A while back, Turkish Airlines offered an unbelievable buy one flight get the second for $1 deal for travel to select countries in Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, the deal really was too good to be true since the taxes were far higher than the cost of the flight itself. We still got a good deal nonetheless.
We (my retired Aunt and I) set our sights on two places in Europe that we’d never been to, Brussels, Belgium and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. With only three weeks to spare, I went to TripAdvisor to begin planning our week-long winter holiday in Europe.
Since Brussels is known for their chocolate I knew a tour and tasting were in order. Also, a tour to familiarize ourselves with the city and its rich history were number one on my list. Fortunately, I found a great tour through Viator that encompassed both.
Our tour guide, Sandra, took us around the city where we not only got to sample many different kinds of chocolates (specifically those that aren’t found in the States so no Godiva or Neuhaus) but we visited famous sites like the Grand Place, Royal Palace, Manneken Pis and Janneken Pis. Halfway through, we went to a chocolate studio where we spent 45 minutes sipping Belgian beer and making our own candy confections.
The next day we decided to venture out to Bruges (aka Brugge). We caught an early train out of Brussels (Midi Station) to Bruges, a beautiful town surrounded by canals and medieval buildings, about an hour outside of Brussels. While we waited for the city to awaken, our driver dropped us off at a cute but pricey local cafe, Patisserie Servaas Van Mullem. We spent the early part of the day wandering the streets, taking photos of the amazing architecture, and checking out the churches. We made a quick visit to the Church of Our Lady to check out Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child sculpture.
We made it back to Brussels in time for our half day tour to Antwerp, a city known for being the epicenter of the diamond trade. Did you know 84% of the world’s diamonds pass through there? We walked at a brisk pace for 6 hours with a short 20 minute break to grab something to eat.
If you’re an art buff, we did get to see several of Peter Paul Rubens famed works of art at the Cathedral of Our Lady. There is also a very contemporary-looking museum, Museum aan de stroom (MAS) with amazing views of the city from the top. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend but we didn’t see any so I was definitely disappointed. While Antwerp had a lot of history, my advice would be to skip it and spend an entire day in Bruges instead.
Back in Brussels, we had some great meals but the best by far was at C’est Bon C’est Belge (the Le Celier locations). It’s tiny and can only accommodate about 20 people so make reservations. We also went to were Les Gens Que J’Aime, nothing fancy seemed to be a spot frequented by locals and expats alike, great beer selection. We checked out Chez Leon since it’s a fixture in Brussels, it’s been open since 1893. Nothing to write home about but the service was unbeatable and the food was decent.
We stayed at the Sheraton Brussels which is in a very central location. Close to the shops, 15 minute walk to the Grand Place, and 5 minute walk to the Brussels Midi Train Station.
The next post will talk about the second part of our trip to The Netherlands.