When my mom visited us this summer, we made sure to carve out a few days for her and I to do something fun. We went around a little on what those “somethings fun” should be but we landed on Brussels.
From London, you can train it to Brussels in about 2 hours.
We took an early train there and an evening train back.
Spent the day. And it was just lovely.
Mom looked ahead, did some research, and found a handy little “walk of Brussels” tour on Pinterest. Turns out Brussels is blessedly walkable. Party! I would just like to say thank you for being walkable Brussels.
I like it, I appreciate it. I see you.
It makes your city even more destination-able than it already was.
Not having to worry about transit in foreign country = happy me.
Our “tour” ended up being perfect. I mean, as far as I know. We saw all the ‘major’ things.
We had plenty of time to eat and dilly around the chocolate shops.
That’s all I need.
Our Goals for Brussels –
Secondary Goals –
“Touristy” things that might be in cahoots with or on the way to chocolate, waffles, fries, or beer.
We arrived at the main train station (Midi/Zuid). We had previously googled how to take the train to the first stop on mom’s Pinterest tour, which was a beautiful park and palace.
We completed the first part of our day with ease and efficiency.
And also – at the top of our walk we walked by this huge building with these massive flags hanging all over it.
And I was like, “Oh look the German flag. Must be their embassy.”
And mom was like, “Are you sure, I don’t know. Could be a fancy Belgium building.”
And I was like “NO way, I definitely 100% know that is the German flag – geez mom, don’t you know your flags.”
We shortly found out however that I was wrong and that ^^ is in fact the flag of Belgium.
She graciously didn’t rub it in my face. But in my defense THIS is the German flag:
Flag lesson over.
From there, we walked by some fancy museums (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Musical Instrument Museum, and Magritte Museum) and onward to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.
I have to say it’s pretty standard on the scale of “beautiful European Cathedrals.” I don’t know how to describe it like an Art Historian or an Architect. I mean, I know just enough to be dangerous, so it’s probably best if I leave it to the professionals. Just know that I’m always impressed and I never tire of seeing these places and being in them.
From there we walked to the Grand Place. The Google definition of Grand Place is:
“Huge city square completely encircled by elegant historic buildings dating back to the 14th century.”
And that’s precisely what it is and it doesn’t disappoint.
It’s huge, vibrant, and beautiful.
From there, you walk the surrounding area. You shop and search for Chocolate, waffles, and Fries.
You also search for the Mannekin Pis, which is this litte statue of a boy peeing.
It is very important to the Belgiums. They dress him up in all sorts of outfits, and there are mini’s of him all over the shops.
I didn’t really like it. I don’t know… I think that’s why I don’t even have a picture of us with it. But what’s weird is that I was compelled to buy a little statue of him at the train station. And here he sits in my house.
Everyday, all day.
I don’t have an explanation.
Moving on – we were getting hungry and mom had done some research on where to find THE BEST Belgium waffle. And it happened to be right next to the Mannekin Pis.
Mom got sweet – Strawberry and Nutella. I wasn’t quite ready to brave the sugar coaster, so I got a cheesy/savory waffle pocket.
Both were yum yum yum. Yummy yum yum. Double thumbs up.
Then mom got some Nutella on her white shirt, which is hilariously typical and I had to take a pic. Sorry mom!
Other waffle displays we left uneaten:
From there we continued to peruse and follow our Pinterest tour, while taking in some of the funky street art and some of the Belgium famous tapestries and lace.
I learned something new – Belgium is (additionally) famous for tapestries and lace.
And then the chocolate shopping commenced.
You see one chocolate shop and it has the most beautiful display and the most amazing looking treats and the most incredible SMELL.
And you’re like “This shop is amazing!”
“I want to buy chocolate in here.”
But then, you remember you’re a lady and you’re required to shop around. “If I keep walking I may find something that I like even better….”
And you can continue to do this all day in Brussels. Because there is literally a chocolate shop every 20ft. Some of them have a folk-y sort of feel. They have chocolate treats but also a lot of other types of sweets and fun colored lollipops. In those shops – I would feel comfortable letting my kids come in. They have pretty colored tins, and mix-and-match bags.
Others are not that way – they are quiet and white with chocolate so elegantly styled and presented that the chocolates look like make-up instead of candy. And they have, like, 30 chocolates total in the whole store and that’s it. Nothing else fun. These shops are SERIOUS. No kids allowed. (I mean, I’m sure they’re allowed) Just in general, however, you feel like you should behave yourself.
And then there are some in the middle. But either way, walking around you start to realize that some of the shops are doubled or even tripled around the city. This makes your lady brain relax a little. You can go ahead and start buying some chocolate – you’ve hit all the options.
Mom had again researched ahead where we should eat fries. The place was called Frit-land, and it was about mid-point in our walk. Obviously lots of other people had decided they were going to get their fries at Fritland too. Because when we happened upon it, the line was loooooong. But we were there and we decided to wait. We waited for 30 minutes and didn’t move. We jointly decided that maybe we weren’t going to have Frit-land fries and started making our way back to the Grand Place.
Once we left, the line seemed to loosen up a little, but not much. I’m not sure what was going on there. I think there might have been a big group or some sort of problem. I don’t know. How long do people wait for fries? How long does it take to make and distribute fries??
Not sure, but once back at the Place, we found a place to sit. Mom ordered cheese, fries, and a (Radler German style) beer for us to share.
After snack time ,we made our final chocolate purchases and decided we needed to give ourselves plenty of time to figure out how to get back to the train station.
Even though we had googled and screen-shot-ed directions ahead of time, we found ourselves utterly confused at the French/Dutch/German speaking train station. We somehow figured out how to get tickets and then also found the platforms. But we COULD NOT figure out which train we needed to get back to Midi (which is the international train station). We kept switching platforms, trains kept coming, boards kept changing. We felt like we couldn’t make sense of anything. There didn’t seem to be a lot of (helpful) English speakers, or employees. I had a real mini-panic-flash that maybe we wouldn’t figure it out. Even when we thought we had it figured out and finally, bravely, decided to get on a train… I was not confident.
The root of our problem was that we didn’t realize that our destination (the international train station) called Midi or Zuid goes by two interchangeable names. We were only looking for Midi. So, we’d find Midi on the board – run to the platform – to only see the trains going to Zuid! And then repeat.
We got on the right train, though, and it was only a few stops before we arrived at MIDI/ZUID. Even with all that messing around, we ended up getting to MIDI way earlier than we anticipated. We had about 2 hours to kill, so we sat outside in the nice weather and had a nice dinner at the station.
With that much time to kill, we realized we would’ve had time earlier in the day to visit one of those museums we walked by or wait in the long Fritland line. But that’s just something you learn on your first time in a new place. We still accomplished our scholarly goals, and had a fun day together. The train back left around 7, and we were in London by 9 and home by a little after 10.
Adventure day to Belgium – done and in the books.