Unlike some brash European capitals, Brussels is a rather modest city. She doesn’t make her best bits obvious, she is much more subtle than that. Both the Grand Place and the Atomium should be on your list of course. But once you’ve spent a couple of hours with those, here is how to spend a day in Brussels.
For those of you who are new to Very Hungry Explorer, you might not know what I spent three years living in Brussels, before shipping out to the UAE last year. When people asked me if living in Belgium was boring, I always had the same answer.
It might look boring from the outside, but scratch the surface and Brussels is a fascinating place.
While I was in Europe over the summer, I popped to Brussels for the day to catch up with Max and HIM and meet the beautiful new addition to the Why I Am Not Skinny team. My day was full of delicious food, inspiring art, beautiful churches and charming parks.
For the entire time I lived in Brussels myself and every other expat I met moaned about the lack of a good Mexican restaurant. Well finally it has one. ChezWaWa has set up shop on Rue Américaine (Chatelain is an absolute gem of an area by the way with some excellent restaurants) and offers fresh and delicious Californian Mexican food. This tends to be a much lighter and some would say healthier adaptation of Mexican food than the better known tex-mex.
I was pretty damn impressed that they had two vegetarian options on the menu and went for tacos with spiced tofu. You then choose your own toppings, all tasty and fresh. Washed down with a beer, I left feeling full, but not stuffed and heavy. If I lived in Brussels I would be back there all the time.
ChezWaWa, Rue Americaine 91, Brussels
Notre-Dame du Sablon
Petit Sablon is another stunning area of Brussels. Perfect for just strolling around and soaking up the atmosphere. This was actually my first visit and I was stunned by how beautiful the Notre-Dame du Sablon (Church of Our Lady of Sablon) is.
A catholic church from the 15th century it is a stunning example of Gothic architecture with lots of baroque chapels and stained glass windows to admire.
Notre-Dame du Sablon, Rue de la Regence 3b, Brussels
Square du Petit Sablon
Just across the road from the church you’ll find the Square du Petit Sablon (also known as the Jardin du Petit Sablon and Place du Petit Sablon – which isn’t confusing at all!) is a beautiful place to sit and take a moment of calm.
Listen to the water trickling down the fountain, admire the view of the church and the striking sculptures and perhaps enjoy a doughnut or two.
Square du Petit Sablon, Rue de la Régence, Brussels
Talking of doughnuts (see what I did there!), we paid a visit to COCO, which offers delicious handmade doughnuts.
Chloé and Candice only use organic or fresh local ingredients in their doughnuts of deliciousness. Their pop-up shop is an Instagrammers dream and I spent far too long trying to choose what I would devour.
The chocolate and coconut doughnut didn’t disappoint. You should definitely try a box or two 🙂
COCO Donuts, 36, Rue Sainte-Anne, Brussels
Beholder and Maria Gil Ulldemolins
I met the ridiculously talented Maria Gil Ulldemolins a couple of years ago at a book club in Brussels. Since then her art career has gone from strength to strength, in fact she recently took part in the Accessible Art Fair.
When I heard that Maria was having a show at her new studio, I popped over for a quick catch-up. Beholder was a joint show with Juan Cañizares and celebrated their creative relationship. You can read all about in the show catalogue. I love art that makes me think and Maria’s work, inspires both thought and debate. As a Brit, the bumblebee she found on Brexit vote day has left a lasting impression.
So many people that I’ve spoken to feel that art “isn’t for them” but Maria has a wonderful way of involving us in her creative process. Follow her on Instagram to get a peek behind the scenes of Maria’s amazing work.