some good laughs and enjoyed every minute of it. Visiting this landmark was definitely memorable and we felt satisfied with what we paid for.
All of that exploring made us hungry for a cone of a classic Belgian frites, so we made our way back to the city center to get some from a nearby food stand. After having European frites for the first time in Amsterdam a month ago, we had been craving them ever since! I cannot stress enough how tasty it is to have a cone full of warm and crispy fries in your hand, especially on a rainy day! If you get them though, you must get the andalouse sauce to go on top. We thought fry sauce was good, but nothing compares to how delicious this sauce is to dip your frites into.. mmmm!
As our calories for the day were starting to build (don’t judge) we thought that we ought to work off all those carbs with some shopping down Avenue Louise. Luckily we heard about this street before even coming to Belgium, and we were so glad we did! We took a short metro ride over here to discover some of the best shopping that Brussels has to offer. It felt refreshing to get away from the tourists and do some hard-core shopping at places like Zara and even some factory outlets. We were really impressed with the vast amount of shops that were stationed down this street. If you aren’t completely worn out, then you can walk a little further to the end of the road to see a spectacular overlook of the city. It was a great spot that we stumbled upon and we were so glad to relax and watch the sun go down over Brussels.
To end our adventurous day spent in Brussels, we took the metro back over to Grand Place and walked over to “Greek Street” for dinner. Here we ate at Pitta Hellas where we had one of the best meals we have had in Europe yet. This place was so authentic and very reasonably priced. The meat was cooked right in front of us on a stick where it was then scraped off onto our plates. I will forever crave this little Greek restaurant and their delicious meat.
As if the day could not get any better, we were surprised with a huge musical celebration at Grand Place on the stroll back to our hotel. The whole place was lit up and big bands were playing familiar tunes inside the square. We sang along with the crowd and enjoyed the rest of our evening there which was nothing short of magical.
Brussels completely blew us away, as it was better than we could have ever imagined. We were in awe with everything that we saw and ate, and looking back it is impressive to see all the things that we were able to accomplish in just one day. Here is my list for the top must-sees..
The Savvy Suitcase Top 3 Picks:
1. Grand Place. Always something fun going on.
2. Belgian Food. No surprise there. Eat chocolate, waffles & frites.
3. Atomium. Unexpected and loads of fun.
*Brussels was just the beginning of our trip to Belgium, part 2 on Bruges is coming soon!