Having been to Brussels before, I was a self designated advocate for keeping our time here to a minimum – I don’t mind Brussels, but it’s no surprise there are better cities in Europe. We decided on three nights / two days, with an ambitious suggestion by me to also include a day trip. Therefore, we were in Brussels for a good time, not for a long time.
Brussels welcomed us with cold temperatures, drizzle and eventually torrential rain. That didn’t stop us though (well only briefly, as we ducked back to the hostel for additional layers), we intended to cover some real ground, puddles and all. Our first day saw us tick off most of the classic sights in the morning. These included the Manneken Pis (I actually think he’s shrunk since last time I saw him!) the Grand Place, Galeries St Hubert and the Palais de Bruxelles, before retreating to the warmth and dryness of Delirium Village – which is also probably one of the best places to go for a good time.
Delirium Village is comprised of an alleyway made up of a series of bars. It picks up in popularity as the day goes on, but the atmosphere tends to be fun no matter what time you go. My favourite was the Cafe itself, which back in 2004 won the Guinness World Record for most beers (you got it, 2004!). We sampled some Belgian classics, including a cherry beer, the Delirium tremens (elected as the best beer in the world?!) and a chocolate beer, amongst others. They were all strong – about 8%, and so much cheaper compared to back in NZ.
In addition to beer, we were also successful in our over-consumption of waffles, fries and chocolate. In our bid to take shelter from the rain we found ourselves eating overpriced waffles laden with strawberries, Nutella, cream and white chocolate – decadent yes, but it’s far better value to just buy them from a street vendor or if you want to eat in, get them from Maison Dandoy. Chocolate shops are plentiful, and so are free samples. The chocolatiers are quite expensive, although Jamie managed to pick up a big box of seashells for only €3 so there are deals to be found. Of course, we managed to find fries each night too! Don’t worry though, we weren’t the only things to over indulge: the first ATM we went to gobbled up my card – thanks Brussels!
Last time I was in Brussels I visited Bruges and it was positively glorious. This time I wanted to see something different though so I parted ways with the boys (who continued onwards to Bruges) and hopped off the train at Ghent. It was about a 20 minute walk to the town (you can walk through the park too) where I had to pull out all stops to stop my heart from melting at its beauty. This medieval old town is perfect for those without an agenda – I was so content just meandering, slowly picking off the landmarks and making numerous food and coffee stops on the way (Take Five Espressobar is fantastic).
My favourite spot for photos was down on the canal side by the St Michaels bridge, along to the Gravensteen castle. The Patershol neighbourhood is also very picturesque, with Flemish style houses lining the cobblestoned streets. I also stopped at Werragarentsteeg street which, covered in graffiti, is not dissimilar to Melbourne’s Hosier Lane.
Getting to Ghent takes about 35 minutes from Brussels and costs about €18. Bruge is probably another 20 minutes and costs a teeny bit more. It’s certainly a romantic place (the boys had a ball) with lots of canals, parks and cafes. Both are fantastic day trips from Brussels and if you have the time I would try and squeeze in both!