Chocolate. Waffles. French fries. No, I am not talking about some city un the US, I am talking about Brussels, the capital city of Belgium and the European union as well. This fascinating city is full of contradictions: it is historic, bureaucratic but bizarre as well. In addition, it is present a cohexistence of two languages, cultures: the Francophone one versus the Flemish.
Why did I end up there? I ended up there because Europe is amazing and very easy to travel through. A few months ago I got an offer from Ryanair for low cost tickets from Milan to Brussels and the way back for only 70 euros, and I took it. I left with the first flight and I came back the same day with the same day with the first evening flight. I had six hours to visit the city, but they were enough. In fact, Brussels is a small city, but fantastic.
The airport is well connected with the city thanks to a bus shuttle. It is possible to book the ticket online, so that it is cheaper than buying it at the airport. I did not know that and I paid 17 euros to reach the city and 17 euros for the way back. The trip is fifty minutes long and it stops in the city center.
The first thing I saw was Gran Place, one of the world’s most unforgettable urban ensembles. It is hidden and surrounded by buidings and in the center a huge flower carpet is present. The first building that caught my eye was the Hotel de ville, the city hall. Its facade is lavished with Gothic gargoyles and reliefs of nobility. A fun fact about this building is that it escaped the French bombardment, that almost distroyed the entire square, but it was the primary target. The second building is La Maison du Roi, a fanciful feast of neogothic arches, green statues, the medival bread market. What makes this square special are the gold decorations on the buildings.
I took one of the small streets that connect the square with the city and I found the Galeries St-Hubert, the first shopping center in Europe. Inside there are a lot of confectioneries. The Galeries are made by neoclassical glassed-in arches flanked by marble pilasters.
I kept going until I found the mayestic Cathédale des Sts-Michel et Gudule. It has two twin towers and this is the place that hosts coronations and royal weddings. Inside there is a huge wooden pulpit and stained-glass windows. Outside the cathedral there was a fun sign saying that it was forbidden to introduce inside the church ice cream and french fries, the typical food. I decided to try the french fries just outside the church and they were amazing.
I walked back to Grand Place and then to the Mannekin Pis, a fountain-statue of a little boy cheerfully taking a leak. This is considered the national symbol for surreal Belgium. It was a little disappointing because nobody says how small the statue is. Near the statue there are plenty of chocolate shops and waffle places as well.
I then walked up the Mount des Arts steps from Gran Place, to reach Place Royale, located in the regal Upper Town. On my way I found the Old Englad Building, an art nouveau masterpiece with black facade all aswirl in wrought iron and arched windows. Inside there is the Musical Instrument Museum and on the top a roof café panorama.I then reached the Royal Palace, now empty.
In my opinion, this is the most particular city in Europe, together with Amsterdam. I was lucky enough to get only an hour of rain, instead of a whole day full of rain and cold temperatures. I ended my day by visiting the Musée du Cacao et chocolat, and by stepping by Corné Port-Royal, the best chocolate shop in the city and by buying some.
Suggested and complete guide:
Lonely Planet Pocket Bruges & Brussels (Travel Guide)
More pictures HERE.