• Caroline Watkins

A weekend in Brussels

Updated: Jan 16




Standing in Grand Place during my first night in Brussels


This weekend, I was fortunate enough to visit Brussels. The decision came on a bit of a whim, after realizing that a majority of my classmates would be gone that weekend to Paris--a trip I passed up on, due to the fact that I will be returning to the city of love in March. 


So, after booking my Eurostar ticket and finding a relatively cheap hotel near the European Commission, I packed my backpack and traveled a little over two hours to Belgium. 


So, you may be asking, why Brussels? A group of Mizzou students are currently studying there for the semester, and I also had some high school friends in town who were able to meet up with me. I decided it would be a good idea to go somewhere where I knew people, especially considering the fact that it was my first solo international trip. 


The ride getting there was a little rough. I sat next to a group of women on the Eurostar who were loud and taking shots at 9 a.m. on a train car full of people who were just trying to sleep an extra hour. The best part of the ride is when one of the women started throwing up, due to the fact that she was taking tequila shots on an empty stomach before 10 a.m. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone.


Once I arrived in the city, I dropped off my stuff in the hotel and explored my neighborhood near the European Commission and got lunch. After realizing that every restaurant in the area was vastly overpriced (probably due to the majority of EU workers who work there), I settled for one of the cheapest options I could find. Linguine with tomato sauce at a local bar/restaurant for 16 euros. However, after my longer than expected train ride, my stomach appreciated a hearty meal.


Then, I took off to Grand Place, where I would explore the square and its surrounding side streets until I met up with my friend Sarah Westheim. Sarah is studying in Amsterdam, and I hit her up last second and invited her to come visit me in Brussels. Sarah was kind of enough to take a train down for the day, and we had a ton of fun catching up and exploring a city in which she used to live.





During that first day, we knocked off some of the main tourist attractions. We walked around Grand Place and took photos, tried an authentic Belgian waffle and beer, went to an awesome thrift store and even saw Manekkin Piss. Sarah was even kind enough to buy me a souvenir coin of him! She also showed me Sablon, a more upscale neighborhood not too far away. There, we enjoyed another beer and visited Pierre Marcolini's incredible chocolate store and explored some of the cute side streets.





After Sarah left, I went home on the early side. I was pretty exhausted from my previous week and waking up early that morning, so I headed home, settled into bed and Facetimed my boyfriend for a bit.


The most exciting part of my otherwise lowkey night was when I called the receptionist and asked him to bring a hair dryer to my room. I stupidly thought there wasn't one in the room, until the receptionist showed me the hanging hair dryer (that honestly looked like a steamer) on the wall of my bathroom. Got to love those learning curves! At least I'll know for next time? *Still cringing internally*


The next morning was another packed day. I spent the day with some of my friends on the Brussels program (Amanda, Monica and Naomi) and they showed me their city. I met them in Grand Place and we visited the Comic museum, which was interesting, but probably would have been more interesting if we were familiar with other European comics besides TinTin.



Me and the Mizzou ladies


From inside the comic museum


We then quickly stopped at Primark so I could get an outfit for that night (you can take the girl out of London, but not London out of the girl!) and then I headed over to their flat. Brussels ladies, if you are reading this, your flats are so nice! I'm so jealous of the lucky few of you who have single rooms and sweeping views of the city skyline. 


Then, I quickly ran back to the hotel to drop off my bag, and then met some of my guy friends from freshman year for dinner. I found out the night before that they were ALSO in town for a weekend conference; what a small world! We made dinner plans over Instagram to meet at Chez Patrick, a Belgian restaurant located on the corner of Grand Place. Although it was overpriced, we all had a really great, authentic meal. Two of the boys ate mussels and frites, my friend had a steak and I tried carbonade, a traditional Belgian dish. We also, naturally, each tried some Belgian beers. 



Me and the guys in Grand Place


After I hung out with them for a bit, I met up with ANOTHER friend of mine from high school. Nicole was in town for the weekend visiting her aunt before she studies in Geneva for the semester. It was so much fun catching up with her over (more) Belgian waffles. 



Nicole and I catching up over delicious Belgian waffles


We then relinked with my Mizzou friends that night and went to Cafe Florentine and Celtica, amongst other bars. We thought about going to Delirium, a bar famous for having the most beers on tap in the world, but it looked crazy packed. I also found out from some of my Brussels friends that when they visited the bar, they were saddened to realize that the menu did not boast as many beers as they claimed. 


We had a great night exploring the night life of Brussels and it was fun to hang out with so many people I knew in a city I had never been before. I got to bed late, but was excited for my last day in Brussels on Sunday.


The next morning, I met up with Nicole again for brunch at Peck 47. I had an incredible acai bowl and tea. After binging on beer, waffles, fries and chocolate, I definitely needed something substantial in my system. The restaurant was also packed, which shows just how popular the restaurant is for lunch. They had everything from avocado toast to a special waffle menu; they also had fantastic drinks, even though we did not partake in drinking ourselves.


Then, Nicole and I went to the Musical Instruments Museum, which was supposed to be one of the best museums of the city. As a musician myself, I had a great time exploring the different levels of the museum, which showed everything from tribal flutes to immaculate pianos filled with stunning paintings and embellishments. My favorite part was going to the restaurant at the top, where they had brunch, a buffet bar and an outdoor patio that had an incredible view of the city. The weather was fairly warm and they were playing jazz music in the background. It was incredible. However, because we ate earlier and didn't want to cough up the money for another expensive meal, we passed on eating there and instead just walked around to take it all in.



I think this was the most beautiful piano I have ever seen


On Sunday, I also considered going to the iconic Atomium, but I was told my multiple people it was pretty out of the way and probably not worth it. I took their advice and just spent the rest of the day walking around the Royal Gallery with Nicole. There, I made my big chocolate purchase, and bought 8 chocolates to take home to London. I decided to buy them from Mary's, named after the first female chocolatier of Brussels. If I was going to buy expensive European chocolate, I was going to buy FEMINIST expensive European chocolate. 


P.S. I snuck in a few bites already--it did not disappoint. 




As you can tell, they didn't last long...


And by then, it was pretty much time to head home. However, I would say that three days is plenty enough time to see Brussels. Well, perhaps an extra day would have been nice, so I could go to Bruges or Ghent. However, I think we managed to do quite a lot in those few days and my favorite part was seeing my friends from the states thrive in Europe. Dear reader, if we can survive in Europe for a few months, SO CAN YOU!


Stay tuned for my next adventure abroad. Until then, my diet will consist of literally anything but carbs. Brussels did me dirty!

Cheers,

Caroline