You’ve probably heard the expression that travel broadens the mind. One of the reasons why Maastricht is such a popular choice for exchange students is that it’s an excellent base for travel. Without further ado, I present the first of five places you must visit.
Waffles! Fries! With the delicious food that Brussels has to offer, you can almost smell Brussels before you can see it. However, the attraction of Brussels doesn’t end there. Brussels is home to many beautiful examples of architecture as well as many of the famous comics that we’ve grown up with (shoutout to Tintin and the Smurfs).
How to get there
Brussels is easily accessible via bus or train. I travelled by bus, and having the company of three others made it a pleasant 2-hour journey. We travelled with Flixbus, one of the many bus companies operating throughout Europe. One of the advantages of Flixbus is that it departs from Maastricht, making it convenient for early morning departures. It also offers routes to cities as far as Paris and Geneva. I recommend travelling by bus as a cheaper, more scenic alternative to the train.
Things to do
Commonly described as “the famous peeing boy”, Manneken Pis is where you’ll find most of the tourists in Brussels posing for shameless selfies. I am admittedly guilty of said act but I can justify this by pointing to the entertaining legends behind the creation of the statue. My favourite one involves Brussels under siege in the early 14th century, when foreign forces had placed explosive charges around the city walls. Legend has it that a young boy caught them preparing and urinated on the burning fuse, thus saving the city.
The Royal Palace of Brussels was our next stop. Although it wasn’t as extravagant as other royal palaces (Schönbrunn and Versailles), it’s still quite remarkable for a residence located within the city centre. As an Australian, I am continually amazed by the grandeur of European castles and palaces and this was no exception. Entrance was free – another plus.
The Atomium is probably the most famous attraction in Brussels. As the name suggests, the Atomium is designed like a magnified atom. Built for the 1958 World Fair and standing at 102m tall, there’s nothing quite like it in Europe. As we went at night, we weren’t able to go inside but saw an Atomium illuminated with lights. If you have the chance to go inside, the Atomium hosts exhibitions and has a beautiful panoramic view of Brussels.
No trip to Brussels would be complete without waffles, fries and chocolate!
We ate ‘les frites’ at Les Friteries du Café Georgette, a small establishment near the city centre. I had been patiently waiting, keeping my stomach empty so that I could savour the first meal of the day. It lived up to the promise! The fries were made fresh from potato (not frozen) and the sauces complemented the flavour of the fries very well.
On the same street as Manneken Pis, many of the waffle shops sell plain waffles for €1, with toppings such as Nutella and cream costing extra. We ate at The Waffle Factory, where they created the waffles fresh in front of you. The waffles were the fluffiest I’d ever tried but I don’t think that you can go wrong with any of the stores along that street.
Continuing with the culinary theme, we ate mussels in Brussels! Yes, you read that right. Mussels are a popular delicacy in Brussels and it was only right that we saved the best meal for last. On a crowded tourist strip, we chose one of the many restaurants offering mussels as part of a ‘menu’ (3 course meal). After a long day, I can definitely say it was worth it. The serving size was huge! Our mussels were presented in a large bowl and were full of flavour.
Brussels is the perfect city to explore your cultural and culinary passions. I recommend it to any exchange student looking to visit a nearby city.
If you have any suggestions on what you’d like to me to write about, please comment below.
Thank you for reading!