If you ever decide to go to Belgium and you do interwebs research beforehand, you will generally find that Brussels is not necessarily well-regarded as a destination. You will find lots of people who say it’s big, not cute, and not worth your time. But I am here to tell you, they’re wrong. Brussels is awesome. We flew into Belgium via ryanair, so we landed at the remote-ish airport in Charleroi, which was about a 45 minute bus ride from Brussels. Since I am not the awesomest flyer (which I have discussed here) I thought minimizing the travel on the first day made the most sense, and so we decided to camp out in Brussels our first night. We were staying next to the Grand Place/Grote Markt (since Brussels is officially bilingual, pretty much everything has a French and Dutch name, which is only mildly confusing. In this post I’m going to use the French names for things, because I have a bit of French, but no Dutch whatsoever), which is a big square surrounded by these buildings:
So the buildings of the Grand Place were gorgeous, I’ve never seen anything like them. Though they’ve all been heavily restored, their gothic-ness has been maintained and they look like buildings in a fairytale. Most definitely worth seeing.
Brussels is super walkable (and the public transit system is amazing), so just a few blocks away from the Grand Place is the other sight which Brussels is probably best known for, the Mannekin Pis:
And as cute as it is to see a sculpture of a boy peeing (by which I mean NOT AT ALL), I was much more excited by two things I saw near the Mannekin Pis: mosaics by the street artist Invader!
I don’t know how recently the invasion of Brussels happened, but the one in Rome was long enough ago (I think it was in 2009? My dear companion was lucky enough to go to the opening and has the map), that a lot of the mosaics have been removed, but the two I saw in Brussels looked practically new. But finding the Invader mosaics is indicative of how vibrant and interesting Brussels is. When we wandered around we were constantly surprised by the adorable views and cute streets around every corner. Pretty churches and little squares and everywhere charming buildings, interspersed with street art (which I showed you in the last objet d’art post).
We ate waffles and Lebanese food (because obviously, what else would you have for your first meal in Belgium??) and marveled over the number of bookstores around–there were tons.
We meandered over to the Cathedral:
And the Sablon (on the left), which a very kind Belgian woman helped us find when we were a bit confused by the map:
And after winding our way back to the Grand Place, we were happy to find that it was all lit up for Christmas:
Which ended our first day in Belgium! Stay tuned for our further adventures in the north…