JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH SOPHIE LENOIR FROM BRUSSELS, BELGIUM !
Sophie, moved from her hometown in Flanders to Brussels and soon fell in love with the vibrant city. A pocket-sized capital, Brussels boasts everything locals and tourists alike are looking for. The city is a cultural goldmine and sports lots of green public parks, exquisite restaurants, a lively bar scene and all the good things one could crave for. Waffles and chocolate, anyone? Out of this passion for my city came the website where she shares all her local tips about Brussels.
BRUSSELS ( Bruh-sulls )
Belgium, a low-lying country in the northwestern Europe, is bounded by Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, and France to the south. Divided between two geographical regions, Flanders in the North ( Flemish-speaking ) and Wallonia in the south ( French-speaking ), Belgium is a multilingual country with a small community also speaking German in the Eastern part of Belgium.
Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, is located in the valley of the Senne River. It is the headquarter of NATO and the European Union since it’s home to important European institutions including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.
Brussels strategic location offers close proximity to other European cities like London, Paris and Amsterdam. It’s diverse architecture, from Gothic, Baroque to Louis XIV styles makes it a favourite choice for weekend trips. Manneken Pis, a 61 cm tall bronze statue in Brussels is one of the most famous landmarks and reflects Belgian sense of humour and acceptance of mind. It is also the city of the most beloved comic books of several generations: The Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Tintin, Gaston Lagaffe and much more.
What is the best time to Visit Brussels?
Personally, I prefer Summer because then the city is at its best and there are lots of outdoor activities. I really enjoy meeting up with friends for a picnic in the beautiful parks of Brussels.
But the advantage of the other seasons is that the touristic highlights are less crowded, and in Winter, for example, you can visit our beautiful Christmas Market.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Brussels?
Brussels isn’t very large, so you can easily get around the city center by foot. Otherwise you could also rent an electric scooter, a bike (Uber, Bluebike, Vilo…) or take the metro to cover larger distances. Brussels public transport uses unified ticketing system inside the city. You can use the same ticket for bus, metro and tram.
From the Brussels Zaventem Airport (12 km away) to Brussels Central Station an Airport train leaves every 10 minutes between 5am and midnight, 7 days a week. The ride is 18 minutes long. You can take a cab from the Central Station to your hotel. Or take an airport bus which departs and arrives at the bus station at Level 0.
Ranked as the world’s second best airport for on-time performance Brussels Charleroi Airport (55 km away) accommodates low cost airlines such as Ryanair and WizzAir which have regular cheap flights to and from Brussels. You can take shuttle buses from there to the city centre. The ride is an hour long.
If you don’t want to deal with public transports then Taxi is certainly the most peaceful way to reach the city centre from both the airports.
What are the top three must visit places in Brussels?
The Grand Place is a UNESCO World heritage site and one of the most beautiful squares (measures 68 by 110 metres) in Brussels. It’s surrounded by the Town Hall, the King’s House or Breadhouse building containing the Museum of the City of Brussels and countless opulent guildhalls. It has hosted a huge range of activities over the years and has been the meeting place of dukes and emperors.
Mont des Arts is a hill overlooking the city center. Come here around sunset for a breath-taking panoramic view. Also make sure to turn around and look at the beautiful art nouveau façade of MIM, the Musical Instruments’ Museum.
The Palace of Justice (Palais De Justice) is the largest Law Court in the world at 26,000 square metres and one of the largest buildings in Brussels. Palais de Justice still serves its original purpose as the high courts of Brussels. It’s situated on Place Poelaert near Avenue Louise shopping street.
Place Poelaert offers a nice view over Brussels with the Atomium in the distance. The Atomium offers a spectacular view of the city as well as art and science exhibitions and a restaurant in its 9 spheres. It is a 335-foot-tall giant iron crystal in shiny steel. In Summer many locals hang out here with friends around sunset.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Brussels?
In Flanders you can visit old cities like Ghent (50min drive), Bruges (70min drive), Leuven and Antwerp (50min drive). Although lots of tourists combine several cities in one day, the best way to explore them is by taking your time to visit them and not crowding in too much in one day. Most cities in Flanders are well-connected, so you can get there easily by train.
If you prefer small towns and long walks in nature, you should go to Wallonia and visit places like Bouillon and Durbuy. Getting there with public transportation is possible but will take up a lot of time. It’s probably better to rent a car for the day.
What is the most celebrated holiday/event of the year in Brussels?
There are some fun local events like the Ommegang, the Zinneke parade or the National Day on July 21 which is a big event in Brussels.
The Ommegang is a historical reenactment of the entry of Emperor Charles V and his son Philip in Brussels in 1549. In Brussels it is celebrated every July and is an important religious and civil event in its annual calendar.
The Zinneke parade is a parade connecting the many different cultures, communities and districts within Brussels.
The National Day of Belgium is a public holiday. This day a whole host of activities (parade of armed forces, aircraft flyover, fireworks and entertainment) takes place from the Palace of Justice to in front of the Parliament.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Brussels?
If you come to Brussels, you have to try our fries, chocolate and waffles. French fries were created in Brussels. There is even a french fry museum. As you walk through the city center, you’ll see and smell the Brussels waffles everywhere. The best waffles though require a little bit of patience (and queueing): head to Maison Dandoy for a waffle with melted hot chocolate, strawberries and a home-made hot chocolate.
All of the foot items mentioned above are vegetarian-friendly, and in most restaurants vegetarians will always find at least one appetizing alternative.
Where to head for shopping in Brussels? Are there any popular weekend/night/flea markets which tourists must visit?
The Rue Neuve is a large shopping street close to the city center. It is a pedestrianized street which sells all the major high-end brands like Zara, Primark and Bershka.
There is also a famous flea market on Place Jeu de Balles which takes place every morning. It is the world’s only antique and flea market that is open 365 days a year. Located in Marolles District, this quintessential picturesque market has a huge selection of junks, vinyl records, decor pieces, vintage items and much more. Mondays to Fridays the market is less crowded.
I also enjoy going to the weekly Sunday market at Gare du Midi. Everything is quite cheap there, but the main reason for my visit are the delicious Moroccan pancakes with fresh mint tea you can buy there. Things on offer are fresh produce, Mediterranean herbs, flowers, household articles, fabrics and leather goods.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Brussels?
Pralines and beer always make a nice present for your beloved ones at home. Delirium Café is a bar in Brussels with the biggest beer selection in the world, standing at 2,004 brands in January 2004 as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. You can try a couple of beers there to know which ones you like the most.
Although there are lots of chocolatiers in Brussels, the highest density is located in the Galeries Royales which are also a must-visit during your stay in Brussels.
Which are the best streets of your city worthy of taking a stroll on?
If it’s your first time in Brussels, you should take your time to explore the pedestrian cobblestone-paved streets around the Grand Place.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Brussels?
Mont des Arts (Mount Of The Arts) – Above the Old Town and the magnificent Royal Palace, Mont des Arts offers great views of the city.
Place Poelaert – Best time to visit is during sunset/sunrise. There are binoculars to view the buildings in detail and there is a lift that takes you to the Marolles.
Alternatively, you could go to the top platform of the basilica of Koekelberg for a 360 degree view over Brussels.
Which places to visit in Brussels for theatre performances/classic or contemporary plays etc. ?
Brussels boast lots of theatres and music halls. Just to name a few, for theatre plays you can go to –
KVS (Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg) – An open Flemish city theater in multicultural Brussels. If you don’t speak the language do not worry since every performance there is made understandable in Dutch, French and English, via subtitles or otherwise.
La Montagne Magique – This theatre showcases a very diverse program of Belgian and foreign shows. They hold more than 300 performances in a year.Located at Rue du Marais, this theatre is five minutes away from metro stations Rogier and De Brouckère.
Théatre de Poche – The Théatre de Poche in Brussels in located in the heart of the Bois de La Cambre. Can be reached by tram no. 8 or 93 (Legrand stop) or bus no.38 (Longchamps stop).
It’s best to check the cultural agenda to stay updated of what’s going on and where exactly.
Where can one spot street art in Brussels?
If you like street art, you should walk the cartoon trail that passes along most of the streets. You can start your journey by buying a comic map from any Brussels Tourism Office costing 1 Euro.
Otherwise there is also an unknown graffiti hotspot in Anderlecht where talented artists have embellished the pillars supporting the Ring around Brussels.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Brussels? Any suggestion for tourists coming to Brussels?
Too Good To Go is an app where you can buy left-over food at a discounted rate. Last week I received 80 EUR worth of sushi while ordering for 10 EUR only.
Don’t forget to try the waffles, fries and beer! 😉
Things to Know :
Visa : Belgium is a member of the EU. A Schengen Visa is valid for entering Belgium. General required documents for Belgium Visa application can be found here.
Climate : In Brussels Belgians enjoy an Oceanic climate with around 200 rainy days each year, with temperature ranging 10.5°C annually.
Brussels Card Pass : If you are planning to explore the cultural life in Brussels, then the pass is definitely worth buying. The Brussels Card can be purchased in forms of 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour access. ‘Brussels Card + public transport‘ offers free entrance to over 30 museums and attractions around Brussels, free use of public transport system, guided tour discounts, as well as store and bar discounts.
Belgium Chocolates : The Brussels’ International Airport is the main chocolate selling point in the world with chocolates from outstanding chocolatiers like Laurent Gerbaud, Pierre Marcolini and aFrederic Blondeel.
Brussels Tourism Office : You can spot the Tourism Office on the Main Square. Brussels Town Hall, Grand Place 1, Daily 9:00-17:45.