Mussels in Brussels (and more)

Read more about my Self Care Sabbatical and the other places I’ve visited! 

I couldn’t figure out the vibe of Brussels, but I liked it. It felt like a low-key version of Paris in some ways: MUCH smaller, not as many sights, but good food and fun cafes. In fact, it kind of had that “Second City” vibe like a Chicago or Brooklyn, a smaller (and more relaxed) version of a city like New York. 

The first thing I noticed in Brussels, just walking from Brussels Central to my hotel, is that there are a lot of homeless people in this city. This was particularly noticeable because 1) I hadn’t seen a lot of that on my trip to date and 2) the beggars were a bit more aggressive here (a trend that would continue as I passed into France and Spain). 



Getting There: I took the train from Ghent (easy 30 min ride), and the city is easily accessed via train/plane from major cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne. There are 3 main train stations in Brussels so you are pretty well connected! 

I took public transit (subway and trams) a few times in Brussels. The subway can be a little gross (like New York) depending on the stop. It’s useful if you are going somewhere further away or have luggage, but otherwise, Brussels is a pretty walkable city. You can buy a 24-hour pass for 7.5 euro. 


Where to Stay: I stayed at the Bedford Hotel which was a decent budget option. Nothing fancy, but it was a good price and located just south of the central square and near sights/easy to get to from train station (Central is walkable, Nord is a short subway ride). Lots of restaurants nearby. I would suggest staying in proximity to the center so that you can be close to sights as well as restaurants/bars. Everything seemed to be clustered around the same area which makes it easy to see a lot in a short amount of time. 

posing at Autoworld
at the Comic Book Museum

What to Do:

  • Beaux-Art Museums – There are 3 museums in this complex: Magritte, Fin de Siecle, and Old Masters. You can buy a pass to visit all three for 15 euro. I was able to visit all of them in about 3 hours. The Magritte and Fin de Siecle were my favorites (the former was very crowded, the latter was not at all).
  • Comic Book Museum – If you are into comics, check it out. I walked inside and wandered the shop, but didn’t go to the museum (10 euro).
  • Grand Place – Very beautiful and impressive, more so than the other market squares in Belgium (and elsewhere)! Don’t eat around here as it looks very touristy! 
  • Parliamentarium – You can visit this free museum to learn more about the European Parliament. I got there an hour before closing so my visit was a bit rushed, but I thought this was pretty interesting (esp for an American!)
  • Autoworld – I spent a few fun hours checking out this car museum with cars from the past century. I took a million photos here (11 euro)
  • Parc de Cinquintenaire – I really loved this park, this is just next to Autoworld. Very nice to hang out on a beautiful day!
  • Place de Petit Sablon – Beautiful little park/garden, there is nice square nearby that was hosting an outdoor festival while I was there.
  • Mannekin Pis – The famous statue in Brussels – I thought this was very lame but it’s close to some tasty waffle spots!  

Eating & Drinking: I found Brussels to be a bit expensive for eating, but you can find some good spots that offer good food at more reasonable prices (like Fin de Siecle).

moules frites at Chez Leon
hanging out at Chez Richard
  • Get the moules frites at Chez Leon, just off the main square. You are going to have to have mussels in Brussels – do it here! 
  • Eat a waffle. Get it plain (nature) rather than with loads of toppings. Reco: Waffle Factory, Madame Dandoy (both near the square)
  • Frites of course – I got them at Frit Flagey, located outside of the center (take the tram there). These were the best I tried in Belgium and there was no wait! Other recos: Madame D’antoine, Fritland


  • Chez Richard – Cafe with small plates, lots of people hanging out. In the Sablon neighborhood which has a ton of little cafes like this. Fun for a drink/light meal.
  • OR Coffee – Nice coffee shop, has breakfast. 
  • Tich – Healthy spot for breakfast/lunch/snack/juice
  • Fin de Siecle – Great spot for dinner, Belgian food. Very busy, not very expensive. Look for the menu on the chalkboard (take a photo and bring it back to your table). I had a delicious meal here (try the sausage with mashed potatoes!)
the menu at Fin de Siecle


fantastic dinner



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