Brussels has received a lot of bad press due to current affairs but don’t let that put you off from visiting. The city is diverse, beautiful and busy with tourism!
Upon landing in Brussels people were incredibly friendly and helpful in assisting me to the train platform with advice on which train to get and which stop to get off at. Maybe this is common culture or maybe it’s because I look like an ant carrying backpacks twice my size.
The train systems are pretty regular and efficient. They’re even double-deckers which is super awesome if you’re not carrying a heavy load. I was destined for the ground floor, next to the doors for a smooth and hassle free exit.
The city of Brussels is pretty loud with traffic and sirens. The streets are busy with vendors and there is an array of smells in the air ranging from traffic fumes, fruit and veg stores and the faint smell of Arabic tea.
The people here are as diverse as the countries they originate from as the place is so multicultural. Within moments of meeting the locals it will become apparent that French isn’t everyone’s mother tongue and yet people make the effort to communicate in French. In general, you can get away with speaking a mixture of French, Dutch and English. (My GCSE French only stretched so far…) But the people are friendly and will make an effort with you… one old guy figured out my Indian heritage and started singing Bollywood songs to me in the grocery store every time I bought an apple… he was a regular Lata Mangeshkar.
The locals here seem pretty relaxed as they sit outside cafes, bakeries and restaurants enjoying their conversations whilst smoking and passing the time. Even on the weekdays you will see the same relaxed approach to life as you do at the weekend.
NB: It is important that you understand that people will stare at you in Brussels and it may make you feel uncomfortable from time to time. But just be safe and don’t walk around by yourself at night. Travelling is a cultural experience and in some cultures staring is completely normal.
The tourist areas of Brussels are pretty busy with walking tour groups carrying flags and following their leaders, dramatic flashes from professional cameras, weddings taking place, and restaurant owners inviting everyone in to peruse their menu.
You will also notice a large amount of police and military patrolling the streets every now and again and you will soon find yourself ignoring them and the presence of their heavy machinery.
In general, Brussels is a pretty pleasant city where it’s easy to walk around and get lost amongst the spectacular architecture and narrow alleyways, eat an abundance of chocolate and waffles whilst trying your best not to stop at every bar for a delicious Belgian beer enroute to the sights. But if you want the true essence of Belgium then you will have to travel further than Brussels... which is exactly what I will be doing.
Things to do:
- Visit the Grand Place/Grote Markt
- Walk the city
- Walk through Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
- Visit the Royal Palace
- Check out some of the beautiful museums