Brussels from A to Z

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If there’s one place I had to pick when it comes to music, it’d definitely be the Ancienne Belgique. They constantly host some of my favourite bands and singers but are also not afraid to invite newcomers. Its location, right next-door to the famous and impressive Stock Exchange called De Beurs or La Bourse, is right in the city centre and on sunny days, this traffic free area is the place to see or be seen.

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As the palace for fine arts, Bozar is one of my favourite museums when it comes to modern art. They constantly switch up their collection and always have some temporary exhibitions going on. It’s where art is life and life is art.

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C  – Place Saint Catherine is the place to be on a sunny day when people flock to the restaurants and bars on the cozy square with the impressive church. This lively area also has lots of seafood restaurants.

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The so called hipster neighbourhood is the Dansaertstraat, where you can spot Dansaertvlamingen (Flemish speaking people that live in Brussels but don’t see themselves as Flemish but rather as from Brussels – let’s say it’s complicated). In any case, it’s where all the cool kids shop till they need a latte.

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In 1935 Brussels hosted the World Expo and for that, our infamous balls of steel, aka the Atomium were built. Now the Heizel still has some gigantic halls left over and to date this is still the place to be for huge events and enormous shows or exhibitions.

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Place Flagey is just one of those places that everyone knows: this oasis of space contains a mixture of cultures and architectural styles and is therefore an unexpected discovery where creative spirits meet. Yet another great place to people watch and soak up the sun.

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If you’re looking for the #1 attraction for tourists, it’s definitely the Grote Markt or Grand Place. This place is the most central in Brussels and it’s where all the historic guild houses as well as the Town hall are located. Try some chocolate on your way there in one of the many praline shops.

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H is definitely for Horta, one of the most famous art nouveau architects ever.  Lots of houses and buildings in Brussels still carry his signature and his style is what makes me look up in awe from time to time. If you’re looking for another gem of an architectural creation, check out the Sint-Hubertusgalerijen, not by Horta, but nonetheless magnificent. Especially around Christmas time, with the lights covering the ceiling.

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Brussels is basically one big international food market. You can try anything here: from Italian to Moroccan, from Lebanese to Chinese, from Japanese to Indian, from French to Scandinavian, from Turkish to Mexican: it’s all here!

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We all know Manneke Pis, right? The peeing statue that is disappointingly small (“That’s it ?!”). If you’re looking for a different approach, check out Jeanneke Pis, the lesser known female version.

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The Kruidtuin, also known as the Botanique, is one of the gardens worth a visit in the city. The garden is located right next to the famous concert hall with the same name.

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If you’re looking for a place to spoil yourself with some expensive shopping, the Louizalaan is the place to be. This super duper fancy shopping streets leads to the Gulden Vlieslaan, where some of the big shops like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Furstenberg, Gucci – to name a few – are located. A girl can dream (and window-shop), right?

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One of my favourite places is definitely the Mont des Arts or Kunstberg. Besides being the hotspot for all the cool museums, this hill offers a unique viewpoint over Brussels. The perfect place to sit on the stairs and watch the world go by until the sun sets.

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The Museum of Natural Sciences or Natuurwetenschappen Museum is just one of those museums that are cool to see. Have a browse through the stuffed animals or pretend to be a dinosaur. So many options.

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For the opera lovers out there, the place to be is the Munt or La Monnaie. Besides the opera, the Muntplein is a lively place with more often than not, lots of activities going on.

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I love a good cityscape view, which is exactly what the Poelaertplein or Place Poelaert offers. It’s located right next to the Justitiepaleis. If you look closely, you might be able to spot the word “Hollywood”. Let me know if you find it!

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As the capital of Europe, it speaks for itself that there is a Quartier Européen. It’s where the big buildings are with all the European organisations. There’s some nice places to eat or have a coffee there too!

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The main shopping street is called the Rue Neuve or Nieuwstraat. It’s where the mainstream shops are. It’s located between the Munt and Rogier.

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Another one of my favourite area is Sint Gillis, which I like to think of as Hipster Central. It’s where you can find edgy beer shops, second hand stores, cool coffee bars. It’s a nice place to hang around on a sunny day and just discover.

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My favourite green area is definitely Ter Kamerenbos or Bois de la Chambre. We drive through it often, but more enjoyable is the walking and biking. It’s quite big, but that’s what makes it so nice to venture out there: there’s always a quiet spot somewhere to soak up the green. Whether it be summer, winter, autumn or spring – it always draws me in.

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As most big cities, Brussels is also a university city, with the ULB and VUB on the edge of the city. It’s pretty cool to see how the students just blend in with the inhabitants.

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If you take the elevator at Place Poelaert, it will lead you to the Marollen, a place for strolling past the second hand shops or browse the brocante market at the Vossenplein or Place du Jeu de balle, after which you can have a beer in the sun. An afternoon well spent.

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Another day, another park – The Warandepark, or more often called plainly, the Park, is the park across the Royal Palace. It makes for a nice place for a stroll and perhaps a Liege waffle?

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It seemed impossible to find something with an X until I realised what was right in front of me (e)Xpats – okay I cheated a little bit. One of the reasons I love it here so much is hearing the different languages from all over the world and hearing about people’s experiences with Belgium as a country.

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Yzer is located in the northern part of Brussels. It’s the area with Tour& Taxis, one of the biggest sites and buildings that regularly hosts events or festivals. Besides that, there is also the Kaaitheater with innovative and surprising performances. Near the water, the Kaai, in the summer there is Brussel bad – a makeshift beach with cocktail bars and Latin-American music.

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The Zavel or Sablon is located in the heart of Brussels. It’s got a market on weekends and houses COCO donuts – the best donut place in Brussels (so far). Park Egmont offers another green oasis in the busy centre.

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JAT

JAT forms the ideal hub for a sunday catch-up with a friend or a break from sightseeing the museums at the Mont des Arts (Kunstberg). They serve really good coffee and delicious iced teas paired with gorgeous looking sweets. For those that are not as sweet toothed, they also serve soup and sandwiches. There’s definitely something for everybody. And the cozy and colourful seating with the wooden interior complete the feel of a cozy sunday afternoon. Sit back and relax.

Where? Rue de Namur 28, 1000 Brussels – close to the Magritte Museum and Museum of Fine Arts as well as tram stop Koning and Metro stop Naamsepoort/Porte Namur

When? Open everyday – weekdays from 8am till 7pm, weekends from 9am till 7pm

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Ballekes

Nice to meat you! … is what I could’ve said to this restaurant in Sint-Gillis in Brussels. The name doesn’t lie: this concept restaurant revolves all around meat balls. You can order 1 or 2 depending on how big the hole in your stomach is, and pair them with whatever sauce tickles your fancy. For the healthy ones amongst us, there’s salad to go with that, and for the others (me, who am I kidding?) there’s chips. The food is nice and the place is bright and open with lots of windows to people watch. Yet.. nothing really compares to Balls & Glory. A solid and deserving alternative, me thinks! You can also order their meals through Deliveroo!

Where? Chaussée de Charleroi 174, 1060 Sint-Gillis (Brussels)

When? Mondays from 6.30pm till 10pm, Tuesday-Friday from 12pm till 2.30 pm and from 6.30pm till 10pm. Saturdays from 12 till 3pm and from 6.30 till 10.30pm. Sundays from 12.30 till 3pm and from 6.30 till 9.30 pm.

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Tropismes

The description of a hidden gem fits this Brussels book shop perfectly. I didn’t know about this wonderful shop until I purposefully started looking for new book shops to explore in the city (because what else do you do when you’ve seen the rest of them?) It was on my list of places to go – a very long list might I add – until one day a friend and I were close by and I suggested taking a peek. Turns out it was a great decision as the book shop was just as inspiring as I had imagined.

It’s is located in one of the side alley of the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert near the Central station. Every nook and cranny is decorated with gold and shimmer without doing any damage to the classiness of the place. The mirrors high up on the walls give the book shop its grandiose and spacious feeling. Please, go upstairs even if you don’t care about comic books; the view is worth it! Most of the books in the store are in French, but they have a small English classics section that is nice too. Perhaps another reason to brush up on my rusty French? :-)

Where? Galeries des Princes 11, Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, 1000 Brussels

When? Mondays from 11 am till 6.30 pm, Tuesdays till Thursdays from 10 am till 6.30 pm, Fridays from 10 am till 7.30 pm, Saturdays from 10.30 am till 7 pm and Sunday afternoons from 1.30 pm till 6.30 pm.

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Moon food

As I was looking for a vegan place to eat in Brussels, I realised there was only one place that ticked all the boxes: Moon food. This café near the Central Station describes itself as the first vegan café in Brussels and I think that must be true. Truly everything they serve, from breakfast options to lunch and dinner as well as dessert is vegan. What I like most about the place is how the wooden interior with lots of plants; it adds to the plant-based feel of the place. Another plus is that their food is served as a buffet and you can pick and choose whatever you like. Just let the people behind the counter weigh your plate afterwards and pay for exactly what you can eat. Or you can simply take-away your food, which is great.

Where? Koloniënstraat 58, 1000 Brussels (right on the corner), very close to the Warandepark and Bozar

When? Monday through to Friday from 12PM till 8PM

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Brussel – tram 92

Ik kijk naar buiten en zie de wereld aan mij voorbijgaan. Letterlijk. De gebouwen schuiven van links naar rechts. Paleizen, dronkemanshuisjes, bakkerszaken, kleine kruidenierswinkels, gigantische herenhuizen. De stad is van iedereen. Mijn ogen voelen zwaar, en als ik niet oplet knijp ik de gebouwen plat tot spleetjes. Er wordt in mijn arm gepord. Een klein vingertje duwt putjes in mijn arm. Twee kleine grote bruine ogen turen me aan. “Tu sais parler?” Of ik praten kan. Het meisje heeft wat weg van een indiaantje, met haar twee vlechtjes en roze bolle wangetjes. Ze kirt van opwinding. “Tu sais parleeeer?”, vraagt ze opnieuw, deze keer met nadruk, en ze blijft me met nieuwsgierige ogen aankijken. “Oui” is alles dat ik uitkraam. Mijn Frans is niet zo goed. En toch, ja, ik kan praten. Als ik kon zou ik een grapje maken, maar mijn glimlach en éénwoordig antwoord lijken voldoende. De twee vlechtjes zijn tevreden. Ze port haar broertje aan, voor wie het niet zoveel lijkt uit te maken of ik dan wel kan praten of niet. Maar wanneer het meisje met de vlechtjes bevestigend knikt naar de jongen en zegt “Elle sait parler”, glimlacht hij stilletjes en opgelucht. Ik kan praten, en toch kijk ik soms liever de kat uit de boom. Ik observeer, leer mensen kennen voor ze weten wie ik ben. Ik zwijg en luister. En soms word je dan al snel “die stille”, ofzoiets gelabeld. Maar ik kan praten. Ik gebruik mijn woorden zuinig, ik verspil geen zuurstof . Ondertussen raast de tram verder, en duikt hij de grond in. Het wordt donker. Door het raam zie ik nog net een ander metrostel. Het stijgt op. Of zo lijkt het toch, want in de donker zijn de sporen en de lucht nauwelijks te onderscheiden. Alleen het metrostel steekt felgeel af. Even waan ik me in een scene uit Harry Potter. Ik glimlach. Ik kan praten, maar soms doe ik dat gewoon liever op papier.  Mali Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Illustration: Mali Fischer