Tuesday, 27 February 2018

24 hours in Brussels

To start with, a quick disclaimer, because if you follow my Instagram you might be thinking 'hang on, wasn't she in Brussels for about six weeks?' Whilst that's a slight exaggeration, I was in Belgium for a week - but a lot of that time I spent working, and we also visited Bruges (post coming shortly). So I actually only spent around 24 hours exploring Brussels itself.

Another slight disclaimer - I think 24 hours, or maybe 1-2 nights, is probaby long enough, if you're looking for a rough guide. Brussels is a really pretty city and you certainly could spend longer (especially if you happen to be luckier with the weather than we were), but you won't feel rushed if you haven't got long.

And FINALLY, just in the interest of disclosure - I did not pay for my hotel, but equally I am not obliged to say nice things about it - I'm just going to anyway because it was very nice.

Alright! With no further rambling - here is how I spent 24 hours (ish) in Brussels!

We stayed at The Hotel Brussels for two nights. The hotel is pretty centrally located on the main shopping avenue of Brussels - it's not right in the touristy bit, but it's walking distance from it and it's in a really nice area. You can walk there from the Eurostar, which I did, but it's a bit of a sketchy walk and I wouldn't entirely recommend it! We had a gorgeous room with an insanely panoramic view which, as you can imagine, I took 10,000 photos of!

My husband got in pretty late on Friday night so we just went for a drink at the hotel bar, which was - for a hotel - really reasonably priced and the service was excellent. As our room was so nice (and my best friend had just announced her engagement, which made me feel celebratory) we spent the rest of the evening just enjoying the room! The mini bar is free, which is a nice touch, and it's just designed in a way that makes it very comfortable.

In the morning with a slight champagne headache the first thing on our minds was food. Belgium is known for its waffles, and one of its most famous cafes is Maison Dandoy - around a 15-20 minute walk from our hotel - so we headed there. We got there at around 11.30am, and it was busy, but not packed (we were seated straight away but had to wait a little while to order) - when we left around 45 minutes later, there was a queue out of the door! Basically, if you want to come, come early!

And you really should because it's definitely worth it. Did you know there are two different types of waffle in Belgium? There's the Brussels waffle - crispier and bigger - and the Liege waffle, which is doughier and sweeter. My husband had a Brussels waffle with brown sugar and I had a Liege waffle with ice cream and strawberries. And a strawberry milkshake, because apparently that wasn't quite enough food for me! Personally, I thought the Liege waffle was way nicer, and I'd definitely recommend getting ice cream on top, but then I'd recommend putting ice cream on more or less anything.

Maison Dandoy is right in the centre of the touristy section of Brussels and a short walk from the famous Manneken Pis statue. This is basically a tiny little statue of a little boy peeing. It's really quite bizarre to see people queuing up to take selfies with the sort of statue you'd see in just about any English garden centre, but there have been many folk stories told about the statue over the years, so you do sort of have to go and see it while you're there!

You can also wander through the squares and take a look at the insanely beautiful architecture. We were unlucky and came on a day when it was absolutely freezing, but if it was sunny, you could honestly spend forever doing this - sitting having a drink or some food in the sunshine and wandering about. As my fingers were starting to fall off, we made a quick return trip to the hotel to grab more jumpers and then hopped on the tourist bus.

I've written about the hop-on-hop-off buses before - I've been on them in multiple cities, including Dublin and Barcelona, and I think they're a really good way to get a feel for a city, as well as visit places that are maybe a little too far to get to on foot. Again, it is always nicer if the weather is good and you can sit on the top deck - we tried it for a bit, but the wind was really biting and we retreated into the warmth of the inside pretty quickly!

The bus took us round the city and we saw the various sites, including the EU parliament (cry) and a stop off at an incredible view, where there's actually an elevator that takes you down to another part of town. As a person who accidentally walked through that part of town when they were lost trying to find their hotel, I wouldn't necessarily recommend you visit it...but the view is very nice!

We also visited the Atonium. Initially constructed for the 1958 Brussels world fair, it is a structure built to represent the shape of an iron atom magnified 165 billion times (apparently. I mean, I'm not about to correct them). It's now a museum. Unfortunately, because we were out of season, our last bus was due to leave around 20 minutes after we arrived, so we couldn't visit the museum itself - although my parents have, and tell me it is well worth spending a few hours there. We did visit the museum shop, which sold a very strange array of products and involved access via a metal detector, which was a bit odd! There's also meant to be a model Europe - but we couldn't find it! We went for a walk around the grounds instead, which are really beautiful. I would definitely say this is a place you could spend more time.

After a quick stop off at the hotel to get changed, we headed out again for dinner and drinks. Brussels is famous for its beers and there are some brilliant places to drink, such as the famous Delirium cafe which has over 2,000 varities of beer! Foodwise, it was a bit difficult being vegetarians but there is a huge variety of restaurants selling French-style cuisine - you would be spoilt for choice if you did eat meat.

Overall, I have to be honest - I can't say I fell in love with Brussels, although that may be partly because of the weather while we were there  - I do feel like it would be lovely in the summer months - but I do fully recommend a day trip - and a waffle!


  1. I've never been to Brussels - or Belgium at all for that matter! - but I loved your travel guide and am now yearning to go! I'm not a beer drinker, but I'm definitely up for some waffle tasting! x


  2. I love the pictures from your hotel window! And he waffles look pretty amazing too! x

  3. The Liège waffles are definitely the better ones! :-)


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