December 8, 2013

Day 1 in Brussels: Grand Place, Mont des Arts, and Parlamentarium

During the last few days of October, I set off early one morning to catch the Eurostar to Brussels from London St. Pancras. Today I want to share the first day I spent in Brussels that started my trip through Belgium to Amsterdam before ending in Paris.

With only one stop in-between, the train pulled into Brussels South Station only 2 hours after departure. All signs in the city are in both Dutch and French. Thus this station is also named Brussel-Zuid (Dutch) and Bruxelles-Midi (French).

From the station, we took a taxi to the Brussels Marriott Hotel, located in the heart of the city. Right across the street is the Brussels Stock Exchange, which just finished hosting the traveling exhibition of Da Vinci – The Genius a few days before our arrival.

The hotel staff was extremely friendly and accommodating even when we requested a room change. They also surprised us with a box of complimentary Neuhaus chocolate to welcome us to Brussels (see photos Here)!

A 5 minutes walk from the hotel brings us to the Grand Place, the central square in Brussels that houses the town hall. Below is a typical sign with Grand Place in French and Grote Markt in Dutch. As I am more fluent in French than in Dutch, I tend to remember places by the French names.

The latte and chocolate combo at Café-Tasse was the perfect warm-me-up on that windy day.

Hiking uphill to the Mont des Arts, which is an elevated "art town" housing many museums in the city. This garden on the way is the Jardin du Mont des Arts.

The center building at the top is the Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg.

We turned right at the top and continued a bit further to find the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Within that building is the Magritte Museum with over 200 works by the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte.

Admission is 2-for-1 with our Eurostar train tickets. I spent an hour and half in the museum and the time was sufficient to make full use of the audio guide and to visit the gift shop.

I really like Magritte's depiction of clouds and the different interplay of smooth and rough texture through out his years.

After the museum visit, I embarked on an hour walk to Parc du Cinquantenaire, passing by one of the European Commission buildings on Rue de la loi.

Parc du Cinquantenaire and its triumphal arch.

We then turned around and passed through the Parc Léopold on the way to the European Parliament.

My destination is the Parlamentarium through the opening on the right here.

Parlamentarium is the European Parliament's Visitors' Centre. It is like a museum of the EU's past, present, and future. With free admission, interactive displays, and its own audioguide, I find the center to be an amazing experience! I highly recommend it!

A night shot after the visitors' center closed at 6pm.

We took a taxi back to the Grand Place and were hit by the full extent of our hunger from skipping lunch. As Belgian waffle is a regional specialty, here is a selection to hold our hunger until dinner is served.

Onwards to find dinner! This narrow street is filled with seafood restaurants, each more eager than the next to lure in customers.

At the end of the street is the famous Chez Léon. I have walked past the London location on Charing Cross Road many times and I was eager to try the original.

Mussels in Brussels! Mussels are in season from September to February, so we were in luck! Belgian fries and beer are also local specialties, so pile on the sides!

As I intended to make a day trip to Bruges [Read Here] the next day, I strolled over to the Brussels Central Station to buy the train tickets. There are poster-size touch screens at the station to help with planning the journey.

Time to indulge in some night time photography starting with the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. Here is a contrast of the night shot with a photo I took earlier that day when I passed the building on the way to Mont des Arts.

This gallery houses many of the big names in Belgian chocolate such as Mary, Neuhaus, Godiva, and etc. After a short visit, we returned to the Grand Place for some chocolate-covered strawberries as dessert.

After a few night shots of the Grand Place, we walked a little further to reach the Manneken Pis. This status is very popular with tourists and there are several variants regarding the story behind this bronze boy.

Right across the statue is one of the many waffle stands in the city. More waffles to end my first night in Brussels.

Are you a fan of waffles, mussels, or chocolate?

Contact Details:

Brussels Marriott Hotel
3 Auguste Ortsstraat, Brussels

Café-Tasse Store
15 Grasmarkt, Brussels

Parlamentarium - The European Parliament's Visitors' Centre
60 Wiertzstraat, Brussels

Chez Léon
18 Beenhouwersstraat, Brussels


  1. What lovely pictures. Brussels looks very pretty. Especially those waffles. :)

    1. Brussels presents such a dramatic contrast between the old and the new. I miss those fluffy Belgian waffles!