That morning, our buddy Keerthi said, “Let us travel to Brussels today.” Honestly, with zero plans, trusting our friend, we sat in the car. Me being a meticulous planner, I read one or two Brussels Travel blogs until the charming highway-side villages began to surprise me. Going to Brussels is one of the best “last minute plans, but executed well” in our life.
This post answers your question about how to and how not to explore the chocolate capital of the world, Brussels.
- Why visit
- How to Reach Brussels from Amsterdam
- Getting around Brussels
- What we did and what you can do
- Things we did in Brussels other than eating waffles
Why Travel to Brussels?
We can come up with ten reasons to travel to Brussels. The main reason was waffles and Chocolates. We have tasted waffles in many other places. But Brussels waffles are UNCOMPARABLE. Indeed the goddess of all chocolates (according to my brother and me), “GODIVA”, was born here. Beyond chocolates, Brussels is happening with architecture and beautiful streets for wandering.
One of the six waffles we had on that day
Is Brussels a Boring city?
I was surprised to see this question on a few online forums. No, Brussels isn’t boring; it is fascinating. The clean corbelled streets, boulevards with similar-looking medieval period buildings, street-side cafes, and pedestrian-friendly streets amuse tourists. This sounds like a typical Medieval European town. But the unique charm is the chocolates and Belgian food in those old building cafes. These streets are excellent for strolling & watching people.
Is Brussels a good city break?
Yes! For those who seek history, there are plenty! Belgium was under Germany at one point in time. It belonged to the Netherlands once and even France. So the town hall and its square are places to explore all that – Brussels and the first world war.
And for luxury shoppers, there is the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert
What is the best month to travel to Brussels?
Summers are the best time. Everyone loves the city during that time, so it may be expensive to do anything here. Hence, visit Bruges in April-May or October.
How to Reach Brussels from Amsterdam
Brussels’ geographical location is, so that day trip from Amsterdam, Luxembourg, eastern Germany, and even Paris are easily doable. We made the day trip from Amsterdam by car. Whatever your mode of commuting, start your day early, except in winter.
Reaching Brussels By Train
Is there a direct train from Amsterdam to Brussels?
Yes. From Amsterdam Central, trains leave for Brussels almost every hour. The group tickets work out better if you are travelling with many people. It is hardly 3km from the town hall square from the train station in Brussels.
The train is a better option if you plan to spend one whole day in Brussels. For a half-day trip, a car is better.
Can you make a day trip from Amsterdam to Brussels?
Driving from Amsterdam to Brussels (220km in2.15hr) Renting a car is easy for this day trip and doesn’t cost you a bomb.
The only disadvantage of the car is –searching for a car parking spot! We circled in the same place for 15 minutes to find ONE PARKING PLACE! Most of the time, our buddy Keerthi ( Brussels is his and many others’ weekend getaway place from his city Amsterdam) gets a parking space in an underground building kept exclusive for parking near the town hall square during non-tourist season. The cost per hour starts from 2Euro.
Hunting for a parking spot is a Herculean task in Brussels during the tourist season.
What is the best way to travel around Brussels?
We love to walk anywhere & everywhere.
Around 4.3 Million people travel to Brussels every year. After roaming around Amsterdam, we thought Brussels was equally bicycle-friendly. It turned out to be a bit different. There is a designated cycle path, but not throughout the city. The traffic in Brussels is more disordered than in Amsterdam. You can explore city cycling, but don’t expect it to be as fine as Amsterdam. Uber taxis are available but not needed to explore the town.
Don’t take Horse Charriot rides in Brussels.
Many tourists get attracted by a horse chariot ride to explore the areas near the town hall. It looks dreamy, and you may think of experiencing the old-world charm. However, the tourist-filled roads, not taking a detour into pretty narrow streets because of the carriage, may bother you.
What did we do, and what can you do in Brussels?
We clubbed Brussels and Bruges in one day like most other tourists. This was more like a last-minute plan to taste waffles in Brussels and feel the town where “Char Kadam” from PK was filmed in Bruges. If you are in Brussels for a layover or hopping in different countries and you are a sightseer, a half-day in Brussels is what you can do.
How many days do you need in Brussels?
You must spend two full days going beyond touristy places to explore Brussels to see where Belgians live.
What to do in Brussels in half-day?
We have an excellent plan if you are here in Brussels for half a day. Grab some fries, and have a little picnic at the Monument of Leopold. Grab a cup of coffee and sleep on the laws of the Royal Park. Enjoy the architecture and history at the square, and take a stroll on the Mannekin Pis road. Go on window shopping at the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert. Try out a restaurant for some dishes with Mussels and fries. Stand and wonder, “What is this weird-looking building Automium all about?”
What are the best tours in Brussels?
- In the Walking tour, the guide takes you around historical areas and tells you the stories of World War.
- Food tour – to sneak peek inside the waffle baker’s kitchen and see why Belgians claim French Fries ownership.
- Chocolate tours or Beer tours and guided cycling tours to the nearby villages.
What happens when you overeat waffles?
There is nothing else comparable to it – Crunch from the outside, soft from inside waffles. With a smear of Caramel, hot chocolate sauces and berry sauces with cream topping – You can’t stop eating those delicacies. So we both together had around six waffles with different toppings. The overdosage of Sucrose, Maltose, Glucose and whatever -“Ose” turned us too lazy! We were so full that we didn’t eat anything for the next six hours. We loved that part of laying on Juble Park’s grass later because we felt like a well-fed python with a heavy stomach. Don’t overfeed yourself with so many waffles that there is no room for the French fries in the Place where it was born! Don’t get too heavy that you prefer laying down in a nice park and miss out on witnessing the Art Nouveau building streets.
Best things to do in Brussels beyond waffles
With fewer bicycles and more cars, the traffic was different from Amsterdam. Our first stop in Brussels came: Atomium – The weirdest-looking structure before entering the city centre!
Pure science stuff! It was built in 1958 to celebrate the use of metals in the atomic age. Huge balls represent each atom of Iron in crystal form. There are telescopes inside to see the city of Antwerp and an aerial view of Brussels. The entry fees were 12 euros each. By the looks from the outside, we decided not to get inside. Honestly, we could have skipped this Place.
BRUSSELS FAIRS AND EXHIBITIONS NEAR ATOMIUM
The only thing I liked about this place was the garden around it. If you are in Brussels, you may skip this Place unless you are a science enthusiast. Mini Europe is also nearby, So this area is “made for tourists.”
Monument of Leopold
On our way to the town hall square from Atomium, vehicle traffic increased. We thought of parking the car, renting a bicycle, or walking everywhere else. Near a monument, our buddy Keerthi dropped us off and went to park the car nearby. Being my first time travelling in Europe, everything seemed to be exciting. But a tall white tower peeping out of the compound made us more curious. Keerthi must have struggled in the traffic, looking for a parking spot while we began to walk to the tower, forgetting where our buddy was. That was – The monument of Leopold.
The long patch of grass ended at a tall building
. Though I haven’t been to Paris, I very well know about Notre Dame and Chartres cathedral. The tall gothic white spire ornated all around reminded me of those! The first Neo-Gothic building I ever saw in my life was this. That felt like the beginning of a fairytale. As if that was an entry to the castle of kingdom far-far away.
This isn’t too famous among tourists – we could count the number of visitors lazing on the grass there. We began to walk further, but Keerthi called us to return to the main road as he could not find a parking spot. So what is inside, and who is Leopold? – I don’t know. Imagine some fries, Churros and waffles with a cup of Cappucino in your hands, sitting on the lawn and catching gossip with your friends. If you are in Brussels looking for a picnic spot, this must be your choice.
Town Hall Square – Grand Place in Brussels
It was a perfect set of ancient times in contemporary times – with a touch of modernity. Automobiles had replaced the horse chariot. Beige colour historical buildings had rainbow flags waving in the wind. Brussels had just finished celebrating Pride week a few weeks ago. People wore rainbow scarves, bands, and jackets to continue the celebration.
Ultimately, we found a parking spot near the town hall square itself. This was an achievement of the day. Then began our first ever strolling in a Medieval city! There were tourists everywhere, making it hard to notice any true Belgians. It was exciting as everything was new to us.
The narrow alleys opened up to something Magnificent -Town hall square.
You check any blog on the best Squares in Europe – The Grand place, AKA Townhall square place, is within the top ten. Indeed, it is! So expect a crowd at any time of the day throughout the year. Before coming here, we always wanted to witness the vibe of squares in Europe. English movies portray this kind of place so happening that we had dreamt of witnessing it in real – Yes, it is real. This was a happy and happening place.
Best place to watch people in Brussels in this
The crowd here is crazy! Few tourists were getting on to their horse chariot ride. A guide narrated stories and facts of Dutch / French kings who ruled Belgium. There was a gang of tourists who were clicking selfies continuously. One group of activists demonstrated the effects of Climate change through silent skits. Of course, few were getting their portraits done by local artists. It was phenomenal madness! The madness we enjoyed to the fullest.
Watching people & admiring the city
We stood there, watching the chaos for a while. It was unusual for us to watch a chaotic square holding calmness to it, with No shopkeepers to bug us and no tourists playing loud annoying music on their phone’s loudspeakers – A Perfect public place that holds on to its old-world charm to watch people. With a bowl of fries and a plate of Waffles, you can find a quiet spot in this vast square to sit and watch the madness pass by.
Many ancient buildings surround townhall square. The oversized bell tower on the main structure made it obvious: “ I belonged to a royal family, and I dominate the Brussels skyline now “- A true masterpiece of 15th-century Gothic style. The bell tower and the walls are adorned with detailed sculptures. It houses the Brussels mayor’s seat, but the office is elsewhere. The town hall houses a museum too. It houses paintings and sculptures made by many Belgian and Dutch artists. It costs you an extra fee. Click here to know about opening hours, days and fees. On the last few days of our budget trip, we decided to skip entering inside – Money matters a lot, especially at the end of your trip. Right?
Lane of Waffles and Restaurants
I don’t know if they were bored or overfed like us in Brussels.
Honestly, we both had no clue which route we took to walk to this particular street from the town hall square. When I opened my iPhone gallery, apple maps showed that this street is called” Rue du Marché Aux Herbes.” ( I think it is a French word meaning Herb market street!). Many of the tourist herd moves from the grand square to this road. So did we. At the street entrance, there was a mini square with benches.
The open street cafes and medieval buildings continue on this street too. It looked like the hub of tourists with many hotels and lodges. People sitting in the square seemed to be bored! There were a couple of tourists with their trolleys waiting for the taxi. Few of them were waiting for their tour organisers. Four to five sleeping men must be taxi drivers or tour organisers who have eaten enough waffles and churros and are waiting for their guests to return.
How can you “not travel to Brussels” even after seeing this?
Chocolate is in the air.
The smell of hot chocolate, berries, and caramel sauce hits your nostrils immediately as soon as you enter this street. Our buddy Keerthi knew us well. If we start eating right then, we would eat throughout the day and not see anything around. So he took us for the walk first on the streets before we began hogging. This is terrible. How do you expect an ice cube not to melt before the fire? Inhaling the aroma, we couldn’t control ourselves anymore. After a quick stop at a Churros shop, we walked ahead.
Every time I think of Brussels Churros, my mouth waters.
Being touristy here was unique. It was unique in its organised chaos. The street was beautiful with its old buildings; it was delicious with waffles; it was colourful because of Macarons tower and full of life because of the people. We went inside random chocolate shops just to see. They had everything from Belgian dark chocolates to different shapes of chocolate.
All those who did travel to Brussels that day were either for chocolates or the architecture like us- I felt. So often, all tourists stop at a place to admire something or the other. Fortunately, no vehicles are allowed beyond this point. So the wide corbelled street is all for humans unless a horse chariot interrupts the walk. The colourful macarons, scanner and screwdriver, shaped chocolates, the caramel sauce Aroma and medieval buildings – Wow! The world here is different.
Manneken Pis – the ex national symbol of Belgium
With our watering mouths and eyes on delicious food all around, we continued to walk. From a distance, we saw the crowd stagnant. Everyone was looking at something in the maze. People who moved out of the crowd had neither something to eat nor some drink in their hands. What on earth is making them stare at something? Keerthi knew what they were looking at, but not us.
Many Travel to Brussels only to see this tiny boy urinating – I wonder why!
Curiously we walked faster to that pool of people. What we saw there was a statue of a nude kid pissing and holding his penis! His falling pee is a fountain! I have read a lot about Nude-Roman statues. I have even seen Art Nouveau period sensual paintings. But a statue of urinating kid -Why? Why?
It was the national symbol of Belgium until it became controversial. Neither the size nor the detail of the statue is attractive. One of the most overrated tourist spots we have seen to date in the world is this pissing kid!
This imitation statue was better than the real one.
The quest for eating waffles began and went on non-stop. From shop to shop, we hopped. Waffles with only fruits, waffles with cream and fruits, cream and chocolate sauce – you name it, we had it all. The freshness, right quantity of sweetness, berries for sourness, dark chocolate sauce with a bit of bitterness and a lot of cocoa aroma is heaven that melts in your mouth.
Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert in Brussels
In many movies (like Sex and the City), we have seen how rich people shop at these kinds of galleries- Women with two-three shopping bags in their Dior dress, Gucci purse and Chanel boots. Expecting a similar vibe, we were at the entrance of the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert. But, instead, the first lady we saw was an older woman begging! What a contrast and quite the opposite of what we had expected!
Thinking of irony, we went inside in search of Godiva. The Godiva shop was different from what we had seen since morning on the street. It was very sophisticated. A few buyers whispering to each other, a salesperson with polite language and style, neatly stacked dark chocolates, beautifully wrapped chocolate gift boxes – distinct from those waffle shops on the street. I bought a 90% dark chocolate bar worth 6 euros without wasting much time and exited the shop quietly. The transition is peculiar when you step out of that shop. Everything was quiet and polished inside. The moment you stepped out, we were back with the crowd like us who were window shopping, enjoying the vibe.
Walking towards the end of the gallery, we came across a shop that read “Gautam Diamonds” The name sounded very Indian. India and Belgium have a strong connection through diamonds. Surat of Gujarat and Antwerp in Belgium are the leading diamond-cutting centre worldwide. Standing in front of that shop, we googled about Gautam Diamonds. Yes! An Indian diamond shop in Brussels. Though we have not contributed anything to the company’s growth, this was a proud moment to see an Indian shop in Brussels’ luxury shopping arcade.
Can you go beyond window shopping at an expensive Diaomd shop?
Hesitatingly we stepped inside the shop. At the entrance, we made it clear to the salesperson that we weren’t there to buy anything, just window shopping. Smilingly the white man said, “No Problem”. Have a look around; please don’t take any photos.” I love diamonds. I own a few pieces. The collection here was true to the Place – “Royal.” While exiting, the same salesperson smilingly said, “we have one more shop right near the Grand Place. If you wish, you may go there too. (After returning to India, I read bout how Gujaratis took over Jews in the Diamond business at Antwerp. The story is fascinating. Give a read to it here. )
All I bought was a 5 Euro worth of Godiva for my dark chocolate-obsessed brother before exiting the luxury arcade.
Pythons fed with waffles on Brussels streets
We felt like Python, ready to sleep for days together with a stomach full. Our stomachs were so full that we were crawling like walkers from the Walking Dead – The walkers hungry for waffles. The spirit of seeing this amazing city was still there. We had already spent more than three hours in the city strolling. It was time to leave. We had Bruges waiting. We felt as if it was the last day to eat waffles. So just before exiting the street, we bought one last plate of waffles. A random detour in the street took us to the town hall square’s backside.
Don’t ask me, “whose statue is this?” But this is exactly how we felt and stepped on the silver jubilee park lawn after overeating
Somehow we couldn’t get enough of this crowded square. It is filled with people, but still, you can find your corner to sit and enjoy yourself. This feels like a festival here every day, I think. Stuffing the last bites of waffle, we drove to Juble park to snooze for a while like whales!
Did we help you Travel in Brussels better? Which flavour waffle do you suggest? Let us know in the comment section below.