After a short but lovely time in Bruges it’s time for another short but sweet trip, this time to the Belgian capital of Brussels. Just walking around the city leads to a lot of beautiful and fun discoveries. Not too far from our Airbnb was a flurry of activity. At Place Sainte Catherine there are many restaurants and shops filled with locals and tourists.
Arnaud and I met up with friends Wendy and Massoum for a catch up session/casual stroll.
We even met famous Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel! At least his statue.
Between the Beaux Arts museum and the Bozar we chose the latter, and we were left slightly baffled as to the meaning of the display we saw. I do not delve often into the world of contemporary art so that’s probably why. We could’ve benefited from a conversation with the artist because he was actually there, wearing the same clothes he was wearing in his photos posted at the exhibit!
Expect to see signs of the rich comic history of Belgium. It can be seen anywhere from The Belgium Comic Strip Center (which was already closed when we went) to a simple mural on a building wall.
And then there’s the Manneken Pis. I let out a little laugh when, past the street lined with waffle shops, we reached this tiny statue of a peeing boy surrounded by tourists eager to take its picture. This is a copy of the original statue, which is one of the most popular symbols of Brussels.
During different times within the year the naked boy is a bit more modest. We happened to see it wearing a Delirium beer-inspired costume during our second day. There is a museum which displays the variety of costumes the Manneken has worn throughout the years.
As we were going around the city we saw this statue of a urinating dog. Apparently, the little naked man is not alone in this act. Say hello to the Het Zinneke. Unfortunately, we didn’t stumble upon the Manneken Pis‘ female counterpart, the Jeanneke Pis.
The Grand Place is definitely something you shouldn’t miss when in Brussels. Beautiful architecture lines all four sides of this huge square. We were exceptionally lucky because the place was made more magnificent by the Flower Carpet display which happens once every two years! What a great coincidence for us! Around 500,000 flowers, together with grass and bark make up this grand artwork. It has been a tradition since 1971.
Visiting the Town Hall is a necessity for you to see the Flower Carpet in all its floral glory. Its size makes it impossible to be viewed in its entirety from the ground. Going into the Town Hall is a treat in itself.
At night the festivities continue as the Grand Place is lit with different colors and filled with music. This is still part of the Flower Carpet display, which always has a theme. This year it was Mexico, particularly Guanajuato
And last but not the least… Belgian food! We’ve had some in Bruges already but we couldn’t get enough and so the foodie adventure continued in Brussels.
There’s no shortage of seafood restaurants in this city so you can take your pick among a wide variety.
As Belgian as moules frites is the croquette. We bought some from a food truck along the side of the road.
Who can forget about the delicious frite? It’s very satisfying either as a side dish or snack.
We just needed to eat more waffles, and eat waffles we did! In Bruges we already tried the Liege waffle, which we liked. The pearl sugar on the outside gives it a crisp outer layer while the inside remains quite soft. We would see some waffle irons dripping with caramel due to constant cooking. Yuuum! You can choose a wide array of toppings and sauces but we seemed to always favor a simple strawberry topping. That did more than enough for the Liege.
We also tried the Brussels waffle. It’s softer and less crisp than the Liege.
The verdict: Liege wins anytime of day over the Brussels.
The speculoos is also something that’s truly Belgian. A spread made with this spiced shortbread biscuit was a hot trend in Manila several years ago. In Maison Dandoy located on the Rue au Beurre (or Butter Street; see the humor in that? :D) you’ll find “spectaculoos speculoos“.
More chocolate for us, please! Hot chocolate in Belgium is to die for especially for people like us who love the dark kind. It’s also fun to see the chocolate droplets melt in the hot milk.
Even if we already bought chocolates from Bruges we had to try some from Neuhaus. Swiss chocolatier Jean Neuhaus is said to have invented the Belgian praline. We have him to thank for these chocolate shells that house an assortment of fillings. There are so many varieties to choose from, making it really difficult to decide!
And that’s it for our tour of Belgium. But don’t fret… the adventure is not over yet. Our journey will take us back to France, but this time to the countryside.