Earlier this past summer, I took a short trip to Brussels to attend a conference. With the help of some colleagues I was able to make the most out of my short time and explore some of the best of what the city has to offer.
Belgium and Tourism
While Belgium might not be one of the top 5 destinations in Europe, it does have a robust and well known travel and tourism industry, with popular destinations like Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent. In 2015, the total contribution of travel and tourism to the national gross domestic product (GDP) of Belgium was EUR 25.1 billion, representing 6.1% of GDP, according the World Travel and Tourism Council. When looking at the impact the industry has in absolute terms the contribution of travel and tourism is relatively small, placing Belgium 144th out of 184 economies. This is common for European destinations, as travel and tourism tend to play a smaller role in the economy.
Where to Eat and Drink in Brussels, Belgium
When I think of Brussels two things immediately come to mind, mussels and beer. When I was last in Brussels nearly five years ago I hadn’t yet developed an affinity for mussels or craft beer. This trip was the perfect opportunity to explore these relatively new interests.
Le Cercle Des Voyageurs
On my first night, a group of us had dinner at the Le Cercle Voyageurs, a travel themed restaurant just south of the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The travel theme featured in the décor of the restaurant with old and suitcases lining the walls and travel guides dispersed throughout and carried into the menu, which spanned the globe from traditional Belgian classics like waterzooi, a Belgian stew to chicken Korma and Thai duck, which is what I had. The food was terrific, the beer-delicious as expected and the live jazz music gently wafting through the air added to the international ambiance of the restaurant and evening.
There is no shortage of places to get a good beer in Brussels, but Moeder Lambic stands out for its vast selection of craft beer. With its prime location just off the Grand Place, and extremely knowledgeable and helpful staff, and cool aesthetic, Moeder Lambic is the perfect place to sample some of Belgium’s best beers.
After trying several, my favorite was, without a doubt, the Saison Biologique from the Dupont Brewery in Tourpes, Belgium. This Saison is an organic blond beer that is refermented in the bottle, which gives this light beer a complexity it otherwise would not have. It was a nice way to finish off the long work day.
La Pre Sale
On my last night, a colleague of mine suggested the perfect place to enjoy some moules frites. Located near the Place Sainte-Catherine, just a short walk from the Grand Place, is a small local restaurant called La Pre Sale. We were lucky enough to snag a table with only a ten-minute wait,but I would have waited longer. The croquettes aux crevettes, a house specialty was delectable and so rich I couldn’t finish the towering pot of mussels Provençal-much to the dismay of the staff. A word to the wise go on an empty stomach so you can savor every last mussel.
Things to See and Do in Brussels
Any trip to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Manneken Pis, if only to see what costume the small bronze statue of a little boy peeing is dressed in that day. There are many tales of origin told about this little boy statue that was erected in 1618. The one I was told during my visit was that it was in honor of a little boy whose stream of urine stopped a fire that was threatening the city. However, Wikipedia tells me the most popular legend is that of Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142 the Duke’s soldiers hung his basket in a tree to motivate them during battle where from the diminutive lord urinated on the opposing troops, who eventually lost the battle. Regardless of the origin, the statue is a major landmark in the city and worth a visit. You never know it just might be the day that cold beer is served from his spigot.
One of Backpacking with the Bonds’ favorite things to do when travelling is sit in public places (e.g. parks, squares, benches) and absorb the atmosphere-preferably with some drinks. On Friday night, the Grand Place was full of people, mainly young, but some older, sitting in the square playing cards, having drinks, and just enjoying life-especially with it being 10 pm and the sun not having set. I wish I could have stayed and taken it all in but, as I said, it was 10 pm after a long two days of work and I had an early morning flight back to DC. Next time, Brussels.
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