Last month, I had a mini-European trip covering four cities: Brussels, Bruges, Barcelona, Budapest…
Actually I didn’t select them to be all starting with the letter B.
Ok, the Belgium-part of the travel was already fixed. That’s already two b’s in a row, Brussels and Brugge from a B-country itself (yet we made a brief stop over Antwerp, too).
However, the following parts of the trip to Barcelona and Budapest were all settled one day before I left my hometown, Istanbul.
Originally, I had planned to take a train from Belgium to Amsterdam to visit a friend, but she broke her leg and things got complicated, and I postponed that visit to a better time.
So one day before flying to Brussels, I changed my itinerary and decided to fly over from Brussels to Barcelona to see another dear friend.
And the last but not least part of the plan, Budapest, came into the picture on that final day, too.
At first, I intended to meet a friend from Vienna in Prague. Yet, at the last day, we talked and Budapest was closer to her, and we settled on that idea.
This is pretty much the story of how I ended up with my b-trip, unintentionally.
Except the Barcelona part, all of them were places I’ve never been before. Now, I’ll mention some highlight spots of the trip and recommend places to go. Some of them were recommendations, which turned out to be great, so here I’ll spread the word for future visitors of these cities.
PART I – BRUSSELS:
Before flying to Belgium, I had not really great expectations of Belgium or its as well as European Union’s capital, Brussels, other than its famous beers and chocolates.
I had one day to spend in Brussels before continuing to Brugge. In such a short period of time, I basically had to follow the general guidelines.
What I did was simply checking the tripadvisor tips, and going to where most of the tourist crowd went during the day.
Yet at the end of the day, I got luckier than that and got some local tips, which I’ll share.
Now, after seeing only a tiny bit of the city, I know I have to go back and see the rest, because I really enjoyed it. In just 24 hours, Brussels entered into my list of livable and pleasant cities, where I can perfectly imagine myself residing.
So I believe, Brussels is a bit underrated, which is maybe a positive thing for the people living there. Contrary to my prejudices that this city would be a very predictable and kind of boring European city, it presented full of surprises. As a Belgian friend, who I met there, put very nicely, it feels like ‘a compact version of London’.
Moeder Lambic was my first stop
The place was on the top of the tripadvisor list, so I went there to try some beers. This is a very modernly traditional beer pub. It is very cozy and although I had the urge to walk around to discover bits of Brussels, it was very comfortable and tempting to sit for hours.
I could well imagine myself going there every week (say on Fridays), if I lived in Brussels. It looks like the perfect thursday or friday hangout. I went there rather early that day (it was a Friday as well) in the early afternoon, and within each half an hour the place got more and more crowded. Hence, I’d guess it would be packed by the evening time.
The personnel is very helpful with recommendations regarding the variety (there may be hundreds of beers). For the first time I was listening to beers being explained like wines. The small option is 25 cl, it is perfect for trying out different stuff. I only had three of them. My favourite was Val Dieu Grand Cru.
I also ordered a cheese-salad plate, which was very tasty. All in all, Moeder Lambic experience is a top recommendation I’d make for Brussels-visitors.
Grote Markt (or so called Grand Place)
This is like a fairy tale scene. Every corner is worth looking and picturing. This is the main square of the city, which dates back to 10th century. The medieval look is very memorable and unique.
If you’ve been to some European cities, you might be familiar with the typical square-setting. But that one is different and very fulfilling. I spent walking around the streets around the markt as well, and those walks were also very enjoyable.
Koningsplein (Place Royale) and Rue Royale
After wandering around the Grote Markt, I walked up towards the Koningsplein, near which I intended to find the the Museum of Musical Instruments. Yet, my longer-than-planned Moeder Lambic lunch costed a miss of plan: the museum accepts last admissions at 16:00, and I could’n make it.
However the building and entrance captured some attention, too. Another worthwhile visit I have to make next time I visit Brussels.
Mont des Arts (Kunstberg) is another attractive destination for museum-lovers. The garden and the walk to the museum is lovely.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and Librairie Saint-Hubert
While walking around, I came across to this beautiful arcade. Later I found out that it was opened in 1847. It is filled with luxury boutiques, some nice cafes and restaurants.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert has two main passages, one is Galerie du Roi (King’s Gallery), and the other is Galerie de la Reine (Queen’s Gallery), another smaller one called Galerie des Princes (Gallery of the Princess).
While walking in the gallery, I found a bookstore. After I entered, time almost stopped for me. I didn’t know where to look, there was so much stuff that interested me. Books about art (an entire section about photography), fashion, travel, geography, comic book series like Tintin, or illustrated versions like the one you see below of The Little Prince. I’ve spent about an hour there, and I could’ve easily stayed more if I didn’t have only one day in Brussels.
Maison Dandoy (try a waffle)
This is one of the oldest and most famous bakeries of Brussels. One of their true specialty is their biscuits, which has been going on from their establishment on until today. You can also taste their Belgian waffles.
When I neared the shop, I saw that there was a long que just next to the place, where they were selling waffles for €1 only. This offer was tempting as well, yet I wanted to give a try to this promising historical spot. I must say that my Brussels waffle (there is also Liege waffle option, which is a bit different in shape and taste) was quite delicious.
However, I saw that they don’t service freshly baked waffles but heat already baked ones again and serve them. Although it was really tasty, this was my only frustration.
Cafe Central (lounge bar)
Great ambiance, good music and crowd.
This place is the demonstration of how tripadvisor sometimes misses out some good choices. (This place doesn’t exist in tripadvisor).
I discovered the place, after getting the recommendation from the bookstore manager in the bookstore Saint-Hubert. I hope I’m not revealing a big local gem. It turned out to be a great tip.
I went there at about 10.00 p.m., when it was half-full. Yet, it got really crowded before 12:00 p.m. It became enormously packed by the time we left the bar at about 2.00 a.m. for a more silent pub.
If you go there at about 10:00 p.m., you would surely get a table. This may be quite useful,as later on the place gets really crowded.
What I actually liked about the place (and many bars have the same style) is that it is all self-service. You get your drink at the bar, so you don’t have to wait for waiters to serve you. You can sit at the bar, or find a table and sit for hours or stand around if you like – nobody intervenes.
Another thing I liked was these wooden wall design you can see in the photos. I recommend Cafe Central to everyone, who likes descent DJ and live performances. The night I was there was named as Thin Consolation Label Night, mix of live and DJ sets. I understand there are various type of live performances, ranging from electronic as well as jazz tunes.
This is a rather small bar, which has a very warm, welcoming and sociable air. Two Belgian friends led me there after Cafe Central. I have to thank them for a fun night. The final destination was the perfect ending to the night, providing a nice bar atmosphere for chatting and also selecting some favourite songs from a jukebox. I heard that the bar is quite old, and has been run by a friendly couple, who also serve behind the bar. I forgot to take a photo at Booze’n Blues yet I found something on the web, which pretty reflects the pleasant atmosphere.
Note: All photos otherwise denoted are taken by me. All rights reserved.