A chocolate heaven just a train ride away from Paris.
This is Brussels for me. A place that quickly became one of my favorite stops in Europe. Belgium always gets me thinking about chocolates and waffles and that is one of the reasons why I’ve always wanted to go and experience it. I love love love chocolates especially Belgian ones! So we really made it a part of our Europe honeymoon back in 2012. We allotted a day during our week stop in Paris to do a day-trip to Brussels. And that day has been one of my favorite short but sweet side-trips in Europe!
From the train station in Paris en route to Brussels, it’s already a chocoholics dream come true where there are stores selling and displaying Belgian chocolates all over. All these temptations while just waiting for your train!
We were so excited for this trip. This is our last stop before heading back home and having a leisure week in Paris allowed us to rest after 3 weeks of traveling in different cities. Plus, this is one place where we didn’t have a planned itinerary unlike the others we went to. We just basically wanted to explore spontaneously. So our energy was up this very early morning. We also like this train station. It was the cleanest and newest we experienced in Europe and there are interesting shops around. Plus we had our train all to ourselves, it turns out we were the only ones taking the early ride out! 🙂 The ride was also very quick. If I remember correctly it only took us about 40 mins to get there as we didn’t even get to take a nap or really enjoy the empty train as we had to get off shortly after.
Getting to Brussels and navigating around was very easy. From the moment we arrived there until we left we didn’t take any mode of transportation. We just grabbed a map, walked from the train station on the way to the Grand Place which was their main market and our main destination and explored other shops and markets along the way.
Crossing from the train station, these are the things we saw from our walk. There are neighborhood street markets around selling the most interesting things. Stalls were set up with various homemade arts and crafts and some very unique items I wish I was able to bring home like the hand painted lamps, glasswares and other home items. This area was nice since it was October when we came and it felt like an early Christmas market.
After this local market, we then went on to explore the shopping buildings nearby. There are lots of small buildings outside with beautiful architecture that houses cafes, restaurants and specialty stores. Most are of course chocolate shops in almost every corner. Then we came across this chic building, Galeries Royales St Hubert, with a nice ceiling structure design and it turns out to be a shopping building. I love how in Europe shopping is done not inside modern malls but inside beautiful old buildings.
The Grand Place is already very near the Galeries. It’s just a few steps outside. It’s a really beautiful plaza surrounded by old intricate buildings. I love that there are a lot going on in the middle — painters showcasing their art, the prettiest flowers in full bloom being sold, musicians playing, tourists taking pictures and enjoying the view, the vibe is just so alive and we love it!
After going around Grote Markt (or Grand Palace), we decided to explore the alleys and side streets around it for some shopping and food tripping. We wanted to bring home some chocolates too so we went around to find the ones with the best deals. One thing we noticed arriving in Brussels is the little pissing boy who is all over their chocolate stores. It turns out it’s called Manneken Pis or Mannequin Pis and he’s sort of their iconic sculpture. A lot of tourists were going to see the original sculpture so we went along with them only to find out it’s a really small one pissing water. It’s quite funny and weird haha!
For our late lunch, we went to find Chez Leon a famous restaurant in Belgium recommended by my sister. They are known for their mussels and fries. It was a place that is quite hidden but you can easily ask around for it. This restaurant originated here in Brussels and this was our first time to try it. There’s also one in Paris along Saint Germain that we discovered on our last day. Their food is really really good that we were so happy to see it in Paris and ate there for our last good meal in Paris.
After our meal, we strolled around in their neighborhood mall to do a bit of shopping while waiting for our train ride back to Paris in the afternoon. Brussels is very accessible by foot and you can easily explore the place in a day. It was a leisure day-trip that we really enjoyed.