Andrew and I went to Belgium last weekend with our Brazilian friends Gustavo, Rosi, & Lucas. To be honest, Belgium has never been on my radar as a “top” place to see, but our friends were going so we thought we should go too! Plus, it’s only a 1.5 hour flight to Brussels from Edinburgh.
We had the pleasure of staying at Hotel Amigo, a Rocco Forte Hotel in Brussels. There are reasons why you work in hotels. 😉 The hotel was in a perfect location, just around the corner from the Grand Place and only a 2-minute walk from the famous Manneken Pis statue. Apparently, it was a former prison before becoming a hotel (a prison right in the center of the city?!?).
This is the building in the day and in the night.
Here’s our room. There was a bidet in the bathroom (our European first!) and even Tin Tin, the Belgian cartoon found itself in our bathroom!And they sent me amenities (a box of Belgium chocolates)!
5 Star Hotels at discounted rates are the best.
Our hotel was next to the Grand Place. It’s a beautiful square with the most beautiful buildings that look amazing at night.
We went to eat at Chez Leon to get our Moules-Frites (Mussels & Fries). Although it’s uncertain where the dish actually originated from, many people believe it originated in Belgium since mussels and fried potatoes were commonly eaten along the coast of Belgium when there was no fish or other food. Moules-Frites is considered to be the national dish of Belgium. There are many ways to eat Moules-Frites (wine sauce, curry sauce, cream sauce). We chose the “simple” option where our mussels were steamed with butter and celery. The restaurants serve the mussels in this huge pot with the fries on the side. I really enjoyed it and plan to try to make this at home. Chez Leon is found along Rue des Bouchers, a narrow alley of restaurants with extremely enthusiastic shop owners trying to lure you into their restaurant.
Since Brussles is a great city to wander around, Andrew and I found ourselves at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a beautiful shopping arcade with luxury items, bakeries, and of course yummy chocolates!
The next day, we took the train to Brugge, about an hour and 15 minutes away from Brussels.
The city of Brugge used to be a city of trade and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since it still has most of its medieval architecture. While tourists like to visit Brugge, it doesn’t feel overwhelming. It’s a quaint city with medieval charm. If you visit, you don’t need more than a day to enjoy and tour around the city, but it’s a very nice place to visit. Buzzfeed also think so too.
I love street markets. Every Saturday, Brugge hosts a market in its T’Zand Square. We had the pleasure of walking through it. The market includes clothing and food with local bakeries, cheeses, and seafood. Our favorite though was seeing and eating meat off of a massive wall. It was delicious.
We also walked through the Markt (”Market Square” located in the heart of the city. It felt like Disneyland!
We were on the hunt to find Flemish Beef Stew, or carbonade flamande. It’s basically a beef and onion stew made with beer. We found a restaurant called Diligence that was advertising their specialty Flemish Beef Stew outside. Andrew loved it and is determined to remake it again. As expected, there were fries on the side.
We also went into the Basilica of the Holy Blood where a cloth with Jesus’s blood (as legend says) is kept. They say that the flask with the cloth belonged to a whole series of relics connected with the suffering of Christ in Constantinople and that during one of the crusades, it got sent to Bruges.
Brugge is probably one of the best places to take pictures. It’s amazing. You can’t really take bad picture cause it’s just so beautiful. Below is a picture from the Dijver and a picture of Minnewater Lake, also known as the Lake of Love. These are the days that I wish I was a professional photographer.
In Brussels, Andrew and I got waffles 3 times. The first time, we went to place selling waffles for 1€. It was not good. It was not fresh and was way too thick and sweet. However, across the street from Hotel Amigo was Maison Dandoy. While their prices are definitely much higher (around 4€ or 5€ with a topping), their waffles were really good!
We also couldn’t leave Brussels without seeing the peeing statues fountains. Brussels is most famous for Manneken Pis, a small bronze scuplture of a naked boy peeing that was designed in the 1600s. There are lots of legends about this sculpture and it has been stolen many times. There is also a girl version, the Jeanneke Pis made in the 1980s. This statue is of a little girl squatting and urinating. Out of all the tourist attractions and things to see, do, and eat in Belgium, this was the most disappointing. You literally look at it for 2 seconds, take a picture, and leave.
Of course Andrew had to get another order of fries (even though we ate fries with every meal). I would also like to point out that I didn’t eat of of this. He ate that all himself.
Brussels is very much a “man-made” city with beautiful architecture and buildings, but it’s not overwhelming because they have lots of public open space in the squares and gardens. Here is Kleine Zavel Square near the Royal Palace of Brussels.
If I had to describe Belgium, I’d probably compare it to a European Disneyland with lots of Dutch and French influences. Walking through the streets felt like walking through Main Street. The architecture reminds of It’s a Small World, the musicians on the street played songs that would evoke the happy feeling of Disneyland, and there were too many places selling chocolate, fries, waffles. Also, Belgium (or Brugge to be more specific) feels like a medieval fairytale. Overall, a great weekend getaway! I’m so thankful for opportunities to see the world this way. It’s even better when you get to do it with friends.