Over a year ago, I travelled to Brussels, Belgium. The weather was still extremely warm considering it was the end of August, but the fall had arrived beautifully. Brussels is definitely somewhere I’d recommend for a weekend trip. If you’re touring Europe and ticking off each city one by one, I couldn’t recommend Belgium more for a short stay in Autumn. Brussels is Belgium’s Capital, so offers some of the best sites. Brussels is also the unofficial Capital of the EU, home to the European Union and the European Commission. Both of these sites are located bang central of Brussels. If you’re quirky, enjoy the beauty of architecture and design, and are familiar with the history of the European Union, you may want to stick this on the bucket list. With Summer slowly ending, why not book a last minute flight to Brussels for the weekend? You won’t look back!
Where we stayed
We stayed in The Metropole Hotel, which was only seconds away from Brussels large shopping district. This exquisite hotel replicated something out of the Titanic with its fine decor and interior. We were extremely lucky to have found such a beautiful spot online when booking so late. This is not always the case, but Bookings.com and Hotels.com generally offer some top notch deals last minute, so it’s definitely worth looking into! Disclaimer: Our breakfast was not inclusive, but our hotel was just a five minute walk to a local supermarket which supplied fresh baked goods each morning. Our diet consisted of waffles and pastries, but our hearts and heads couldn’t have been happier. The Metropole is located right beside the Underground Metro, so if you can, avoid getting a taxi from the airport. We made this mistake, only to find out that we could’ve got a train directly to our hotel!
The Best Sites to Visit
As we only stayed for four consecutive days before returning home, we believed that our time would be limited. In fact it was the complete opposite, we saw everything we desired to visit. If you decide to stay a little bit longer, take it upon yourself to travel to Brugge.
The Grand Place
This is definitely one of the most popular sites to visit when traveling to Brussels, but one you will walk through without realizing you’re there. On our first day, we wined and dined in Grand Place Square. The square is surrounded by beautiful historical architecture and French restaurants. The square is surrounded by The Kings House, the city’s town hall and old houses. It’s one of the most memorable spots we visited, and is situated near the main shopping district. I recommend fine dining on a brisk evening, listening to the buskers while sipping pints and eating a gourmet burger. You’ll feel like you’re in Paris.
The Royal Palace of Brussels
This site was incredible! Not alone were we allowed access inside the Castle grounds but we were informed that The Royal Family of Belgium often stay there, shifting in and out between their family home outside Brussels. As far as I can remember, we had free access to this site, alike many of the sites in Brussels. You could spend hours inside the Castle if you wished, but as we were keen to travel the tour bus, we only spent a short period inside. The views from the palace were amicable. Across from the Palace is the beautiful Brussels Park which reminded me of St. Stephens Green, Dublin. We spent time looking for shade underneath the emerald trees, exploring the infinite square. The park was big enough to hold a fountain, dozens of statues and outdoor theaters.
Mini Europe & The Atomium
Both of these sites were on the same platform. We travelled the Tour Bus to get to both, which were a little bit outside the city center. I particularly enjoyed Mini Europe. This amusement park was designed to show off some of the most remarkable landmarks in all the European Countries. The park was a little bit overpriced for what you’re seeing, but it’s definitely worth the visit. We stopped by the Atomium afterwards. We had the option to go inside the Atomium which overlooked Brussels, but given our short time left before returning to the Tour bus, we decided against it. It was extremely picturesque though, so we took the opportunity to photograph it’s exterior beauty. There are plenty of little restaurants surrounding this area, so you won’t run short on food. As we went at the end of August, we were greeted by a huge music festival on the grounds. Hundreds of young students went wild to the music being blasted around us. It was magical!
The European Parliament
The European Parliament was probably the coolest site we got to visit. Massive disclaimer, you will NOT get to see the Parliament interior, unless you’re lucky enough to know someone who can guide you inside. On arrival to this site, we were gifted with a map and guide for the landmarks we had access to. We had the option to visit each site, but your access was limited. There was one particular point which was designed to display the history of the European Union and how it came about, and as I was previously really uneducated on this area, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The tour was short enough which was a little bit disappointing. That being said, we couldn’t complain. We had still visited one of the most important landmarks in Europe. After our visit, we sat down in a nearby park, Leopold Park, overlooking a beautiful little lake full of ducks. It was a lovely way to end our evening.
Other Sites To Visit
Brussels has dozens of sites to visit, so if you have more time, visit some of these landmarks.
The Musical Instrument Museum
Although not on my top list of things to do, I definitely think this is worth the visit if you’re a music fan. This museum is located beside Brussels central station. This spot shows off some of the oldest musical instruments to date from all over the world. It may not suit everyone, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
Waffles: Downtown Brussels
We spent one morning on the outskirts of Brussels visiting a little Food Market in Stockel, which is located outside Brussels city center. *Take line 1 on the tram to get here! It was so lovely. There were supplies of fruit, vegetables, pastries, but most of all, waffles. When in Brussels, don’t leave without buying a Belgian Waffle. We had heard about the little Markets which supplied the most beautiful homemade waffles. This was definitely true. If I could’ve travelled the tram daily to eat one of those waffles for breakfast, I would have. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. The city center has dozens of waffle cafés, so you won’t be able to resist.
Leave Belgium for the day
If you have the time and funds, take a day to venture away from Belgium. Brussels’ central station has direct trains to Amsterdam, just three hours away. Although a little costly at €80, it’s definitely worth the money. Plus, who doesn’t want to go away to one country and ended up in two?! If you can’t find the opportunity to leave Belgium, definitely step outside the city and visit the infamous Brugge!
Hop On Hop Off Tour Bus
The hop on hop off bus tour is a must. When purchasing your bus ticket, you will learn that it is valid for 24 hours, and can drop you off at some of your favorite landmarks. We made use of our ticket for 2 days in total, which gave us access to The European Parliament and The Atomium, as both weren’t within walking distance from our hotel. You will see various landmarks you didn’t know existed when traveling this bus! It’s most definitely value for money as well! Tip: buy loads of pastries for the journey, you’ll get peckish, and plus, the pastries are to die for!
Love Ciabetta: Café
We fell madly in love for a café which is located near the Musical Instruments museum. They had a fond supply of sandwiches and salad dishes, alongside beautiful pastries. We visited this place more than once, as the staff were very friendly and served the most unusual ice teas! As it’s usually quite warm during Autumn in Brussels, it wouldn’t be the worst idea stopping here for a little cool-down!
I hope my tips give some inspiration to those who are struggling with some last minute holiday ideas! Belgium is somewhere I definitely wish to revisit for its beauty and architecture. The people are extremely helpful and outgoing. Their McDonalds is unbelievable. No really. I know they say to steer away from McDonalds abroad, but they supplied us with Fries covered in cheese with jalapeños. So please do yourself a favor and spend one evening there. Anyways, I hope each one of you take time to visit this admirable city.