Belgium’s capital and also home to the European Union headquarters. Famous for waffles, moule frites (mussels and fries) and of course, Belgian chocolate! Brussels has long been on my European city break bucket list, so when Joe asked if I wanted to take an overnight trip due to some free Eurostar tickets, I took no time in starting to plan our visit.
GETTING THERE // The easiest way to get to Brussels from London is the Eurostar. Departing from St Pancras station it’s a 2-hour journey to Brussels Midi – the main rail station in the city. Once we arrived we hopped on the metro. Easy to navigate, very clean and costing just €7.50 for 24 hours, it’s one of the easiest ways to get about the city.
ACCOMMODATION // We checked in to The Dominican, a beautiful boutique hotel housed in a 17th century building. We chose it due to its centrality to everything (Grand Palace square is only a 5-minute walk away) and the fact that it had wonderful reviews. It’s a very impressive hotel and both Joe and I said it was probably one of the best-looking hotels we’d ever stayed in.
FOOD // Of course, my main priority when visiting Brussels was making sure we got our fix of all their famous foods.
- La Fabrique // Boulevard de Waterloo 44, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium // HERE: After dumping our luggage at the hotel we headed out to La Fabrique by taking a short metro ride to Louise station. I’d heard really good things about La Fabrique from a brilliant Brussels-based blog. Shout out to The Brusselsprouts, not only for brilliant restaurant reviews, but also for the best blog name ever, right? We decided to do their bottomless brunch offer and by the looks of things, so did a lot of other people too. The place was rammed which we took as a good sign (ensure you make a reservation to avoid disappointment). The brunch consisted of any type of eggs cooked to order, crepes, salads, bread, pasta, cakes, pastries, fruit – all of which was delicious. We found the staff were a little bit slow with bringing drinks over etc. and the toilets weren’t the cleanest, but with regards to the food, it was lovely.
- La Boussole // Quai au Bois a Bruler-61, Brussels 1000, Belgium // HERE: This was one of Joe’s finds after researching where to find the best moule frites. It’s an unassuming, family-run restaurant along a quiet street. We didn’t bother with starters (we were still a little bit full from the bottomless brunch) and jumped straight in with mains. We both ordered the moule frites, but chose different sauces. I went for garlic and cream whilst Joe went for white wine. I definitely won. The mussels were HUGE and very tasty. According to a bit of research I did online, I discovered the reason why moule frite is so famous in Brussels is due to the Schelde, a river that connects western Belgium to the Netherlands and the North Sea. Apparently this area is one of Europe’s largest exporters of quality mussels, and they weren’t kidding. They were some of the juiciest, most plump mussels I’ve ever come across.
- Mokafe // Galerie du Roi 9, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium // HERE: Breakfast the next morning was an unplanned affair. We stumbled across Mokafe when wondering through Galeries Royales, a beautiful arcade filled with cafes and chocolate shops. We ordered their Belgian breakfast which basically consisted of ALL THE BREAD. Freshly baked croissants and a big hunk of baguette to smother in jam and butter, all washed down with fresh orange juice and coffee. Heaven.
WHAT TO SEE // We didn’t have that much time so we made plans to visit the Grand Palace and just generally have a bit of a stroll and soak up the atmosphere.
- Grand Palace // This is the main square with stunning 17th-century buildings surrounding it. It’s truly stunning and definitely something to add to your to-see list.
- The Royal Palace // This place is enormous! Apparently it’s twice the size of Buckingham Palace and is the official home of the Belgian King & Queen, although they actually live in the outskirts of Brussels. There’s a beautiful royal park directly opposite which would make a lovely picnic spot.
- Galeries Royales // Galeries Royales is a beautiful shopping arcade full of coffee shops and luxury chocolate shops. This is where we bought our Belgian chocolates which were delicious, although not the best chocolates I’ve ever had, if I’m being completely honest.
- Mannekin Pis // You’ll no doubt stumble across this at some point if you have a general wander near the Grand Palace. For some reason, people love this statue/fountain of a small boy urinating. There were hoards of people gathered around to look at it. It left me completely perplexed…
SAFETY // I wanted to highlight something here as I think it’s important. We booked our accommodation just after the terrorist attacks in Brussels. A lot of people found this strange. We’ve had quite a few comments along the lines of “oh, I wouldn’t want to be visiting Brussels at the moment” and “are you sure you want to go?”. I know these comments were coming from a good place, but my viewpoint on the situation is this. If you stop or alter your plans then quite frankly, the bastards win. They’ve succeeded in doing their job, which is to scare you. So yes, in an act of complete defiance and as a massive middle finger to a certain group, we booked our accommodation to Brussels. At no point did I feel unsafe in Brussels. It’s actually a very calm, laid-back city. The only thing we noticed were members of the army patrolling the tube, but this actually made us feel safer.
I’d highly recommend a city break to Brussels if you ever get the chance!