Brussels in a Day

At the end of our trip we had an open ticket to Brussels as part of our Eurostar booking. We decided to do the first leg of our homeward journey early so we could have a quick whistle-stop tour of Belgium’s capital.

Manneken Pis, a statue of a small boy urinating into a fountain, where the water is his wee, is one of the more famous sites in Brussels. Legends vary, but tend to either involve a small boy peeing and somehow saving the city, or a small boy getting lost and then being found peeing – to everybody’s relief. I have to say I don’t completely get it, but I suppose that’s partly the point? The statue is often dressed in little outfits, but we saw him au naturale. It should be no surprise given the comedy/novelty value, that it gets really busy around the fountain which is just in a small street off the square. Also, I had read in blog posts etc that the statue itself is really small, but it’s even smaller than I expected! The thing is tiny!

The Grand Place was the most striking part of Brussels for me, despite the grey weather, with its gold-embellished buildings and gothic styles. I could have spent more time there had it not been raining. I was ever so slightly disgruntled when a tourist started giving me a photography lesson and was very particular about the photo he wanted me to take of him and his friends with his smartphone…

And there’s another one! Jeanneke Pis is much more recent than Manneken Pis, being commissioned and made in the late 1980’s. It’s essentially the girl version…yeah I still don’t get it. I do love the look of sheer satisfaction on her face though! There’s also a dog somewhere but we didn’t try to find it.

The Galleries Royales Saint Hubert was pretty to wander through, and although not as grand as some of the galleries in other cities (Hello Milan!) it would be a nice place to stop in to a chocolaterie or sit at a bar perhaps.

It was a relief to get out of the busy centre and head up to see the Cathedral of St Michael & St Gudula. There were daffodils and [blue flowers] carpeting the green outside which was really lovely. It was a great place to chill out and eat our waffles that we bought from a van by the side of the road. They were absolutely delicious!

Park de Bruxelles probably wasn’t at its best I would say as it was only just spring and the fountains were not yet on etc. We walked on down to the Royal Palace where classic cars were lined up all across the front and pipping their old-school horns for some kind of bank holiday event.

Our walk then took us via the Place Royale, Musical Instruments Museum and Mont des Arts. It’s clearly a hub of culture and architecture with the quirky exterior of the Musical Instruments Museum and the grand Magritte museum. We took a few moments to take in the great view back over the Mont des Art and Brussels below.

We wandered down to the Morelles area via the Église Notre-Dame au Sablon, Egmont Palace and the Palais de Justice. The Law Courts were covered with scaffolding, but I was actually quite taken with the photo I got with the grand building scaffolded and dotted with graffiti set against a unrelenting/serious/stern/severe sky. I love it’s gritty urban-ness.

We had a short stroll around the hipster Morelles area – it looked like a cool place, but almost everything was closed for Easter Monday and so we didn’t stay long. Instead we headed back towards the centre and found the Pierre Marcolini chocolate shop. They sell some quality origin chocolate and had some Magritte hat-inspired easter chocolates too.

Our very last pit stop, before heading back to Brussels station for the Eurostar back home, was Cafe Leffe. We had a couple of beers, some food and played cards until we needed to wave goodbye to Brussels, to Belgium, and to what had been a truly fantastic Easter weekend.

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