Six Things I Loved About Brussels

If you like doing science and you love travelling, then you would be happy to know that one of the perks of being a researcher means being able to visit different places and countries while attending various conferences and organized meetings. Indeed, in my case, most of my travelling have been conference-related (except when I go home to the Philippines, which is strictly for personal vacation). It’s not all work, you know, because usually there is always an extra day or two (if you’re lucky) that we normally have “free” to roam about so we can check out the place and see what it has to offer. Of course, my most favorite of all is when I tag along with Baggy during his conferences – that means that I don’t have to work and can spend the whole time for sightseeing. :)

Maison du Roi (King’s House) at the Grand Place

As the title suggests, my latest trip was in Brussels. When I first heard about the conference venue, I couldn’t help but ask, what is there to see in Brussels anyway? Nestled between Amsterdam and Paris, it happens to be one of those places you would probably see on a day-trip while touring the more touristy and trendy European cities (like Amsterdam and Paris, for example). It almost felt like the time when I visited Italy for the first time, and I headed to Sorrento (southern area of Italy) instead of going to the more popular Rome or Florence. Not that I had a choice, anyway, mind you. Anyway, having never visited Rome, I wondered if I was “wasting” my trip to Italy by not being able to go outside of Sorrento. I consoled myself with the thought that a visit to Rome merits an extended trip, not just one or two short days.

What I have learned from my travelling so far, is to try and appreciate the place for itself and what it has to offer. Each place will always have something unique to offer that cannot be found elsewhere. Each experience should be relished for its own sake.

I’m not here to try and convince you that Brussels should be on your list of must-see places, but if you do find yourself somewhere near Belgium, you might want to consider visiting it, if some of the things I will list down below would be enough to tickle your fancy.

Having said that, let me list down below, in no particular order, the top six things I loved about Brussels:

1. Chocolates, chocolates, chocolates!

Chocolate truffles on display at a store.

If you like chocolates, then a trip to Brussels would be like reliving Mr. Willy Wonka’s fantastic Chocolate Factory. There are chocolate shops all over the city: the window displays are guaranteed to make you drool in delight. We had as much fun window-shopping as buying chocolates for souvenirs to bring home. Most of the shops we entered were also giving free samples to customers: free chocolates, ladies and gents! Yes, there is a chocolate museum, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to check it out. :( We also noticed that coffee is always served with a sliver of good ol’ delicious chocolate (Cote d’Or is sooo yummy!). Oh, did you know that Belgium is the home of the famous Godiva chocolate?

Chocolate-oozing fountain on window display. Nerdy question: do they keep the chocolate at a certain temperature to maintain its viscosity?

2. Waffles, glorious waffles

When I first stumbled on Manneken, the name of a store selling Belgian waffles in Osaka, I immediately fell in love with its product. Simply put, I just love Belgian waffles. And so if there was one thing I vowed not to miss in Brussels, well, you know the answer. :)

I like it plain. Unlike its Japanese counterpart, though, which usually only includes very thin toppings of ingredients like chocolates or coconut, in Brussels the waffles are usually topped with sinfully hefty servings of creams and fresh fruits, even ice cream! The more sinful, the better.

Yep, I’m just here for the waffles!

3. Beer

According to a travel guide I read somewhere, there are about 800 varieties of Belgian beer. I’m not a beer lover, and certainly not a beer connoiseur, but knowing that there are hundreds of beers I can sample in Belgium did make up for an interesting gastronomic adventure. Belgian draught beer is quite nice, perfectly suited for grilled meat and seafood. I had the opportunity to taste cherry beer as well.

This brand of this cherry beer is called Kriek. It was the sweetest beer I have ever tasted! Who knew that beer could be that sweet?

4. Grand’Place

This was originally a market square, dating back to the 15th century. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, being at this place is like being transported to another date in time, another century. It’s one of the must-see places in Brussels.

grand place
At the facade of the buildings at one side of the Grand’Place.
Hotel del Ville Bruxelles (Town Hall) at night.

5. Manneken Pis

Ok, it is just a statuette of a boy pissing. I just thought that it perfectly embodies the humor of the Belgian people, poking fun at themselves. How many nude statues can you see pissing like that, anyway? 😉

It wasn’t exactly nude when we visited it, because it was wearing a costume (which country? Can you guess?). See the photo below:

Piss away, and care not what the world says.

This bronze statue was created in the 17th century, and was one of the many fountains in the city. Aside from being a public fountain, this little fellow has become a legendary figure. The Manneken Pis statuette has about 760 costumes on display (on replicas, drawers and electronic files) at the museum of Maison du Roi at the Grand Place. There are several national costumes as well, but to my regret I did not find any Philippine costumes. It would have been cool to see the Manneken Pis dressed in traditional barong tagalog, eh?

6. The Atomium

Built in 1958 for the Brussels Expo, this has become an icon and a curious delight for visitors to Brussels.

Built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (Expo ’58), the 103-metre (335-foot) tall Atomium monument represents a unit cell of an iron crystal (body-centred cubic), magnified 165 billion times, with vertical body diagonal, with tubes along the 12 edges of the cube and from all 8 vertices to the centre. Source: Wikipedia

the atomium
Here is my souvenir photo at the Atomium.

When we visited it, some of the spheres were not accessible, and so we were only required to pay 7 euros for the entrance fee instead of the usual 9 euros. For 7 euros, you can ride the elevator to the top sphere for a bird’s eyeview of the city of Brussels. The view alone is worth the entrance fee, in my opinion. From the top sphere, you descend to the middle sphere by elevator, then take the stairs to traverse diagonally to the next sphere, then finally by escalator to the lowest sphere. I guess it would have been more fun if one can move from one sphere to the other freely. There are also restaurants at both the top and middle spheres, and a kids’ playroom at one of the spheres.

So what do you think? Do these things merit a visit to Brussels or not? 😀 

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22 Responses to Six Things I Loved About Brussels

  1. pining says:

    Well, well, someone had a grand time around Brussels :-)
    Lucky you to have such a lovely job, the perks of it all is to die for :-)
    I agree Belgian chocolate’s the best (pity we can only get the Guylian variety here); velvety and sophisticated, is what I can describe it! Unlike what we get here in Britain…

  2. Gina says:

    In answer to the last question-DEFINITELY!

    I’m sure there’d be more to the list had you been able to stay longer ano?
    But looks like a very interesting place to visit.
    You’ve convinced me, especially with those chocolates and waffles! =P
    Hay, kailangan na talagang manalo ako ng lotto para makapag-travel!
    Nice to see you back and blogging.

  3. Frances says:

    Wow! Thanks for a very informative post! The Atomium looks so cool. Anyway, we went to Rome for 5 days before and my gosh, it simply wasn’t enough because there were so many details in every location we went to!

  4. mitsuru says:

    if only for the beer…yes, i’ll go to brussels in a heartbeat + maybe have a side trip to antwerp and buy my lady- love some cool ice. :)

  5. lapa says:

    Good taste.
    Meet best portuguese writer in my blog, please.


  6. Gypsy says:

    Glad you had a great time in Europe! I’m sorry we didnt get to meet up in the UK–I just realized that I need to book in advance for a bus ticket if I wanna go to London from Gloucester, di ganun kadali…drop me a line next time you “breeze” by..(ehem!) :)

  7. Abaniko says:

    Hey Kathy. Looks like you had a grand trip ah kahit conference-related. Wish you were able to extend your stay so you could have visited other exciting places there. So, did you meet up with Gypsy? Btw, I’m going back to Tokyo in November. Ano? Meet tayo? :)

  8. raquel says:

    showed this one to Romar, im banking on his sweet toothedness to convince him to find himself a convention in Brussels with the lucky wife in tow. 😀

  9. kathy says:

    Hey Pining! Grand time indeed, although I guess nothing beats touring London. You guys must be so lucky to live nearby.
    When we were at Heathrow, we bought Bendicks mint chocolates – it wasn’t so bad! :) Or wasn’t it a British brand?

  10. kathy says:

    Yep, definitely there would be more on that list if I had stayed longer. :) Hope you get the chance to visit it someday!

    Thanks for the welcome – it’s a relief that my blog friends are still here, despite my long absence from blogging! Blog lag na talaga ako eh. :( Anyway, hope to get back on track in the next couple of days…or weeks…hehe.

  11. kathy says:

    Glad you liked it, Frances.
    You’re so lucky, you had been to Rome already! Five days in Rome not enough? I’ll keep that in mind! :)

  12. kathy says:

    Your comment just brought a smile to my face! Beer, glorious beer! Oops, naoobvious tayo. :)

  13. kathy says:

    But if it’s in Portuguese, how would I understand? :)

  14. kathy says:

    Gypsy! That’s okay. When I found out that you were headed for Gloucester, I already thought, malabo na magkitakits sa London nito, ang layo! Anyway, I’m sure there would be a next time. Marami rin sigurong magandang places sa Gloucester! :)

  15. kathy says:

    Yeah, I wished the same, although staying there longer would mean more expenses, haha. Anyway, the answer is YES! Let’s meet up – sana naman you have some extra time. Kung sawa ka na sa Tokyo, dalaw ka rin sa Tsukuba. 45 mins lang from Akihabara.

    Just mail me your available sked. I just hope it won’t fall on November 5-7 because I will be attending another conference (noooo!) and won’t be available during that time.

  16. kathy says:

    Raqx, don’t you worry – Romar’s bound to attend lots and lots of conferences in the future. :) Not only Brussels but several more interesting places are in store for you two. Happy travelling! 😉

  17. Abaniko says:

    I’ll be in Tokyo from Nov 13 to 18. But my meetings will be from Nov 14 to 16. So 17th and 18th are free days for me. I’m extending for one day. Do you know of a cheap (very cheap) place I can stay? :)

  18. kathy says:

    Fabulous! Great to hear that you have an extra day this time around. Let’s arrange where to meet. The 17th sounds good. I don’t have anything planned on that day yet.
    I can easily find some very cheap hotels for you – but how cheap? :) Is 6,000 yen per night cheap enough?

  19. Katja says:

    I stumbled across your page while looking for information about Japanese habits (I study Japanese) and then I see this! Well, I’m belgian, so I was surprised to see you’ve been to Brussels. There aren’t many people who know about it anyway 😀 I’m glad you liked it – tourists seem to enjoy it more than Belgian people do, I don’t really know why, but most might not have been there themselves…

    Well, bye! 😀

  20. Abaniko says:

    Yes, 6K yen I think is already cheap. But the extension is just a plan. I will have to finalize it next week. Thanks.

  21. kathy says:

    Residents are usually unaware of what attracts visitors to their place. :) It’s just as surprising for me to read a comment from a Belgian – such serendipitous discoveries are really heartwarming.
    Thanks for dropping by, Katja! :)

  22. annamanila says:

    Awww. Have never been there and know very little except Belgian chocolates abd kace, Did yuo get some? But I have some friends who have been there and they take accoutn of how lovely and picturesque the place is. You have a terrific job that takes you places, Kathy! How wonderful. If I remember right, you also went to Germany this year.

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