Brussels weekend: Summer 2011

I spent last weekend in Brussels. I love the city – this will be my fourth visit. The last 3 times I have visited, we have stayed in the Ibis hotel just off the Grand’ Place,  because it’s a nice hotel in a very nice location. Stepping onto the Grand’ Place in Brussels is like stepping into a different world, and this hotel is a few minutes walk away. The photograph below shows the Grand’ Place, with the Hotel de Ville on the left.

There is no doubt in my mind that the best way to travel to Brussels is by the Eurostar service from St Pancras. It takes just over 2 hours, and you arrive in the centre of Brussels. From Brussels Midi Station to the Gare Centrale (the closest station for the hotel and the Grand’ Place) involves a journey on the metro with one change, but as long as you check your route in advance (particularly the change), it isn’t difficult.

I like Brussels for several reasons. The first is its laid back and relaxed nature, which you feel as soon as you arrive. The fact that it is a bilingual city makes it interesting as well. I speak reasonable French, but hardly any Flemish/Dutch, but English is widely spoken. To avoid a diplomatic incident, I only speak French if I am addressed in French! I also like it because of its interesting architecture, with buildings from all ages co-exisiting harmoniously. Then there’s the food, and of course the beer!

My favourite bar in Brussels is A La Mort Subite. This rather alarming name derives (according to the web site), from a card game that used to be played in the bar. The bar serves a wide range of Belgian beers, including my favourite, Lambic Blanche. The picture below shows me enjoying another beer served there, Affligem Blonde:

 

But I wouldn’t want (perish the thought) to give the impression that I spent my entire visit in bars! Well, 50% maybe, but we also visited some other places.

Mini-Europe is a park situated by the Atomium, which has scale models of buildings representing all the member countries of the EU. Thus you can tour the whole of the European Union in an hour or so. It is easily accessible by metro (nearest stop is Heysel on line 6). The picture below gives an idea of what it looks like:

 

A post about Brussels would not be complete without a mention of the iconic Mannekin Pis fountain. Of course we went to see it, although it is mobbed by other tourists virtually 24/7 making a photo hard to get, so I will leave you to look at the above link if you haven’t seen it. The link also gives the various stories that explain the statue’s origin, and mentions the fact that the statue is dressed in a wide range of uniforms at various times, some of which are on display in the City Museum on the Grand’ Place.

Finally, one of the most memorable experiences of the weekend was the ‘Son et Lumiere‘ display on the Grand’ Place which is held at 22:30 every day from 1 July to 30 September. This was amazing: imagine standing in the Grand’ Place, and all the normal lights go out, to be replaced by a show with different lighting and sound effects. It really has to be experienced! The photograph below shows the illuminated Hotel de Ville:

 

In conclusion, Brussels is recommended for a visit. It’s easily accessible, is interesting and welcoming. I’m already planning our next trip!

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