People who travel from far away, often overlook Belgium as a travel destination. But if after seeing your friends’ delicious waffles filled Instagram or being half-forced by your travel companions (happened to me), you decide to add it to your Europe trip where you are going to spend your gold worth of vacation days, here are my tips to conquer Brussels in eight steps:
1. Stay in AirBnB
There are cities I wouldn’t recommend doing AirBnB, such as Hong Kong or Beijing, but Brussels is best experienced while staying at a stranger’s place because the whole city is just gorgeous. Try to stay in the city center where many tourist attractions are located and get to experience the city like a local by staying in an apartment nearby it.
2. Eat the waffle, again and again.
There is only one reason for me to go back to Brussels, the waffles. Belgium waffles are to die for, even to stab someone over it for. And this is coming from me, a previously self-proclaimed waffle hater. It’s gooey, sweet and warm topped with your choice of toppings. When you eat it, you get the feeling of being hugged by your loved ones, after not meeting them for a year, while snowing and your favorite song playing in the background x 10.
3. Visit the overrated Manekken Pis
Yes, it is overrated. Yes, it’s just a sculpture of a boy holding his wee wee. It’s rich with history and cultural reference. It has been stolen many times and dressed in costume throughout the year, which is kinda cool and make it a unique experience to see it. Also, I had the best waffle in the 1 Euro Waffle shop just beside it. So you can always use it as an excuse of visiting it to get to the waffle holy grail.
4. Befriend a local
We met my cousin brother’s ex schoolmate there, Astrid, who was so kind to show us around. She took us to everywhere, companied my cousin when we were too lazy to go to the antique car museums, brought us to her favorite restaurants, took tons of pictures of us in front of Cinquantenaire and shared some local insights. After hanging out with the locals in Berlin and Shanghai, I think it’s more fun to explore a new city with a local friend. So pick up your phone, message your blog friends, if you are lucky and not at all creepy, they might be willing to spend some time with you. And make sure to return the deed.
5. Buy Belgium chocolate as souvenirs and try not to eat it all by yourself
Belgium is known for its beer and chocolate. I was not going to drag bottles filled luggage all around Europe, so I settled for chocolates for people back home. Big mistake! Belgium chocolate is the best, you guys! Well, second to Swizz made for me, but still very good. I couldn’t resist eating it one by one until I have nothing left but a few, which I “lovingly” kept for Hulk. Since you can get Godiva almost anywhere in the world, try other brands, like neuhaus, they are versatile during a long travel.
6. Rub the statue and rub it good
There are many tourist attractions associated with good luck, like tossing a coin into fountain de Trevi or eating the black egg in Hakone. In Brussels, it’s all about rubbing the elbow of a local hero statue. Everard t’Serclaes is located near to the Grand Palace. Strangely enough the locals believe it’s more about being able to return to Brussels and touching his whole body up and down, instead of good luck and elbow rubbing. Either ways, we did all because we would settle for either good luck or coming back to Brussels to eat the waffle again.
7. Let your inner geek out
Brussels is a comic city; it is where both Tin Tin and the Smurfs were born. If you are a fan of it or comic in general, rejoice! You get to amazing collection of it in the Belgian Comic Strip Centre (CBBD) or even follow the comic strip trail around the city. And for you, fans of The Big Bang Theory and science geeks, head to the Atomium, the molecules like building, I have been told it’s the best viewed during sunset.
^^ Above is the comic strip trail map. Enjoy!
8. Explore the neighboring cities
If you are staying in Brussels for more than two days and have walked passed the grand palace more than ten times, it’s time to venture out of the city. There are many neighborhood cities you can explore, my personal favorite, after watching the movie in Bruges, is Bruges. Bruges seems to me like a lovechild of Amsterdam and Brussels. Canals and medieval town, It has the best of both.
I have heard Brussels being called boring way too many times; my advice is not to skip it, even if it’s only for the waffle. You can always go to Bruges the next day.
Where is the least famous place you have ever visited while traveling?
Ps. Some scenes from the critically acclaimed, almost banned, Bollywood movie PK were shot in Bruges. I highly recommend the movie. Go watch it.