There is surely no better way to be welcomed into a country than to be asked: “You like beer? You like chocolate? Welcome to Brussels”.
Photograph: Maddy Hutt
If you answered either of those questions with anything but “yes of course”, then stop reading now. If you were hooked at “beer”, then read on for a walking guide to experiencing these two delights as well as the city’s many other attractions.
Travelling to Brussels by train or coach will take you to the Gare Bruxelles Centrale, which is helpfully situated a five minute walk from the Grand Place, where there is no shortage of bars serving a vast array of beers from the tamer blond variety to the richer stout. Some bars and restaurants serve their beers by the ¼ litre, ½ litre and, for the brave among you, by the litre, with prices ranging from four to seven euros depending on the brand and quantity. Most restaurants in this area offer a wide variety of cuisines including Flemish dishes such as Waterzooi stew.
As for the chocolate, the best way to begin your introduction to Belgium’s most indulgent export is at the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate located just off the Grand Place. For a very reasonable price you can taste freshly tempered chocolate and learn about the art of traditional chocolate making, as well as observing their unusual creations, such as a train carriage and dresses.
This area is bursting with shops with exquisite window displays, often including chocolate renderings of the famous fountain Pis, a little naked boy peeing. Your visit would not be complete without posing for a photo next to this quirky statue.
A few minutes’ walk west of the Grand Place sits the Saints Michel and Gudula Cathedral amidst the monolithic constructions of the European quarter. This beautiful building is adorned with intricately painted stained glass windows and a stunning nave, offering a calm respite from the bustling centre.
Further on is the Parc de Bruxelles where you may find yourself among dozens of runners dodging the Brussels sprout and pint glass sculptures that stand aptly throughout. Past the park is the impressive Royal Palace and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, currently displaying Magritte’s surrealist work alongside its stunning permanent collection.
Easily accessible by Eurostar, Brussels is the perfect destination for a city break, just be sure to save room in your suitcase for edible souvenirs!