Brussels - The Ultimate European ExperienceBrussels is a historic city dating back to Antiquity and one of the most cosmopolitan of Europe. I considered it to be the best option for a first European trip of a close friend: this is the heart of the old continent, where you will meet its people, its history, its atmosphere and its flavors. Also, it is a less than two hours ride to so many touristic cities, that you can hardly decide what to pick.
We planned a week long Brussels-based escape filled with one-day trips to the medieval Flemish towns Bruges and Antwerp and to the lively Maastricht.
Coming from the main station, Gare Midi, we admired the colorful brick building facades and the quirky cafes along the way. Sitting on our fluffy B&B mattress, we started to choose our routes on the map. We came ready to explore the outdoor Brussels, knowing it will be a fascinating experience due to the diverse cityscape containing countless architectural gems.
Our first stop was Grand Place, of the most beautiful city squares in the world. From the terrace of Le Roy D’Espagne, we admired the Town Hall and the guild houses while eating cheeses, gauffres and sipping coffees sweetened by Chantilly Maison, a local version of whipped cream. We strolled on the old center streets looking for the famous attractions, like Manneken Piss and the bronze Statue of Everard´t Serclaes, but we got distracted by the many chocolate shops displaying artfully their sweets.
The street food in Brussels is tempting: fries served with dips, baked potatoes with salads, sausage baguettes, waffles and pancakes. Our tour became partially culinary: we tried the famous Belgian Mussels at Nord du Mer restaurant, we had a taste of French cuisine at Coin des Artists and enjoyed Flemish foods at Restobieres. Also, Belgium might have the best beer in the world: Ale, Dubbel, Trippel, Lambic.
What we loved about Bruxelles was also its unique and entertaining museums, which offer a different touring experience. We discovered unknown sounds at The Museum of Musical Instruments, we had chocolate tastings at the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, we saw an impressive collection of old cars at Autoworld and remembered childhood moments at the Toy Museum. We took some time after Autoworld to wander in the elegantly landscaped Parc du Cinquantenaire.
For the rest of the time, we tried to stick to the plan and observe the beautiful architecture of Brussels. On our long walks, we stopped at the Art Nouveau hotels Tassel and Solvay, we took pictures at Maison Saint-Cyr and the art deco steamboat-shaped building Flagey and we peeked into the famous art deco bar L’Archiduc. We also visited the neo-classical Place Royal, where the Rene Magritte Museum can be found. We spent some time looking at the enormous stained-glass windows of the Gothic St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral and shopped at the Neo-Renaissance style Royal Galleries Saint-Hubert, a place filled with restaurants, cafes, and boutiques.
Our final visit was to the futuristic Atomium, a place where we found the Mini-Europe, a park with small size European landmarks. After that, we only returned to Brussels for sleeping after amazing one-day excursions to small lovely Belgian cities that left us longing for a return.