Weekend in Brussels with mum
Where to stay, what to do and where not to have waffles
When your mom flies halfway around the world to come visit you in Europe, it’s only right to treat her to a weekend trip to some place nice. Now, Brussels has never really topped my list of must-see-places-before-you-die, but at €19 a ticket (return!) I decided it was indeed a must. So mom and I hopped on a ridiculously early flight and navigated our way toward the European Capital of Culture.
It had been previously agreed on that stroopwafels would be eaten and Manneken Pis be visited, but neither of us quite expected to be so dazzled by the city. The curious architecture and exquisite detail of the art nouveau facades had me biting my fist at every corner. Poor mom had to stop at each turn, cause I was taking pictures of literally every, single, house.
This was especially true in Saint Gilles – the suburb where we resided during our trip. The elegant airbnb apartment we stayed at, belongs to Bénédicte and Matthieu, the creative couple behind the interior design blog Auguste & Claire. I can highly reccomend it! The one bedroom apartment has been beautifully renovated to create a calm and tranquil respite right in the heart of bustling Saint Gilles.
The streets around here are astir with loads of young people sipping coffee and swigging beer at the corner cafes and street bars. From there Mum and I took the tram up to Ixelles to have chips on the square at Flagey. We contemplated having a drink on the steps with the cool kids, but both of our noses were bright pink from the cold so instead we strolled around the Ixelles pond and gaped at the houses along Avenue de l’Hippodrome.
The next day we set out on an adventure that included both a hunt for treasure at the Marollen flea market and finding the cartoon murals of the Comic strip trail – a homage to famous Belgian comic artists featuring over 50 colourful murals on buildings through-out the city.
Still saving space for that much anticipated waffle, we decided to have a light breakfast at L’aubette on Rue Blaes – a delightful place with very friendly staff and perfect ambience. Actually that entire street is really cool with loads of interior design-, antique- and home decor stores. On Rue Haute we stumbled into a mesmerising tropical nursery and decor shop called Brut – lured in by the super vibey african beats of the shoe-box-sized jungle in the city.
After finding most of the murals on our agenda, we headed north toward the Grand-Place. In keeping with its name, the huge market square is unquestionably grand. Bordered by ostentatiously grandiose edifices, the square, dating back to the 14th century, has been voted one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth a jaw-dropping peek.
Just around the corner stands the (in)famous Manneken Pis – a tiny peeing statue of a little boy that you would totally miss if it wasn’t for the hoards of selfie taking tourists. Contrary to the Grand-Place, this “Little man Pee” is decidedly little, and therefore, little more can be said of the fellow. The folk lore and legends that swaddle the statue is perhaps a bit more interesting. My favourite is the one of a boy named Jullianske who urinated on a burning fuse set by foreign invaders during a siege, and in doing so, saved the city from being blown to bits.
Finally mom and I sat down for waffles at Maison Dandoy. The much hyped waffles was really disappointing and I guess coffee not their forte either… Mom was not impressed and believe me, she’s a good judge of sweet things. Other than that the service was deplorable, the place really dirty and the toilets despicable. I’d avoid eating here. Sorry for that one mom!
Despite the disappointing encounter with both our premeditated highlights, our weekend in Brussels was just brilliant. The city is beautiful and an absolute treat for admirers of architecture. Famed for its structural gems by architects like Paul Hankar and Victor Horta, the city is a kaleidoscope of styles. Every building looks different, stuck together in a creative architectural collage. My favourite of all was the Horta Museum on 25, rue Américaine. The World Heritage Site was once the studio and home of Victor Horta, and the immaculate details adorning the place is just amazing.
Hungry after our Horta hour mum and I dropped into King Kong around the corner for delicious burgers and interesting fries. Both plant-lovers we chose the cafe for it’s leafy interior but was equally pleased with the food. Just across from there is the Forcado Pastelaria, with their delicious and pretty Portuguese pastries – a great tip from Bénédicte!
If you have a day to spare, take a day trip to Ghent. The ride is only 30 minutes and easy to get to from Saint Gilles. The city is breathtakingly beautiful and dates back to the middle ages, having survived viking plunders, rebellions and a handful of wars. You can take the tram form the Sint-Pieters station down toe Korenmarkt and from there explore the surrounding area along the Leie river. It really is quite magnificent.
Where to say:
Our beautiful airbnb apartment and the vibrant suburb of Saint Gilles
Where to eat:
Breakfast at L’aubette, lunch at King Kong, dessert at Forcado, beers at Moeder Lambic, and chips for dinner on Place Flagey.
What to do:
• Stroll around Ixelles pond to admire the surrounding architecture
• District of Marollen with its antique & vintage market, cartoon murals, art galleries and designs stores
• The Grand-Place with it’s golden swans and strangely named buildings
Where to from there:
Day trip to ghent. Look for the tickets to Sint-Pieters – reduced fair for pensioners & students
Story & photography by Barbara Cilliers