I don’t know what or why, but from the moment our coach dropped us outside Bruxelles-Midi station it all felt a little bit strange. Not bad strange. Not good strange. Just strange. Brussels is like no other European Capital I’ve visited so far.
Maybe it was because we were standing in a spot surrounded by quite plain-looking office blocks. Maybe it was the lack of interesting scenery on the drive into the city. Maybe it was because everyone seemed to know exactly where they were going and we were struggling to find any kind of sign and had started our trip headed in the wrong direction. Looking around us Brussels just didn’t ‘feel’ like the hip and happening type of place I had been reading about.
With less than 48 hours to explore the city, we dropped our bags at the hotel and headed straight out. No car this time, we took advantage of the metro system to get wherever we needed to go, and luckily, our hotel was a stones throw away from the main station.
Unlike Oslo, I and my fellow Fantastic Four crew were feeling confident about our language skills, we all enjoy speaking a bit of French here and there. Throughout our stay ,it was quite evident that people were onto us, with a number of people questioning if we had come over from France as we weren’t sounding very ‘Belgium.’
We covered a lot of ground in two days. Enjoying the likes of the Atomium, Grand Place, Comic Book Museum, plus lots of gentle strolling around the city, discovering hidden cathedrals, palaces and markets. All of which deserve their own blog post, so watch this space.
There were a few disappointments… the most notable one being Mini Europe. A concept which sounded cute. A lot of blogs and people had recommended it as a place to see but unless you have children that may enjoy seeing the models, I would spend your time elsewhere.
There were also a few surprises… one thing we did do well in Brussels was eat. We had some great meals, with the tastiest treats coming from street stalls. A big fan of architecture, the Grand Place was so much ‘grander’ than I expected. We also visited a lovely antiques market (although there was not much there we could afford!), we enjoyed browsing and even found a stall with memorabilia from the Congo, where Mo grew up.
When I look back on the trip, I can’t help but feel that I may not have appreciated the city as much as I should have. It’s quite an intriguing place, we walked around with a basic plan in mind but often turning a corner always resulted in seeing something unexpected.
Would I recommend it? Yes, I actually would.
There is a lot you can see and do, but it’s also the kind of place you can take it easy in a nice café and have an actual break in a busy city. However if you are thinking of going, I would recommend having a really good read of all the different attractions. I think our downfall was wanting to cram in the sights that people talk about, rather than going with ones that would interest us personally.
Out of the four of us: one of us loved it, one of us hated it and a couple of us were indifferent. As the home of international politics, I’m sure Brussels is used to dealing with conflicting views and opinions, and perhaps that’s the underlying reason to it being the way it is; a City that is trying to please everyone and no-one?
As I said at the start there is something strange about Brussels.
I think that’s what I liked about it.