After spending half the day sightseeing in the Netherlands’ National Gardens, The Keukenhof, it was time to head south to Belgium. I
I’d been to Brussels four other times. I’d liked Brussels, but after discovering Belgian beers a few years early, a revisit to Brussels had become a must. In my pre-trip planning, I had been shocked at how expensive hotels were near the city center. Most of the city’s budget options were already booked three months prior to my departure. I got lucky to stumble upon the Albert Inn, a small B&B 5 stops south of Brussels Midi Train Station.
The room was slightly more expensive than my budget called for, but worth every penny and then some. It was one of the nicest hotels I would have on the entire trip. It was a beautifully airy room, with high ceilings. It almost seemed a shame to me to have such a nice room, since as soon as my affable host checked me in, I headed back back to the tram stop out from toward Brussels’ lively center.
I started the evening browsing at a few of the beers stores on the streets right off the Grand Place. Belgian breweries are known for having specific and unique glassware to go with their beers. I’d seen them at the restaurant in Michigan I take photos for at their 11 day Belgian Beer Festival, but I was especially cool to see them all for sale in one place, along with many beers we can not easily come by in the U.S.
I didn’t buy any beer at the beer stores, since I had no desire to carry it around with me all night while I visited the various bars on my list. Before I headed off the the bars, I spent an hour soaking up the atmosphere of Brussels centerpiece, The Grand Place, which is truly one of the the most incredible spaces in Europe. Around the square are building from Belgium’s glory days, when the country’s trading power was at it’s peak. Today these building serve commercial purposes, most with shopping and other business occupying the main floors, and a few house museums.
There were many people, both locals and tourists enjoying this perfect evening in the Grand Place. As anxious as I was to start sampling the famous beers of the country, I lingered for quite a while.
Finally able to tear myself away from The Grand Place, I slipped into the back alleys off the square, which are teaming with restaurants of every imaginable kind, but most specializing in the most famous of Belgian dishes, Mussels & fries.
I visited a few bars before settling on a restaurant where I made like a local and ordered the mussels- which were amazing, having been cooked in garlic and butter. I took the time sitting alone at dinner the write notes for the next day.
After dinner I wondered down the street to one of Brussels most famous bars, The Delirium Cafe. Having one of the largest beer lists in the world is the claim to fame of this Brussels institution. The Cafe itself was crowded, so I wound up next door at the Delirium Taproom, which was quieter and much more my scene.
The real thrill of the evening came as I passed back through the Grand Place between bars. I had read about the Grand Place’s light show, but I hadn’t been able to find any source that had a schedule of when it took place. Most of the sources I found had said it was too early in the season to catch the show, but much to my lucky surprise, the building around the square were being lit up in the most colorful fashion.
It was an idyllic evening for strolling around one of Europe’s most impressive urban spaces.
On my way to my next stop, I, of course had to make a stop at Brussels most iconic symbol, the Manneken-Pis. There are at least three legends behind this statue. It’s become famous for being dressed up in costume, and the costumes can be viewed in a permanent exhibit in the City Museum in the Grand Place. I had read that at certain points of the year the statue is hooked up to a keg of beer and passersby are given a small cup. Although I’ve never witnessed this, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me, especially in a country known for it’s beer.
Then it was back to beer, and a visit to a bar that had been recommended to me by a gentleman I met at Cafe Gollum in Amsterdam. “If you love Belgian beer, you MUST visit Moeder Lambic in Brussels”. He wasn’t wrong- it ended up being my favorite bar of the whole trip. I was able to have several glasses of Cantillon on tap- a rare treat. It was a late night, but I was energized to get up early and head to Cantillon, a bucket list item I’d planned much of my trip to Belgium around.