Brussels is a lovely city and great jumping off point to visit towns throughout Belgium as well as nearby international destinations like Paris and Amsterdam. Consider staying in Brussels and using the city as your hub while you take day trips to nearby locations. The city can be explored in one day or many. The following are suggestions on what to do in a day in the Belgian capital.
Begin your day at the Galleries Royales Saint Hubert, a nineteenth century shopping arcade. Underneath the impressive glass roof lie boutiques, cafes, and chocolatiers. For coffee and a light breakfast, stop by Mokafe, 9 Galerie du Roi.
Spend your morning touring the Grand Place, (Grote Markt in Dutch). The historic city center of Brussels, the Grand Place, is marked by impressive centuries old buildings in an array of architectural styles. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains numerous significant structures, including the 15th Century Town Hall (also known as the Hotel de Ville), whose main tower stretches impressively into the open sky; the Maison du Roi, or King’s House; and rows of guildhalls, slender buildings decorated in gold leaf that appear as singular, massive facades. Explore the Grand Place during the day, to fully appreciate the architectural elements of each structure, but be sure to also visit at night, when the square is beautifully illuminated.
For lunch, head to Jacques, 44 Quai aux Briques, for moule frites (mussels and Belgian fries). This is where locals dine on classic Belgian fare. The street is lined with many other great seafood restaurants, but Jacques is one of the best. Visit Frederic Blondeel, 24 Quai aux Briques, for afternoon tea or coffee. The charming green interior is worth a visit alone.
Brussels offers great shopping options, from clothing to household goods. For fashion boutiques, many of them selling well known European brands, meander along Rue Antoine Dansaert. A standout out boutique in the city is Privejoke, 76 Rue Marche au Chan. Selling women and men’s clothing, the store carries items from small Dutch, French, and Scandivinian designers. For vintage fashion, head to Gabriel, 27 Rue des Cartreux; or Episode, 28 Rue de la Violette; and Plaizier, 50 Rue des Eperonniers, is a fantastic shop selling postcards, posters, and other items, with an emphasis on midcentury Brussels art and architecture. Stop here to pick up gifts for yourself or friends – a great alternative to touristy stores.
One cannot visit Brussels without sampling the beer. Delirium Café, 4A Impasse de la Fidelite, offers thousands of beers from around the world. Try those from Belgium – the bartender will be more than happy to offer a suggestion or two. For beer off the beaten path, sample fruit flavored Geuze at A la Morte Subite, 7 Rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères
After drinks, head to Restaurant a L’Ombra, 2 Rue des Harengs, a tiny jewel box of an Italian restaurant hidden just off the Grand Place. Enjoy dinner at a communal table or find a more private spot on the second floor. Everything on the menu is delicious, but follow the recommendations of the staff. They won’t steer you wrong. End your evening with a stroll along the Grand Place.
Written by Morgen Young for EuropeUpClose.com