Poppy's Travel Diary - Brussels
Location - Brussels
The capital of Belgium, Brussels, is a fascinating location with stunning architecture and history packed into every street and alleyway. Certainly, a great city to visit.
Spending just a couple of days in the city will allow you to see all of the major and most popular sights, as we did. However, if you are there for a week, you will be able to visit some more obscure, but equally fascinating attractions.
If you love chocolate, you are in heaven as the choice of chocolate shops is immense. Once you feel you have seen them all, you come across a street full of an alternative selection of shops.
Belgians are very proud of their beer and it has played an important role throughout the history of the city. Tours are available that allow beer connoisseurs experience the best pubs in the city as well as learning about the history of the beer and seeing how it is made in one of the city’s breweries. Whether or not you are a beer fan, this tour is worth considering due to the pride and historical value associated with beer in the city.
An interesting observation is that you will see parakeets everywhere and if you don't see them you will hear them. Over the past few decades, green parakeets have invaded Brussels. It started in 1974 when the owner of a local zoo released about 50 birds into the wild because, he said, Brussels needed more colour. Now there are an estimated 8,000 colourful birds nesting in trees on Place Guy d’Arezzo and in several city parks.
When visiting many of the toilets in bars and cinemas you will come across Madame Pipi. She is normally found seated at a small table decorated with a vase of plastic flowers, reading a celebrity magazine. She is not paid, but the tips she receives for maintaining these very important rooms are her only source of income.
Where to stay
Pillows Grand Hotel Place Rouppe
The recently renovated Pillows Grand Hotel Place Rouppe is located in the heart of Brussels, within 550 yards of Grand Place.
The Thalys and Eurostar South Station is a 7-minute walk, Brussels Central Station can be reached in 10 minutes. The main landmarks are within walking distance.
The rooms at Pillows Grand Hotel Place Rouppe embody charm and comfort. Spacious windows, the finest linen, original artworks and a dash of contemporary design all combine to create a serene and tranquil residential feel. The service and staff were courteous, knowledgeable and helpful and overall a very relaxing experience.
Where to eat
The Living – Resto & Winebar at Pillows. All day dining is available, however, we experienced the breakfast, which was an excellent set menu covering your traditional ccoffee, juices etc to your cheese, cold cuts and choice of farm eggs. A great start to the day ahead.
We also enjoyed a superb dinner one evening. The standard of food was first class.
The Living Room’s Domestic Kitchen is headed by chef Trung Hoang. He earned his stripes at, among others, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester 3 *in London, Va Doux Vent 1 * in Uccle and La Durée 2 *in Izegem. Trung enjoyed his education at Spermalie Hotel School in Bruges and subsequently successfully obtained a diploma in bakery and patisserie.
The chef and his skilled team stand for an uncomplicated yet refined kitchen, respecting the local tradition. He describes his kitchen as simple, but refined.
Hotel Amigo – Bar A Chocolate Afternoon Tea – here you can expect hot chocolate, chocolate infusions, pralines and sweets created by celebrated Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini. For the ultimate tea experience, add a glass of Champagne.
Where to visit
The Grand Place in Brussels is hidden away in the centre of the city. The square is the most important tourist destination and the most memorable landmark in Brussels. It is also considered as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. When you enter on foot, you are guaranteed to be left awestruck. Surrounded by six opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city’s 15thCentury Town Hall and the King's House or Breadhouse building containing the Museum of the city of Brussels it is a sight to behold.
If you have the time, the square is worth visiting several times at different times of the day.
The Old England Building in Brussels was formerly a department store and was built in the very last year of the 19th Century. The building attracts visitors because of its stunning facade but also due to the fascinating and vast musical museum it houses. The museum is home to more than 2000 musical instruments with historic value and gives guests a chance to listen to many of them. The cafe on the roof of the building provides memorable panoramic views of the city.
Manneken Pis- This odd statue has risen to fame and is a popular tourist attraction in the city. The name simply translates to “little man pee” and it has been given this name for obvious reasons. The statue takes a little bit of skill in hunting down (unless you see it as part of a tour) but it is worth persevering. The statue is thought to date back to the early 17th Century when Jerome Duquesnoy designed it.
Some years ago, the people who run the Brussels Metro decided to stop playing Muzak all day. They developed a playlist with songs to match the time of day. The music is cheerful in the morning, becoming edgier around 4 pm when schools come out and ending with classical music after 9 pm in the bid to stop kids loitering on the platforms.