I arranged a day in Brussels as a stopover between Dominican Republic and London. The cheapest direct flight from Santo Domingo to Europe at the time was with Jetairfly to Brussels and from there it was easy to just jump on the Eurostar to London St Pancras.
I was excited about visiting Brussels as I’d never been and had heard some good things about it being a trendy place for weekend breaks however my expectations may have been too high because I was a little disappointed.
It was very easy to take a train directly from the airport to Brussels Midi station and from there it was just a ten minute walk to the centre of the city. This was great but what I immediately noticed when leaving the train station was that the city was quite dirty. I would, however, probably think the same about London if I was walking through back streets from a train station so I didn’t judge the city on this alone. It was early morning when I arrived, around 8am and a lot of shops and restaurants were still closed but I stopped in a cafe in the city centre for breakfast. It seemed that many of the people around me had come straight to breakfast from a night of drinking and I witnessed two drunken arguments just while having my coffee! Again, I realise this can happen in London or anywhere for that matter but it’s these first impressions that tend to last for me unfortunately.
It wasn’t all bad and there were some parts of the city that I thought were lovely, such as the Grand Palace. I also liked the streets surrounding the main square as they were full of really amazing chocolate shops! Of course, Belgian chocolate is known for being some of the best in the world so I had to make sure I tried quite a few variations! I can confirm that they were all very nice!
One thing that really surprised me was the famous Manneken-Pis statue. The original dates back to 1388 and there are many legends about what this strange statue of a little boy urinating actually represents! I had it on my list of must-see things and for some reason I was expecting it to be a huge statue but he is actually quite tiny at just 61cm tall! It’s so small that while looking for it on the map I walked passed it twice!
All in all I enjoyed the day in Brussels and I’m glad I visited but it wouldn’t be a place that I would choose to go back to for a city break. I prefer Bergamo and Bucharest, they’re both much more interesting and beautiful in my opinion.
It may be that my first impressions were wrong and I know that there are many people that love Brussels however, based on my visit it’s not one of the cities that I immediately fell in love with.