Surprising Cities – Brussels

It’s part three of my surprising cities series. Today’s city is Brussels. Brussels wasn’t surprising in the “I thought it would be crappy but I really liked it” kind of way, but more so in the way that it appealed to me. It’s tough not to like a city known for it’s beer, frittes, chocolates, and waffles, but other than expanding my waistline, I wasn’t sure what type of impact the city would have on me.

Why I went: I had a conference in Lyon (another surprising city, discussed in my last blog), and since I rarely travel internationally without making a decent length trip out of it, I added in several other destinations in Europe. I?d heard decent things about Brussels and thought I?d give it a go. Confession: I have an MS in International Marketing and am a big international business geek, so that fact that it’s considered the “capital” of the EU made did influence my decision to go there.

What I expected: I expected to like it well enough. I didn?t expect to be as enamored with it as I was.

What I found: I fell in love with the city?s squares and cobblestone walkways. It?s really that simple. Maybe I expected it to be more business-centric. Brussels just felt very authentic. There?s plenty of tourism, of course, but I never felt particularly touristy, minus the fact of course that I don?t speak French or Flemish. Brussels somehow felt homey and alive at the same time. The frites, beer, waffles and chocolate didn?t hurt, either. You know what else is great about Brussels – it’s so easily accessible. One of my closest friends is from England and her and her now husband flew in (or trained in, but I think they flew) to visit for a couple of nights while I was there. They said it was super easy and affordable. I flew into Paris and then caught the train right from Charles de Gaul airport up to Brussels. Took less than two hours. Again, very simple.

How much time to spend: Brussels offers easy day trips to the Belgian cities of Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, and the college town of Leuven, which is definitely worth a stop. (I did not, unfortunately, make it to Ghent but I’ve heard good things from multiple people). You can spend several days in Brussels itself, just walking the streets, enjoying the shops, restaurants, and people watching. It’s also home to a large number of museums, some rather unique. This site can tell you much more about the 80+ museums in Brussels than I can. You could then spend a couple of days making day trips to the cities mentioned above. Bruges is probably worth the better part of a day, whereas you could probably combine Antwerp and Ghent into a day excursion – they’re stops along the same train route. Leuven is a good half day trip and not in the same direction as the others, so would be done on its own. There are also (long) day trips available to Luxembourg or Amsterdam, the latter being quite a long day, though do-able and worth it if you’ve never been to Amsterdam. As mentioned earlier, Brussels is also less than two hours from both Paris and London by train. Not that I suggest doing either in a day as there is entirely too much to see, but if you really wanted to you could, or you could do as I did and start in Brussels and head out on your European vacation from there.


Add A Comment