Waffles, chocolates and craft beers tempt travellers to this delicious destination
Begin your day at the de facto capital of the European Union by strolling through the city’s cobbled streets into the historical epicentre, the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that some have called Europe’s most beautiful square. Brussels’ essential landmark is fronted by magnificent guild buildings, the Gothic-styled Town Hall and the Maison du Roi edifice, which houses the main museum dedicated to local history and folklore.
Take a break at the northeast corner of the square, where Maison Dandoy (maisondandoy.com), a family-owned biscuiterie, lures customers with some of the best Liège waffles in town. Savour it with a dusting of powdered sugar or add a variety of toppings.
Head to the Manneken Pis bronze fountain sculpture, a world-famous symbol of Brussel’s irreverent spirit. The playful statuette now has an entire wardrobe collection and is fitted in various costumes throughout the year; its line of clothing may be viewed at a permanent exhibition at the city’s museum. The Mannekin Pis has also inspired the relatively less-known Jeanneke Pis, a modern, gender-equality counterpoint located nearby.
Grab a public bus or tram to Flagey Square in the municipality of Ixelles, home to many bars and cafés. Step into Café Belga (belgacafe.com), a local favourite with a convivial ambience that’s unpretentious and down-to-earth. A simple but supremely satisfying ham and cheese sandwich with a bowl of soup can be had at for USD7. You can also try the golden-crunchy fries nearby at Frit-Flagey.
Visit The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (fine-arts-museum.be), a collection of museums featuring both historical and modern art. The historical section showcases an impressive array of artwork by Flemish masters such as Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens. A circular building houses the modern art section on eight floors – all of which are below ground level. The collection includes Van Gogh, Matisse, Dali, Tanguy and Ernst, as well as local names like Magritte, Delvaux, De Braekeleer and Permeke.
In a city that’s synonymous with chocolate, it’s scarcely surprising to encounter a confectioner on almost every block. To pick up the finest handmade chocolates, head to the lair of chocolatiers, Place du Grand Sablon. Beloved and decadent brands such as Wittamer, Pierre Marcolini, Godiva, Neuhaus and Leonidas are found here. Give in and indulge in the ultimate hot chocolate in any of the stores.
Enjoy a pre-dinner drink at Delirium Café (deliriumcafe.be), a pub that stocks more than 2,000 beer varieties and has been recognised by The Guinness Book of Records. Try the citrusy La Rulles Blonde, a Belgian ale beer. Then venture into Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat for dinner at one of the many fine restaurants, but beware of tourist traps with inflated prices. For a decent meal, Aux Armes de Bruxelles (auxarmesdebruxelles.com/en), serves basic and honest Belgian fare in a rustic setting, and is recommended for its mussels.