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top five guide: brussels, belgium

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Grand Place Architecture Brussels Belgium

Forget any preconceived notions of this city: Brussels is far more charming and lively than silly rumors might lead you to believe. While it tends to get overshadowed by other nearby capitals like Amsterdam and Paris, I believe Brussels can hold its own and is worthy of a stop on any Europe itinerary. It has everything you could want out of a European city: cobblestoned streets, impressive architecture, friendly people, good food, great beer, CHOCOLATE...what more do you really need?

here are my top five tips for a trip to BRUSSELS:

Craves Hotel Room Bed Old Town Brussels Belgium

1: where to stay

An ideal location in Brussels places you in the heart of its walkable, cobblestoned city center while still being in close proximity to a main train line to help you get around the rest of the city (and country) most efficiently. I have personally stayed in the 3-star boutique Craves Hotel (pictured) as well as the 4-star, Marriott-branded The Dominican Hotel (also a member of Design Hotels, so you know it's beautiful). Both of these were wonderful stays in positively excellent locations, so I suggest starting your search there.

Ornate Gold Architecture in Grand Place Brussels Belgium

2: grand place

The heart of central Brussels is Grand Place, a large, pedestrianized square enclosed by historic and opulently designed buildings that will please even the most scrupulous architecture critic. Your first stop should be wandering this, ahem, *grand* area before meandering outwards to the charming streets that surround it. Though it is kind of dumb and definitely overhyped, no trip here is complete without stopping by the oddly famous "Manneken Pis" statue, which is only a couple of blocks away from Grand Place (you know the one: the peeing kid).

Dinner Scene at Nona Pasta Brussels Belgium Saint Catherine

3: where to eat

Start your morning with breakfast at Woodpecker 47 (get waffles eggs Benedict), or try Oats Day Long for something lighter. Wolf Sharing Food Market is a food hall with many great lunch options. For dinner, my favorite spots are around the Sainte Catherine area; Nona Pasta (pictured) was a standout with a great vibe. For a unique experience, head to Restaurant Mozart for all-you-can-eat ribs and pay-as-you-pour wine. We had some of the most amazing pasta from the family-run Pasta Divina (get a reservation!). Dessert must be chocolate from Leonidas.

Bar Des Amis Sainte Catherine Brussels Belgium

4: where to drink

A not-so-hot-take: I think Belgian beer is superior to German beer, and beer fans will be hard pressed to find a better country for enjoying a cold one than Belgium. Belgians take their beer seriously, and you can find excellent craft brews at nearly every bar. Delirium Café is a classic favorite, a sprawling bar complex with by far the most options on tap from blonds to tripels to nearly every other style They have over 2,000 beers to try there, so you'll never run out of options! Other great options are Monk, Chez Lutgarde, Le Coq, Poechenellekelder, and Bar Des Amis (pictured).

Ghent Belgium Architecture

5: day trips

While Brussels is a must, you shouldn't limit your time to one city in Belgium. This is a very small country that is well connected by train, which allows for excellent day trips. Ghent (pictured) is a personal favorite that is often overlooked, but is a true (somewhat hidden) gem. Just 35 minutes away by train, it's an easy place to explore for a day or even a few hours. Stay on that same train line for 30 minutes longer to visit the romantic town of Bruges, with its fairytale streets and famous Belfry Tower. Other wonderful nearby options are Leuven, Liege, and Antwerp.

You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn’t do but wish we had:

Explore more museums. As the capital of Belgium, Brussels is the center of culture for the country and home to many interesting museums. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, for example, are comprised of six separate museums covering numerous periods, genres, and movements within the art world.

Have a great trip! Feel free to leave a comment with your own favorites. You can also find these recommendations (and more!) in map format by following me on the Out of Office app.


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