I went with another exchange student for a long weekend trip to Belgium. We left early Friday morning and returned Monday night, with 3 days in Belgium and an afternoon in Bonn, Germany. The weather forecast was in the low 20s Fahrenheit. I also did not know much about Belgium besides waffles, fries and chocolate, so I was going with an open mind!
We arrived about 10 am on Friday, leaving us with a full day to explore. We walked outside of Brussels South Station, and 10 minutes later we got some Turkish sweets. The sweets in the store windows were so pretty. We had packed light for the weekend with just our backpacks, so our first destination was a chocolate shop, Laurent Gerbaud which was a cafe and chocolate shop. There were so many delicious vegan options as well. We both got a bag of chocolates and tasted and shared them with each other. The chocolates used many dried fruits and berries, and nuts and it was neat to try to see which fruits and berries were in each one. Basically, our first day in Belgium was all about food.
Soon, we wanted to have lunch, but we both wanted to try different foods. We picked a meeting point. On my way, I walked by Square de la Putterie and Brussel’s Central Station. Right after passing the Square, there were large floats celebrating Chinese New Year.
After lunch, we met up and walked along Rue de la Madeleine, and stopped in many shops. There were so many people walking around and the weather had gotten better because it was late afternoon. We saw many food, chocolate, and souvenir shops which with the crowds made the area so fun. We shopped for a while and went to a few chocolate and souvenir shops. We got so many chocolates! In the center of the triangular street intersection was a statue, Charles Buls Fountain, so we took some pictures. The triangle patch of streets had so many shops that we spent the most of the afternoon shopping in the area. Last, we treated ourselves to Belgian fries (Frites) with “toppings.” With finals in one week, I spent the evening mainly studying, minus a walk and dinner near our hostel.
Our second day in Brussels was just as amazing, but less food oriented. (We still had amazing food.) After breakfast at our hostel, we were walking towards the Royal Palace of Brussels and saw the 16th century Gothic Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. I am so glad we went inside because the church’s arched-vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows were breathtaking. The church was even bigger inside than it looked from the outside. Afterwards, we continued our walk to the Royal Palace.
We arrived at the Royal Palace at 10, as it was opening! On the way to the palace we also passed Laurent Gerbaud which had been our first stop the day before. The Palace had a beautiful garden in front of it. We decided to go to Coudenberg which was an archaeological museum and historical site from the 12th century. Mainly the foundation of the castle remains. New buildings were built on top of it. It was really interesting because this castle was built on a sloping hill, so the foundation was sloped too. While in the site, we saw the Musical Instrument Museum from a (tiny) window, and decided to go there next.
The Musical Instruments Museum (mim) was in a beautiful building which was a former department store. Even the elevators were so interesting. This was the perfect next place to go to after some history and archaeology. We went there at noon and spent about two hours. The audio guide was all sounds, and we saw so many instruments from all over the world. I took a picture with a collection of Indian instruments. The museum had many floors, and on the way to the 4th and 5th floors there were areas to stop with a view of Brussels since the museum was on a hill. Our next destination was food. We walked to a delicious Ethiopian restaurant. Along the way, we saw many shops with tempting window displays of sweets.
After our late lunch, we took a bus to reach our Airbnb and spent the evening walking around on De La Carrone, a street with restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores. The next morning, we left at 6:20 am to see the Atomium during sunrise. We were also going to travel to Bruges afterwards, so we went to the Atomium early, just us and the atom. It was the highlight of my time in Brussels and the best way to end the trip.
Brussels to Bruges was an hour by train. We arrived in Bruges before many of the restaurants and shops were open. The shops and streets were picture perfect. We walked along Zuidzandstraat (street) and went to 2 brunch/cafe restaurants because it was so cold! Soon, we were at the stunning Market Square. We completely forgot the cold weather there because it was so crowded. We then checked into our hostel and went back to the Market Square. We walked along Wollestraat (street). After passing the church on our right, the shops on this portion of the street were all chocolate shops. We went in some and at least “window shopped” at all them.
We continued walking towards the Beguinage, or a Beguines convent and UNESCO world heritage site. We arrived there by late afternoon, and it was a peaceful area. We continued by walking along Katelijnevest, a street along the canal towards Sint-Janshuis Windmill. By the time we got to the windmill, the sun was setting. Even though we were freezing, it was so beautiful. The best part was food after so much walking. We had dinner at Royal Frituur, where we had vegetarian Belgian burgers and fries with delicious toppings. The day in Bruges was already over because we were going to take the early train the next morning. Bruges had been a beautiful, fun place to visit!