This was a day trip from The Hague, the Netherlands to Brussels by train. It takes about 2 hours one way. I booked the tickets online via SNCB International (very last minute – that morning itself). I didn’t have any plans that day – so I thought lets hop on the train and go somewhere. Best thing about Europe is that most places can be reached by train and the train is efficient (most of the time).
So, what’s in Brussels….
Grand Place (Grote Markt)
Grote Markt is the Old Town’s town square and is part of UNESCO’s world heritage list. As you stand in the middle of the square, you will find yourself surrounded by beautiful architecture.
La Bourse de Bruxelles
This is the former Stock Exchange Building, completed in 1873. There was a Van Goh exhibition there when I visited. It was also Christmas – you can also see Christmas market stalls in the picture.
Yes – it is the statue of a boy urinating into a fountain. There are a few legends surrounding the statue. One legend described a little boy who suddenly went missing; his parents then, together with the town people formed a search party to look for the boy – combing through all the streets in the city. The boy was finally found urinating in the corner of a small street. This story was passed on through generations and became associated with the city of Brussels. The statue was then erected as a tribute to the famous legend. Well that’s one version. No one really knows how the statue came about.
The original Mannekin Pis dated back around the 1400s. Between 1618-1619, it was replaced with a bronze version. The statue was stolen several times since then, but it was always recovered, sometimes badly damaged. Perhaps that’s why, the original version is now kept in the Museum of the City of Brussels. The statue now standing on display at the original site is the identical copy.
The Mannekin Pis has a very impressive wardrobe of about 1,000 outfits! He gets dressed up for special occasions. His outfits are kept at the museum. I was hoping to get a picture of him in one of his costumes – oh well – birthday suit it is…
This is the official palace for the King and Queen of Belgium. It is not used as the Royal Residence. The palace serves as the King’s administrative office and is also used to host foreign delegates.
The palace is open to the public in summer if you want to have a view inside.
Parc de Bruxelles
The park’s south entrance is opposite the Royal Palace. Nice park to take a stroll. This was the hunting grounds of the Dukes of Brabant in the middle ages. There are events held here from time to time – concerts, food festivals, National Day celebration – you may want to check what’s on when you’ll be in Brussels next!
Mont des Arts
The complex houses the Congress Palace, the Royal Library and the National Archives of Belgium. You get a beautiful view of the city as you stand at the top of the complex garden/park.
I didn’t know what this building was at first. It just stood out from the rest of the buildings on the block due to its unique architecture. It looks small from the outside – but there is a concert hall inside with 200 seats aside from the instruments gallery. You can have a meal at the Museum restaurant (at the top of the building) – where you get a beautiful view of the city.
This is a Roman Catholic church located on Place Royal (Royal Square).
Brussels Comic Book Route
The local authority initiated a project in the 1990s, in collaboration with the Belgian Comic Strip Centre to embellish empty walls around the city with comic strip murals. Now murals are painted in parts of the inner city and also in some less touristy neighbourhood as a celebration of Brussels rich comic heritage. There are more than 50 murals around Brussels – you can see the full list at the Visit Brussels website.
If you want to learn more about the comic strip history and artists, you can check out the Comic Strip centre at 20 rue des Sables. They also arrange comic book route tours.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
The shopping gallery officially opened on 20 June 1847. It houses shops (fashion/clothing, chocolates, jewellery etc), cafes/restaurants, art galleries and apartments. Nice place to do window shopping, drink coffee or sample some chocolates.
Belgium is famous for chocolates of course. So if you have time which I obviously don’t as it was only a short day trip, you can go to the Chocolate Museum, chocolate factories, chocolate tour, chocolate making workshop and so on. You can also do a DIY chocolate tour – and pay for the few pieces that you eat at your selected shops – similar thing if you go for a chocolate tasting tour. But of course you’d have to be your own guide.
I’ve always loved Belgian chocolates. My favourite is Neuhaus. I got to know that there is a Neuhaus chocolate factory in Brussels, but you have to take a metro there. You can get good discounts at the factory.
Of course, you need to sample the famous Belgian fries when in Brussels. There are many places you can get these. But you can’t go wrong with Fritland – 49, Rue Henri Maus – they have been in business since 1978. There are other things on the menu too. The queue can get pretty long during lunch hours.
I don’t normally eat waffles back home – as they are always a bit disappointing. The taste is usually not worth all the calories consumed.
But since I was in Brussels, of course I needed to have some! My take on Brussels waffle is just simply “wow”! You can choose from Brussels waffle or Liege waffle (the former is the fluffier and lighter version). I had the Brussels waffle with just powdered sugar – delicious!
Delicious Day Out...
I managed to cover quite a bit in my short day trip to Brussels. It was Dec, so it was comfortable to walk around the city. Most of the attractions are close to each other so very do-able. Plus it’s good to do all that walk to offset all the calorie intake!
If you are thinking of a short getaway – Brussels is a great option!
Last but not least, bought myself a Mannekin Pis Pandora charm to bring home…