We flew directly from New York to Brussels on November 16. We arrived on the morning of the 17th and took a train into downtown Brussels after an easy exit from the airport. We arrived at our hotel and were hoping to check in, but our room wasn't available. So we pivoted and stopped to get something to eat before joining a walking tour at 11am.
It was COLD! We had to get coffee to warm up, because the wind and rain went straight to our bones. The walking helped warm us up and we saw a lot of Brussels with our guide. The tour started in the Grand Place and they had an undecorated Christmas tree right in the middle of the square, getting ready for the Christmas markets!
Brussels has this strange, small statue called Manneken Pis. It shows a boy peeing. No one is exactly sure why this statue exists, but they are very proud of it. There is an entire museum with its various costumes and a person who has a job to dress the Manneken Pis. While this is a historic monument, there are are two other monuments in Brussels that go with it. Jeanneke Pis shows a girl peeing and Zinneke Pis shows a dog peeing. We only saw the first statue-seeing one was plenty of peeing statues for us.
The arcade pictured below was designed to look like Paris and had lots of cafes and shops under the covered roof. The church near the train station was beautiful from the outside and is dedicated to two saints.
We stayed at the Juliana Hotel-it was a great experience! I loved the design of the rooms and the hallways and lobby.
We had a late night dinner at a small restaurant around the corner from our hotel. We ordered the same thing-something that never happens! It was so good; I'm glad we had 2 portions! The meal was an over easy egg on stoemp (mashed potatoes with vegetables mixed in) and bacon and sausage. Everything was excellent!
The next day, we worked in a cafe for a bit before going back to the hotel to visit the sauna. Brennan also decided to run at the gym. The weather wasn't great, so we mostly stuck to indoor activities.
This was a bar we visited after dinner. It had great Christmas decorations that we enjoyed while drinking hot chocolate and beer. In the picture below you can also see how many different kinds of glassware they have! Each kind of beer has its own glass and there are many shapes and sizes.
Our last day in Brussels, we decided to take a day trip to Ghent. It's a little less than an hour to get to Ghent and this was the Starbucks in the train station when we arrived. It's a little more decorative and historic than most coffee shops I've visited!
When we got to the center of town, we found St. Nicholas and St. Bavo Cathedral. We visited both of them. St. Bavo is known for housing the Ghent Altarpiece, which was one of the first works by Jan Van Eyck. Van Eyck was one of the first painters of the Renaissance and it was amazing to see the detail in person.
Above the vault at the entrance is the most interesting glass art piece. It reminded me of glass ornaments my mom puts on her Christmas tree every year.
The cathedrals were great, but the real reason we came to Ghent was to see a castle! On our way there, we saw the river beside the castle. The buildings along the water were beautiful.
This castle is called Gravensteen (The Castle of the Counts). This castle was built around 1200 and we were able to visit many parts of the building and learn about what happened there through an audioguide. It was so cold, but the tour was interesting and we enjoyed walking around.
That evening, we visited a brewery and had dinner while tasting more of Belgium's famous beer. It was one of my favorite burgers I've ever had in Europe-and the beer wasn't too bad either! We took the train back to Brussels that evening and spent the last night at the Juliana Hotel before heading to our next location in Belgium!
We're Brennan & Megan
Since June 2022, we have been traveling to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.