Brussels: 10 Tips on Having the Authentic Belgian Experience

The more we travel, the more hopeful we are about the places we get to visit. And as much as we would like to believe that the authenticity of one destination or another preserves itself as the time goes by, free movement of people across borders has brought about significant changes. As the capital of Europe, Brussels is a cauldron of diversity. And as you begin to wonder the streets of this frantic city, you will have begun to understand union and citizenry. It is a city devoured by tumult and medley, breathing heavily under the strain of absorbing and assimilating foreigners, immigrants, tourists and culturally different societies. Come to think of it I have never had the slightest understanding of cultural differences until I came to visit Brussels. The beauty of Brussels, however, is that it will not allow you to loose yourself in all the grays before you get to see the colors. This metropolis will open your mind to such an extent, that you will only then begin to understand the complexity of a Europe united. It is like all the stories you read and heard from a distance, suddenly blend in with reality. “The gray city with people Rainbow”, that’s what we called it after spending a week in Brussels because there are so many different people in Brussels you cannot even begin to imagine. This was for the first time maybe, that I was walking around in a city that felt intimidating. It was not about gawking at the art nouveau structures, the medieval churches and the post-modern buildings of the European Institutions. It was about coming to full terms with our latest achievements as nations united and forward-looking. And as we have now returned, I am looking back on Brussels as a city that endures. As much as it wears it down, the grinding of day to day life has also given it an unusually interesting vibe.  So here are 10 interesting things to do in Brussels that will make your Brussels experience so much better and fun at the same time:

I. Check into a “Brasserie” as soon as you arrive

A “Brasserie” is usually a French restaurant with a relaxed setting, which serves single dishes and other meals. In Brussels, a “Brasserie” would be the ideal place for you to have a coffee and some morning croissants on the terrace, maybe read a French newspaper – if you don’t know the language you can just take a cute picture of “Le Monde” like I did 🙂 It is amazing, however, how the Brasserie in Brussels can look just like an office for the youth, with youngsters casually spending their time barefoot in front of their laptops.

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II. Take a quick tour of the city before you have the ultimate “Brussels Burger” experience

It may strike you as shocking but restaurants in Brussels will be closed for food between 3 P.M. and 6 P.M., so be sure to take a quick tour of the city before you sit down for your first meal. When we decided to go out to eat after our arrival we had a hard time finding a place to eat at 5 P.M. in the afternoon. Luckily the “Be Burger” place in Brussels was open all day long – amazing spot to get your Brussels burgers, chips and, of course…beer.

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III. Appreciate the vintage in Brussels Old Town

The Brussels “Old Town” is the only vintage part of the metropolis that remains from medieval times. This is where you will get to see the “Grand Place de Bruxelles” with its unparalleled Gothic charm, the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert if you are a shopping enthusiast, the Manakin Pis of course and some unconventional street art.

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IV. Take time to spot and admire the Street Art

Although you may step into Brussels thinking that it rather plain and monochrome it takes you no more than a few hours into the city to completely change that point of view. Brussels Street Art clothes the Europen Capital, giving it the most lively and colorful attire. So if ever in Brussels take some time to spot and admire the Street Art. It is both interesting to look at and makes for a wonderful backround for your travel journal.

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V. Visit the Palais du Justice for the most amazing view of the city

When you get to the Palais du Justice in Brussels, there is this elevator taking you all the way to the top. Here, you will find the perfect spot to appreciate the whole of Brussels from above: church towers, sky high buildings and some Street Art to go with all that, of course 🙂

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VI. Find a good restaurant to taste and savor the mussels

I would have never pictured Brussels for the Mediterranean type of culinary establishment, however, to my pleasant surprise mussels and shrimps are very popular. So the thing that you absolutely have to do when in Brussels is find your authentic restaurant and order these amazing dishes. Mussels come in all flavors and you can have a whole bucket of them. The shrimp croquettes are very popular, and they come with French fries, salad, and an amazing taste. Being the seafood kind of foodie that I am…I loved Brussels for its Mediterranean digestibles.

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VII. Wonder off into the park to get some fresh air and enjoy the carousel ride

Parks are the favorite relaxation spot in Brussels. It is not unusual for people to just lay in the grass and spend some quality outdoor time. So if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Brussels during the day, there are plenty of parks you can enjoy during your time out.

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VIII. Visit the Parlamentarium for a modern introduction into the European past and future Agenda

The Parlamentarium is dynamic and interactive by design and can be experienced in any of the European Union’s 24 official languages, making it the perfect place for visitors of all ages to discover European politics. The Parlamentarium is open seven days a week and entrance is free of charge.

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IX. Ask the bartender for the best beer in Belgium at the Delirium Pub

There are no less than 3000 beers you can choose from at the Delirium Pub in Brussels. Imagine my surprise when I asked for the menu and got the Yellow Pages instead 🙂 The easy way out: describe your favorite taste in beer to the bartender and he will be sure to get ou just the right one.

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X. Enjoy all that is beautiful

There are places in the world that just leave you breathless the moment you arrive. But then there are also the destinations that you have to search and find the beauty of: the colors between the grays, the heights in the plains, the wind in the prairies, the darling little red bench in a far out city neighborhood. Because with travelling you never know where you finally end up: the summer vacay that you keep the sweet memory of…or the pleasant little encounter that makes for a wonderful new home.

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