The wind is blowing strong, rain is falling heavily and…
Even though Belgium is so close to Germany, I never managed to cross the border and explore our neighboring country. You can understand my excitement prior to my weekend trip to Brussels, the capital.
Known as the place where all the important decisions are made for the European union, I was positively surprised that there is a lot more to this city: Great art and lots of small boutiques and a large number of restaurants to choose from.
When I arrived in the city it was pouring rain, still the place looked great and I was prepared to grab an umbrella and go exploring.
Luckily the modern and beautifully designed hotel The Dominican which I could call home for the weekend had the perfect location in the heart of the city. The Grand Place, the gorgeous main square of the city, is just a short walk away. When I am going on a city trip I love to stay in the city center, so I don’t waste time getting to the attractions and also it’s great to be able to get back to the hotel real quick to drop shoppings bag or get something from the room.
Standing in front of the Domincan, you can already tell that it is a really special place located in a former Dominican abbey in the 15th century. Stepping inside it can impress with a modern, contemporary design. The interior looks very stylish, while still being very comfortable, and there are many little details which are just waiting to get discovered.
My highlights were the cosmopolitan lounge bar and the great fitness and wellness area with a sauna and the boxing room. A great place to workout in the morning before enjoying all the great choices from the large breakfast buffet or relax in the evening after a day in the city.
Let’s start with my DOs and DON’Ts.
What you should definitely do:
– visit the Grand Place: it is very beautiful with the town hall and its many other old buildings and is especially stunning in the evening. Great place to take pictures and not far from it, there are many small streets with cafés and restaurants
– look out for street art: there are a lot of mural paintings in the heart of Brussels, like one of the comic figure Tintin. Keep your eyes open for them.
– Les Galeries Saint Hubert: Lovely architecture! In an elegant setting you can wander through the small shops. There are many pralines shops where you can try the chocolate and buy souvenirs to take home.
–The “Taschen” shop: for everyone who loves to collect books this is a great place to shop or just look through some great photography, art and design books.
– Elisabeth: excellent chocolate shop with some delicious goodies you won’t find elsewhere.
– C’est Bon C’est Belge- La Terrasse: if you want to try an authentic Belgian dish this is the place o go. Very atmospheric, but a bit pricy. When the weather is nice, the tables outside are very popular, so it is good to make a reservation in advance.
– Rock Salt Chilli Peppers: Interesting fusion of Asian and Western dishes.
– Trying chocolates, waffles and the famous frites is a must when visiting Brussel and the extra calories are so worth it.
– Parlamentarium: free exhibition about different topics concerning the European Union, its development, task etc. An audio guide leads through the exhibition and the use of multimedia makes it really exciting.
– Serres Royales De Laeken: my favorit. Once a year the royal greenhouse is opened for two weeks. It has a great collection of plants and flowers and it is just lovely walking around there and admiring the diversity.
– Musées des instruments: a gorgeous old building is home to a huge selection of instrument. Via audio guide you get to know the sound of them.
– Manneken Pis: The statue of the guy peeing is something you don’t necessarily need to visit. There is a big hype around it, but I was rather disappointed when I saw it. The statue is very small and to be honest not really spectacular.
– Atomium: If you are short in time you might want to skip that. The Atomium is a little bit out of the city and in an area where there is not much else to do. The wait to get in can be long plus entry is a bit pricy. Still the view over the city is fantastic.