Home of the European Union and NATO, Brussels is the political capitol of Europe. That's great and all, but we came for the beer, chocolate and frites and we weren't disappointed! Oh and did I mention, Brussels is home to the first "mall" in Europe... I think I'm in love!
Recommended stay: 2-3 days
We loved our stay at The Dominican! It offers everything you'd expect from a high-end boutique without the high-end price tag. The location is in the dead center of the city with the Opera House literally across the street and minutes from Delirium, The Grand Place and the metro. The reception and bar area was fabulous. Modern decor and several small sitting areas created a warm and inviting atmosphere. In fact, I wish we had more time to just hang in the lobby.
Welcome beer lovers, this is your town. In Belgium, beer is so much more than a beverage, it's a way of life. There are over 180 breweries in Belgium brewing over 800 varieties of the frothy delight. Oddly enough beer was first brewed by monks used a fundraising effort endorsed by the Catholic church. Now that's a fundraiser I can get behind!
Delirium Cafe is the most well known of Brussels bars, it's claim to fame is holding the Guinness World Record for having the most beers available for purchase - 2,004 choices. It's like the Cheesecake Factory of Brussels. And I'm not sure that's a good thing. While I do recommended you make a stop, it wasn't our favorite bar we visited. That said, stop in for a Delirium Tremmens, their signature strong and tasty pale ale. The bar is located down a small alley just a few minutes walk from Grand Place. Look for the pink elephant.
Our favorite was Moeder Lambic, which we learned about from an episode of Brew Dogs. Watch the episode here. We stopped in for a beer and stayed for 3 hours making friends with the locals next to us. We tried about 10 different styles and had a fabulous cheese plate. My husband was really digging the sour beers, I was not.
Cantillon Brewery was highly recommended. We didn't make it this trip, but will on our next visit.
Le Porte Noire and Bier Circus are other noteworthy stops.
Grand Place, especially at night, is pretty spectacular. One of the most popular squares in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also includes architectural styles from 3 different eras - Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV. This is Brussels center attraction and it's crowded 24/7. Grab a seat and a beer at one of the dozen cafes lining the square and settle in for hours of glorious people watching.
Manneken Pis. Hmmmm so, I'm still not sure what was happening. Basically, there's a very tiny bronze sculpture of a boy peeing into a fountain AND hundreds of people are pushing and shoving to get a glimpse. There are many tales as to the origin of the boy - my favorite - invaders set to destroy the city by fire, left a wick to ignite the flames, the boy pissed on the wick and saved the city. Anywho, this chocolate waffle was so freaking good. (Manneken Pis, Chocolate waffle below)
Cinquanternaire is a large public park with an impressive arched entryway commissioned to celebrate Belgium's independence. AutoWorld is just beyond the gates and offers a fun look into the last 120 years of the automobile. The park surrounding this area is beautiful. We wished we'd packed a picnic and some beers and hung in this park longer.
Galeries St Hubert is known to be the first "mall" in Europe and dates back to 1846. It's an airy shopping passage with several chocolate and specialty shops and a few restaurants.
The Atomium was originally built for the World's Fair and looks a giant spaceship. It's about 30 minutes outside of town. The top cube has a restaurant that serves brunch and lunch.