Our first trip of 2023 was Brussels and Paris. We were there 8 nights!! Honestly, that was too long. We were both ready to come home by the end. We spent 3 nights in Brussels and 5 nights in Paris. Brussels was okay but I LOVED Paris. Caveat, my preference is large metropolitan cities. I’ll break my vacation summary into two posts. Even though we were only in Brussels 3 days I have a lot to report on.
We flew into Paris and took a 1.5 hour train ride to Brussels. Brussels is a fairly small city known for fries, chocolate, waffles, beer, and the Smurfs. The highlight of the trip for me was the Belgium waffles…OMG, I can’t even! They were soooooo good!!!! The most popular place to get them is at Maison Dandoy. They must be doing something right, since they have been in business since 1829. Their waffles are crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, with little flavor bursts of sugar crystals in each bite. I would eat these everyday if I lived in Brussels.
Brussels is also known for their fries, maybe because they fry them in animal fat. If I’m being honest, you can get much better fries in the United States. The fries were just a little too thick for my liking but I still tried multiple places just to be sure 😉 And, yes, I am all about mayonnaise as my fry topping.
We did a walking tour while we were in Brussels and I am so happy we did. We were able to see so many unique landmarks. The first photo below is the Le Carillon du Mont des Arts, a Jacquemart Carillion clock with 24 bells. There are 12 figurines that represent important historic and folkloric figures of Brussels that come out of their niche during the top of the hour. The silver figure on the top of the building bangs the bell with a hammer. It was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. I had no idea that the Smurfs were a Belgium product. They have murals throughout the city but we only saw one (picture 3 below). We stopped by the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries, an ensemble of three glazed shopping arcades (picture 4 below). The motto of the galleries is Omnibus omnia (Everything for everybody) but they ended up attracting a higher class clientele due to its extravagant design. We tried a luxury chocolate shop in the gallery, Pierre Marcolini’s. I am not a huge chocolate fan but these were pretty good, especially the caramel filled ones. We finished the tour with a beer flight. I don’t drink beer but I tried the Lambic beer, fermented through exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria, and it was delicious. It kind of tastes like a cider, with a berry fruit flavor, but without the distinctive beer taste, if that makes any sense. The final photo below is the most famous tourist attraction in Brussels. It is a statue of a little boy peeing (Manneken Pis) in a fountain. As you can see, the little boy is dressed up. He has hundreds of costumes they change out on a daily basis.
We visited Grand Place, a market square surrounded by gilded buildings. It was destroyed in 1695 during the Nine Years’ War with France but rebuilt four years later. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I mentioned Mannekin Pis, the famous boy peeing in a fountain. There are two more famous statues in Brussels of Het Zinneke (dog peeing) and Jeanneke Pis (girl peeing). This city is strange!
We visited the Atomium, a landmark, modernist building originally constructed as the centerpiece of the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. It was designed as a tribute to scientific progress, as well as to symbolize Belgian engineering skills at the time. I don’t even know how to describe this place. It sort of feels like you are at Space Mountain in Disney World. You can go into each sphere of the structure with a restaurant on top.
The food was so good in Brussels. One of the highlights was Chicago Café. That sandwich in the picture below doesn’t look like much but it was fantastic. You can’t go wrong with eggs, cheese, mayonnaise, and siracha. We had the tasting menu at Le Rossini and it was fabulous. The artichoke and black truffle soup was to die for. My favorite dish was the chestnut gnocchi with sage butter and crispy bacon at Winehouse Osteria.
We stopped at a few cocktail bars in Brussels and they were ok but one stood out for its entirely unique décor, La Pharmacie Anglaise. It’s a cross between a hunting lodge with taxidermy and an abandoned mansion by an eccentric millionaire.
Bon voyage Brussels, the city of light is up next.