I am basing myself in Antwerp for a couple of weeks as a good base for exploring Belgium by train and I made the 40 minute journey to Brussels a couple of days ago. I will go back again before I leave so this was an exploratory visit – I think I was about 9 the last time I was here so don’t remember anything about it!
Brussels is an easy place to wander around and so I focussed mostly on the upper town – the sailors and Cloudenberg – which is the swankier part of town!
Everyone starts everything in Brussels at the magnificent Grote Markt or Grand Place with its stunning architecture and larger than life buildings. (For a small country Belgium has a plethora of languages and each region seems to have a different primary one, Flemish or French). For instance Antwerp is also Anvers. It makes following maps challenging at times!
Aside from the grade style there is also quite a lot of art nouveau to enjoy too. And below you can see the famous Manneken Pis statue – although why this is such a draw is a mystery to me (I feel the same way about the Little Mermaid).
While meandering between what must the largest number of chocolatiers per square foot in the world, I also came across a fair bit of comic and street art – bearing in mind that both Tintin (who I love) and the smurfs (least said the better) come from Belgium.
I also found myself in the Marolles area where it was flex market day. This is a much grungier part of town but also an antiques shop lovers’ haven.
I stopped by the Notre Dame du Sablon church and the Petit Sablon gardens before indulging in a very tasty steak tartare (so called NOT because it was beaten against the saddles of the tartars as I had thought but because it used to be served with tartare sauce on the side!). Who knew? Nor do I know why the Belgiums call it steak Americane – but I do know it is very popular so I will be indulging in this some more for sure!
Time for some afternoon art so I visited the grand Musées Royaux de Beaux-Arts – which is in fact three museums for the price of one – the Old Masters, the Fin de Siècle and Magritte. I chose to visit Magritte because he was a local so it is a bit collection and he is rather eclectic and the old masters which was ok.
Just past the museum is the Place Royale part of which is an official residence of the Belgium royal family. I think you can visit inside now so would like to do that – although maybe no time on this visit.
Finally I headed back to the lower part of town and the train station to return to Antwerp. I thought the idea of free deck chairs for locals to enjoy the view looking downwards was a great idea and for those rainy days the Galéries St Hubert is another place to look at clothes and chocolate!
A 21000 step day!!