Confession: Brussels is my new favorite City
When we were planning our honeymoon in Europe, we thought it would be fun to travel by train to explore a few different cities and to see the countryside in Europe. Because of it’s proximity to Paris and Germany, and the fact that they speak French there, Brussels ended up on our itinerary. So I booked us an Airbnb for 5 nights. Little did I know, what would soon be true: Brussels is my new favorite city.
After some initial research, I wasn’t sure if we’d find enough things for us to do. I mean sure there were a few major tourist attractions (looking at you Manneken Pis) and who doesn’t love waffles, beer and chocolate? But you never really hear of people traveling to Brussels. I figured at worst, we’d see some cool European architecture and walk around in some parks for a few days.
If you’re looking to get out more and explore more, but you’re not quite sure where to start – rest assured, there’s something for everyone in this city! I was blown away by how much there is to see and do that isn’t a typical tourist trap.
Visit Brussels offers the “Brussels Card,” which gives you free access to almost all of the museums in the city, as well as discounts at restaurants (I got a free beer at Brussels Beer Project!), and there is an optional transit add on, where you can take public transit for free.* Pro Tip: their website has a ton of useful info on museums, discounts, and other attractions.
We used the 48 hour pass, so we planned our days accordingly to pack in the museums within that time frame. You can find a museum for almost anything; including: beer, chocolate, comic books, musical instruments, they even have one about their swear system.
Comic Book Museum
Brussels is the birthplace of TinTin and many other famous cartoonists. They have an entire museum dedicated to comic arts. In fact, if you’re wandering touristy areas of the city, you’ll probably spot a wall mural or ten dedicated to comics.
The museum is set up in a way where it takes you through some of the first comics ever recorded, and you make your way through time to present day. All of the information on each piece was in English, as well as French and Dutch. This made it really easy to understand the exhibits, since my French is terrible. The building itself also has quite an interesting story, but I’ll leave that to you to learn about when you go visit.
Brussels Beer Project
Grown from a need to bring Brussels beer into the modern era, Brussels Beer Project recently celebrated their 5th anniversary. (More on that celebration below) Their taproom is located near the canal on Rue Antoine Dansaert.
Their taproom is exactly how you’d expect any American taproom to be, but is situated in a trendy Brussels neighborhood. They have many regular beers on tap, as well as some seasonal and taproom exclusive choices. They have seating in the back and offer small group tours of their space on a daily basis. The bartender was very friendly and told us about a festival they were having the next day, just further down along the canal. Of course we would have to see what that was all about.
Try the Fries
Ok, so I don’t even like mayo, but everything I read said to try the fries. THEY ARE AMAZING. We had them twice. The first time was at a fry shop near the center of Brussels (a very touristy area) where you can find fries anywhere. The shop we found had several topping choices but we went with Andoulase, a mayo mixed with tomato sauce and seasonings. It had a nice spicy kick to it – not too spicy though. I am from Minnesota after all.
The second place we had fries we got as a side with burgers so mayo was the only topping option. I can’t stress this enough – try the fries, you wont regret it.
Check out Seasonal Events
I found several lists of events in Brussels. While we were visiting, we stumbled on a few great events. It seemed like nearly every day, there were a variety of things going on that you could go to. On our last full day in Brussels, we tried going to a Beer museum in the center of Brussels. It ended up being closed, but we stumbled into the Festival of Folklore which had a variety of countries representing different folklores of their home countries, as well as beer. I didn’t fully understand it, and didn’t question it. I just ordered us a delicious sour cherry beer.
Later that day we headed back to the canal for that event the Brussels Beer Project bartender mentioned. The 5th anniversary party for the brewery ended up being a pretty big beer festival, where brewers from all over the world came. It was really fun to try the different beers and see what each country was bringing as their best or newest types of beer: spoiler alert – there were a lot of IPAs.
The following day, we had planned to take a day trip to Ghent. It ended up being Car Free Sunday. No cars were allowed to drive in the city of Brussels (unless they had a special permit: so taxis, police, etc.), and all public transit was free within the city. We also found out that they were also offering 5 Euro train tickets to anywhere in Belgium. When we got back from our day trip, we saw a lot of little events happening with the Car Free Sunday – kind of like Open Streets in Minneapolis, but city wide. I thought it was a really cool initiative to encourage people to use public transit.
We were on the hunt for waffles, and couldn’t figure out where best to buy them from. Running out of time, we opted to try them at the train station. I wasn’t too sure about that, but they looked ok.
I cant even begin to explain how awesome they were. They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, not like an undercooked waffle, but rather more like a churro? If that’s a comparison I’m allowed to make.
Wander the streets
You can’t go wrong just walking around and and finding unique things to look at, or photograph if that’s your jam. Everything from the cobblestone streets, to the street signs, to the buildings, makes for a completely different experience than you would get anywhere in the U.S. It’s fun to just wander and take it all in.
I’ve been to Paris twice now, but I find Brussels to be more beautiful in some ways. The buildings are so unique and interesting to me. Maybe because it doesn’t have the chaotic feeling that Paris does. Maybe it’s because there’s an interesting mix of historical style buildings right next to more modern designs.
It might be a bold statement, but you can probably see now why Brussels is my new favorite city.
*Visit Brussels graciously gave me a 48 hour museum and transit pass. All opinions in this post are my own.