Pages

13 January 2014

Brussels: the new hot spot for travellers

Brussels Town Hall in the city's Grand Place rises 315 feet into the air and is topped off by a 12-foot statue of Saint Michael slaying a demon. Photo: Valy Dumoulin.
Brussels Town Hall in the city's Grand Place rises 315 feet into the air and is topped off by a 12-foot statue of Saint Michael slaying a demon. Photo: Valy Dumoulin.

I am thrilled to introduce my guest blogger, Paula and Gordy from ContentedTraveller.com who have been travelling ever since they met 10 years ago, and for some unknown reason are contented traveller(s). They represent the baby boomer / emptynesters who are share their love of travel and unusual adventures, but also, and most importantly, their ability to embrace serendipity. You can follow their adventures on Twitter too @gordyandpaula. Without further ado, I bring to you Paula's and Gordy's take on Brussels! 

Many travellers have largely ignored Brussels, the much maligned capital city of Belgium. It has been a go through city, rather than a city break or long-stay destination. However things are changing. There are rumblings that the tide is turning and that people are re-discovering Brussels and liking very much what they are seeing and feeling. It would appear that this little gem is becoming a hotspot for travellers.

The quandary that is Brussels

One wonders why Brussels has so often been criticised, but it appears that the city does suffer a little from a bi-polar disorder. Many say that the people of Brussels, the Bruxellois, are cold and indifferent, but from personal experience, they are not.

It has been said that as Brussels is the HQ of the European Union, that no one else wants to play with them and that the city has become sterile with the influx of workers from many countries. Actually it just has made it much more multicultural and that can’t be a bad thing.

It has often been said that the Bruxellois do not bother to make friends with people working at the EU because it would be a transient friendship. Well maybe, but friendship does go two ways.

Many cannot fathom the differences between the Flemish (Dutch-speaking region of Belgium) and the French elements of the city, but don’t worry because they can’t either. Brussels is suffering from a bi-polar disorder but that is not stopping people from discovering its charms. It quite probably enhances them.

The look of Brussels


Although the French demolished most of the Grand Place in 1695 save the City Hall, the Baroque-style architecture you see today was the result of a four-year restoration project.
Although the French demolished most of the Grand Place in 1695 save the City Hall, the Baroque-style architecture you see today was the result of a four-year restoration project.

Brussels is visually very appealing. They are exceptionally proud of their dedication to the arts and especially the Art Nouveau architecture which abounds in this city. There are many museums and galleries to show the world that they are indeed bohemian, artistic and cultured. It is also very green with lush formal and informal gardens, including the “secret park” hidden behind Rue Faider. The historic buildings sit very nicely alongside newer buildings and some excellent street art is on display. The "Adventures of Tintin," created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé (Georges Remi), is featured on many walls throughout Brussels.

Museums

Brussels has some very fine museums. The Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts is a fusion of both old and new art. The Musee Magritte is where you will see Belgium’s favourite son, the surrealist artist René Magritte’s works. The Musee Horta is where you will be able to experience the genius of Victor Horta, the pre-eminent Art Nouveau architect to whom Brussels owes much of its architectural and visual appeal. The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is a Gothic masterpiece; and the castles of Gaasbeek and Beersel are both fascinating and not far from the city.

Grand Place


Grand Place, or Central Square in Belgium. All photography is property of ContentedTraveler.com unless noted. 

The Grand Place is the central square of Brussels and is exactly that, very grand. It is surrounded by the preserved guildhalls, many adorned with gilded statues. This is where you will find a lot of trendy little cafés. It is a visual and historically stunning panorama.

Side streets in Brussels

Walk down any of the little cobble-stoned streets and you will enter some more authentic cafés and bars. The Rue des Bouchers still has lots of beautiful architecture dating from the 17th century as well as many side walk cafes. At the end of the street, you can find the Résidence Centrale, a serene silent zone where the fountain of La Cracheuse is located.

The Rue des Dominicains is a lovely street where you can find the Restaurant Vincent, whose are walls are covered with painted ceramics. Sit down with the local people; don’t be scared, as they are actually very relaxed if a little sardonic.

Shopping in Brussels


Brussels is a bit of a legend when it comes to shopping. The Avenue Louise is renowned for some of the finest designer boutiques, but all over Brussels you will find vintage stores and local markets, showcasing many goods. There are also many chocolate shops with simply amazing displays.

Eating in Brussels

The food in Brussels is extremely good. Brussels is well known for its chocolates, waffles and its beers and it would be remiss not to sample these. The mussels are succulent and the frites (French fries) are also worth the effort, as are the speculoos , a spicy biscuit that is much favoured here. The cheese is also seriously good, from very contented cows.

Brussels is worth visiting. Embrace this stunning city, embrace its bi-polar characteristics because this is probably what makes it so appealing.

Additional Reading:

12 comments:

  1. So pleased to see one of my favorite cities featured! Yes, the museum/art scene Brussels is fabulous but also found Belgians to be exceptionally warm and soft-spoken, even in tourist-rampant places like the Atomium. The food is a huge draw, too: a favorite Brussels memory of mine is lounging hours away in cozy cafes, slurping up mussels steamed in wine with a side of frites with mayonnaise. Maybe with a Jacques Brel tune playing in the background--ahhh, Brussels!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow Lesley! You certainly paint a lovely and very delicious picture of Brussels my friend! I have never been but now after this article and your comment, my wanderlust has been ignited!! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences for my readers.

      Delete
  2. I have a very neutral feel about Brussels - probably stemming from the fact I visited one January day under grey skies. It felt like an expensive place to be as a budget traveler. But I'm willing to give the place a second chance; the photos help to highlight how pretty it can be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Leigh for giving Brussels a second chance. I believe it deserves one and may the sun shine brightly in blue skies on your return.

      Delete
  3. Brussels was the city I picked way back when I was looking at interpreting schools in Europe, not Paris or Geneva. Unfortunately, I wasn't accepted and switched my studies all together.



    I'm glad to read your post because even though I've still not been, I love seeing it again even if only in photos -- I'm reminded why I fell in love with it in the first place.

    Thanks, Paula and Gordy, and Jeff for reminding me why I wanted to go to school there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there Marcia and thx so much for stopping by!! So sorry school in Brussels didn't work out for you. What a bummer. Perhaps you and I can discover and explore together one day soon!!

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Thanks so much Muza-chan, I really appreciate you stopping by and your kind words!!

      Delete
  5. I work in Brussels and have been commuting there for years. For years I never saw anything from Brussels except for my work place and car. Last year I went for a weekend on a city trip to Brussels (yes I know very strange when you live that close by) but I really enjoyed it. It's a beautiful city and especially the old part of the city is great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! I didn't know you work in Brussels! Do you know Valy of Inhand Guides? Lovely person! Thank you so much for stopping by my friend and sharing your experiences!

      Delete
  6. Great article about Brussels. For those who love Horta and Art Nouveau, just visit Ixelles. There are several art nouveau houses to see in this charming neighborhood. You will appreciate also the beautiful art deco buildings around the Brugman Place, a trendy and chic area 12' walk from the Horta Museum. The Brugman Place is also near the fabulous art deco gardens of the Van Buren museum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your helpful tips Francoise!! I will be sure to keep these in mind when I visit!

      Delete

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!