Click HERE to see other Europe travelogues!
Moules-frites / Mosselon-friet – Mussels and Fries!
It’s been a really long time since I update anything about my Europe trip – so sorry about it! There are loads of photos to go through and it’s really hard to choose which photos to post on the blog…
Well, shall not dwell on this issue and begin on our trip to Brussels, Belgium proper! After Amsterdam, we were there in Brussels for only 2 days, and we regret we weren’t able to stay there longer! The food there was so delicious – we love the waffles, the mussels and the fries (will share a nice lunch spot that we discovered by chance later in the post!) The chocolates were also to-die-for. I felt all so atas (high-class), eating all the chocolates and pralines!
The delicious stroopwafels we bought in Amsterdam!
Atomium is a monument in Brussels designed by André Waterkeyn and Les Architectes Polak, standing at 102 metres tall! True to its name, it has 9 steel spheres all connected to form the atom – iron (brings me back so many memories of my Chemistry classes!)
Inside, there are escalators connecting the spheres, allowing you to visit each sphere (except for a few which are closed). The highest sphere gives you a panoramic view of Brussels.
We didn’t go up because the tickets are priced at €11 each and we weren’t that interested to see the exhibitions inside.
Square de l’Atomium
5 minute walk from the Heysel / Heizel metro station (line 6) and right opposite Mini-Europe
Open daily from 10am to 6pm (ticket office closes at 5.30pm)
Royal Palace of Brussels
This beautiful palace is the official palace of the King of the Belgians, though it is not used as a royal residence. It’s really grand and the garden is simply beautiful. We can, however, only view it from outside. Apparently, it is open to the public for free every summer from July to September (dates vary I think). Visitors can gain access to certain rooms in the palace during this period, and apparently the Mirror Room is popular because of the artwork “Heaven of Delight”.
Place des Palais
Church of St Jacques sur Coudenberg / Sint Jacob op Koudenberg
The day cleared up and we walked to see the Church of St Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, a neoclassical church located at the historic Royal Square (Place Royale / Koningsplein). Construction of the church began in 1775 and ended in 1786. We didn’t enter the church, so we didn’t get to see the interior. More history and information (with photos!) on this church can be found on Brusselspictures.
Located at Place Royale
Open: Tue-Sat: 1pm – 5.45pm; Sun: 8.30am – 5.45pm
Église Notre Dame du Sablon (Church of Our Lady of Sablon)
The construction of this Gothic church dated back to the 15th and 16th century and is well-known for its four-fold stained-glass windows. The stained-glass windows are simply stunning and beautiful. The windows are illuminated at night from the inside, so you can always catch a view of these windows even at night!
Stained glass windows inside Église Notre Dame du Sablon (Church of Our Lady of Sablon)
At place du Grand-Sablon, Rue de la Régence 3B, Brussels, Belgium
92, 93, or 94 to place du Grand Sablon
Free entry daily from 8am-6pm
Notre Dame de la Chapelle (Our Lady of the Chapel)
Not very far up North from Église Notre Dame du Sablon is Our Lady of the Chapel, a Romanesque-Gothic styled church built between 1210 and 13th century. It is a church that symbolizes the transition from the Romanasque to Gothic building styles. It is well-known for the burial place of Francois Anneessens, a Brussels hero who lost was executed while campaigning for civil rights.
Place de la Chapelle, Brussels, Belgium
Tram: 92, 93, or 94
Manneken Pis / Le Petit Julien (Little Man Pee)
We walked slightly up North from Notre Dame de la Chapelle and we reached one of the most famous landmarks in Brussels – the Manneken Pis. This 61cm tall bronze fountain statue that we see now is put in place in 1965. The original one was sculpted in 1618, and is now house at the Maison du Roi/Broodhuis on the Grand Place.
How small it really is!
The Manneken Pis is dressed in various costumes several times a year, but this time we get to see him wearing his birthday suit.
rue de l’Etuve
1000 – Bruxelles
Much to our amazement and amusement, we saw a chocolate version of the Manneken Pis and simply couldn’t resist taking a photo of it. It looks a lot like the real statue!
Église du-Béguinage (Beguinage Church)
This beautiful Italian-influenced Flemish Baroque church is built in the 17th Century, and is a pretty popular church. The fusion of several unique architectural styles make this one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen in Europe – and the weather was perfect for taking photos (the sky’s so blue!) Wish we could have gone in and taken a better look (I can’t remember why we didn’t go in… maybe it was closed?)
Place du Béguinage
Open Tuesday to Friday: 10am – 5pm
Metro: De Brouckere; Tram: Bourse; Bus: 34, 48, 95.
Grand Place / Grote Markt: Brussels Town Hall
It was nearing the evening, so we headed to the Grand Place, which is the central square of Brussels and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The place was crowded and packed with tourists! It’s a must-visit place in Brussels because of the several important buildings being constructed at this place.
The Brussels Town Hall (aka Hotel de Ville / Stadhuis) is a Gothic building dated back to at least the 1400s. The Town Hall stands at 96 metres tall, with the archangel Michael, patron saint of Brussels, slaying a devil right at the top. There were numerous statues decorating the facade of the town hall, though all these statues are reproductions – the originals are in the city museum.
Grand Place: Maison du Roi (King’s House) / Broodhuis (Bread House)
The origins of this building dated back to the 13th century – Broodhuis means bread house in Dutch, so quite literally, a wooden construction once stood at this very spot for bakers to sell their bread in the 13th century. In the 14th century, the wooden building gave way for a stone building (still used for selling bread). During the 15th century, the bread bakers began selling their bread from house to house, resulting in the stone building becoming an administrative place for Duke of Brabant, hence giving this place the name Maison du Roi, which means King’s House in French (though no king had ever lived in there). The building was rebuilt in 1515 to 1536 in Gothic style then restored in the 1860s in neo-Gothic style.
It is now the City Museum of Brussels which houses the original statues of the Town Hall, paintings and various historical artefacts.
Grote Markt / Grand’Place – 1000 Brussels
Opening: Tuesday to Friday : from 10 am till 5 pm; weekends and holidays : from 10am till 1pm; closed on Mondays.
2,48 € (Euro) per person
Grand Place: The Guild Houses
Besides the Town Hall and the King’s House, the many beautiful and elaborately decorated Guild Houses deserve one’s attention as well. During the Middle Ages, the rich and powerful often have a say in city administration, hence they built these guild houses to display their wealth and power.
Statue of Everard ‘t Serclaes
Just off the Grand Place on Charles Buls street lay the statue Everard ‘t Serclaes, a Brussels hero who recovered Brussels from the Flemish in 1356. He apparently scaled the city walls with a group of patriots and drove the Flemings out of the city. He was assassinated in the 14th century.
It was said that touching the whole statue – from the head down to his right arm then down to his feet; and then to the dog’s head and lastly the angel’s face – brings about good luck (so of course we did it!)
Stained glass windows of St. Nicholas Church
We made a quick stop at St. Nicholas Church, a small, 1000-year-old church surrounded by old houses. The intricacies of the stained glass windows left me in awe.
Rue au Beurre 1, Brussels, Belgium
Free entry: Weekdays 7:45-6:30; Sat. 9-6, Sun. 9-7:30; mass in English, Sun. at 10 AM.
On our way to St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, we spotted this really cute giant “cow” that I couldn’t resist posing with it. :p
Cathédrale Saint-Michel / Sint-Michiels Kathedraal (St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral)
This stunning beauty sits atop the Treurenburg hill, which is founded in 1047. The relics of St. Gudula are sheltered in this cathedral. The cathedral, originally built in Romanesque style, is renovated in the 13th century in Gothic style, with the façade completed in the mid 15th century. It is the primary and leading church of Belgium – all royal weddings and Christenings take place here.
One of the cathedrals’ stained glass windows
What we found to be most beautiful of this cathedral is definitely the stained glass windows that decorated the cathedral. The details are immaculate and we actually found them very 3D-like, when viewed from certain angles (not sure if it’s only just us who felt it that way…)
Left to right: the pulpit, the cathedral’s organ, the hallway
The Baroque pulpit is also stunning – made in 1699, it depicts Adam and Eve being chased up of the paradise.
Parvis Ste-Gudule (back of bd. de l’Impératrice, 2 blocks west of Gare Centrale)
Metro: Gare Centrale
Apr-Sept daily 7am-7pm; Oct-Mar daily 7am-6pm
Free entry to the cathedral, 1€ for entry to the crypt.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert / Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen
Featuring elegance and style, this glamorous covered shopping arcade was constructed in 1846 and consists of two major sections (each more than 100 metres in length), and a smaller side gallery. There are book stores, cafés, restaurants, fashion shops etc. The things there are definitely not cheap, but it’s quite a nice window-shopping experience under the arched glass-pane roof.
Between rue du Marché aux Herbes and rue de l’Ecuyer
Métro: Gare Centrale
Godiva Factory Outlet
Belgium is well-known for their beer, chocolates, waffles, and French fries – do you know that French fries originate from Belgium and not France? Apparently, during World War I when the American soldiers arrived in Belgium, they tasted the Belgian fries and they named in French fries because French is the official language of the Belgian army!
Anyway I digressed… I went on a chocolate and pastry frenzy while in Brussels – our first stop was Godiva factory outlet. I bought a huge pack of 72% dark chocolate (about 500g) from the factory outlet at a really affordable price (can’t really remember the exact price though, I only know the chocolates are a lot cheaper than in Singapore).
Jetteselaan 4, 1081 Brussels
Monday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm
Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier
Pierre Marcolini is a chocolate master and runs a bean-to-bar operation – meaning he controls every step of the production of his chocolates and pralines. I feel all-so atas (high class) when I walked into his shop… the layout of the shop was black – very classy and sleek – and there were so many variety of chocolates and pralines that I had a hard time deciding which ones to try. The price of the chocolates is of course pretty steep, but it’s a good experience and they were so, so, so tasty! He has 6 stores in Brussels, further four in the rest of Belgium, four in Tokyo (will definitely check it out when I go Japan!), one in London, one in Kuwait and two in Paris. Check this site for the list of address!
Address of the Brussels stores:
1) Rue des Minimes 1, 1000 Brussels (Sablon)
2) La Manufacture, Place du Grand Sablon 39, 1000 Brussels (Sablon)
3) Avenue Louise 75M, 1050 Brussels
4) Avenue de Hinnisdael 14, 1150 Brussels
5) Chaussee de Waterloo 1302, 1180 Brussels
6) Boulevard de la Woluwe 18, 1150 Brussels
Pastry from Wittamer
While researching for good pastries to eat in Brussels, I read somewhere that Wittamer is a good option. We didn’t go there for a meal, only to takeaway some of the pastries. Their collection of macarons is simply stunning – I was tempted to buy some but decided to safe the money for true, authentic macarons from Paris. The pastries are pretty darn good – worth a try if you’re there! It’s located pretty near one of Pierre Marcolini’s stores, so you can definitely pop by there to buy some chocolates after the pastries!
12 Place du Grand Sablon
Open from: Mondays 9am – 6pm; Tuesdays to Saturdays 7am to 7pm; Sundays 8am to 6.30pm
Leonidas chocolate stores are everywhere! They don’t burn as huge a hole in the pocket as compared to Pierre Marcolini and Wittamer, and I find that their quality pf chocolates and pralines is pretty good too. They are perfect to buy back as gifts for family and friends but because Brussels ain’t our last stop, so we didn’t do so.
Noordzee Mer du Nord Restaurant
We had dinner the previous night at a restaurant called Chez Léon – it was supposedly a pretty good restaurant serving one of Brussels famous foods – Moules-Frites (Mussels and Fries). The food was not bad with a touristy price tag but the staff was so cocky and arrogant that I don’t think it’s worth recommending.
The next day, while X and I were randomly walking around Brussels deciding where to have lunch, we stumbled onto this place – Noordzee Mer du Nord Restaurant. The concept looks interesting – people were standing around enjoying lunch, so we decided to try it out as well – and I’m so glad we did!
Crowded during lunch hours!
The menu is written on the white board in French and prices are also listed right next to the items. The staff were really friendly and patient with us. Here’s what we ordered:
Fish tomato soup
They have two choices for soup – a fish tomato soup and a escargot soup. The fish tomato soup is so hearty and delicious – big chunks of fish with lots of vegetables – comes with complimentary bread. Tempted to try the escargot soup but we were so stuffed at the end that we couldn’t eat anymore.
Well, not exactly a sandwich, it’s a crab pattie served on a piece of sour-dough bread (if I didn’t remember wrongly). It’s not the best, but it’s pretty good. The sauce was heavenly!
We ordered a plate of grilled mussels with herbs to share and they were fantastic. The mussels are not very big in size, but the restaurant gave a pretty huge portion. It may not be the traditional moules-frites but a meal with wine, hearty soup, and delicious food – I’m definitely not complaining!
45, Rue Sainte Catherine, Brussels 1000, Belgium
And this is the end of our Brussels trip (a bit abrupt end I know…). Our next stop was peaceful and beautiful Luxembourg. (: