The must-see spots from a Bruxellois’s point of view
During these eight years, I got to know Brussels like the back of my hand, from the most compelling museums and art galleries to the wildest nightlife locations.
Brussels’s reputation often falls in the negative side for its few number of main touristic attractions such as Grande Place or the Manneken Pis, however the city treasures many secretive areas that are waiting to be explored.
The neighborhood of Ixelles has to be my personal favorite neighborhood. Brussel’s main university, ULB, is situated there, which gives the neighborhood a youthful touch. You can stroll around the Cimetière d’Ixelles area, as well as the Boulevard Géneral Jacques towards la chaussé de Boandel. This cosmopolitan neighborhood offers everything from varied activities, restaurants, shops and practical transport. This is still my favorite area to grab a coffee or lunch with friends or a treat at Lily Cups, a small bakery located on Rue du Page (red velvet cupcake is the best in my opinion).
If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings, Les Sablons is a chic neighborhood where you can experience luxurious chocolate brands such as Neuhaus or Pierre Marcolini, the king’s favorite. If you reach the Marolles area you will see a small square where there is a breathtaking view on the city: all of Brussels can be seen in one sight. Once again, if the weather is clear you can spot the Basilique, the Atomium, as well as the entire city center. After enjoying the view, you can admire the Palais de Justice to your left and visit luxurious shops on Avenue Louise, the main shopping street of the city. If you are there on a Friday evening, you can socialize with the locals while sipping on some Belgian beer and listening to live jazz music! :)
As I mentioned earlier, Brussels is the city of the 20th century comics, also known as BD (Bande dessinee). Belgian comic book authors are a crucial part of the country’s culture, and it is something everyone should experience. The city has a whole museum dedicated to these drawings, “Museum de la Bande dessinee”, where you can find history about some of the most famous characters such as the smurfs, tintin, and lucky luke. However, what mesmerizes me every time is the amount of comic book art you can see in the open city. I know that there are approximately thirty large drawings spread around Brussels, all symbolizing different meanings. Several represent the city’s landmarks such as the Manneken Pis while some support other themes such as gay marriage. If you want to know more about this fascinating type of art I also highly recommend visiting the Brussels Comic Strip Festival in September, suitable for both children and adults.
If you get the luck to experience Brussels on a sunny day, don’t miss out its parks and forests. Of course, they can’t be compared to Central Park, but they do add a magical touch to the city. A location that might not be known to everyone but that is exceptionally beautiful is the Chateau de la Hulpe. This charming, small castle is located in the middle of a spacious greenery inhabited by a wide variety of flora and fauna. You can either rent a bike, have a picnic or go horse riding in this famous meadow of La Hulpe.
Another park that is one of my favorites is Bois de La Cambre, which is where you will find all the Belgians on a sunny day. It has a large lake and most of its streets are inaccessible to cars, which opens up space to rollerblade, jog, and getting lost in the nature. I loved to go there and get some ice cream either at the ice cream van or the Capoue shop that serves delicious flavors such as caramel sale’ (salted caramel). In addition, in the middle of the lake there is a sophisticated restaurant located on a small island. Also, if you stay long enough in the evening, make sure to grab a drink at les Jeux d’Hiver.
Le Mont des Arts
Anyone who knows me knows what my most absolute favorite place in Brussels is. The walkway at the end of the Mont des Arts may seem like nothing too exciting when you see it in pictures or when it is described in a guide book. However, especially at sunset, it really is an exquisite location to be in. There is a grand view of place D’Espagne as well as the tower in Grand place. The area also is enriched with original museums such as the Magritte museum or my beloved Musical Instruments Museum.
Sunday Morning Market
I always thought that street markets bring cities to life. In Brussels there are a few, but the busiest and largest one is the Sunday morning on in the neighborhood of Gare du Midi. There, you can find everything; and I really do mean everything, from clothes to antique furniture to fruits and vegetables. If you want to meet and experience locals, it doesn’t get better than this. I recommend visiting the market in the morning as after lunch there will be nothing but leftovers.
Brussels’ exquisite architecture
Besides being the capital of Europe, I also consider Brussels to be the capital of architecture, led by its unforgettable master, Victor Horta. Brussels’ architecture is an example of the Art Nouveau era from the 20th century. This style of art exploded internationally and reached its peak of popularity in Brussels. If this type of art is your passion I highly recommend visiting the house of Victor Horta or the Art Deco style building in the Flagey area.
These few locations of the city should give you an intricate insight to the beauty of the city. Make sure to stay tuned to know more about Belgian gastronomy! A bientôt :)