40 Hours In Brussels

Hey folks,

About a month ago, Mr Man told me he was going on yet another business trip. I was getting a little frustrated about always being left behind and so I decided to opportunistically (read: stalkerishly) invite myself along. Because he was there for work, I spent most of my time exploring the trendy city of Brussels on my own. Here’s my travel diary for the 40ish hours I was there. Sit tight, buckle in, and enjoy the picture heavy post ahead…

I hopped on the Eurostar after work, armed with my camera, kindle and a guidebook and before I knew it, the train was pulling up into Brussels-Midi/Zuid where Mr Man stood waiting for me. (He’d arrived the day before…)

Brussels Bound On The Eurostar

We jumped into a cab and headed on over to a little place called L’Amour Fou which I’d picked out in advance for dinner, based on Mr Man’s eternal love of burgers. The place had a really cool vibe, staff were friendly, although, there was a little bit of a language barrier. I liked how they actually had lit candles on the table too. I can’t count how many times I’ve been to a restaurant where they have candles on the table which have never seen a flame.

I opted for a mezcal chicken burger which arrived with a serving of fries and a generous salad. The presentation was great, and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in! I admire that the bread rolls are made in house, although, I did find them a little dense for my liking. The slice of chicken nestled within was quite thin meaning the chicken-to-bread ratio was off. But, the hand cut fries were pretty much perfection… And please, someone send me the recipe for the salad dressing they use!

Chicken Mezcal Burger At L'Amour Fou, Brussels, Belgium

Mr Man, on the other hand, (disappointingly) went for a mixed Mexican platter, named sombrero. It consisted of:

  • Mushroom and cheese quesadillas – so simple but, oh, so good! (I think I ate at least half of his serving…)
  • Individually prepared nachos – no need to worry about the equal distribution of toppings!
  • Salad – mixed leaves topped with their great dressing, topped with a chicken breast. This was slightly dry and overcooked but had perfect grill lines.
  • A trio of dips – cool soured cream, fresh salsa and creamy guacamole.

Chicken Sombrero At L'Amour Fou, Brussels, Belgium

In terms of drinks, I chose a “Papa Douala,” a blend of hibiscus juice, lime, sugar cane, basil and sparkling water. I found the taste a bit bland, almost like it was too watered down and devoid of sugar. Mr Man’s drink, on the other hand, Mojito Mejico, in which they used ginger ale for an interesting twist, was really, really enjoyable.

As the night wore on, the place emptied out pretty quickly, it was a Tuesday evening after all.

L'Amour Fou, Brussels, Belgium

We settled our bill and headed towards our hotel, The Hotel. It was a pretty plush hotel, loads of perfume sprayed in the corridors and lifts (personally, I prefer subtlety), stylish modern decor and overall an elegant feel to the place. Here are some pics (notably, not taken on the night that I arrived!):

The Hotel, Brussels, Belgium Bedroom At The Hotel, Brussels, Belgium Bathroom At The Hotel, Brussels, Belgium

The next morning, we rose nice and early and headed out to find some breakfast. We didn’t have to go too far before we stumbled upon the Workshop Cafe, and in the POURING RAIN, it was pretty ideal not to have to walk any further. It’s a cute little place with minimal decor and a friendly barista.

Workshop Cafe, Brussels, Belgium Menu, Workshop Cafe, Brussels, Belgium

We both selected a pot of plain yoghurt with a sprinkling of crumbly biscuit on top. Whilst mine had a buttery taste, Mr Man’s had a lovely brown sugar flavour. Yum! His chai latte was great, creamy, smooth and infused with the typical spices. Whilst it’s not really my thing (I hate cardamom…), it was a damn good drink. I opted for fresh apple juice as they were out of orange. Light and just what I needed.

Breakfast At The Workshop Cafe, Brussels, Belgium

As it was drawing close to 9 am, Mr Man hopped in a cab to work whilst I braced myself for the torrential downpour outside. I decided that I’d brave it. I hadn’t come to another country to let a little bit of water get the best of me.

Buildings,, Brussels, Belgium

Egmont Palace, Brussels, Belgium

Love cobbled streets, even when they’re wet and slippery.

Cobbled Streets, Brussels, Belgium

Streets Of Brussels In The Rain

Meeting Square, Brussels, Belgium People Walking Through Meeting Square, Brussels, Belgium

Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

As I got to the main square, I decided to pop into a few shops to get away from the rain. I had a little peruse and ended up in this magical chocolate shop (it’s called Gourmet Chocolaterie Belge, but I couldn’t find it online to link back to) where I picked up a selection of gift boxes for friends, family and for me (and Mr Man!):

Chocolate Shopping At Gourmet Chocolaterie Belge, Brussels, Belgium

Next stop was Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, an old mall / corridor of high-end shops and cafes.

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels, Belgium (2)
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels, Belgium (4) Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels, Belgium (5) Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels, Belgium (6)  Eclaire Display Window, Pierre Marcolini, Brussels, Belgium

After having a little bumble around, I took a little peek outside, hoping that the rain had subsided. No luck. But I whipped out my umbrella and kept walking anyway.

Rue Des Bouchers, Brussels, Belgium (2)

I saw this guy, soaking wet with his collar up to trying to shield himself from the cold, pretty much captured exactly how I felt:

Wet And Sad Statue, Brussels, Belgium

Pretty soon I got tired and decided to hop on the metro.

Metro Station, Brussels, Belgium

However, the ticket machines got the best of me. They only accept coins and I didn’t have enough to pay for a day pass. And as aaaall the shops were closed in the station, I headed back up to street level to find some change.

Ticket Machine, Metro, Brussels, Belgium

Luckily, by the time I resurfaced, the rain had finally come to an end! I decided to make the most of it and keep walking instead.

Streets of Brussels, Belgium (3) Streets of Brussels, Belgium (2)

Found a pretty little park:
Square Marie Louise, Brussels, Belgium

Birds, Square Marie Louise, Brussels, Belgium

Square Ambiorix, Brussels, Belgium

Cinquantenaire Park, Jubelpark, Brussels, Belgium

Made my way to Cinquantenaire, absolutely amazing architecture going on!

Cinquantenaire, Jubelpark, Brussels, Belgium.jpg  Cinquantenaire Panoramic, Brussels, Belgium Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels, Belgium

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History, Brussels, Belgium

Water Fountain, Cinquantenaire

There are actually a couple of museums here, but I didn’t particularly fancy learning about the military or old cars so I decided to take a rain check, (ha, I make myself laugh sometimes!) and find some food instead. I stopped at a little place called Mamma Roma for lunch and opted for the lunch menu where you get two types of pizza and a drink for €8.90. Cheap and cheerful. They have all the options on display and once I placed my order, I watched the guy snip off a generous serving with some scissors before offering me a third option because they were low on one of my selections. He popped it in the oven to heat up whilst I jumped on a stool, plugged my phone in to charge, and got comfortable.

Mamma Roma, Pizza Selection, Brussels, Belgium

A few minutes later my lunch arrived on a wooden board. The melanzane was my favourite, with roasted aubergines and a generous drizzle of pesto, but, of course, it was a tiny slice. I also had some bufala (plain, simple and really good) and a variation with courgettes and feta (perfect balance of flavour with the sweet and tanginess). A lot better than I’d anticipated. The pizzas had a great base, crisp with a bit of chew. Simple, quality ingredients, and done right. Pretty much sums up Italian cuisine in a nutshell.

Mamma Roma, Brussels, Belgium Mamma Roma, Pizza Selection, Brussels, Belgium

When both myself and my phone had recharged, I set off again.

Streets of Brussels, BelgiumSuch cute streets, and ohmygod, is it just me or are trams the most exciting things, ever!?Tram, Brussels, Belgium (2)

Tram Stop, Brussels, BelgiumChurch, Brussels, Belgium

I walked and walked and walked some more before I found a little farmer’s market.

Olives At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, Belgium

Huge bowls of olives.Mozzarella At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, Belgium

Fresh mozzarella.
Sweets At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, BelgiumSweets galore!  Honey At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, Belgium

Organic honey. Picked up a jar native to Brussels for Mr Man’s mum. It’s become a little tradition where ever we go!

Fruit And Veg At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, Belgium

Of course, fruit and veg!

Fresh Bread At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, Belgium

Wish I could have captured the smell of the fresh bread.Flowers At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, Belgium

Such pretty colours.

Fresh Pasta At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, Belgium

Fresh pasta.

Mushrooms At The Place du Châtelain Farmers Market, Brussels, Belgium

Aaaaaall the mushrooms.

At this point, I decided to head back to the hotel for a pit stop. My feet were pretty sore after all the walking.

Mr Man soon showed up and we decided to head back out for another stroll to find some dinner. A few blocks behind the hotel, we discovered a magnificent building, called the Palais de Justice. Can we just take a second to appreciate how beautiful this is?! It’s also HUGE.

Construction work at the Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium

It’s a shame that it’s currently under construction, but it’s still really impressive.

Side View, Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium

This is a side view without all the scaffolding.

There’s a point a few meters away from here, at which you can see a panoramic view of the roof tops of Brussels (Ascenseur des Marolles):

Ascenseur des Marolles View
View From Ascenseur des Marolles, Brussels, Belgium View Of Brussels From Ascenseur des Marolles In Belgium

There’s a free lift which you can take down to the lower street level. We found ourselves walking towards the main square, but en route bumped into this famous little guy (Manneken Pis):

Manneken Pis, Brussels, Belgium

Did you know this little boy was stolen multiple times?!

Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium (2) Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium (3)

Check out the detail. Just wow. Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium (5) Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium (4)Town Hall (Hotel de Ville), Brussels, Belgium

So much nicer with the sun shining!Town Hall (Hotel de Ville), Brussels, Belgium (2)

We popped into the famous Maison Dandoy shop where they make amazing biscuits…

Maison Dandoy, Brussels, Belgium

Saw a few lace and tapestry shops which Brussels is famous for:

Lace Shop, Brussels, Belgium

Tapestry Shop, Brussels, Belgium

Another thing Brussels is famous for is French fries. You can’t go many blocks in the centre of town without seeing places serving the delicacy that is twice fried chips with tonnes of different sauces. We stopped at a little place called Tabora Friterie for dinner. It’s a tiny little joint but was very, very busy (always a good sign!). There are no seats indoors, but there were a few stools outside.

Tabora Friterie, Brussels, Belgium

We got a large portion to share and Mr Man opted for a some wings too. Traditionally, the sauce of choice is mayonnaise, but plain mayo doesn’t really do it for me, so I asked for some of the garlic variety instead. Coming from a chip lover, they were nearly perfect. Crisp exterior, fluffy pillowy centres; I only wish they were a bit chunkier, but, that’s probably the Brit in me and I suppose they are called fries and not chips… (I was too busy wolfing down the fries to remember to take a pic of the aforementioned wings, but let me be frank, don’t trouble yourself. Just order the fries.)

Chips With Garlic Mayo From Tabora Friterie, Brussels, Belgium

Continuing on with the street food theme we stopped at The Waffle Factory for some Belgian waffles, smothered in both milk and dark chocolate, the former for Mr Man, and the latter for me. These were slightly crisp and almost tender in the centre with a slight chew. I think they use yeast in the batter which makes them really light and fluffy.

Milk And Dark Chocolate Waffle, The Waffle Factory, Brussels

Stomachs satisfied, we kept walking and met Manneken Pis’ lesser known, counterpart, Jeanneke Pis, hiding on a little side street…

Jeanneke Pis, Brussels, Belgium

Classy.Jeanneke Pis Statue, Brussels, BelgiumRue Des Bouchers, Brussels, Belgium

I was pretty exhausted at this point. My pedometer said I’d walked 25km, so we started heading back to the hotel but decided to stop for a cheeky hot chocolate to share on the way. Unfortunately, this was not everything I’d hoped and dreamed it would be. n my mind I imaged a magical molten chocolate drink like the ones we’d had in Venice a few years back, but this was just a powder mix:

Hot Chocolate, Le Sevan, Brussels, Belgium

Sunset.

View From The Meeting Square, At Sunset, Brussels, Begium

Just playing around with the focus:

Pretty Lights, Brussels, Belgium

The next morning, we woke bright and early once again. We went in the opposite direction for breakfast and opted for a little place called Bocca Moka. We were served still warm pastries and generous cups of coffee, which whilst nice, was a tad underwhelming. I dunno, I just have great expectations for my hot drinks from independent coffee shops.

Bocca Moka Signboard, Brussels, Belgium Breakfast At Bocca Moka, Brussels, Belgium Coffee At Bocca Moka, Brussels, Belgium

As Mr Man headed back to work, I, armed with coins galore, hit the metro.

Escalators Down To The Metro, Brussels, BelgiumMetro Platform Decor, Brussels, BelgiumMetro To Baudouin, Brussels, BelgiumMetro Seats, Brussels, BelgiumMetro Platform, Brussels, Belgium

Half an hour or so later I arrived at Heysel station. The journey was pretty uneventful / uncomplicated. On the whole, if you can use a train in one European country, it’s more or less the same elsewhere. From the station, it’s a short walk to the Atomium.

The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

The Atomium Structure, Brussels, BelgiumLooking Up, The Atomium, Brussels, BelgiumLooking Up At The Atomium, Brussels, BelgiumAtomium Structure In Brussels, Belgium

I purchased my ticket and headed inside.

Entrance, The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

Climbing Upstairs, The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

Stairs, The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

There are all sorts of exhibitions inside, covering everything from the conception of the Atomium to how humans / animals see!

Sketches And Plans For The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

Hand drawn sketches! No CAD here!

Hand Drawn Sketches, The Atomium, Brussels, BelgiumA mini theatre playing videos:

Wide Screen Video At The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

The Beginning, The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

And of course, the view from the top!

View From The Top Of The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium (2)Looking Down At The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

View From The Top Of The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

Heysel Palais.

Heizel Paleis From The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

You can also see a bird’s eye view of mini Europe. I checked out something similar in Istanbul called Miniaturk so I didn’t bother here. However, you can get combo tickets and save a few bob if you want to do both.

Mini Europe From The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium       Red Stairs, The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium  Interior, The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium    Escalators Existing The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

After a few hours of exploring, I made my way out and headed towards the tram stop. This is a bit of a longer walk than the metro, but still fairly close, about 15-20mins away. Weirdly, didn’t see a single person the whole way!
Bridge To Hayvel Tram Stop

Heysel Tram Stop, Brussels, BelgiumTram, Brussels, Belgium

I headed towards the city centre where I was scheduled to meet Mr Man who had a half day.

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels, Belgium (3)

Whilst I waited for his arrival, I popped into Pierre Marcolini and grabbed us a few little treats for later.

Eclaires In The Window, Pierre Marcolini, Brussels, Belgium

We met at the bustling Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert before heading towards an interesting Ethiopian restaurant that I’d found online. (Brussels has a large African population so I figured we should give it a go). Unfortunately, my research wasn’t thorough enough, because the restaurant only opened in the evening! Hungry and unimpressed, we hopped in the nearest open shop, Centrum of Kebab. Turkish it would have to be.

Here, Mr Man opted for a doner sandwich, and I a chicken shawarma wrap meal. What actually arrived was a doner sandwich and a doner wrap meal, but, not wanting to cause a fuss, I tucked in. It ended up being really enjoyable lunch. Good doner kebab, fresh salad and pretty decent chips (served with mayo). Doner Kebab Sandwich, Centrum of Kebab, Brussels, Belgium Kebab Wrap And Chips, Centrum of Kebab, Brussels, Belgium

With just a few hours to go before our train home, we went on a long walk back to the hotel. We saw a lot of street art on the way (some snaps are from the day before too). Comics and graffiti go way back in Brussels, they even have a museum dedicated to it! I believe Tintin can be attributed back to the city.

Graffiti From The Tram, Street Art, Brussels, Belgium Fish Graffiti Street Art, Brussels, Belgium Cartoon People, Graffiti Street Art, Brussels, Belgium Boy With Balloon, Graffiti Street Art, Brussels, Belgium Blue Pencil Graffiti Street Art, Brussels, Belgium Blondin et Cirage, Graffiti, Street Art, Brussels, Belgium Angel Graffiti Street Art, Brussels, Belgium

^Can you see the angel here? Hiding away on the left-hand side.Artists Painting, Graffiti Street Art, Brussels, Belgium

Big Cat Graffiti Street Art, Brussels, Belgium

^ Yup, and that’s my favourite building in the background! I did some research over night and it turns out that you can actually go inside. Obviously, we just had to take a quick detour… These pictures do the place no justice. I was in awe.

Architecture, Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium           Doorway, Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium Corridor Inside The Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium  Entrance, Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium    Interiors, Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium Library, Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium  Main Hall, Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, BelgiumPillars At Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, BelgiumStairs In The Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, BelgiumStonework At The Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium

Two regrets:

  1. Wish we’d had more than just a quick 10mins to check the place out. I could have happily spent a few hours exploring! (And / or moved in…)
  2. Wish I had a wider angle lens to capture better pictures of the place.

Looking Up At The Justice Palace, Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium               Side Shot Of The Palais de Justice, Brussels, BelgiumAnyway, regrets aside, our time in Brussels had come to an end. We rushed back to the hotel before grabbing our bags and hopping in a cab to the train station. A few hours later, we had arrived back at King’s Cross and back to reality, with work the very next day!
Kings Cross St Pancras, Eurostar ArrivalsBut on the bright side, we had a small collection of sugary goodies to tuck into…

Speculoos, Maison Dandoy, Brussels, Belgium Passion Fruit Compote From Pierre Marcolini, Brussels, Belgium Macarons From Pierre Marcolini, Brussels, Belgium Chocolate Truffles From Pierre Marcolini, Brussels, Belgium

Chocolate Hazelnut and Almond Praline Eclaires From Pierre Marcolini, Brussels, Belgium

Yum. #getinmybelleh

– Kay

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