A day in Brussels! Huzzah!
Well, an afternoon, to be more precise.
4 hours in Brussels! Huzzah! 😄
When I found out I had a long layover in Brussels I asked friends for advice on how to spend the time. I was given a list of must-sees/dos in the city, and I decided I would see what I could accomplish in an afternoon.
I couldn’t very well just hang out in the Brussels airport for 5 hours straight when I’ve never been to the city of Brussels before, now could I?
To make sure I wasn’t being crazy reckless leaving the airport, I asked the Brussels-Air staff at the information desk what time I needed to be back for my connecting flight from Brussels to Olbia, Sardinia. I had almost exactly 5 hours between landing and takeoff, and they said that I shouldn’t catch the train back any later than 5:00pm for my 6:10pm flight.
It was a simple purchases of a return train ticket costing about €15 (cheaper than a ticket one-way to the Lyon airport from Gare Part Dieu), and took 16 minutes (almost exactly). I know, because I timed my whole afternoon. Just for fun. To see how long it took to reach all the “must-see” suggestions I was given.
At 1pm I jumped on the very busy train and it wasn’t until my ticket was being checked that I second-guessed myself and was worried I was heading in the wrong direction. I casually asked the train agent if I was on the right train to head to the centre of town and without missing a beat he shook his head and said no.
I used every bit of energy to stay cool and calm in the moment and asked him how to turn around and fix my mistake (now that we had already spent 8 minutes zooming quickly away from the airport.)
He then burst out laughing and said I was fine and could get off in two stops at the correct station. He proceeded to chat up and laugh with several of the passengers as he went through the train car speaking easily in English, French, and Dutch.
In 16 minutes:
I had arrived at the second stop from the airport: Bruxelles-Centre.
I stepped outside and immediately noticed the architecture here is absolutely beautiful, with new and modern sleek glass buildings slowly filling the horizon beyond the old ornate silhouettes.
(This place is a shopper’s dream.)
At 21 minutes:
I had purchased my first Belgian waffle and chatted with the girl working the stand to get directions of where to go.
At 26 minutes:
I had eaten my first piece of Belgian chocolate, a sample offered at one of the dozens of chocolate shops I came across today. (And for the record it was a speculoos/almond filled drop of deliciousness 😁).
It seems you can’t even trip in the centre part of town without falling into a chocolate shop. 🙂
As I walked into the centre square I was blown away by all the gold detail on the buildings. It was absolutely gorgeous, and it was immediately apparent there was a festival on!
I could hear drumming and came around the corner to the main market square with a full jaw-drop reaction to the beauty of this place.
These drums!! Feniks Taiko is a group of 7 people (3 men, 4 women), dressed in black with gold sashes, and playing huge Japanese Taiko drums with absolute delighted fury. It was powerful and mesmerizing!
I’m not going to lie – all plans do any exploring flew right out the window as I stood there for the better part of an hour watching them perform.
This girl! So happy!
At 1 hour and 19 minutes:
I bought fries, on recommendation that I “must try them in Brussels”. They were right, and the fries were excellent! (I walked back with them to the market square and watched more of the drumming performance.)
It was at 1 hour and 49 minutes that I bought my first ever Belgian beer. And if you know me, you know I don’t drink beer. The closest I have ever got is drinking cider. This was real beer. Yes, it had fruit in it, but it was beer. Floris Kriek, to be exact.
And served to me by a man with a pink elephant for a hat.
And it was delicious.
2 hours and 15 minutes:
I went to see the statue of Mannekin Pis, and honestly don’t understand the big draw, but it was a very busy corner fountain with people snapping selfies and group shots and silly photos of the tiny figure (currently dressed in a kimono). So I took a picture of them. 🙂
2 hours and 25 minutes:
I tried some traditional chocolate truffles at Leonidas Chocolates, and purchased some chocolate for souvenirs. Whether they make it home is another story… 😳😁
Chocolate chocolate, everywhere. And also lots of fancy candy.
I went into a couple of beautiful old churches (because, of course I did, that’s what I do ☺️), and enjoyed checking out some comic book stores and souvenir shops.
After that I enjoyed more drumming (they were still going!) in the main square, followed by regional music and dancing…
3 hours in: I bought a couple of postcards, stamps, and got them all ready to mail, even! (Let’s not dwell on the fact I then forgot to mail them and will possibly have to send them from Paris….)
Okay, so there’s a chance I had another waffle… This time with chocolate.😊
On my way back to the train station I came across a street spray paint artist and found a gallery filled with vibrant French art and even ended up chatting with one of the artists for a bit (un peu en français 😁), before heading back to the airport.
I got to the station at 4:45 and with my luck the train arrived just as I got down the stairs. At 5:01 I was back at the airport. The security was extra thorough between the train and the airport so I’m glad I left extra time, and I even had time for an iced coffee before my flight.
Voila! I spent a day in Brussels, participated in a festival, watched live music, ate waffles and chocolate and fries and drank beer, went to see Mannekin Pis, checked out the local shops and churches, and made it back to my second flight of the day without a hitch!! Huzzah!