Belgium is the capital of Belgium and also the de facto capital of the European Union. The “muscle from Brussels” Jean-Claude Van Damme is also born here as well.
Ironically, one of the symbols of Brussels is the Manneken Pis, the bronze sculpture of a naked little boy taking a piss. Once a week, there is someone who changes the clothes for him or sometimes he is just left in his birthday suit. Of course, Brussels is known for much more, with its medieval core – embodied by its central square, La Grand Place – surrounded by modern designs.
More about La Grand Place, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by the city’s Town Hall. It has a prominent tower, as well as the city museum also known as Broodhuis (“bread house”) and various guildhalls.
Depending on which time of the year you visit, the cafe-lined square may host flower markets, Christmas fairs or even rock concerts. All over Brussels, there are grand buildings and museums aplenty, but spare some time for Le Botanique (botanical gardens), which often hosts arts and cultural events, and the sprawling Parc du Cinquantenaire.
Then there is the Atomium, a glittery 102m tall building which depicts a unit cell of an iron crystal and is now a museum with a restaurant on top.
In terms of food, frites or fries are also a favourite street snack here, cooked unabashedly in animal fat. Just bear in mind not to ask for “French” fries. It’s actually Belgian haha.
There are also other mussels from Brussels worth looking out for – they are often steamed in white wine and accompanied with fries. A variety of fried-up meatballs and croquettes also form a significant part of the Belgian diet, while Flemish stew simmered in Belgian beer (yum) is a hearty, beef dish not to be missed.
Did you know that Belgians are one of the biggest consumers of chocolate in the world with an average consumption of 6kg per person per year? The secret behind the success of many of the smaller chocolatiers is that they make small batches of chocolate, so they do not have to be stored. Do try some of these delights from any of the Belgian chocolate confectionaries and you will be craving for more.
Lastly, you cannot say you have visited Belgium unless you have tried the famed waffles. Apparently there is the Brussels variety (more rectangular and flaky) versus the Liege version (more round and sweet). Try both to decide which one is your favourite!
So there you go! This is Brussels in a nutshell. There are no direct flights from Singapore to Brussels, but you can connect from London or Frankfurt which takes only one hour. Alternatively, there is also an express train from Paris which transports you to the city centre of Brussels (Bruxelles-Central / Brussel-Centraal).