Beating the rain in Brussels

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Chocolate colours at Pierre Marcolini

Musical Instruments Museum cafe
The Statue Garden

Brussels is a brilliant city and I'm sticking to my guns on this one. Despite the rain, and it does rain a lot there, so don't forget a sturdy umbrella or a coat with a hood, it's a great place to wander around and sightsee. After arriving on the train from Paris, which takes just 1hr 3omins, I headed straight for the centre to find Coffee Company. This is a cosy cafe and the sandwiches are also pretty cheap, considering it's so close to la Grand Place. If you're lucky enough to grab an armchair it's a good place to come and read a book over a cup of tea when the weather outside is being unpredictable. 

One thing you must do in Brussels before anything else is go to the Grand Place. It's by far one of the most beautiful squares in the world and you can easily spend a good hour here, taking snaps of the baroque buildings. I arrived just in time to hear classical music being belting out of the town hall. It's an incredible sound and the acoustics are perfect, so much so that you can't really figure out where the music is coming from as it reverberates around the space. On your way out, don't forget to peek into the windows of the various chocolate shops lining the square, oh and get a waffle (or two) from the numerous kiosks. 

There aren't many good guides to Brussels on the internet, so here's mine:

+ For a great view over a mug of chocolat chaud, head up to the Musical Instruments Museum. Unless you're really into the history of musical instruments, climb the stairs (you might want to take the lift as there are quite a few) up to the top floor where there's a restaurant/cafe with big windows overlooking the city. On a sunny day you can stand outside on the balcony and snap away. 

+ Wile away a few hours over a pint of Belgium beer in the art deco bar, Monk. They also host live jazz on various nights and there's a restaurant at the back.

+ Head to Fin de Siecle for dinner. They serve up huge, American style portions, at reasonable prices. Don't be put off by the queue, the food and the atmosphere are worth it, and you can order a drink while you wait. 

+ If you've got a bit more cash to spend, go to La Quincaillerie for dinner. It's a beautiful old hardware shop turned restaurant that could be straight out of a Harry Potter film, with a dark glossy wooden interior, a giant old clock that stares at you as you walk in and a sweeping central stairway leading up to the second floor. 

+ On Sunday have lunch at Cafe La Brocante (it's right next to Brussels' biggest flea market or broconte) for a hearty, filling plates of beef stew, lasagne or Stoemp of the day (national Belgium dish that consists of mash with veg and usually served with sausages) and live jazz. 

+ For breakfast, such as soft boiled eggs and bread rolls, head to Pistolet. This contemporary cafe is named after the traditional little round Belgium bun. 

+ Have brunch at Gaudron. This is a lovely bakery, but there's also a canteen style cafe at the back with white tiles and vintage chairs. 

+ Coffee, cake and shopping at L'Atelier En Ville. Located on one of Brussels furniture streets, just off the square that hosts the main brocante, this is a huge warehouse space selling industrial furniture and designer clothing that's also great for a bit of window shopping if you don't feel like blowing your budget.

+ Peruse the chocolate counter at Pierre Marcolini - designer chocolate heaven.

+ Chocolat chaud at Wittamer. Wittamer is the official supplier of the Court of Belgium and they have a grand cafe above the shop. Drinks are a little more pricey here, but they come with a couple of chocolates so it's worth it.

Photography by Marissa Cox.

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