Like I already explain in this post, me and my boyfriend visited Brussels in December 2019 during an extended weekend. We arrived there on Saturday night but on that day we just went out to dinner and then we got back to the hotel because it was late.
The next day was Sunday (the 1st of December), our Day 1 in Brussels. We woke up, got ready and left the hotel to have breakfast. The city was a little quiet, with few people on the street, but that’s probably normal because besides being Sunday it was pretty early in the morning. It was really cold, that kind of cold that freezes every single part of your body (the fact that we forgot to bring gloves didn’t help). Before we left the hotel we had already seen an opened place to have breakfast. We went to Lloyd Coffee Eatery Louise and asked for two cappuccinos , a croissant, a chocolate puff pastry roll and a chocolate muffin (we were hungry, do you notice?)
Breakfast taken so we started the day… we did everything on foot this day which resulted in a total of 22 km.
The first stops were the Palais de Justice and the square in front of it that had views of the city. Brussels is not a flat city. It has many streets with slope. The palace was full of scaffolding under construction but the views from the square were pretty (it was possible to see the houses’ roofs and the domes of the main churches and cathedrals). We continued walking and we came across the Great Synagogue of Brussels, a huge building that was also under construction (lucky us! ). Near by this synagogue is the Square du Petit Sablon and the Église Catholique Notre Dame du Sablon (pretty, but not my favourite). The square is very pretty, it has a garden with several statues and a water fountain. In this zone we found several soldiers with large weapons but we didn’t understand why. Perhaps it is because around this square there are several historic and important buildings and a lot of embassies. Then, we continued to the street that goes down next to the church and we saw the Place du Grand Sablon. It is a square in the shape of a triangle that has several historic buildings, art galleries and chocolate shops. In the middle of the square it was happening a Christmas flea market.
After that, we walked to the Mont des Arts that is a square on a hill and a public garden surrounded by the Royal Library of Belgium and the National Archives. At the square was a temporary Christmas exhibition that tried to imitate snowflakes (really cute, I felt like a kid). On one side of this square is the Jacquemart Clock, a bronze clock with lots of statues. Mont des Artes was one of my favorite places in Brussels to the point that I went back there the next day to see the exhibition all illuminated.
Next, we climbed all the stairs of the Mont des Artes until we reached the top and we continued walking until we found the Place Royale and the Palais du Bruxelles. Along the way, we passed an old art nouveau building that was converted to be the Musical Instruments Museum, also known as MIM. We didn’t go in to visit the museum because we didn’t have time, but we saw the store on the first floor (to warm up a bit because we were cold!). In the middle of the Place Royale there is a big statue of Godfrey of Bouillon (one of the leaders of the First Crusade) on top of his horse. Right in front of the statue is the Cathédrale Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg and behind this church is the Palais du Bruxelles. At this moment we finished exploring the highest part of the city.
After walking for about 15 minutes, we reach the city center. We wanted to see the Manneken Pis, literally a statue of a boy peeing (it’s literally that), but it was a big disappointment. Usually the statue is dressed according to the times of the year, or to important events that happen in the city. That day, she was dressed in a way that we couldn’t see the statue… we could only see water coming out of it. Fortunately we read on some posters next to the statue that on the next day it was going to be wearing another outfit (we went there!). Near by this statue is the Grand-Place, the most important square in Brussels. All the buildings there, like the Musée de la Ville or the Hôtel de Ville (town hall), are ridiculous handsome, elegant and well maintained. Because of Christmas time, in the middle of the square there was a huge Christmas tree and a red tent with a nativity scene. Around the square there are plenty of restaurants and several chocolate and waffles shops that were offering chocolate at the entrance (and the Hard Rock Cafe that is really small). All the restaurants that had an esplanade had umbrellas with festive themes in red and green (really cute!).
With everything we had already done, the morning passed and we were already hungry. We went to have lunch at a typical Belgian restaurant called Chez Léon. There, we ate some (delicious) mussels and a seafood pasta . I’ll tell you my experience in this restaurant in other blog post.
It was still a horrible cold but we wanted to explore the city so much. We went to the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (similar to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan but a lot smaller). There are many stores of chocolates, clothes and Christmas decorations with beautiful things (I love Christmas!). After visiting this galleries, we went to Cathédrale des Sts Michel et Gudule, a roman and gothic church where coronations and royal weddings usually take place. The entrance is free and worthfull.
On the rest of the afternoon we were enjoying the Christmas markets but before we stopped at Jeanneke Pis, a statue of a girl peeing. The markets were spread over several parts of the city but the largest ones were in the Place de la Bourse, Rue Neuve and in the Place Sainte-Catherine. On the first one, there were chalets selling craft items, huge choice of food and mulled wine (traditional drink ) and a covered ice rink for skating. At Place Sainte-Catherine lots of chalets too and some fairground attractions with a big ferris wheel!
At 17h we went to the Grand-Place again to see the sound and light show. The show duration was about 15 minutes and was really good! All the buildings around the square stay all illuminated during the music.
Before dinner, we went to the hotel to warm up a little and take a hot bath. Afterwards, we went out to dinner at a sushi restaurant near the hotel called Makisu. The sushi was good and it wasn’t ridiculously expensive. The standard of living in Brussels, when compared to Portugal, is much higher…
And so this was our first day in Brussels ❤️. As we didn’t visit any museum, we were able to see the whole city center and get a good idea of the capital of Belgium.
To see all the posts already published about Brussels click here.