We settled on dates and accommodation, and then met at our hotel on a lovely Saturday morning (E. and I had flown over the day before so had had time to walk around and take notes). The sun was shining for the entire weekend, everybody was relaxed, happy and really well fed. What could you ask more of a mini holiday with great friends!
There was some sightseeing but food was definitely a very big part of our weekend. Brussels is really a perfect city for both of those things!
We spent a lot of time walking the beautiful streets of Brussels, marveling at the details of the buildings and taking breaks in gorgeous gardens or parks. Some of our visits included:
- The MIM, the Musical Instruments Museum : the exhibition is interactive and very interesting. With our headphones on, we spent a good two hours walking through the museum and listening to a huge variety of musical instruments. I would definitely recommend this visit, especially if you love music!
- Magritte Museum: René Magritte being one of my favourite painters, going there was a must for me. I was not disappointed since the exhibition is beautifully displayed and it contains a significant amount of his paintings and drawings.
- The Atomium: it was built for the World Fair in Brussels that took place in 1958 and is now an important landmark for Belgium internationally. We got some tickets so we could get a lift all the way to the top and have an amazing view of Brussels (the day was very clear and sunny). We made our way back down and then visited the different exhibitions by going up diverse escalators and stairs.
(Keep scrolling for food and drinks details)
As much as I wanted to eat everything in Brussels (to me, most streets were smelling of frites and waffles, my little stomach always wanted more and more food), I had to restrain myself but I managed to fit in a lot of delicious things.
- We had every single breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien near Place des Grands Sablons. It was honestly the best breakfast I had had in ages: wonderful breads, pastries and an array of amazing jams and spreads. The menu, very focused on organic products, offered choices for various appetising options but I chose to have the Pain Quotidien breakfast a couple of times: pain au chocolat (the other time, I chose a croissant), bread slices, baguette, fresh orange juice and a hot drink (I had the freshest mint tea there). I added a soft boiled egg to my breakfast to make it a packed meal that would keep me going with all the walking ahead. Each table had selections of jams and spreads to die for. My favourite jam was a 4 red berries one and my all time favourite spread: the scrumptious chocolate and praline hazelnut spread (I was devastated I couldn't bring a jar back because of traveling with hand luggage only). We all really enjoyed the atmosphere that felt so relaxing. With the lovely staff, it made the experience very enjoyable.
- Breakfast kept us going most days without needing to stop for big lunches but we did stop for a lovely lunch after our visit to the Musical Instruments Museum. We chose a nearby brasserie called l'Entrée des Artistes. The menu had a lot of choices that suited all of us. I had a delicious fish soup (accompanied with rouille sauce and tartines with grilled cheese on top), and other dishes at our table included carbonade (a typical Flemish dish consisting of beef stewed with beer and other ingredients similar to the ones of boeuf bourguignon) and a scrumptious salad with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella slices.
- We had dinner one night at La Cantina Cubana. Having a vegetarian in our small group, we wanted to find somewhere with more options for her and this turned out to be perfect. We shared many little dishes together (including a divine gaspacho soup!) and drank some rosé wine on a table outside (did I say the weather was amazing already?). I had never tasted Cuban food before and I am really curious to try some more recipes.
- The next day, we headed to Parvis Saint Gilles to find a place to eat some light dinner. We found Café Maison du Peuple and ended up spending some time there chatting and enjoying people watching (Sunday evenings seem to be a really big deal in Brussels, you may as well end the weekend having a great time right?!). We practically all picked the same dish: croque biquette (like a croque monsieur but with courgette, goats cheese, oregano and an option of honey). It was really wonderful but I could have done with half of what was on my plate (two sandwiches! Lesson learnt to share a plate next time!).
- What we drank during our long weekend: mostly Kriek beer! It's a sour cherry Belgian beer and you can find many different brands making it. Of all the brands we tried while there, my favourite was definitely the Lindemans Kriek. I felt it was the one with the best morello cherry flavour.
Chocolate and Sweet Treats (yes, it deserves its own section)
Oh Belgium, you spoiled me with all your chocolates and divine sweet treats! I had to observe a lot of self-control so I did not end up eating waffle after waffle, with many chocolates in between. The temptation practically every two shops was like food torture for a chocolate lover like me. So I managed to limit myself and choose wisely.
- Waffles : I am not going to give you specific addresses since you will find waffle shops absolutely everywhere, especially near Grand Place. There is even a street leading to the Manneken Pis that smelled of waffles and I think should be renamed Rue de la Gaufre (waffle street). All the little shops seem to be owned by the same company and you can buy a waffle for €1 and add toppings at €0.80 each. I went with sugar topping each time but was able to taste toppings from E. and our friends' waffles (fresh strawberries, speculoos spread... all delicious!).
- The most incredible speculoos biscuits (ginger biscuits) at Maison Dandoy. It is located Rue au beurre (literally Butter Street, what a great name for this street!). The shop itself is very pretty and you can see the old wood moulds that were used to shape the biscuits. As well as the famous speculoos biscuits (which they call Spectaculoos speculoos, very appropriate!), you can find a large variety of other buttery biscuits, little cakes and spreads.. We opted for a selection of biscuits in an adorable box. They were all so scrumptious and went well with an evening cup of tea. The speculoos biscuits were definitely my favourites but the earl grey biscuits came close behind.
- Many sweet wonders at Elisabeth (also located Rue au Beurre). I felt really overwhelmed in this lovingly designed shop (actually they own a couple of shops on the street), it was hard to choose what to taste among all the beautiful chocolates and pralines, biscuits, crispy waffles and magnificent meringues. We picked a couple of pralines to eat straight away (well, we did wait until we left the shop though!) and a packet of mini crispy waffles to bring back home (check out how adorable and tiny they are). I just really want to go back and taste more of their delicious products! Also, their staff is very friendly.
- Stopping at Aux Merveilleux de Fred for wonderful little meringues rolled in flavoured whipped cream then rolled again in chocolate shavings or other delights. I am told this is more of a specialty from Lille in France (I have a trip planned there soon so I will make sure to check this out). They were a perfect little size for a quick sweet bite of something delicious (between a chocolate stop and a waffle stop, no shame whatsoever!). I tried the original one with dark chocolate and also the Incroyable with speculoos whipped cream and white chocolate shavings.
- Pierre Marcolini, located 1 rue des Minimes. For the chocolate lover that I am, this was my official version of what chocolate heaven could be. One of the staff gave us a taste of the Venezuela Grand Cru Fondant and it won me over instantly. The chocolates are absolutely divine, each with some incredible flavours that last in your palate for the perfect amount of chocolate dream time. We bought a selection box of chocolates we were able to choose ourselves (and then picked carefully with white cotton gloves by the shop assistant), a square bar of Ecuador Grand Cru dark chocolate and a box of Pastels (a Summer edition they had at the time consisting of sumptuous chocolate mini cups with caramel fillings flavoured with either yuzu, lime, mango or passion fruit). Those are some of the best quality chocolates I have ever tasted. I highly recommend a stop at one of their boutiques. We even tried one of their éclairs in a city centre boutique and it was perfectly delicious (passion fruit, coconut and kumquat).
Now that I got a taste of Belgium via Brussels, I hope to see more of it soon (I hear Bruges is beautiful). I know I will have a short stop in Brussels before the end of the year, I will certainly have to make the most of it!