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  • Writer's picturemadeline bobo

12 hours in Brussels

A last minute trip to Brussels. No planning. No research. First time experiencing this new city. Only a 1hr45min train ride from Paris.

Working with CityHunt, I got called to help with a corporate team building activity - a scavenger hunt of the city. It gives international companies a chance to connect, while exploring a new city together.

I took the train at 6h05 in the morning from Gare du Nord towards Amsterdam. VERY EARLY for someone who rarely rises before 9h00 and goes to work at 10h30! When I arrived the sun still wasn't awake and I was entering this new city in the dark.

A magical little moment happened whenI walked into the Grand Place - a main square in the city - while the sun began to rise and filled the sky with pinks and purples.

I found a café, called Leopold Café Royal that reminded me a bit of Colorado filled with bike decorations and the atmosphere felt like home. Their cappuccino was only €3.50!!! I was not in Paris anymore, for sure. I had a nice eggs benny with avocado toast and read my book for a couple hours while I planned a walking route for the rest of my day. A very helpful book I found for navigating my activities to do in Brussels is The 500 Hidden Secrets of Brussels by Derek Blyth. I planned to find some book stores that were listed in this guide book - I figured on my way to these stores I would also get to see many parts of the city at the same time. I walked all day long and saw so many beautiful parts of the city. It reminded me of the elements I love about Amsterdam with the architecture and some of the ambiance resembled what I love about Budapest.

Everyone told me I had to go see the The Manneken Pis! It is a statue that was designed in 1338 of a little boy peeing into the basin of the fountain. Turns out I had walked past it in the early morning but I missed it since I was the only person awake in the city at that hour when it was still dark out. It was dressed in black and white stripes and polka dots with a baseball cap.

Place I recommend: POECHENELLEKELDER - a bar right next to the The Manneken Pis. Large beer menu, good prices, lovely staff, a large terrace (with a view of the fountain), and a very interesting interior. When you walk inside, there are photos everywhere of all the outfits the little boy (Manneken Pis) has worn over the years surrounded by puppets hanging on the ceiling and walls.

I ended my day at Chez Richard in a busy courtyard that resembled Paris in a way; it was a perfect final stop. And reaching a full circle, I headed back to the train station and grabbed a waffle just as the sun was setting.

Some Highlights and Thoughts:

- A great city for solo travel

- Easy access from Paris (Gare du Nord to Bruxelles Midi for 1hr 45min)

- Things to try: beers, mussels and fries, waffles, and the chocolates

- I will come back - the city caught me with a pleasant surprise

- The tourists aren't as overwhelming here (compared to Paris) - it's calmer

- Mostly everyone speaks English and is very kind

- Felt very safe walking around

- Lots of hidden thrift shops and antique stores I hope to explore more next time

- Waffles in the train station are still tasty

- Bring a book everywhere you go - take a petite pause and enjoy the new environment and atmosphere

- Places to try for food/drink: Leopold Café Royal, POECHENELLEKELDER, and Chez Richard


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