So when people first think of Belgium, they immediately think of: beer, chocolate, waffles, and mussels. And they’re right!
Just kidding, there’s a lot more to Belgium, specifically Brussels and Brugge than meets the eye.
I spent a total of 3 days in Belgium. I took the Megabus from Paris to Brussels, which only cost me 8 EUR for a one-way ticket. The ride takes about 4 hr 30 min. Compare this to the Eurorail system, where you can spend about 60-70 EUR and the ride is 1 hr 30 min.
If you’re not in a rush and want to stick to your budget, take the Megabus. Buses are never full and there’s charging plugs and wifi on board! I took the local train to Brugge for a day trip and then took the Megabus from Brussels to London to continue my journey. Now back to the subject at hand…. why visit Belgium? If you know me, then you can already assume why the first 3 items involve food or beverages LOL!
Here’s 6 reasons to visit Belgium:
#1: The Beer
The prized joy of Brussels is the infamous, Delirium Village, which houses over 3100 varieties of commercial beers in the Delirium Cafe along with a functioning restaurant and specific rooms for Gins, Whiskies, Tequilas, Vodkas, and Absinthes. It can be quite overwhelming at first, but the staff and surrounding patrons are sure to help you through your selection process.
Since I was traveling solo, I chose to first take a seat inside at the bar in the whiskey (my liquor of choice) room. The bartender greeted me, asked me about my travels and recommended some regional whiskies I might like. Since it was pretty empty on our end, he set up a little tasting for me! 9 different (and very potent) whiskies later, I was ready for food and to try one of these famous Belgium beers.
For my second round, I sat at a table outside facing the main alley. The alley was lined with tons of restaurants offering their version of moules-frites (mussels & fries), the signature dish of the region. All the foot traffic made for great people-watching, which could possibly be my favorite pastime.
It was quite chilly and the sun was beginning to set, so I opted for an order of fish & chips (needed something to soak up that whiskey). I can’t remember the name of the beer I drank as my phone had died, but I’m not a beer fan, so it didn’t make much a difference for me. All beer tastes the same to me. But for those, who do enjoy quality, unique and flavorful beers both domestic and international, definitely visit Delirium Cafe!
#2: The Chocolate
So for someone named after this sweet treat, I am pretty sensitive and hard to please when it comes to good chocolate. The Swiss are known for their chocolate, but I think the Belgians perfected it. On nearly every street corner, there’s a chocolate shop peddling that brown milky crack. I had my far share testing (read: sampling) at every shop I crossed paths with.
In the end, I bought a few build-your-own boxes with several varieties of semi, dark, milk, white, and flavored chocolates. While I was in Brugge, I even went to the Chocolate Museum to understand “my” history. Again, I was a bit underwhelmed as I didn’t learn anything new (and was surrounded by a parade of school aged children hopped up on sugar on a field trip). But it was cool to see the antique and vintage chocolate molds and pressing machines.
#3: The Waffles
The Belgians known how to do desserts! The street waffles were a must-have and they did not disappoint! So many different toppings from nutella, fruits, ice creams, chocolates, sprinkles, nuts, pretty much anything! It’s pretty much bliss on a plate! I had two (or five) in my 3 day stint. I needed to be very thorough for research and reporting purposes of course…
#4: The Statue of the “Little Boy Peeing”
Also known as the “Manneken Pis” is one of the tourist attractions that you get suckered into checking out. To be quite honest, I was underwhelmed. Mainly, due to its size (of the statue you pervs, not the little boy’s peen). LOL. I thought this would be some large fountain installation in some huge palace gardens. Nope. It’s a small fountain on this busy street corner, of a little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin.
However, what IS cool about the Manneken Pis is it’s history. He has been stolen a few different times and he has a wardrobe of over 200 garments. He is dressed in anything from local traditional garbs to suits, to soccer uniforms. The day I visited he was wearing a futbol (read: soccer) uniform.
#5: The Street Art
Brussels in particular is the home of street graffiti. In Brussels, Street Art is the expression of a city in constant flux. The capital has its stars and its symbolic figures. They include : Bonom, KoolKoor, the Farm Prod and Flagel collectives, the Crayons and the Space Invaders.
They’re always experimenting with different approaches and techniques. Buildings, alleyways, cobblestoned streets, electricity terminals, … nothing escapes their desire to cheer up the city. Also, being revered as the birthplace of comics (along with the Smurfs), Brussels is filled with comic characters and references. There’s even a special tour to check out all the comic art, along with the comic book museum.
For more information on the featured street artists in Brussels, click here.
#6: The People
So as a solo female African American girl, I tend to get the staring treatment in most places around the globe, and I didn’t expect much different from the Belgians. However, I was quite surprised at the sincere hospitality of the Belgians. I found the locals to be very curious, and took it upon themselves to make sure you were OK in their city.
I was walking down the street looking for a place to have a bite and stumbled upon this restaurant where I live band was playing out front. People were crowding in the street and dancing and I soon noticed why: HAPPY HOUR! Who doesn’t love a 5 EUR mojito? I know I do! So a few mojitos down and there was no seating left.
I was aimlessly looking for a spot, then an older couple tapped me on the shoulder and signaled for me to sit. Their English was not so good, but I gestured that I was thankful. They even bought me a drink. Between my broken English and quasi-French I explained that I was an American tourist. The street was now blocked off from people dancing, the band playing American hit songs from Michael Jackson, Maroon 5, and Alicia Keys. Who knew?
As I walked back to my hostel, I walked passed a group of college-aged Belgian guys, who stopped in their tracks, got down on one knee and professed their love for my brown skin. Now, this is the part where I remember that I am jobless and don’t speak a lick of Dutch or Flemish. But, the Belgians are OK with me.
I definitely didn’t get to enjoy the best of Brussels with the weather being so wet and dreary. I’m looking forward to revisiting Belgium in the summer and enjoying more outdoors events, festivals and the nightlife!