· Manneken Pis · Grote Markt/Grand Place · The Waffle Factory · Delirium Cafe · Celtica · Brussels Stock Exchange ·
I have loved getting to share my adventures, but in writing about my trips to Brussels, I feel a strong need to extend past my normal prose. Brussels, Belgium in one of the most peaceful and delightfully charming places I have ever had the privilege to visit. Below I share the highlights of my visits there, which happened to both be significant points in time for the area globally.
To See: Manneken Pis + Grand Place/Grote Markt
Of the places there are to experience in this lovely city, you must make it to both of these sites! Located a short 3 walk from each other, crossing these off your list leads you through main areas of Brussels, so make sure you take everything in between the two as well!
First, the Manneken Pis is a small bronze sculpture that serves as the most distinguishable landmark of the city (arguably similar to NYC’s Statue of Liberty in terms of identification). The sculpture is a depiction of a little boy peeing. Yea, you heard that right. Manneken Pis translated from a Dutch dialect literally means “little man pee.” Standing at only 61 cm tall, people gather around to witness his continual urination into the fountain’s basin. There are legends surrounding the significance and meaning behind the Manneken Pis, which was first put in place in 1618. However, my favorite part is this little man has costume changes throughout the year! Visit this link to see some of the crazy looks the beloved landmark has donned.
Next is the Grand Place, or Grote Markt in Dutch, the central square of Brussels. Surrounded by stunning golden-crusted buildings (and a Starbucks because OF COURSE), this square takes your breath away. This is where the city’s Town Hall is located (as pictured below), and it actually offers a very interesting story. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the building actually is uneven on both sides. According to a legend, the building’s architect leapt to his death from the tower after realizing this error. More likely than that however, the asymmetry is just a mere result of how the building grew and developed over time in the space provided.
Left: Town Hall Right: Grand Place/Grote Markt
What I loved about my first visit to Grand Place was the Christmas tree they feature during the holidays (pictured below)! After nightfall, they also have an unforgettable music and light show, reminding me of my beloved Disney Celebrate the Magic show. It’s absolutely unbelievable to stand in the middle of the square in awe of the magnificent lights. However, the square is most famous for it’s bi-annual flower carpet display in August (photos here). Putting that on the to do list!
Grand Place/Grote Markt during Christmas
To Taste: €1 Waffle (The Waffle Factory)
You absolutely cannot skip the experience of a Belgian waffle. Sold similarly to NYC’s $1 pizza, these delicious treats wrapped in a napkin for eating convenience are a happily welcomed substitute. Instead of the normal syrupy concoction that we pour into our waffle makers in the States, these waffles are made with liége dough. The caramelized sugar mixed into a thick traditional dough is plenty to get anyone’s mouth watering. And better yet, you can mix things up and add all sorts of toppings, such as nutella, strawberries, bananas, you name it! The best and worst decision I ever made was adding powdered sugar to mine. My mouth was happy, but my clothes were covered by the time I was done eating (approx. 3.2 seconds after this photo).
Waffle on Rue de l’Etuve
There’s lots of great options in Brussels, but I recommend making your waffle stop at The Waffle Factory, located just left of the Manneken Pis!
To Drink: Belgian Brews (Delirium Cafe + Celtica)
Beer flight at Delirium Cafe
Here I go again talking about beer. No shame in my game, especially because Belgian beer is some of the best stuff out there. My favorite spot that I went to on both visits was Delirium Cafe, which serves over 3,000 beers (and broke the Guinness Book of World Records)! Situated very close to the square, this unique spot is a great taste of the city’s bar scene. My first visit inspired ordering a beer flight (pictured above), which included generous pours and delicious Belgian chocolates to pair! In returning with a few of my crewmembers months later, we experienced a classic lambic cherry beer, an item specifically popular in Belgium. It was a little too sweet for my taste, but it’s a unique drink that’s worth a try in the sake of experiencing something out of the ordinary! Delirium Cafe offers the best environment for natives and tourists alike, with spacious rooms and outdoor seating, it’s the perfect place for all to enjoy. Oh, and did I mention the bar’s symbol is a pink elephant? Adorable.
P.S., across from the bar front is featured the Jeanneke Pis (pictured below). Similar to the Manneken Pis, this sculpture depicts a little girl with pig tails peeing, and functions as a counterpoint.
Throughout my research, I actually discovered I missed a third sculpture Zinneke Pis (a peeing dog)… Guess I’ve got to complete the peeing sculptures tour next time I visit!
Another fun spot we visited (frequented by airline employees) was Celtica. This pub is notable mostly for it’s cheap beer (pitchers for €6!), and served as a fun hangout spot towards the end of our evening. We also bonded with a group of locals over the drinking game King’s cup, which apparently is (mostly) the same world wide. This definitely is a laid back spot to enjoy company and make new friends!
King’s cup at Celtica
To Experience: The Charming + Romantic Atmosphere
Now I feel it important to include the significance of the dates I visited Brussels, Belgium…
Visit #1: November 29, 2015 [16 days after the Paris terrorist attacks – suspects were known to have fled into Belgium]
Visit #2: April 18, 2016 [27 days after the Brussels Bombings – my crew and I were sent to fly the first flight back to Washington D.C. since the attack]
It may or may not be obvious that these events had huge impact on the community, which has faced devastation multiple times in the past year. It breaks my heart to have experienced how wonderful Brussels is, and know that so much hurt was brought into such a lovely place. The beauty of this blog post’s title Make Waffles, Not War, is actually based off of a chalk drawing I found along the side of the Brussels Stock Exchange. Since the Brussels bombings in April, people have used this building as a place to commemorate the lost lives, and extend their hand in collaborative peace. It is beautiful to take in the immensity of what this place (pictured below) means nationally and globally today.
Brussels Stock Exchange
Brussels itself represents such a beauty and charm, seemingly unaffected by the negative forces at play. Every interaction and experience I have had there has been nothing but wonderful, and it further astonishes me that people would want to destroy or harm someplace so special.
Chalk drawing in front of Brussels Stock Exchange
Our world moves quickly and unyielding, and it is so important that we truly absorb the immensity of these moments. My heart is heavy to see a people suffer loss, but I am also so encouraged by the calm confidence the people of Brussels have in pursuing and practicing peace. I want more of the world to feel like this place.
I’m thankful for the hands who so simply carved “make waffles, not war” onto the side of a building. What a simple and impactful way to put our best foot forward in creating a better world.
“Let us love the world to peace” -Eileen Elias Freeman
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