When it comes to city vacations and fast getaways, Brussels, the capital of a small country, often gets the short end of the stick. Throughout its entirety, this multicultural underdog is bustling with historic landmarks, bustling flea markets, and delectable cuisine.
- Marvel at the Atomium
The Brussels skyline has been dominated by a peculiar 102-meter-tall creature hovering over its horizon since the World Fair came to town in the year 1958. The Atomium was modeled after an elemental iron crystal, and it is quite a marvel of technological prowess. Its nine steel-clad balls are connected by tubes that house elevators and staircases. These allow visitors to navigate through this enormous anomaly.
Five of the spheres are open to the public, housing a permanent exhibition on Expo ’58, as well as other temporary exhibits and a panorama restaurant with an unrivaled nighttime view of the grand city of Brussels.
- Sample Beer at Moeder Lambic
Moeder Lambic, the mother hen of all Brussels beer cafés, boasts over 400 beers on tap, ranging from rare Belgian draughts to foreign bottled specialties. Thanks to its extremely informed and helpful staff, the Saint-Gilles establishment has been an institution among local and international beer aficionados since the year 2006. In addition, it has even expanded to a second location on the Place Fontainas due to popular demand.
Moeder Lambic is the ideal place to learn what your favorite Belgian beer is by sampling the night away, with 40 Belgian beers on tap and a genuine red brick décor.
- Bargain for Treasures at the Flea Market
Head to the Place du Jeu de Balle in the heart of Marolles to immerse yourself in the ambiance of the original neighborhood. As you round the corner, you will find yourself in a wonderful mess where bric-a-brac reigns supreme and haggling is a must. Finding the treasures buried beneath a sea of old cutlery, worn clothing heaps, skis, coffee grinders, old posters, jewels, and just about everything else offers a challenge. The market is open every day of the week, and while the early bird might find a hidden gem during the quieter weekdays, weekends are packed with residents looking for vintage treasures. Join them and build your own collection of treasures.
- Munch on a Yummy Gaufre
You are certainly going to be able to take in the scent of Belgian waffles when walking through the City Centre. It is tough to resist their sweet aroma, and most people succumb when they come across one of the trademark yellow waffle trucks. This street delight is crunchy on the outside and doughy on the inside. It is also frequently topped with a snowy covering of sugar or even strawberries and cream.
- Learn About Comic Book Treasures
It is difficult to disagree with Brussels when it claims to be the world’s comic book capital, and a visit to the Belgian Comic Strip Center proves it. The museum, which is housed in the only semi-industrial building of the country, created by Victor Horta of Art Nouveau fame, pays homage to the paper heroes of Belgium with zeal. Not only are the Smurfs, Tintin, Lucky Luke, Marsupilami, and a slew of other characters celebrated at the BCSC, but they are also painted proudly on the streets of Brussels in a project that began just two years after the museum opened. Over 50 cartoon murals can now be found across the city, and the Comic Strip Route has evolved into a fun treasure hunt appropriate for even natives discovering the lesser-known nooks and crannies of the capital.
- Become a Flâneur at the Galeries Royales
A leisurely stroll beneath the 200-meter-long glass-paned Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is the ideal diversion for a 19th-century flâneur. The magnificent Italian-style arcade, which dates back to 1847, is currently waiting to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is one of its kind. Clothing boutiques, watchmakers, a cinema, and the Théâtre du Vaudeville can still be found in the old route.
- Try the best of the melting pot in Matonge
Brussels is one of the most multicultural cities across the globe. Matonge, for example, is an eclectic meeting place with a wide range of tastes, smells, and fragrances. The brash area, which lies between the European Quarter and the upscale Avenue Louise, dates back to the 1960s when Congolese students went to Belgium following their country’s independence. Matonge is a place where you may find fruits you have never heard of in exotic supermarkets, hear laughter from African barbershops, and treat your taste buds to unknown delights at Indian, Japanese, and Vietnamese restaurants.
8. Take a look at the pioneers of Art Nouveau’s work
Belgian innovators Victor Horta and Paul Hankar were instrumental in establishing Belgium as a major player in the early Art Nouveau scene. Horta’s townhomes, where he pioneered the architectural movement’s rounded lines, floral patterns, and cast-iron embellishments, can still be seen across Brussels. The good news is that a majority of them are open to the public. The artist’s former atelier is one of them, and his disciple Gustave Strauven’s extravagant Maison Saint-Cyr is worth a visit. The MIM, Maison Cauchie, and Villa Empain are more Art Nouveau treasures.
- Transport back in time at The Grand Place
There is a reason the Grand Place is frequently packed with visitors. Following the cobblestone paths up to the medieval market is like stepping into a time machine set during Belgium’s merchant heyday, much like Bruges’ Grote Market. Remove the flashlights, and the Gothic City Hall, Broodhuis, the Museum of the City of Brussels, and gold-accented guild houses give the sense that Charles V and his retinue could appear at any moment.
Brussels is one of its kind and has something to offer for many different interests. If you ever decide to visit Brussels, the aforementioned activities should be at the top of your list. So, what are you waiting for? Explore this wonderful city at your earliest!