What’s there not to like about the land of waffles, fries, chocolates, and beer? Sure, perhaps the variety of waffle shops only fills the streets of Brussels to cater to tourists, but we sure didn’t mind. With the costs of transportation and food quite high and not a whole lot to do for a major city, we limited our visit to just one day. Not only did we stuff our faces with irresistible Belgian snacks and delights, we fell in love with all the upbeat music thumping softly from every shop we visited. Favorable food and music made all the difference. Albeit a brief visit, we thought it was just the perfect amount of time, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
For a pricey 1-way €3 ticket each, we rode the bus into the city from the neighboring suburb of Grimbergen where we parked the RV for free. Once in Brussels we immediately started our day at Mokafe for the typical Belgian waffle blanketed beneath a layer of fresh strawberries.
Just around the corner from Mokafe stood the Jeanneke Pis statue, literally the sister statue of the more famous Mannekin Pis. Seeing a statue of a little girl squatting and peeing was slightly disturbing. Rumor says that a restaurant owner commissioned this statue to be placed in front of his restaurant to attract more customers; now that restaurant is gone, but the statue remains, beckoning tourists to stop by.
Then we strolled through perhaps the most grand and flamboyant square in Europe, the Grand Place Square. All edifices but one (the towering City Hall) had been rebuilt after 1695 after the French shelled them. Because of its dizzying magnificence, the Grand Place is worth seeing both day and night.
Down the street from the Grand Place were waffle shops after waffle shops, with waffles starting at only €1! We eagerly loaded up on waffles.
And sure enough, the Mannekin Pis statue, which was naturally right around the corner of a waffle shop:
Mannekin Pis was the first pissing statue to be erected. It is said that he represents the Belgian rebelliousness nature and history. There is apparently an entire wardrobe of over 800 costumes for this little statue, which is held on display at a museum. He was naked when we took his picture.
For the rest of the afternoon we wandered in and out of chocolate and beer shops, stopping to snap photos of pretty scenery.
From Mont des Arts:
We fell in love with chocolate from Leonardi’s. Not only were the chocolates of fine quality, they also did not break the bank!
The Stock Exchange:
St. Catherine Church:
While in the heart of Brussels, we recommend dropping into Use-It, an incredibly resourceful tourist information center that provides not just info and free walking tours, but also current local event listings, free wifi, power, tea, coffee, and a bathroom. It is located in the mall across the street from the Brussels Centrale station on the east side. We spent a couple hours there chatting with the guys and recharging our electronics.
Our final attraction in Brussels was the Atomium several kilometers north of the city, a site not to be missed. Like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, or the Palace of Fine Arts is to San Francisco, the Atomium is to Brussels. Imagine an iron crystal lattice structure of an atom, only enlarged billions of times. This structure was originally constructed for the 1958 World Fair, but the Belgians loved it too much to take down. Parking was free the first 15 minutes, and 50¢ for the next 30 minutes—plenty of time for just circumnavigating the structure. Otherwise the entrance fee up the escalators into each “ball” was €11.
Had we visited Brussels on a Friday or Saturday there would have definitely been more events and activities. Bars and plenty of nightlife seem to flood Brussels, not to mention the famous outdoor music festivals that partake in the summers. We primarily had a relaxing time in Brussels on a quiet Monday, albeit a filling one (food-wise).