The last time I was in Europe we missed out on Belgium which meant it was on my must-do list for my second visit. I was not missing out again on the chance to slip into a sugar high from too much chocolate and waffles! We chose to stay in Brussels as it is not only the capital city but it is also quite accessible via train and there were many hotels in good walking distance. The Thalys train we took left Gare du Nord in Paris and got us to Brussels Midi within 2 hours. Super easy and very efficient.
As we had other day trips planned we only had the day in Brussels to explore but it was quite easy to achieve owing to the compact nature and easy walking routes in the city.
From our hotel it took us about 15 minutes to reach the recognisable buildings from many a Belgian post card in the Grand Place. The Grand Place is at the centre of the cobblestone old town of Brussels and it’s wonderfully picturesque. The pedestrian only area is home to an array of intricately designed buildings and its surrounding streets are lined with an impossible number of chocolate shops and Belgian waffle stores. The area is lively and frequently visited, acting as a good base for us to come back to in case we got lost.
Right near the Grand Place is the Mannekin Pis, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fountain tucked in a corner. The statue is frequently decorated and when we were there was still surrounded by Christmas decorations. It’s a statue high on the list of things to see in Brussels but after a minute I took my photo and left as it’s kind of overrated and much smaller than I anticipated. From that point we continued on foot, stopping occasionally to admire the decorated buildings and wall comics.
We continued our tour of the city, walking passed buildings such as the Eglise catholique Notre-Dame-du-Sablon as well as the Place Royale, a neoclassical square in the Royal Quarter of Brussels. The city holds a mix of architectural styles and it was interesting to see the blend of old and new throughout the city.
I also greatly enjoyed the collection of mural art and street comics we passed along the way, scattered across the city and bringing with them fun colour and stories, something often hard to do in big cities.
Our last stop for the day was the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace of Brussels is still a working palace though no longer used as the official home of the Belgian Royal family. It is situated across from Brussels Park, the largest urban public park in Brussels. When we were there guards were out and ready for someone to leave but whoever it was, they took too long and we decided to tap out for the day.
Brussels is a beautiful little city often overlooked for its more well-known neighbours such as Paris and Amsterdam and that’s part of its charm. Beyond the Grand Place there were next to no tour groups wandering the city which meant it was far easier to mix in with the locals and enjoy the city without overcrowding.