Last year Youness and I said that 2020 was the year we were going to travel a lot. But then, well you know what happened. Though we can’t travel at the moment, that doesn’t mean we can’t share our travel stories to inspire you. The last trip we did before the coronavirus outbreak was a weekend to Brussels. A city so nearby, but that I never visited.
Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium, it’s also the center of Europe. That means a lot of diplomats and business people. But it’s also a city of street art, vintage shopping, waffles and of course Manneken Pis. Perfect ingredients for a fun city trip. And from the Netherlands it’s easy to reach by car or public transport. Are you thinking of going, or just curious what we did in Brussels? Read our tips below.
1. Walk Brussels comic book route
I love to explore cities by foot. Smell the air, hear the sounds of the city, walk through narrow streets and taking in its character and beauty. There are many interesting walking routes through Brussels. But the best walkway is the comic book route. Since the early 90s Brussels pays a tribute to the characters and authors of Belgian-Franco cartoon characters on the walls. Such as Suske and Wiske, Asterix and Obelix, Tintin and Guust Flater. The paintings are spread throughout the city. On Brussels website you can find the list, pictures and a map: https://www.brussel.be/striproute.
Besides the comics, there’s also a lot of different street art. So keep your eyes on the wall!
2. Look for treasures at the flea market at Vossenplein
One of my favorite things to do is visiting a flea market. In Brussels you’ll find the biggest one at Vossenplein (Place du Jeu de Balle). It’s not only popular for tourists, but also busy with locals. You’ll only find second hand items. The flea market is held daily from 8am until 2pm. I’m used to go before opening hours, so that’s what we did here as well. Then I’m the first to spot any hidden treasures. Or junk. Across the street there’s a cute little coffee place as well if you want to take a break from bargaining.
3. Go vintage and antique shopping in the Marollen
Vossenplein is the center of The Marollen district. One of the oldest districts in Brussels. It’s a working-class neighborhood that still has an authentic, folksy character. The streets that lead to the Vossenplein are full of antique stores and vintage clothing shops. Go to the Hoogstraat, Rue Blaes and Rue des Renard to score some unique items.
The Marollen used to be an area outside the city walls in the Middle Ages. Where the lepers would be banned from the city. They were sheltered by the sisters of the ‘Maria Colentes’ monastery. That’s where the name comes from: first the people who lived there were called Maricollen, later they named them the Marollen.
4. Visit the Grote Markt (Big Market)
The Grote Markt is the center of Brussels. A big square where they used to execute people on the stake. A bit of a lurid thought. Nowadays the main square is surrounded by terraces, shops and beautiful buildings. Unfortunately some of them were under construction when we visited, but when buildings are that old sometimes a bit of renovation is needed. Our tip: buy a big waffle or a box of chocolates at the surrounding shops. Find a place to sit and just enjoy the view of Brussels City Hall and other historical buildings.
5. See (or don’t see) Manneken Pis
They say that you can’t visit Brussels without seeing Manneken Pis. A bronze, fountain sculpture in the center of Brussel. Depicting a naked, little boy peeing into the fountain’s basin. The statue is a replica, which dates from 1965. The original is kept in the Brussels City Museum. To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed when I first saw Manneken Pis. It’s such a small statue! I don’t understand what all the fuss’ about. Apparently size does matter. And did you know Manneken Pis has a sister? Jeanneke Pis. You can pay her a visit too.
6. Try a warm waffle
On every corner you find shops with the most beautifully decorated waffles. And you can’t leave Brussels without trying one. A few shops are famous for their waffles, like Gaufres where you can buy one for 1 euro. Or Maison Dandoy, who makes waffles since 1829. I wanted to avoid the busy queues and went for a waffle to-go from one of the stalls. With strawberry’s, cream and Nutella. Be sure you don’t plan your dinner shortly after, because it’s a full meal.
7. Go to Rue de Brabant for some Moroccan shopping
And last but not least, another favorite spot: Rue de Brabant. Brussels has one of the biggest Moroccan communities. So if you like Moroccan stuff, then Rue de Brabant is the place to be. Here you can find everything. Teapots, carpets, blankets, fabrics, clothing, tajines and anything else you need for your home or yourself. For a good price.
I hope I gave you a little bit of inspiration for when we are allowed to travel again. Did you ever go to Brussel? And do you have anything I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments below!