Brussels, Belgium

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Grand-Place of Brussels

 

Brussels may be known for their beer and waffles, but there is so much more to the city than you would expect.

After visiting Bruges, I took a train to Brussels and spent about 2 days there. If you are planning on doing a weekend trip to Belgium, I would highly recommend splitting your time between Bruges and Brussels because the train ride between the two is only a couple of hours and is really inexpensive. This time I stayed in a hostel in the heart of the city called 2GO4 and was able to walk just about everywhere. I would definitely suggest staying somewhere near the city center as there are a lot of things to do around that area that are walking distance, but the metro is also super easy to use, so no matter where you stay in the city, it’s not hard to get around. The very first thing I would recommend doing is going to the Grand-Place of Brussels, it has Brussels Town Hall, Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, Museum of the City of Brussels, and the Belgian Brewers Museum in it. There are also a lot of waffle stands and shops near the Grand-Place, like Australian Home Made Ice Cream which has life-changing waffles for only 2€. A few other sights that you can visit around the main plaza is the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and Manneken Pis Fountain. On a side street called Rue des Bouchers, there are tons of cafes and restaurants that have really cheap lunch menus, like Chez Léon who has a lunch special of a main dish (mussels, salmon, beef stew, etc.), fries, and a beer for only 10€. As long as you stay away from the super touristy areas of the city, you’ll find that most of the restaurants in Brussels are reasonably priced. If you’re in Brussels while it’s still warm, one of the best ways to really see the city is by renting a bike and spending an afternoon riding around the city.  Just be prepared to get a pretty good workout because Brussels is surprisingly hilly. Some other things that I would recommend seeing is the Royal Palace of Brussels, the UN Building, Cinquantenaire Museum, and Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Another big tourist attraction is the Atomium and Mini-Europe. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to go see it because it was on the outside of the city, but the metro system in Brussels makes it really easy to get to and from the Atomium from center of the city if you have the time to make the trip. Personally, my favorite thing about Brussels is their beautiful parks. They have so many throughout the city, but the best one I found was Cinquantenaire Park which has an amazing view of the Cinquantenaire Museum and the Arc de Triomphe du Parc du Cinquantenaire. It’s the perfect place to just relax and enjoy being outside with your friends. As for the night life in Brussels, there are a lot of bars with good happy hour specials, like WXYZ Bar which has two Stella Beers for 5€, and really cool night clubs like You Night Club and Fuse.

My advice when traveling to Brussels is to just walk around the city and spend time in their parks instead of just visiting the museums and monuments, you’ll see a lot more of the city and get a better idea of what it’s like to live there. Also try the small, local restaurants while you’re there, I found that the food was so much better and less expensive. Overall Brussels has some of the best parks and most amazing food in Europe and is well worth the trip.

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Bruges, Belgium

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Rozenhoedkaai View of Dijver Canal
If you’re looking for a fairytale city, then Bruges is definitely the city for you. Not only does it have beautiful scenery, but the food and atmosphere of the city is really what sets it apart from big European cities.
I was only able to spend half a day there, but I definitely made the most of it. I would say if you’re coming from France, the Netherlands or Germany, taking a bus is the best and most cost efficient way to get there. It’s also a super easy day trip if you’re staying in Paris. I stayed outside the city center in a hostel called Jeugdherberg Herdersburg, which was located in a very suburban area. Even though it was pretty far from the center of the city, staying there was a very refreshing change of pace from living in downtown Paris. If you’re staying in Bruges, for more than a day or two, I would definitely recommend escaping to the outskirts of the city and get a feel for what it’s really like to live there. Bruges is a quite small city so it’s very easy to walk everywhere and if you’re staying in the city center, then there is no need to use public transportation at all. The most popular attraction in the city is the Markt of Bruges (Market Place), which includes the Belfry of Bruges and a wide variety of restaurants and cafes. In my opinion, the Dijver Canal is the best part of the city especially in the evening when the swans are floating down it. For food, I would definitely recommend trying their fries, waffles, and beer; believe me, there’s a reason Belgium is known for them. I ate at a restaurant called De Vier Winden (The Four Winds) which was located next to the Belfry of Bruges and had an amazing view of the Markt of Bruges. It was on the more expensive side, but had really good food and you definitely can’t beat the location. Bruges doesn’t have a super crazy night life, but they do have some really cool bars that offer a lot of good drink specials. Just be careful when you go to the bathroom in the bars in Bruges though, due to the buildings being so old, it is possible to get locked in a bathroom stall and have to use a wrench to get yourself out, believe me I know from experience.
My advice when traveling to Bruges is to visit the city without having an itinerary. I think the best way to really experience the city is just by walking around and stumbling upon cool shops, restaurants, and buildings. Overall Bruges is such a picturesque little city that is definitely worth visiting.

Château de Versailles

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Have you ever walked into a building and literally have it take your breath away? I had never experienced that feeling before until I walked into the Palace of Versailles. The amount of detail and work that must have gone into every single inch of that place, blows my mind. To think that something that grand and marvelous was built during a time when there was not nearly as much technology as we have today, is ludicrous. All of the doorways are huge and the doors are covered from top to bottom in gold. There are the most intricate and beautiful murals on the ceilings of every room, I mean you actually get a cramp in your neck from looking up at them for so long. My favorite room is the Galerie des Glaces (aka Hall of Mirrors). It’s one long room that is wrapped in mirrors and gold and has more chandeliers than you can count. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I would have liked in the gardens, but I can say that I have never seen gardens quite like that. The size alone is incredible, but the variety of flowers and statues and fountains are insane.

In my opinion there are a lot of places in Paris that I really don’t think are worth spending money to see, but the Palace of Versailles is definitely worth every penny. FYI if you have a student visa or European Student ID you’ll be able to get into the palace for free so make sure to bring it with you.

La Tour Eiffel

The very first thing everyone thinks of when they think of Paris is the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know what it is about this monument but it has people from all around the world traveling to see it. I wish I could say that it’s as overrated as the Mona Lisa but that would be a lie.

I visited the Eiffel Tower for the first time on the second night I was in Paris. A few of my friends and I decided to completely submerge into the Parisian culture and have a picnic underneath it. I can honestly say that I have never felt anything more surreal in my entire life than when I turned the corner and saw the Eiffel Tower and all of it’s glory with my own eyes. I don’t know if it was because of my lack of sleep and jet lag, but looking up at the Eiffel Tower, I genuinely started to get teary eyed. I feel like it didn’t totally hit me that I was in Paris until that moment. Every single picture I have ever seen of the Eiffel Tower does not do it justice, I feel like you will never be able to fully appreciate it until you see it in person. Also if you don’t have get drunk with your friends under the Eiffel Tower on your bucket list, you need to add it immediately.