14 Ways to Immerse Yourself in the Culture of Brussels
Live like a local, explore like a traveler in Brussels.
College Tourist Summer Team of Student Travel Bloggers.
Sweet Chocolate! Nicole Darian, University of Iowa
Belgium is internationally known for having the best and most rich chocolate in the world. What better place to make your blood sugar rise than Brussels, the capital of Belgium? In more touristy areas, you will find shops for specialty chocolate in the Grand Sablon, as well as Grand-Place. It was recommended to me once that I should try Pierre Marcolini in the Place du Grand Sablon. Posh and elegant on the inside, there is a huge variety of chocolates all made in house and also shipped to metropolitan cities all over the world. There are also chocolate tours and tastings available all over the city and vary in price based on length and quality of the chocolate. It won’t be hard to stumble upon everyone’s favorite dessert once in Brussels!
Take a dive in the world’s deepest pool. Molly O’Connor, Southern Methodist University
Home of fries, beer, chocolate and…the world’s deepest pool! Nemo33 attracts divers from all around the globe because of its 113 ft. depth filled with highly filtered spring water. Professionals, amateurs and tourists alike are all welcome at this facility 365 days a year for a plethora of activities. Whether you’re looking to learn to scuba dive, to attend dynamic water workout classes or to challenge your existing scuba diving skills, Nemo33 is the place for you. Not ready to dive in and submerge into the depths of water? Dine at their excellent Thai restaurant while admiring the adventurous swimmers through seven large windows. This unique attraction is perfect for those looking for adventure off the beaten path!
Drink local beer. Sydney Alonso, University of Central Florida
If Belgium is famous for it’s beer, then Brussels is the place to head to if you’re a beer aficionado. Brussels is home to six Trappist abbeys, all of which produce their own beer and are open to tourists. Plan a visit to learn not only how monks make the beer in modern times, but how they made it thousands of years ago. If you’re more into drinking than learning, make sure to visit the city in September, when the Grand Palace hosts it’s annual beer festival.
Eat, and create, waffles. Hannah McIntyre, Spring Hill College
When travelling to Brussels, Belgium, it’s expected that you’ll eat waffles. Did you know that you could also have the opportunity to make them? The Brussels Waffle Workshop makes that possible. For 25 euro you can prepare, cook and eat your own Belgian Waffles! They provide everything, including any topping you can imagine.
Comedic Relief. Mayilyn La Jeunesse, New York University
Tap into your childish side at The Belgian Comic Strip Center. For over 25 years, this museum has been honoring the work of comic book artists around the world. In addition to the Smurfs and Tintin, the Comic Strip Center is also housed in a gorgeous Art Nouveau building with a personality of it’s own. See the invention of the comic strip and how the art is created. A unique museum with big personality, this trip is fun for the whole family.
Take in the Flower Carpet. Whitney Barnes, University of Central Florida
Considered to be the most memorable landmark in Brussels, the Grand Place is home to beautiful gothic architecture and a historic art scene. After the plotted destruction of the town hall in August of 1695 by the French the town hall was rebuilt to add on to its already present elaborate architecture and a safer surrounding under supervision of the local authorities. If you are traveling to Brussels around August and are lucky enough you’ll be able to witness the flower carpet: a tradition that occurs every two years for a few days. Composed of multiple colors and a million begonia flowers. The flower carpet began in 1971 and due to its popularity attracts tourists from near and far. The beauty of Grand Place speaks for itself but if you want a more up close and personal viewing opt in for a tour.
Cheap Eats. Ben Rissler, American University
Traveling on a budget? Street food is always the way to go for a quick eat that won’t break the bank. Whether you need a break from sightseeing during the day or are desperate for a bite to eat after a long night out, Brussels offers some of the most appetizing and good-looking street food in Europe! Try frites topped off with mayonnaise or other interesting sauces, which can be found virtually all over the city. For the cultural foodies, grab a waffle with fresh fruit and drizzled with chocolate, to experience a classic Belgian treat for as little as €2. If you’re looking for something less sweet, find your way to the nearest shawarma, döner kebab, or dürüm stands for a taste of the Middle East. Whatever you choose to eat in the Belgian capital, the immense diversity in this city can be seen through the variety of food options available.
See a show at the Theatre Royal de Toone. Jamie Coulson, Flagler College
If you’re looking for a good laugh, and you’re also wanting to immerse in the culture of Brussels, then Theatre Royal de Toone is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a show! This small theatre located in the attic of the La Maison de Toone performs puppet shows and they are always changing! A crowd favorite, attached to the theatre is a small puppet manufacturing warehouse, a library, a video-library, and a puppet museum! The locals love it, and the esthetic of the theatre screams old-time comedy with it’s wooden benches and multicolored cushions nailed into the wooden planks. If you’re looking for entertainment and history all rolled into one, the Theatre Royal de Toone is the perfect spot to stop at!
Local Markets. Timpani Woodson, Northern Arizona University
Opposite of market square is the Place du Jeu de Balle flea market. The market is open everyday from 6am-2pm, and is known for its antiquities. Also, with being located in the center of town, there are plenty restaurants and cafes to eat at. So, grab a cup of coffee and head to the market early to find yourself a tiny treasure.
Local Events. Amanda Tempesta, Hofstra University
Summer time in Brussels means enjoying Apéros Urbains! What is an apéro, you ask? It’s a gathering of friends from different circles, families, neighbors, colleagues, everyone and anyone who wants to join in on celebrating a sense of community. Every friday different events are held from playing outdoor games to bowling. It’s the perfect event to unwind after a long week, have a drink, and meet the locals.
Landmarks. Mia Kavensky, University of Illinois
The Atomium is probobaly one of the weirdest, yet fascinating attractions to Brussels. During the World Fair in 1958, The Atomium, an elementary iron crystal that is 165 billions times the actual size, was pronounced a symbol of the city. Today, the Atomium is regarded as the eiffel tower is to Paris; and much like the parisian landmark, the best views are at night. The crowds are gone and the street lights reflect on the surface of the spheres, creating a magical sight. You can simply pursue by it, or explore the inner workings of this scientific masterpiece.
European Architecture. Tori Danforth, University of South Florida
Displaying some of Europe’s most beautiful architecture, Brussels is an architect-lovers dream! If you’re a Gothic fan then head to one of Brussels’ best churches, Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Not far from Grand Place, this stunning building will amaze you with its grandiose facade as well as its interior. Other noteworthy places showcasing Brussels’ incredible architecture are of course the Grand Place, the Royal Palace of Brussels, and the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon. In addition, you can check out the unique Ciamberlani House which showcases one of Belgium’s finest examples of Art Nouveau.
Street Sculptures. Zoë Radner, Vanderbildt University
Brussels is home to a collection of impressive art, architecture and sculpture, none more famous than the surprising small figurine Manneken Pis. Who could have guessed a fountain sculpture of a young boy peeing would attract international attention and adoration? Everyday a crowd of tourists surround the statue, nearly indistinguishable at the corner of a less populated street. Throughout the majority of the year, the naked boy is clothed in themed garments sponsored by various community groups around Brussels. This statue has inspired a multitude of stamps, postcards, magnets and other souvenirs, and remains a famous and cherished part of Brussels’ history and modern personality.
Explore the Belgian Comic Book Route. Angela Serednicki, Ryerson University
Many of the world’s most famous comic artists are Belgian. In order to celebrate their country’s art, local authorities collaborated with the Belgian Comic Strip Centre in order to create the Belgian Comic Book Route – a series of murals showcasing characters and scenes from the country’s most famous comics, including The Adventures of Tintin, Lucky Luke, Gaston and many more. Download a map of the official route online in order to explore each of the 50 colorful murals or join one of the city’s many guided street-art tours.
Featured image credit: Lizi Woolgar
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