Is Brussels Worth Visiting? Why? When? and What to do?
Better known for being the home of the European Parliament (which surrounding Brexit may be a sore spot), Brussels is often overlooked by travellers seeking a city break in Europe. Barcelona, Paris and Rome are often top spots, leaving Brussel’s famous sights and delicacies just waiting to be discovered.
Is Brussels Worth Visiting?
My answer is yes. If you want to try some divine chocolate truffles, visit some postcard-worthy squares, and try one or two of the famous Belgian beers, Brussels is the right city for you.
If you’re even contemplating whether to visit Brussels (whether as a stand-alone weekend trip or as part of a greater European adventure), read on to find out why the Belgian capital is worth a visit.
It’s Easy To Reach
The question of “How to get to Brussels” shouldn’t even be considered when planning your trip as it’s simply so easy to get to! Lying just two hours from London on the Eurostar (and even less by air) Brussels can easily be reached as a weekend trip. The Eurostar even has two convenient Friday night departures so you can head straight from work to St Pancreas International to hop on the train.
If you’re coming from further afield, Brussels airport is well connected too. Arrivals come in daily from all over Europe and Emirates flights from Dubai easily connect Asia and Australasia to the Belgian capital.
Getting in and out of the city is a breeze as well. Trains and buses connect Brussels with a number of other Belgian cities (so you can do day trips to Bruges and Antwerp too) and the airport is served by regular trains and buses as well as offering taxi or car rental services.
Although Brussels’ food may be one of the most tempting factors (and we’ll come to that later), the city’s architecture is also well worth a mention. Brussels combines new and old architecture in style, with French and Flemish sides colliding to create an eclectic mix. From 10th Century design in the Grand-Place to quaint Art Nouveau buildings dotted throughout the city, you won’t be disappointed by the architecture on offer.
Spend time (both day and night) in the Grand-Place admiring the gold leaf décor that makes this glistening square the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the city.
The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is also worth a visit, if not only to compare the gothic building to Paris’ most famous cathedral, Notre Dame. This stunning church looks almost identical from the front with the two magnificent towers being the focal point.
There are plenty of other buildings that should be on your list too such as the Opera, Royal Palace and La Monnaie. Most walking tours will take you through or past these sights and give you a little insight into their history and design. If you’re particularly into architecture you may want to choose a more focussed tour to delve a little deeper into their structure and style.
Brussels is Perfect For Foodies
Belgian food and drink: now, this is probably the thing to get most excited about (I know I do). Whether you know about the delicacies of the Belgian capital or are only just about to find out, I promise you you’ll be wanting a foodie experience of Brussels after reading this!
But where to start?! How about everyone’s favourite: chocolate.
Belgium is known for its amazing chocolate whether that’s in the form of a bar, a truffle or simply in liquid form drizzled over waffles (another Brussels speciality) or as a heavenly hot chocolate!
The original Belgian chocolate truffle was actually designed in Brussels by Neuhaus as a pharmaceutical aid – essentially making medicine taste better to help people get it down – but after becoming such a success they swapped being a pharmacy for being a chocolatier. What a story, right?! Thanks to Neuhaus Chocolates, travellers can now try and purchase unbelievable chocolate truffles all over the city filled with everything from caramel and mint to quirkier centres like Earl Grey and chilli. Of course, there are going to be some poor excuses for a Belgian chocolate but if you look for the name Neuhaus or join a chocolate tour you’re sure to try some corkers!
Next up, waffles – we might as well work backwards from dessert now we’ve started, right? These babies are one of Belgium’s finest exports but the only way to truly enjoy one of these warm, light, fluffy treats is to find a classic Belgian tea or waffle house. Lizzie’s Wafels is one such cafe that is well worth a visit. Here they serve up brilliantly crispy waffles that can be drenched in fruit, ice cream and that all-important chocolate that makes these baked treats a must-have during any trip to Brussels. Lizzie’s is conveniently also one of the best places for a hot chocolate so you can tick of two bucket list items in one go (roll on the chocolate food coma!).
Lastly, beer and fries/chips (or frites as they’re known here). We are led to believe that is was the French who invented fries (hence the name) but the Belgians would definitely beg to differ. And it’s not just the frites themselves that make this naughty dish a national favourite, it’s the toppings! Frites in Brussels can be topped with anything from aioli and chilli sauce to cheese, mayo and tartar sauce and it’s almost obligatory that you try frites more than once during your trip to find your favourites. Once you’ve had a few Belgian beers you won’t find it hard to be lured in by the smell of frites freshly cooking on the side of the square.
Belgian beers are known for being slightly (or much, depending on where you go) stronger than the rest of the world’s beers and they have such a huge array that it would be impossible to try them all. You can taste everything from fruity to fragrant beer as well as dark stouts, pale ales and wiess biers so you’ll find something to take your fancy. Head to Moeder Lambic for an amazing introduction to Belgian beers or Delirium Café for a buzzing spot (albeit heavy on the tourists) with over 2000 beers on the menu.
As with anywhere, getting off the main tourist trail is key to enjoying good food. If you choose a safe tourist spot bang in the middle of the Grand-Place you’ll know you’ll be paying over the odds for some distinctly average fare. Instead, wander down side streets, take in some small stalls and markets or better yet, join a food tour run by a local to get a true insiders’ guide to the best food in Brussels.
What’s The Weather in Brussels Like?
What Brussels boasts in sights, architecture and food it unfortunately lacks in weather. The city isn’t known for having the highest temperatures or sunniest skies but as long as you’re prepared you can still enjoy a great weekend in the city.
Brussels generally has an average rainfall of 15-20 days per month (which isn’t exactly a positive stat) so I’d strongly suggest packing a raincoat and/or umbrella!
The months of November to March are particularly chilly with the mercury balancing between 3-7°C at most. Therefore layers are essential. Temperatures do creep up later in the year with July and August enjoying late teen-early twenty degrees which is much more pleasant for strolling around the city.
Although Brussels may not be the highest on everyone’s European travel list, I personally feel that is it underrated and definitely worth the trip. If you have just a few days spare over a weekend then Brussels can be an easy destination to reach. The main sights can be explored within just a couple of days and if you have longer available you’ll have time to enjoy the café culture and pub life of the city, delving further into the tasty treats on offer throughout.
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