I probably never would have thought of travelling to Belgium if it wasn’t for my friend Valentine who I study and basically spend 24/7 of my time with in Paris. She is from Brussels and since I met her last year, the Belgian accent (and an objectively weird use of the French language) became part of my daily life, making me increasingly curious about this small country which is so close yet so different from France.
Well, Belgium didn’t disappoint. It is from a still very vivid food coma of beer, waffles, fries and chocolate that I’m currently writing this article.
I initially intended to stay only one day in Brussels (before having way too much fun and extending my trip), so with that in mind my local friend and I had planned a tour of the city that could easily be done in a few hours walking. I always love walking to discover a new place. I think it’s the best way to explore and soak in the atmosphere, and it’s eco-friendly, yay (me, obsessed with sustainability?).
I was staying at my friend’s sister’s place, near Place Flagey, which was a very cool place full of recycled stuff and with a strong bohemian vibe. Everything I needed to feel like home!
So we started our tour from Place Flagey, we walked along the pond ‘Etang d’Ixelles’ and arrived Chaussée d’Ixelles. This street and Rue Lesbroussart are full of small coffee places and cool restaurants, photo studios and small designer shops. We wandered around those streets to reach the Court House. I recommend this spot, firstly because it is an impressive and slightly megalomaniac building that is worth the detour, but mostly because you get a killer view of the city.
We followed the guardrail to a lift (I’m not kidding, there’s a huge lift in the middle of nowhere) that took us a few metres down to another neighbourhood called the Marolles, the cool and hipster quarter of Brussels. That’s where I bought the first of many waffles, in one of the street trucks you can find everywhere in the city.
In les Marolles you’ll find lots of cafes, antiques, vintage shops. It is such a cool place. We went to Place du Jeu de Balle, where there usually is a flea market until 2pm. From there we walked up Rue Blaes, a street lined up with antique shops, towards the church Notre-Dame de La Chapelle. We then quite randomly found Mannekenpis; the iconic statue of Brussels which, yes, is a fountain of a little man pissing. A great introduction to Belgium’s sense of humour. The statue is ridiculously small and, like all touristic attractions, is impossible to approach because of all the tourists taking proud selfies in front of this little man’s penis. I had a good laugh, but we didn’t stay long. We kept walking to the Grand Place, another touristic hot spot and jewel of Brussels’ Old Town. It really is very pretty.
But by this time I was craving real Belgian chocolate so we went to Galeries St Hubert where I bought the most expensive yet most delicious chocolates I had ever eaten at Pierre Marcolini, one of the best chocolatiers in Belgium. Let’s just say that the expression #foodgasm took on its full meaning.
We kept wandering around the old cobblestone streets and walked to Mont des Arts. We went through the gardens and walked up the stairs towards Place Royale. That’s the second killer view. And that of course required the usual handstand photo.
We then strolled to the Royal Palace of Brussels which is “basically our Birmingham Palace” according to Valentine’s humble opinion, and then walked back to Place Flagey. We stopped at supposedly the best ‘friterie’ (Fries shop). I bought a cone of chips and we went to have a beer at Café Belga. The chips were incredible and the beer fresh and Belgian (which is a token of quality). That was undoubtedly the best way to end such a great day.
So here’s a little summary of our walking tour:
- Place Flagey
- The Court House
- Lift to Les Marolles
- Place du Jeu de Balle
- Grand Place
- Galeries St Hubert
- Pierre Marcolini
- Mont des Arts
- Place Royale
- Royal Palace
- Fries shop on Place Flagey
- Café Belga
Brussels, I’ll be back soon xx