TOP FIVE FOR BRUSSELS
- A visit to the Atomium – a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
- A comic-book street art siteseeing stroll.
- A visit to the Grand Place – perhaps the most “Grand” of any place you will see.
- A visit to the Victor Horta Museum, the European king of Art Nouveau.
- Many many sampes of Belgium beers.
Pantone Hotel – minimalist, cheap, good location, free wifi.
- Peck 47
- Moeder Lambic
- Chez Franz
- Cafe des Halles
- Delirium Cafe
A friend and I made a little weekend frolic over to Brussels, expecting grand culture, beautiful architecture, and good shopping. Checking into the Pantone Hotel in the Saint-Gilles district on Saturday afternoon we had already learned something new – Pantone, the famous paint color company, chooses “Colors of the Year” each year – and behind reception we were told all about one of this year’s choices, Marsala. “Marsala is a winey red-brown that adds finesse and savoir faire. Rich and robust, Marsala incorporates the warmth and richness of a tastefully fulfilling meal, while its grounding red-brown roots point to a sophisticated, natural earthiness.” Sold! Sounded good to us, and set us up for a weekend of rich and robust enjoyment.
We left our purple themed room to explore the city. Knowing shops are often closed on Sundays, we beelined it for Rue Haute and Rue Blaue, two parallel streets known for funky vintage shops, art galleries, and cafes. They didn’t lie – these streets are overflowing with a dizzying number of clothing stores and funky little boutiques. We fell in love with L”Atelier en Ville, a store with a unique mixture of coffee, sweets, clothing, and art. The animal portraits were charming.
We continued on, exploring the vast array of stores until we were shopped out, chilled from the wind, and ready for some refreshments.
Enter the best refreshment of all – Belgium Beer! I adore the stuff, despite it’s tendency to provide the consumer with a rocking headache the next day. Moeder Lambic is one of the more famous breweries and we headed there, wrapped ourselves in the blankets provided, and sat outside to try a few bevvies. We befriended a fellow Canadian, travelling on business, and proceeded to make our way around the town – to Cafe des Halles (free art exhibitions with your beer) and the Zebra bar. Times were getting fuzzy by this point and we took an taxi home to our Purple Heaven.
The next day, looking for some brunch and fresh air, we headed to Chez Franz in the Ixelles neighborhood – where fried eggs, french bread, caffeine and Nutella revived us. We strolled around the area, past the beautiful Art Nouveau houses and Victor Horta’s house, now converted into a museum. Victor Horta is considered the European father of the Art Nouveau architecture movement, and his “biomorphic whiplash” style is a beautiful thing to behold.
We continued our path towards the city center, stopping at the Palais de Justice for a view over the city. We took the lift down, wandered past the incredibly dull and disappointing Mannekin Pis statue, and headed to the Grand Place. The Grand Place, as the name suggests, is outlandishly beautiful – ornate gold-gilded buildings completely surround you, sparkling in the sunshine and giving way to outdoor cafes at the base.
We took the metro from the Grand Place to the Atomium – built for Expo 58 in Brussels, it’s 102 meters tall and represents a unit cell of an Iron atom. Interesting, and worth a visit.
The next day, our last, we took advantage of the sunshine and spent more time outside – walking past numerous comic book street art displays and more Art Nouveau magic.
We had brunch at Peck 47, a very cool funky cafe and a delicious “Greeny Brunch”.
Not wanting to leave the city without one last taste of Beer, we headed to the famous Delirium cafe – makers of the Delirium Tremens beer. I tried a cherry version of said beer, along with an IPA. We drank our beers in the dark, wooded, ancient interior- just as a brewery should be.
our last stop before departure was a visit to Jeanneke Pis, Mannekin’s female counterpart and equally disappointing. She stands just outside the Delirium Cafe though, so at least you can reward your visit with a beer after 🙂