By Chris Hammond
A perpetual Ryanair cheapy, Brussels is one of those destinations many of us looking for a city break skim over all too easily. With so much to do and see, it’s a scandal it isn’t more popular.
Flights booked and into the city, the first thing you’ll need to do when tackling Brussels is to actually leave the centre and head for the Atomium. A 335ft tall collection of tubes and spheres, this weird looking structure is one of the Belgium’s most visited attractions. On offer there are normally a range of exhibitions plus an awesome view over the city; so take your camera!
Sightseeing over; head back in and make your way to Grand Place. Situated in the city centre, this huge old square really encapsulates what Brussels is all about. Sure there’s the unmistakable pong of the tourist trap, but the grand buildings and multicultural mix of restaurants, bars and people all seem to come together in harmony. If it’s nice outside grab a pew somewhere sunny, order a coffee and some waffles and enjoy a bit of brunch while you people watch in peace.
Once you’ve gazed and gawped enough for one day, you’re only a short walk to the statue of Manneken Pis. Normally visiting a statue shouldn’t be on any itinerary, but this one is well worth the visit. Manneken Pis is the city’s mascot, a small boy gleefully and unashamedly enjoying an everlasting piss as the crowds watch on. If you’re lucky you may even catch a day when he’s dressed to impress in one of his numerous outfits.
Not far from here is your (liquid) lunch stop. Head to Impasse de la Fidélité where you’ll find Delirium Café. A legendary institution, it sells hundreds of beers (at one point over 2000) many of them Belgian favourites. Leave any inhibitions you may have at the door and ask the bar staff for advice. If you like it, it’s open till 4.00AM and only gets rowdier as time ticks on.
While there may be a temptation to try and plough through as many of the beers as you can, you’re best leaving the serious fun for later and heading to Sablon for a little shopping. Here you’ll find another square as well as a stack of quirky shops. Though antiques are the main attraction for tourists there are still plenty of products worth purchasing, chocolate being one. Try the offerings of Neuhaus on Rue Lebeau 79 and you won’t be disappointed.
Provided you haven’t filled yourself up with sweet treats you should look to eat out at one of the many restaurants offering up mussels and chips. A Belgian specialty, you won’t struggle to find somewhere selling them. When ordering don’t forget the garlic mayo; ketchup is a chip dipping no-no here.
As the evening takes hold your options don’t decrease any. Brussels has a stack of theatres and cinemas to enjoy, or alternatively collar a local and ask them what the hottest nightspot is for the day you’re staying.