48 Hours in Brussels
Last weekend I travelled from London to Brussels on the train to meet up with my friend Amanda. I had never been to Belgium before, and I was excited to explore a completely new place. Typically my friend Amanda and I spend a lot of our time together laughing and eating, so that was definitely the main goal for our trip!
I arrived on the Friday night after a very stressful experience involving no wifi, a dead phone battery, and incorrect directions. If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember my story about this whole situation. Well, thankfully I finally found the AirBNB and cooked myself dinner before curling up in bed with my book. I had planned to go out for a solo dinner, but was happy to just call it a night!
Amanda arrived in the morning and we met at our AirBNB before heading into the city centre. The location where we stayed was a bit out of the way, but the price was perfect and the apartment was really spacious. I didn’t have a great interaction with the host, but overall I would recommend her place if you are looking for accommodation in Brussels (just be aware there is no wifi). You can also click on this link to get $37 CAD off your first booking!
Travel tip: Whenever I’m going to a new city I always download the local Google Map. I save all the places I want to go into a list - in this case titled ‘Brussels’. Even if you are on airplane mode, you’ll still be able to see where you are on the map and where your saved places are. Although you can’t search transit routes, this makes it really easy to walk around the city without needing wifi or a paper map.
Our first stop was Hinterland for some Banana & Bacon French Toast. This place was recommended to me by several people and I’m really happy we decided to check it out. It’s a cozy cafe that serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch. We arrived around 10am on Saturday morning and there was a line, so just be aware that you might have to wait for a table!
After breakfast we walked to the ‘Banksy Unauthorized’ exhibit which happened to be on while we were in town. I’m not an art buff by any means, but I am quite familiar with Banksy’s work and believe that he sends some really powerful (and bold) messages about consumerism and several other hard-to-swallow topics. Although there is some controversy around the exhibit itself seeing as you have to pay for it, we really enjoyed seeing his work and reading more about the story behind each piece.
Next we walked toward the city centre, and on our way we stumbled upon an incredible antique shop called Galerie des Minimes. You probably wouldn’t want to go out of your way to see it, but I was absolutely mesmerized by their huge collection of chandeliers so if you’re in the area it’s worth a look. We reached the Grand Place around 1pm and were both amazed by the beauty of the buildings and their amazing gold detailing. There are definitely a lot of tourist shops and people in this area, but I certainly didn’t feel like it was too busy compared to other European cities. There also weren’t any people trying to sell you things, which may have been because of the cold weather, but I definitely appreciated it! The Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis, and Het Zinneke sculptures were all within walking distance from the Grand Place so we saw them too, although if I’m being honest I don’t quite get the hype.
At this point we were getting hungry again and we knew we wanted frites (aka french fries), so we stumbled upon a place called The Purple Rose near the Grand Place. We both had drinks plus a massive order of mussels and fries to share. The servers were friendly, the food was quite good, and compared to other places in the area the prices were within our budget. I also really appreciated their random Darth Vader decor. Seeing as we couldn’t reasonably go from mid-afternoon snack straight to dinner, we decided to find a bar. After a quick google search Amanda found this wicked place called Le Cercueil; a creepy bar complete with red lights, coffin tables, and Halloween-themed drinks. I loved it. The place is small and definitely wouldn’t be appealing to everyone, but I had a great time listening to System of a Down and Disturbed while sipping on my creepy cocktail.
We went to Fin de Siecle for dinner, which I found listed in several blog post about Brussels as well as a few books. Amanda and I both like to make sure we eat some traditional local cuisine and this place offered just that. We had sausages with stoemp (mashed potatoes and leeks) as well as rabbit stew; everything was really hearty and fresh. Not surprisingly, the place was absolutely packed on a Saturday night and they definitely squeeze in a few extra tables for the dinner rush so it felt a bit squishy. Despite the fact that we were absolutely stuffed, we still grabbed some waffles from a street stall before heading home. I’ll admit this is the one regret I have from the weekend - next time I’m in Brussels I need a waffle do-over.
On Sunday we had brunch at Les Filles, which again was recommended to me by several people through Instagram. Out of all the places we ate, this was definitely my favourite. The restaurant is in an old warehouse building so the setup is really unique. They also have these awesome big community-style tables set with vintage cutlery and china. On Sundays they serve a brunch buffet focussing on unique farm-to-table recipes; you can tell that every bit of this place is a labor of love. Each of us had two helpings plus drinks, and finished with a decadent baked apple. If you want brunch in Brussels, this is the place.
After brunch we only had a bit of time until we went our separate ways, so we decided to browse a few chocolate shops. I’m still not sure which chocolate shops are the best because many of them felt really commercial, especially near the city centre. But we visited Neuhaus and La Belgique Gourmande and the truffles at both places were delicious. Next time I’m in Brussels I’ll definitely be exploring chocolate and dessert a little more!
TOTAL COST: 185€
Breakfast at Hinterland: 16€
Banksy Exhibit: 10€
Lunch at The Purple Rose: 12€
Drinks at Le Cercueil: 15€
Dinner at Fin de Siecle: 20€
Brunch at Les Filles: 29€
AirBNB for two nights: 65€
Public transit for the weekend: 9€
↘ Check out my Brussels instagram story here ↙
Have you been to Brussels? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!