I suppose it’s a function of having lived in Europe for 5+ years that I made my third visit to Brussels (or Bruxelles or Brussel) last week. All of my time there so far has been for professional purposes and this visit was no different, but I promised myself to at least see a little bit more of the city than I have before — even though I didn’t really plan in any extra time to do so.
Location, location, location
Luckily both my hotel and conference location were located right in the center, within walking distance of the Grand Place (Grote Markt), the Hôtel de Ville (Stadhuis), the Parc de Bruxelles (Warandepark), and lots of picturesque awesomeness catering to visitors. For the conference, we even had a reception in the Hôtel de Ville, which was appropriately grand and fantastic. Although I wouldn’t recommend my hotel in particular (it was terrible!), there are many great choices right in the center of the city within walking distance to a lot of attractions. And although I missed out on the beer, I ate more than my fair share of chocolate, pommes frites, and waffles.
A city of many languages
The politics in Belgium are enormously complicated, with the country split into two regions — the French-speaking Wallonia region and the Dutch-speaking Flemish region — plus the region of Brussels, each with their own government. To cater to both sides of the country, the signs and announcements in Brussels are in both Dutch and French, and I was pleasantly surprised that my ability to understand Dutch has drastically improved over the past few years. Not because of any effort to learn Dutch, but rather because my German is much better than it was a few years ago and there is so much overlap between the two languages. In fact, it was much easier for me to understand the announcements at the airport and train station in Dutch rather than French, despite having studied French for three years in high school (sorry, Madame Adams!).
In any case, the third time really is a charm and my few days in Brussels were just lovely…
Gorgeous, right? For more photos of Brussels, you can take a look at the whole album over on Flickr.
And traveling to Brussels was super easy. It was only an hour’s flight from Berlin, and there’s a convenient 17-minute train ride to the center of the city, which departs several times an hour from a station that’s directly beneath the airport. Round trip, the train tickets cost about 16 Euros, and can be bought either online or from a ticket machine at the airport or train station. Couldn’t be easier!
Despite just having three nights in the city, and spending much of my days at a conference, I still came away with feeling like I was able to experience the flavor of Brussels. And I was even able to sneak in a run at the Parc de Bruxelles, where I went running during my first trip to Brussels in 2009. I definitely came away charmed.
Have you visited Brussels? What were your first (or second or third) impressions of the city? Did you try any of the country’s specialty foods?
If you’re looking for more posts on traveling in Europe, you might find these interesting too: