Recently I started watching a travel TV show and the first few episodes were shot in Belgium. It made me quite emotional and reminded me of my first solo trip ever in my life. While I was living in Denmark, I thought about weekend getaways. Safety is always my top priority. As a foodie, I also consider if there is delicacy to satisfy my stomach. Given that I only had a long weekend, it had to be somewhere close to Denmark and did not require lots of transportation. Looking at the map and I quickly locked my destination to Brussels and Bruges.
The best thing about living in Europe is that the countries are close to each other that makes a short trip to neighbouring country more manageable. It only took one and a half hour to fly from Copenhagen to Brussels. It was still freezing in Belgium in late March and the first day was gloomy and cloudy. I was worried that the weather would be like this the whole time but soon my mood was lighted up by the clear sky in the next two days. I took a train from the airport to Brussels central station and my hotel was only less than 10 minutes walk from there. The hotel I stayed in was very convenient. It was just walking distance to the Grand Place and some of the other attractions.
My first stop was the Grand Place, ‘the most beautiful square in the world’ described by the French writer Victor Hugo. The square became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998. It was lively and always packed with tourists and student groups. The square is surrounded by magnificent architectures characterised by Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV styles. Regardless of time and weather, you would never be disappointed by the spectacular view of the guild houses and edifices. These buildings are mostly turned into restaurants, shops and museums. The most remarkable architecture at Grand Place must be the City Hall. The Gothic tower of the City Hall is around 90 meters tall, and you can easily spot it from other parts of the city. The Grand Place is connected to six medieval-styled lanes. Strolling along the lanes you will find many merchants selling Belgian specialities such as chocolate, lace, and leather products.
At the conjunction of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chêne, you will see another landmark of the city – Manneken Pis. Although this little peeing boy statue is only 24 inches tall, it attracted tourists from all over the world. One of the most widely known legends about this little boy is that he tried to save the city by urinating on the fuse of the explosives placed by the enemy soldiers. The little boy is dressed up in costumes in every annual event of the city and other occasions. Wandering around Marolles, the hippest neighbourhood of the city of Brussels, you will find the most sought-after flea market and many trendy pubs and vintage shops. The Place Poelaert is a hotspot for watching the sunset.
As the Kingdom of comics, Belgium is home to Tintin and The Smurfs and many more comic strip heroes. The Brussels Comic Strip Centre is an unmissable attraction where it can take you back to your childhood.
If you would like to explore more picturesque views in Belgium, you would not want to miss out Bruges. Bruges is the largest city in the Flemish region of the country, and it is known as the ‘Venice of the North’. I bought a round-trip ticket on the SNCB website (The National Railway Company of Belgium) in advance to make my life easier. The train journey was quite short, and it took less than an hour to get there. I had a good conversation with the English couple on the train, and this made the time pass by even faster.
Taking a walk along the bank of the Minnewater (simply means the Lake of love), you will appreciate a sense of tranquil and romance in the air. The closer you get to the inner city, the more lively and buzzing it becomes. At Market Square, you will see this place filled with locals and tourists. The free city tour always starts and finishes here. It is a great place to take a break to enjoy the sun and the splendid view of the Belfry Tower and West Flanders Provincial Court. The Guild Houses are converted into shops and restaurants. Checking out some souvenir shops and you will surely find something cute that you may want to bring them home. The 30-minute boat ride on the canals is a popular activity which allows you to explore the stunning hidden areas of the city and embrace in the historic and glorious atmosphere. If time allows, experiencing the peaceful night and witnessing the nocturnal floodlighting will make your Bruges experience more unforgettable.
Belgium is a glamourous country that has more to offer than I could describe in my post. It has the biggest electronic music festival in the world and a long history of the diamond trade. It has the oldest shopping arcade in Europe and a wide range of tasty food and drinks. It is also one of the founding members of the European Union and the base of many major international organizations’ headquarters. All in all, it impressed me! I was so glad that my first solo trip was a great success. The charm of going solo was that I overcame my fear of getting lost and loneliness. And I got to be more immersed in the surroundings.
Till next time!