J’aime Les Belges: An American Girl’s Day in Brussels
While my stay in Brussels was short—only one day—the city still managed to convince me that it should never be overlooked. Conveniently located between Paris and Amsterdam, my friends and I decided to make it a stop on one of our weekend excursions while we studied abroad. Here’s what we found.
The first thing you’ll notice when walking into the Grand Place in Brussels is the beautiful Art
Nouveau-style architecture of the buildings that surround it. The gold detailing, statues, and carvings are so intricate and minute that you can stare at the same building for 15 minutes and keep picking out more ornate details. The entire city has long, narrow streets filled with buildings just like these.
Brussels is for Foodies
If you haven’t caught on to this yet from my previous blogs, I really love food. It’s probably my favorite part about traveling. European cities know food, and Brussels is certainly no exception. There are five things you MUST consume when you’re in Brussels: mussels and fries (moules frites), chocolate, a Belgian street waffle, pizza, and, of course, you must wash it all down with a frosty pint of famous Belgian beer from the Cantillon. I know, all are well-known, except for the pizza. Believe it or not the pizza I had in Brussels was equivalent in taste to the pie I savored in Florence, Italy, just a month prior. I know that’s an overwhelming amount of food, but I managed to squeeze it all into my 32 hours, so, I believe in you.
My final tip, be sure not to eat at any restaurants with hosts that try to solicit you on the street. The same rule applies for a European restaurant that applies to American colleges: if they need a commercial, you probably don’t want to go there. Their reputation should speak for itself.
The Low-Down on Chocolate
Brussels is famous for beer and chocolate. I’ve never been much of a “beer girl,” so I’m going to focus on the chocolate. Not everyone loves chocolate, but personally, it’s gotten me through many dreary work afternoons, a few breakups, and some long study sessions. I was sure I wanted to bring home some Belgian chocolate for my family, so I did some research. Here’s what I learned about that dreamy substance during my day in the chocolate capital of the world.
While Godiva comes to mind for most people when they think about Belgian chocolate, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. If you want the entire “experience” just as much as you want the chocolate, then Pierre Marcolini is the shop for you. If Godiva is the “Coach” of chocolate stores, Pierre Marcolini is the “Chanel.” The chocolates are like gems under glass cases, and the sales team is dressed to the nines. Marcolini is known as the man who reinvented Belgian chocolate by creating innovative flavors made from Cuban and Madagascan cocoa beans. They treat each customer with the utmost respect, and charge around $10 for a chocolate bar.
Pierre Marcolini is a two-story building with all the grandeur of the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs Elysees, but while in Brussels be sure to take the time to visit a smaller, less flashy chocolate shop. Nothing really beats sampling chocolate while listening to the insights of the staff that actually made the piece by hand. For that experience, check out La Belgique Gourmande.