“Brussels has nothing, why are you spending so many days there?” This was something I heard over and over again by people who got to know of our plan to be in the city for five long days. I arrived in the Belgian capital tad worried: had I really made a mistake by keeping too much time for one city? My doubts were laid to rest soon after.
Brussels encompasses many worlds in one. From having a hauntingly beautiful town center, buzzing with tourists and visitors, to having a chic and swank business district inhabited by Gucci and Armani clad business executives; from narrow winding lanes that transport you back in time to sprawling parks that help you rest your aching feet, there is so much to see and do, that 5 days seemed inadequate.
It started with the Old Town Square. Barely a few blocks off our modern rental apartment, less than a kilometer from the hippest street in the town, the city center takes you back in time. At least a hundred years. From the gilded buildings of the Municipal Corporation, to the Grand Place on to winding lanes, and meandering alleys, the Old Town is charming, warm and friendly. And, if you trust it enough, it will take you by your hand and show you many a secret.
You cannot talk of Belgium and not talk of Tintin, the world famous reporter. Personally, Tintin was one reason for my going to Brussels. I love him and knew that he is all over the town. Also, with him getting ready to celebrate his 90th birthday, excitement was high. I found Tintin everywhere in Brussels: on walls and metro stations, on cups and T shirts, perched atop buildings, running along trains. But my favourite was the Tintin shop. It made me believe that I can own a piece of the legend.
I had no idea about Belgian history. Naturally, I also did not know much about the churches and cathedrals there. Or the tall Gothic spires and intricate patterns. The cathedrals and churches of Brusells, therefore, were a revelation. From the famous St. Nicholas to the imposing Lady of the Sablon and petite St. Catherine all stole a little bit of my heart with their Baroque architecture and Gothic style.
Brussels is not only about Old Town and Gothic architecture though. It is a modern city with some of the world’s most amazing things. Atominum is one such. Built in 1958 for Brussels World Fair, the giant stainless steel atom is a marvel in its own right. The Atomium was not intended to survive beyond the 1958 World Fair but its popularity and success soon made it a key landmark, first of Brussels then internationally. Today it drws large crowds for the view from top, dizzying escalators, gut churning elevators, and, beautiful exhibitions.
The town center of Brussels is beautiful. With a new discovery at every crossroad. Step Gabled houses, brick coloured buildings, beautiful cafe’s, ornate stores, chic boutiques — there id nothing you would not find here. Helps if you have a camera handy. Like me.
If you love fries that is reason enough for going to Brussels. There are fries everywhere. So many that you may end up no wanting any. Jokes apart, the fries of Brussels are some of the best in the world and worth a visit to the town. Eat as many as you want, with whatever you like — burgers, cola, beer, and even with Pizza. When in Brussels, there is nothing you cannot eat your fries with.
Nutty, fruity, white, brown, milky — chocolates in Brussels come in all varieties possible. They are eaten on waffles, and with wine. They are offered free for sampling, and are sold at obscene prices, you can choose what you want, or if you want them at all. I was amazed and impressed by the love the city has for its chocolate. Chocolate seems like worship to them. And why not, it is after all, the food of Gods.
Do you have a favourite place in Brussels? Share with me? I’d love to hear.