In New York, you can walk five blocks and land in a new neighborhood with a different feel than where you just came from. You can’t really pinpoint when it changed, but somehow, almost magically, it did. There’s a flow to this city, and seamlessly transitioning from touristy to bohemian to ritzy in just a few steps is part of the allure.
Brussels, on the other hand, practically shoves you into a new neighborhood without asking. We’d be walking on a cobbled side street, people watching and trying to decide which cafe looked most charming, when all of a sudden: BAM. We were surrounded by enormous movie theaters and office buildings and stores that looked like their entire inventory hadn’t been updated since 1995. There was an appeal to pockets of the city, but we exhausted them on day one. By day two, we were left with the weird stuff.
Day 1 – TUESDAY
Full disclosure: we started off on the wrong foot in Brussels. We got off the train, hailed a cab, and were dropped off on a completely different street than our hotel. We popped into a different hotel to ask their concierge to direct us. Unfortunately for everyone, this concierge was blind, and couldn’t show us where to go on the map she had. I still have a lot of questions about that, but I’m not sure how to phrase them. Needless to say, we got completely lost, and when we finally found Hotel Welcome, we were… a little cranky.
We decided to cheer up at Grand Place, where we settled down for our very first Belgian waffle at the Aroma Cafe. After enjoying a few beers on the Place, we spent the rest of the day wandering. We walked through Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, until we eventually stopped at Manneken Pis. We capped off our afternoon at Delirium Cafe before heading back to our hotel to take a quick nap and refresh for dinner.
The concierge at our hotel recommended a traditional restaurant around the corner, so to La Villette we went. A little Belgian-beer-ed out, we called it an early night and headed back to research what on earth we could do on day two.
Day 2 – WEDNESDAY
After breakfast at the hotel, we walked toward the palace to explore a new-to-us part of the city. On our way, we stumbled upon an amazing antiques gallery, Galerie des Minimes. We’re not usually ones for antiques, but something about this shop was absurdly fun. From there, we made our way to the capital building, which was complete with very strange views of a very strange part of the city… and things pretty much just got nuttier from here.
Our aimless wandering led us to The Mercedes House, Wittamer chocolates (YES. GO. YUM), the Royal Palace of Brussels and its surrounding park (which looked much larger on a map), and finally: The Museum of Musical Instruments. AKA THE WEIRDEST MUSEUM OF OUR LIVES. After a quick beer stop at the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel, we re-evaluated our life choices. It was time to make a decision on where the rest of our day would take us, and we went with (drumroll, please)….:
It’s honestly hard to top that experience. We tried with dinner at I Latini and a stroll around our neighborhood, but nothing could top the, um, wonder of the Atomium & Mini Europe.
Up next: Brussels Hits & Misses!