24 Hours in Brussels

Beer, chocolate, waffles and fries…oh, and a famous boy detective.  That’s Brussels in one sentence.  But what about spending 24 hours in the city famed for beaurocracy and bizarre rule makers? Perfect. If there’s ever a city that spending 24 hours in is designed for then Brussels is it.  A compact, historical centre ringed by some excellent bars and restaurants with a smattering of attractions.

There’s no debate on where to start when arriving in the city – Grand-Place or Grote Markt depending on whether you can get your teeth and tongue around Flemish – is the heartbeat of the city.  At some point every tourist or casual visitor to the city will pass through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, flanked by gothic, gold top buildings and some of the most expensive cafes in Europe.  The rectangle is home to the flower market, if you get here early enough, the Town Hall, The Museum of Brussels and a Beer Museum.

Once you have passed through, taken your selfie and avoided the hawkers, head along the road running parralel to the north, the wonderfully named Rue du Marché aux Herbes where shops, restaurants and bars rub shoulders.  Just off this street you will find enticing alleyways with some traditional Belgian bars such as the L’Imiage Nostre-Dame down Impasse des Cadeaux where for a mere €10 you can sample 4 of their beers plus have a plate of cheese.

Running across this road you will find one of the main shopping streets in the city, Kleerkoperstraat.  If you head north up this road then you will also find some decent restaurants in the side roads.  For a big steak and an even bigger beer for less than €20 a head then visit Le Corbeau (The Raven) in Rue Saint-Michel or Exki in Rue Neuve.  In terms of bars, well it’s hard to take a wrong turn in the city and not find a decent place to have a drink.

Leave stocking up with chocolate and waffles until late in the day – instead for some of the sights of the city jump on Metro Line 6 or Tram number 7 until its terminus at Heysel.  For all you football lovers the name will synonomous with the tragic events of May 1985.  The stadium today has been completely rebuilt and renamed as the Stade Roi Baudouin.  It is next door to Mini Europe, home to over 100 scaled models of Europe’s greatest attractions.  If feeling big and powerful is your thing then head here and stomp around pretending to be a giant.  Brussel’s most famous landmark is just across the road from here – The Atomium.

Built for the 1958 World Expo, the eight metal spheres form an eye-catching exhibit that still offers education and some cracking views today as well as having a decent restaurant at the top.  If you only have time for one sight in the city, then head here.  If you have time for two then you should also head for the Comic Strip Musuem located in 20 rue des Sables in the city centre and pay homage to Hergé among others and his creation, Tintin.  Located around the replica exterior of Tintin and Captain Haddock’s house, Marlinspike Hall, you can get a fascinating insight into the world’s most famous boy reporter, his dog and the background to characters such as the Thompson Twins and Professor Calculus.

It’s never been easier to get to Brussels – just two hours from London by Eurostar and less than an hour by plane.  With the Euro currently sinking against the £ and $ there has never been a better time to go.

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