Travels with V

Brussels

Travels with V

Brussels

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Melting pot in Europe

Brussels

The main European Union city, with the wings of history still flapping i our days. The melting pot that probably has welcomed more immigrants from non-european parts of the world than any other european capital. The kingdom of beer and gourmet food, that’s Brussels in a nutshell.

In many ways Brussels reminds us of Vienna. Lots of grand palaces, lots of baroque statues and some surprisingly good-humoured details. A little worn in the edges, repair works doesn’t always seem to be prioritized. But in the heart of the city, in Groote Markt or Grand Place (everything in Belgium has two names) with its exquisite City Hall and other grand buildings with lots of gold on the facades, everything is perfectly in order.

We’re staying just a few blocks away from Grand Place and on the way there we pass the old stock exchange, looking like a roman temple. A few cafes and shops are open but it’s not a success, the place feels odd not least because of the rough life around it.

We stroll around the city centre and of course we pass the famous “Manneken pis”, the slightly weird statue of a small boy urinating. It is placed in a very busy corner where we later will find ourselves in a mustasche contest (!).

In Brussels you can’t go anywhere without having a shop nearby selling chocolate, beer or waffels. They are all extremely popular, sometimes we see queues to the waffle stands.

Brussels’ most famous buildings are most likely the EU parlament blocks. In disciplined steel-and glass architecture and with the huge plenum in the middle. more than 700 politicians and thousands of assistants, secretaries, translators and caretakers etc. work here. The translators must be especially busy, having to create 24 different editions of all documents, one for each EU language, and also live translate the speeches in the plenum.

Spectacular buildings can be found in other parts of the city too. Palaces and churches and classic shopping malls almost as classy as the grand Vittorio Emanuele mall in Milan. We also find some closed down shopping halls converted to modern water holes.

Topp five in Brussels:

  1. See: Grand Place/Groote Markt is a start point for walks in the city center.  Within walking distance you’ll also find Manneken pis. The EU-parlament is an interesting place, book ticket(s) in advance.  The Magritte musum is great, as is the nearby  Museum of musical instruments, with fiddles and flutes and drums from all around the world. Definitely worth a couple of hours.
  2. Stay: We had booked a room at La Pièce, very central but extremely noisy. Poor breakfast too, we don’t recommend it. But hotels here are generally expensive, so find a good one in the old town and accept the cost.
  3. Getting around: Buy a travelcard and fill it with 10 travel fees. The  Metro is very good and you can pay with the card on buses and trams too. 
  4. Eat: Brussels is a must for foodies, with many Michelin starred eateries. And you’ll get some great food also in simpler brasseries, such as Porte de Hal, we had excellent dining in an exciting environment in La Quincaillerie and we were in food heaven in Comme chez soi. For lunch go to the  foodcourt Wolf.
  5. Hang out: Bars and pubs are found in almost any street corner, but in kind of clusters. Mappa Mundi in the Pentagone district was our favourite spot. 

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