Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas in Brussels

We decided to use Christmas morning as a travel day between Bruges and Brussels because we thought most stores and restaurants would probably be closed that day.  We had a nice leisurely breakfast at our hotel in Bruges and made our way to the train station.  It's only an hour ride and the train comes every half hour even on Christmas.  After eating a couple more chocolates on the ride, we made it to Brussels around noon.

The first thing we saw when we got off the train was a huge market right outside the train station.  There were hundreds of stalls selling everything from clothes to appliances to food.  Most of it was stuff you'd see at any flea market, but my favorite stall was the olive bar.  I have never seen so many different types of olives!  And people were buying them buy the kilo! There were also beautiful oranges for sale everywhere.  They were literally overflowing and running off the tables into the street.

Olive bar outside Gare Midi station

After getting settled into our hotel we went off in search of waffles and fries.  Our friend Tom was acting as our virtual tour guide since he previously lived in Brussels.  Before we left he sent us a bunch of recommendations for places to go.  We brought our GPS with us and put it on pedestrian mode.  It was so easy to plug in an address and make our way toward the frites (fries).

We stumbled upon the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral which was absolutely stunning inside and out. Luckily for us, there was also a VW van selling waffles right outside. Tom told us that the best waffles in the city come out of these vans, and I definitely agree!



After our first waffle we made our way to Rue de Boucher in the heart of the city.  It's a pretty touristy street with cheesy restaurants selling fresh fish, but there are some gems if you know where to look.  We had some quick frites before exploring the Christmas market.  This one was much bigger than the one in Bruges.  It was spread out all over the city too!  There were steampunk carousels, a ferris wheel, an ice skating rink, a little ski hill, and tons of food and drink.

Steampunk carousel
View from the top of the ferris wheel
We found a drink that we both loved.  Apparently it's a big hit with the teenagers, but we loved it.  Ha!  It is called jenever which is flemish gin.  Our favorite flavor was, of course, chocolate.  We liked it so much that we turned into teenagers and bought a bottle from a liquor store so we didn't have to keep paying 2 euro per shot. 

My first Jenever--melon!

Keeping it classy
No trip to Brussels would be complete without a visit to the Manneken Pis.  I don't get all the hype, but here he is:

We visited some more chocolate shops, had a fantastic beer in a quirky little theater, visited a beautiful garden and had another waffle.

Turkish sweets
Kwak on tap at Toone Theater

Petite Sablon

We met up with some friends from Harrogate who happened to be in Belgium for a fantastic meal.  I had the local specialty called waterzooi, which is a delicious, creamy fish stew.  After dinner, we watched a spectacular light show on the Grand Place.

On our last day in Belgium we took a quick trip to the European Parliament.  The parliament was closed, but there was a terrific (free) museum that was well worth the visit.  I highly recommend it if you're in the area.

Sadly, it was time to go.  But not before one last cone of frites :)

Read more about our trip to Belgium
Chocolate, Waffles and Fries, Oh My!


  1. Looks like the best kind of trip ever - the kind that centers around FOOD! Safe travels back to England!

  2. Yum, that sounds like a great trip. Your mom is right, I'd think you would weigh a lot by the sounds of all the booze and waffles. At least you keep it classy by drinking straight from the bottle :)