Next stop was Brussels. As we were driving, we left Ghent and headed for our hotel at Brussels airport. We’ve found before that airport hotels are the best places to stay while driving. You can guarantee a parking spot and lots of European airports have excellent links into the city centre. We stayed at a Novotel. The hotel was reasonable for the price and provided a free regular shuttle to the train station at the airport. We didn’t opt for breakfast at this hotel as it seemed expensive and we were happy to grab something quick to eat on the train.
The train station at the airport is large and modern. Tickets can be purchased from the self service machines which are available in English. We also found there were plenty of staff around to ask for help. There are several trains every hour to the city centre stop (Brussels Centraal) and the train takes about 20 minutes priced at €8.50 for a single.
As soon as we arrived in Brussels we headed for the Royal Palace of Brussels. The palace is open to tourists in the summer months for free while it is unoccupied. We arrived early for it opening, half 10, and got in straight away. It was reasonably busy but considering it is free it’s definitely worth a quick walk around. I’m mainly interested in the architecture rather than the history so a quick walk round for some pictures suited us perfectly.
The palace itself was beautiful, not quite as grand as Versailles but what is?!
The historic centre of Brussels is very compact and you can easily walk around in a day. I have listed below some of our highlights for places to visit and eat.
First up, the arcade. Now you can’t go to Brussels without buying chocolate. We found the best place to do this is the arcade (Les Galerie Royales Saint Hubert). There is a huge selection of chocolatiers and patisseries here. Although in some way that makes it more difficult to chose just a few things! The smell of chocolate is incredible and all the window displays are beautiful. We settled on Mary’s as its one of the oldest in Brussels and the woman who served us was really nice.
For lunch, I had tried to look for some sandwich shops so we just just grab something light. However, while walking out the other end of the arcade, we were struck by the most amazing smell ever. It was coming from a bustling cafe called Cafe Arcadi. More Italian in cuisine than something of the region, it was however filled with locals and had a really nice atmosphere. As soon as I looked at the menu we were sold. They offer a selection of lunch options and more dinner options too. While the menu was large there were only a few types of food and then these varied based on the ingredients. I opted for one of their specialities, a quiche with courgette and aubergine. The flavours were amazing and the quiche was packed. Something I really liked as often quiches can be a bit eggy. CB opted for a croque Madame and check out that egg.
We we spent the afternoon wandering about Brussels. Including a trip to Maison Du Dandoy to pick up a back of Speculoos (those amazing spiced Lotus biscuits originate from Belgium and this is THE place to buy them).
Like a lot of Belgian towns, Brussels is situated around a Markt (a square). In the summer, for four days they cover the square with local flowers to create a large blanket of flowers. Frustratingly, we arrived a couple of days after they had taken it away.
For a little afternoon stop we settled on Le Pain Quotidien. Even though it’s a chain, neither of us had been before and we both very surprised. We shared a couple of pastries and I enjoyed a glass of their delicious raspberry lemonade.
We would definitely recommend Brussels, whether for a day passing through or for a couple of days as a city break, there’s plenty to see and lots of great places to eat.