A perfect day in Brussels


What: Insider tips for sightseeing, restaurants,
shopping und things to do
Where: Brussels, Belgium

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No question about it: The historic buildings with their lush gold decor around the Brussels Town Hall are one of a kind

Perhaps it was because of my previous visit to beautiful Bruges, or perhaps simply because of a romantically transfigured memory of a visit to Brussels 25 years ago: My current encounter with Europe’s capital disappointed me at first. Only on the second day my mood brightened up, which was due to the fact that I discovered the trendy districts Saint Gilles and Ixelles.

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Palais du Roi: At home with the King… 😉

But first my impression of day one: Normally there are numerous cafés and restaurants around Place Jourdan in front of my hotel Sofitel, where you can sit outside. If it weren’t for the current major construction site. In the opposite brasserie “L’Esprit de Sel” – a recommendation of the hotel concierge – I ate a very moderate goat cheese salad and Belgian meatballs and I wondered to what extent grey building rubble and unspeakable noise influence the quality of a meal or even the basic mood of the cook? After all, the next morning I was compensated with a good breakfast in the “Or Espresso Bar”. Here the young avant-garde sits above their computers and enjoys the supposedly best coffee in town. I tasted the freshly baked sourdough bread with homemade jam and an organic Earl Grey before I went to the Atomium by metro. Not original, but a must see for every visitor to Brussels.

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The Atomium and I

Back in the city centre. My tour started at the church Saint Cathérine at the square of the same name, around which nice restaurants invite for lunch. Then I went to the adjacent boulevard Antoine Dansaert, where, according to my travel guide, the chic boutiques of Belgian designers are located. Nope. Apart from the “A Suivre” boutique with the brands Vanessa Bruno, Barbara Bui, Joseph, Isabel Marant and some Belgian designers, grey dreariness was the order of the day. I went all the way to the stock exchange, where, in view of the dubious figures around the Place de Bourse, I preferred to quickly find my way around. Neither the Grand Place with its baroque gilded facades and the impressive town hall nor Manneken Pis could really fascinate me. Not to mention the alleys around it with junk shops and rip-off restaurants. Passing the Place du Grand Sablon, the Royal Library and the Royal Palace Palais du Roi, I landed in the Parc de Bruxelles, where I finally had the feeling of being able to breathe again.

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Green lung of Brussels: Parc de Bruxelles

Brussels – and this is not really surprising – is dominated by Europe, its policies and its diplomats. Modern skyscrapers, in which the European Committee is housed, dominate an entire quarter, the Quartier Européen. If this is your first visit to Brussels, you should check it out.

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House of the European Commission

Day two: My personal highlight were the districts Ixelles and Saint Gilles. My way to get there was along the Boulevard de Waterloo, where all renowned labels and luxury boutiques present themselves, from Prada to Chanel and Gucci. From there the street leads into Avenue Louise, where cheaper brands like Zara, Tommy Hilfiger or my new favourite label Essentiel-Antwerp are represented. I have seen original, individual shops and boutiques on the Rue du Bailli and Rue Africaine, around the church Saint Trinité in the middle of Ixelles. A district where many facades bear witness to the splendour of the Belle Epoque or are still waiting to be restored to their full beauty. My goal was to visit the Horta-Museum, once the home of Victor Horta, the creator of Art Nouveau. Good to know: The museum opens from 14.00 to 17.30 and is closed on Mondays. From here you have an ideal starting point to explore the many Art Nouveau facades of Brussels. Just follow the Chaussee de Charleroi and its extension Avenue Brugmann – the demarcation line of the Saint Gilles and Ixelles districts – and drift along its small streets. A highlight of urban elegance and classical architecture is the area around Avenue du Haut Pont, Rue Franz Merjay, Place Brugmann and Avenue Louis Lepoutre.

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Dreamy Brussels: The Saint Gilles and Ixelles hoods

Here, in the Rue Franz Merjay, I stopped by the small bistro “Chez Franz” and ordered a goat cheese salad. This time it tasted delicious, including the oven-warm baguette served with it. Madame Danielle, an elegant, communicative Brussels-based, sitting at the next table, explained the spirit of her city to me and gave me wonderful tips for the rest of the day. So I strolled along the perhaps most beautiful promenade in Brussels, the Etangs d’Ixelles, situated on two long ponds. On the way there I made a detour through the small, enchanted park Tenbosch. Almost reminiscent of an exotic biotope, this green oasis turned out to be a real insider tip. Am I really in the middle of a pulsating big city, I thought to myself and enjoyed the moment. Brussels, a city of contrasts. BvH

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A good breakfast is served in the „Or Espresso Bar“

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The Atomium was the main pavilion at 1958 World’s Fair. Engineer André Waterkeyn and the architects André and Jean Polak were responsible for the design of Brussels landmark building

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Brussels Town Hall: Even on rainy days a tourist magnet

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Beautiful garden at the Royal Library of Belgium

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Label to watch: Essentiel Antwerp

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Around Place Saint Cathérine nice restaurants invite for lunch

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An eyecatcher: Boutique “A Suivre” on Boulevard Antoine Dansaert

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Around the Saint Trinité church, Rue du Bailli and Rue Africaine original, individual shops and boutiques are situated…

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…like the concept store Mellow

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…and the Boutique Bonzai

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Around 1,500 houses in the most beautiful Art Nouveau style can still be admired in Brussels today

Open your eyes: Beautifully restored houses, sometimes reminiscent of English townhouses…

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…Art Nouveau pearls with lush decor, little towers, oriels and balustrades…

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…and imposing portals

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Walking through the districts with watchful eyes…

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…you will discover the architectural beauty and diversity of Brussels

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Here you can make your credit card glow effortlessly: The Boutique „Cachemire Coton Soie

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Delicious food, nice staff and located in the trendy Saint Gilles area: The Bistro-Restaurant „Chez Franz“

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…where I highly recommend the goat cheese salad. In addition a glass of rosé wine: Santé!

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I particularly like the playful facades and gables with the many chimneys, although I only warmed up with Brussels at second glance

More travel stories you can find here.

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