Why Brussels is best in December
- December 27, 2016
Brussels is often written off as a “must-visit” city in Europe. With nearby Paris and Amsterdam, Brussels tends to be skipped over. My expectations were pretty low for Brussels, but I was pleasantly surprised with how beautiful (and tasty!) this city is. If you are still hesitant, grab a cup of coffee (this is a long one!) and get ready to start planning the perfect winter weekend away in Brussels.
Strolling through Brussels in December
The allure of Brussels is in it’s friendly people, the winding cobblestone streets, and the amazing food (see the entire section on eating in Brussels). We were lucky enough to visit at the height of the Christmas market season and fell in love with the city. From exploring all of the various markets that seemed to pop out of nowhere to riding a ferris wheel overlooking the city to popping into multiple cathedrals we really made the most of 36 hours.
The Christmas Markets
There are multiple markets dotting the city between Sainte-Catherine and the Grand Place. The best one, in my opinion, is in front of the Sainte-Catherine Cathedral. With a towering Ferris Wheel and enough stalls to entertain you for a few hours we spent most of our time here.
We also stumbled across the coolest old-school carousel that, at least in my imagination, came straight out of the early 1900s.
Hang out at the Grand Place
Before visiting Brussels I had seen pictures of the Grand Place, but never imagined the true magnitude of this beautiful square. The Christmas tree and nativity scene in the middle of the square simply added to the appeal of these magnificent buildings. Be sure to give yourself some time (I suggest 30 minutes to an hour) to really enjoy the square. We didn’t go inside of any of the buildings, but spent plenty of time gawking at the outside.
Since this post is about visiting in December, I can’t skip over the awesome light show we saw in the evening at Grand Place. Every 10-15 minutes the buildings in the square dance with lights in sync with various Top 40 hits. This is a “can’t-miss” if in Brussels in December.
See the pissing boy
I don’t quite understand this little statue, but lo and behold there was a hoard of tourists crowded around a replica of a pissing boy in the middle of the city. Since the 15th century this little guy, known to the locals as “Manneken-Pis”, has been hanging out in Brussels and while it originally served as a form of drinking water I’m not sure I would fill my water bottle with this rusty water anymore.
Church hop your way through Brussels
Old Gothic churches are to Brussels what Dunkin Donuts are to New York City. They are literally on every corner. We popped into a couple throughout our visit, but my favorite one was the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. We were lucky enough to visit during a mass (hence why I have no pictures of the interior) and even though I’m not that spiritual it was an uplifting experience.
Stroll through Brussels Park
Compared to some of the other parks in Europe (looking at you Hyde Park in London) this park is meh. But, it’s still beautiful. Europe sets super high standards for parks and since I come from a state (Texas) with basically no free green space I still really enjoyed Brussels Park. It’s a breath of fresh air from the sweet smell of waffles wafting through the city center (read eating section below) and was a perfect end to our trot through the city before feasting on Mussels.
Eat your way through Brussels
Waffles – Enough said.
The moment we stepped off the train from the airport we could smell the sweet aroma of buttery waffles. Literally every where we went in the city smelled like waffles. Despite the sugar coma accompanied with seven waffles in 36 hours we were still drooling for more.
In an attempt to describe this amazing melt-in-your-mouth goodness I’ve chosen five phrases to describe the amazingness that is known as the Belgian waffle.
Gooey interior… Crispy, buttery outside…Heaven in your mouth… Dripping caramelized sugar… … Best thing you will ever eat..
Okay… so maybe I am not the next food writer, but damn these are good. Just look at the sugar stuck to the paper at the bottom right corner of the waffle. Magical, right? Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that the waffles may be the best part of Brussels and no matter what crazy diet you are on if you are ever in Brussels you MUST have one (or seven?).
Mussels, beer, and more waffles..
We did eat some real food while in Brussels and it was delightful. I’d dare to say this was the best food I’ve had (outside of Amsterdam) in continental Europe. Since I’m terrible at taking pictures of food I’ve included a map below to show you where the restaurants are.
We were lucky enough to snag a table for brunch on Saturday at the famous Peck47 (#1 on the map) for delicious savory waffles. A bit on the expensive side for the amount of food, but tasty nonetheless. For dinner, we heeded the advice of Katy from Untold Morsels and enjoyed a spectacular traditional Belgian meal at La Fleur en Papier Doré (#2). Somehow we were still hungry the next day and enjoyed Mussels in Brussels at the famous Chez Leon (#3).
In between all of the food we had a few beers at Delirium Cafe which houses over 3000 different beers. While busy, I highly suggest popping by during the day just to see what all of the hype is about. After one large 13% beer we enjoyed a long, luxurious day-drinking nap.
Where to stay
Now for the nitty gritty. We were on a pretty tight budget when visiting, but stayed in the loveliest little AirBnB right in the center of the city. The bathroom might be one of the nicest I have seen in Europe thus far. If you’ve never used AirBnB before click here for $31 off your first booking. Wherever you stay, try to stay close to the center. Everything of interest is in walking distance of the Grand Place.
Brussels in December is magical and hopefully this post has convinced you to add this amazing city to your bucket list.