Brussels Through the Eyes of a Pakistani Traveller!
Summer of 2017, I had the opportunity of visiting Brussels along with many other European cities. To be very honest, before visiting, what mainly attracted me were the guild houses since I am a huge fan of art and architecture (considering we don't have much of Baroque or Renaissance architecture in Pakistan it really fascinates me!). But there is so much more to Brussels!
Luckily I was staying at the Hotel Cafe Pacific, which was around 10 minutes walk from the Grand Place. As soon as I stepped out of the Bourse Metro station, everything came to LIFE! There were streets filled with restaurants, people casually chilling after work, having a drink, cafes covered in banners and lights. I walked and walked, looked at the locals with such interest. I always feel you learn so much from interacting and observing the locals of a place.
However, best was yet to come! I walked till I reached ‘The Bourse’, then made my way towards the Grand Place. And the street was FILLED with chocolate shops and souvenir shops. One thing that left with me from Brussels were chocolates! (I finished by the time I got back to my country). I absolutely loved indulging in those designer chocolates. The fragrance, the immense variety of flavours, decor of the shops, taste of the chocolates, sampling, I had never experienced something like this in other European cities. My favourite shops were the ones which let you taste the chocolates for free OF COURSE! lololll. Next came up those amazing waffles at every little corner, some of them were as cheap as 1.50 euros! IMAGINE. I was pampering myself with the sweet delicacies after every 30 mins and I was so sure I won’t be leaving brussels without gaining 2-3 pounds.
The day I reached Brussels, I was blessed with such a stunning view of the sky! It was a bright shade of blue with a pattern of white fluffy clouds everywhere. So when I walked towards the Grand place I literally couldn’t stop staring. The architecture was exquisite. The dazzling gold of the guild houses against the whimsical sky was a sight to be seen. It was one of the most beautiful squares I had ever come across. Moreover, the cafes and bars surrounding the square, or just the tourists and locals hanging out and sitting in the middle of the square, laughing, having drinks and just enjoying, It all summed up to that beautiful environment of the area.
That was where I decided I had to paint the reason I came here for! The guild houses. All across Europe I had been painting some of my favourite monuments on small canvases, and in Brussels this was it.
On my ‘Things to see list’ next was Manneken Pis. I had no idea about its significance or its size, but it seemed pretty amusing to me. Thanks to google maps while looking for it in the streets I came across this small group of people taking photos of something which I couldn’t figure out. It turned out to be the very small but famous Manneken Pis pissing! For many tourists, its pretty underwhelming due to its size and I could say the same. Unfortunately I couldn’t view it in it’s different costumes. BTW there is a girl version as well named Jeannekin Pis!
The next day I had planned to check out the Atomium. Reaching the Atomium was a bit of a hassle since its really far off from the rest of the landmarks, but how could I say no to one of the most iconic landmarks of Brussels. To get there you can take line 1, heading to the Gare de l'Ouest / Weststation, get off at Beekkant, change line at Beekkant, take line 6, heading to Roi Baudouin / Koning Boudewijn then get off at Heysel / Heizel. From there you can walk towards the Atomium. It indeed is a pretty impressive structure. I decided not to go inside due to the long queues and thought it wasn’t worth it, so I only took a couple of photos of the massive structure.
When I got the map of the Atomium area, I spotted Parc de Lakenwith a beautiful Chinese and Japanese Pavilion. It was a long long walk, took us around 40 minutes to actually find it on foot and by the time I got there, around 4pm, it was closed. So i can’t say if its worth all that time and effort, unless one has plenty of days in Brussels. For me, since I have never witnessed Chinese and Japanese structures, I really liked the pavilions reflecting their local architecture.
The Chinese Pavillion
Last but not the least, the Royal Palaceof Brussels was next on my list, which was luckily open during the summer. I can’t say its one of the most impressive places I have been too, but the ‘Mirror Room’ with the beetle’s wing chandelier was the best part. For me, the fact that they had opened it for public without any charge was a great deal! THANK YOU Brussels!
The Royal Palace from the outside!
While you're there, AND if you have interest in Churches and Cathedrals, you might also want to visit the Notre Dame Du Salon(nearest metro station ‘Naamseport’) or St. Michael and St Gudula Cathedral(nearest metro station ‘Park’). There was a lovely small park outside St Michael cathedral if you want to relax for a bit after all the exploring!
That was the end of my journey. To spend my last few hours in Brussels I went back to the main square of Grand Place to have lunch at our favourite Hard Rock Cafe! I had a lovely experience in terms of my interaction with the local people of brussels since I had no issues in communication, which at times can be quite problematic while exploring new countries. I think 2 days for Brussels would be more than enough if you are planning on visiting it.
The best way of public transportation in Brussels is Metro for sureee. Getting the ticket here is a little complicated: You can either get a jump card which is a paper card and you have to validate it before starting your journey OR you could buy a plastic MOBIB card which costs 5 Euros and you can reload it at kiosks.
I would say the cheaper option is to get the MOBIB card:
For 24 hours: 7,50 €
For 48 hours: 14,00 €
For 72 hours: 18,00 €
While ONE return fare on a jump card is 4.20 €.