It wasn’t until semi-recently that I started to fully appreciate Brussels. Growing up in Belgium I wasn’t particularly wild about our capital city. However, the city has grown on me over the past few years.
My eyes finally opened about three years ago, when visiting the Christmas markets in Brussels. I was conditioned by travel, conditioned to look around and actually see the place you’re in. I was blown away by the architecture in the city. There is seriously no place in the world like the Grand Place in Brussels. That is the most beautiful city square on the planet. Period.
Later, I went back several times to explore, take more detailed looks around and get myself a visa to America. I gradually learned more about the city’s long history and about the historic landmarks. Although there’s no denying that there are areas in the Brussels suburbs where you don’t want to be – that’s the case in virtually every major city – I dare to say that Brussels is the most underestimated city in the world.
There are chocolatiers, old shopping malls, jaw-dropping architecture, tons of history and old medieval alleyways. The food is world-class too – it’s a Belgian city after all. Brussels has a little bit of everything. It’s historic and hip; confident enough to partake in some serious self-mockery, yet it’s not arrogant; Brussels is sometimes bizarre and always fascinating; it’s extremely bureaucratic and vibrantly multicultural; and it’s both Francophone and Flemish.
A last note before we get started: the reason there are no pictures of the Atomium, one of the major landmarks in Brussels and Belgium, below is that the people behind the Atomium are being A-holes – that’s right, with a capital A – about copyright. Allow me to solve this very minor issue by sharing a couple more pictures of the Grand Place.