Brussels—the capital of the European Union, and Belgium’s largest city is home to the EU and NATO, one of the world’s most powerful organizations. Not only that, but Brussels is famous for its magnificent chocolate, waffles and beer.
From the Mannekin Pis, Belgian Comic Strip Center and the Grand Place, to the Schaerbeek and chocolate factories, Brussels is a hip destination yet it still retains a history that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.
If traveling to Brussels is next on your list, or even if you’re heading there a second time, there’s always something new to discover that you can’t always find in an ordinary tour book. So to make sure your trip is exciting and unique, here’s an insider’s guide to the best spots to hit next time you’re in town.
(Image source: Max Levay / Flickr)
Hidden away in the middle of the city is a beer house called Délirium Café—a daring name that comes from Delirium Tremens Beer, an 8.5-percent-ABV Belgian strong pale ale with a pink elephant label. Don’t let the label fool you because this beer will hit you pretty hard if you have one too many, yet it’s absolutely delicious so make sure you try it.
Once you step inside the cafe, head over downstairs where you will be greeted by walls featuring posters and signs collected throughout the year, as well as beer trays from around the globe. If you pay attention, you will notice glass displays holding limited edition beers around the entire place, although these may only be for show.
The selection at Délirium Café is quite extensive—over 2,000 different types of beers! If you’re hungry, they serve a tasty selection of cheeses and sausages to accompany your beer.
La Branche d’Olivier
(Image source: ViaMichelin)
Another hidden gem tucked away in an alley is a restaurant called La Branche d’Olivier, located in the southern part of the city. Locals love this somewhat secret bistro that has been listed in the Michelin Guide (so you know it’s good). For around $30 USD, you can enjoy a fine French menu made from fresh, local food. Dine inside, or if the weather is just right, outside on the terrace while watching the foot traffic go by.
Temple of Human Passions
(Image source: Eau de Cologne)
Once you’ve finished off a few beers and had a bite to eat, head over to the Temple of Human Passions, built in 1889. The Temple’s interior is unique in a strange way—described as “a pile of naked and contorted bodies, muscled wrestlers in delirium, an absolute and incomparable childish concept. It is at once chaotic and vague, bloated and pretentious, pompous and empty.”
For a long time, the temple was closed off to the public, only to open in 2002. It’s an interesting place for those who love peculiar artwork. Make sure to check the times as it’s only open for an hour a day (and is closed on Mondays).
(Image source: Davy Verbeke)
Shopping and sampling fresh food from Abattoir (which means “slaughterhouse” in French) are popular among the locals. This is an old market that opened up in 1888 and is an exciting and a great way to fill your stomach with delicious eats, as well as shop for flowers, toys, birds and other random items all in one spot.
It’s a one-stop shop for those who want fresh food that’s cheaper than what you would find at the supermarket. Abattoir is open Friday through Sunday, from 7am to 2pm. If you get there closer to 2pm, you can pick up some of your favorite fruits for an even cheaper price since the vendors want to rid of it before the day’s end.
Grand Place Plaza
(Image source: Layover Guide)
The Grand Place Plaza is a famous area, and many tourists pass through here during the day. But if you stop by at night, grab some beer and a snack, and chat with the locals who love to gather here after the sun goes down.
What many tourists don’t really notice is the Town Hall, which may look odd if you look at it closely. It was built in the Middle Ages, and since then the ground upon which it was built has risen almost 2 feet. The Tower itself rises 310 feet above ground, while its foundations start 131 feet below where you stand.
If you happen to go inside, you may notice how the rooms vary—different ones were furnished at different time periods. Walk from one room to another and you will surely feel as though you’re traveling through several centuries.