Weekend in Brussels

I have pointed out several times in my blog posts that I am involved in the hospitality industry. As it is known, the hospitality industry is a chain of different operations that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. You may be asked to work different shifts, weekends, or holidays. It’s not an easy thing, but if you are communicative and you enjoy daily interaction with costumers you will love it as I do. When I first began my journey into the hospitality world, one of my mentors told me ‘there is no middle ground in hospitality, you will either love it, or hate it.’ He was absolutely right. And I do love what I do besides the facts I mention above. The only difficulty for me is that I have only one free weekend per month, so every time I got my desired free weekend I am striving to make it special and to spend some nice quality time with my partner. Therefore we are always trying to make small escapes and we never plan our trip into the details, it is more exciting for us to discover the city we went on the way. If you plan too much you can easily get disappointed and this is something we are trying to avoid.

Few weeks ago my boyfriend and me decided to discover the capital of Belgium, the city of Brussels. We book a room at the Motel One Brussels. Since I had a very nice experience with the Motel One when I visited Nuremberg last year, therefore I decided to choose this hotel chain again. I like to play safe especially when there is not enough time for searching and planing, I was sure that the Motel One was the best choice and I was absolutely right. The price of the room was great and I really fell in love with their design and the sense of hospitality. In the future I will follow this chain in my small escapes to other European cities. Most of their hotels are in Germany because this is German based company, but you can also find them in England, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and this year they have new opening in Paris-France and Glasgow-Scotland. If you wish to book the same hotel on your next visit to Brussels, please press the link on Booking.com website, it will take you directly to the property so you don’t have to search. There you can check the prices and availability.

We got a huge room with a balcony and beautiful view over Brussels at the seventh floor.

Hotel is located in the city center, just 15 minutes walk to the old center with most of the city sights, shopping area, museums and other attractions like beautiful Botanical garden of Brussels and Brussels comic book museum. It is also very close to the train and bus station Brussels-Noord (Bruxelles-Nord).

Except the indoor lounge this hotel also has an outdoor lounge placed in the beautiful and quiet, green courtyard.

Since Brussels is the city of Victor Horta, famous Belgian architect and designer whose work I admired for years just from the pictures, it was very exiting for me to see with my own eyes some of the famous work of this incredible artist who was one of the most important representatives of the Art Noveau movement.

The Art Nouveau movement ornaments are usually composed of motifs with asymmetrical compositions with a two-dimensional character, they can be applied on furniture, jewelry, lamps, printed fabrics, etc. The main source of inspiration for this art movement is nature. The motifs are often long-stemmed, gracefully stylized plants and flowers (lilies, calyxes, irises, poppies, rose buds), birds (swans, peacocks), dragonflies, the egg shape, cloud-water and rocks, often combined with slender female figures.

The moved lines were a means to express emotions. These forms can also be seen in the art of printing and in decorative forms or, for example, handrails, balconies and facades. Iron was in fact suitable for processing into elegant curved shapes. The fact that it was used in so many art forms came about because it was very common for an architect but also to design furniture, silver, glass works, wall decorations and posters. The Art Nouveau characteristics were most evident in graphic art, where the line is the most important element. The illustrations and the letters were designed as one whole, resulted in a combination of image and text.

Changed social and economic conditions and the use of new materials such as concrete brought the end of the Art Nouveau after the First World War. In the mid-sixties of the twentieth century, the Art Nouveau,  was applied in designs for posters and textiles as well. The letter forms, especially the initials from the Art Nouveau period, still inspire many calligraphers and graphic designers.

Generally in the city of Brussels you can see it many examples of the Victor Horta’s work but also from other Art Nouveau architects and designers. If you are interested to learn more about this art movement I suggest you to visit  the Hortamuseum in Brussels. It is located in the private house and studio of Victor Horta (1861-1947). It is built between 1898 and 1901 at 23-25, rue Américaine in Saint-Gilles, Brussels. The two buildings are typical of Art Nouveau at its height. The interior decoration has largely been retained, the mosaics, stained glass, and wall decorations forming a harmonious and elegant whole, down to the last detail.

The exhibition in the Hortamuseum revisits the work of Victor Horta through the theme of light, from the Lambeaux Temple to the Central Station. The house of the great Art Nouveau architect and the works of the French artist Pierre Bonnefille both demonstrate a unique attention to the play of shadows and textures, color and space, inspired by mineral and vegetal patterns. It really wort visiting, the entrance costs only €10 per person.

I also have to mention that our hotel the Motel One Brussels design was inspired by the famous Brussels lace but also had some Art Nouveau details. I loved the chandeliers in the lounge, the colors and atmosphere was so calm and relaxing. We enjoyed our drinks and snacks there. They serve the best Belgian waffles in town. We also tried the Motel One three kind of toasts, they were all tasty so if you choose to visit the same hotel please try them I am sure you will love it. They serve toasts with organic potato chips and Hellman’s ketchup, it was so yummy.

The breakfast in the hotel cost €9,5 and it was worth the money, fresh and delicious. Of course, the Belgian art of brewing is honored in their very own beer menu. So you can try to figure out yourself what beer to choose and learn a lot about Belgian beers in general from that beer menu.

Belgians are very famous for their beers in general. If you are beer lover you can find your paradise here. According to Alle Belgische Bieren, Ed. Hilde Deweer, Stichting Kunstboek Oostkamp, a list of Belgian beers compiled by a team of experts and published in 2015 listed nearly 1600 different kind of beers, launched by 146 breweries and 44 beer companies.

If we go back in time the renaissance was considered to be the golden age of brewing in Belgium. There were 2,223 registered breweries nationwide in 1900. In Wallonia for example every village had at least one agricultural establishment with a brewery. This number fell dramatically after both world wars.

But the tradition of craftsmanship continues to this day in many small breweries, which are undergoing a renaissance, despite a merger of large globalized brewery groups. I believe that Belgium is the greatest beer brewing nation in the world. I have tried myself a lot of Belgian beers, but I can not say which are my favorites because I like a lot of them.

In the center of the city right on the central square of Brussels Grote Markt and next to the The Grand Place you can visit a small beer museum where you can see a movie about the history of Belgian beer but also you can do the tasting of some Belgian beers.

The entrance fee is €5 per person with one beer included. The place is very small but it’s warm, rustic and cozy.

I am in the process of writing one new blog post about the Belgian beer types after this trip to Brussels and about why we drink different kind of beers from a different kind of glasses. I hope I will find the time to finish it and publish the post as soon is possible.

In this blog post I will like to concentrate mainly on describing the Brussels as a city worth visiting. Also to share with you the interesting places that I visited and captured with my camera.

We started our journey from Amsterdam Sloterdijk bus station with the Flix-bus and it took us just 2 hours and 30 minutes to get to Brussels. Two way ticket for one person costs around €40. I really enjoyed this small bus trip since I haven’t traveled with a bus for a long time.
The weekend we visited Brussels was the weekend of Chinese New Year celebrations and the celebration of the EU-China Tourism Year with a bridge of light on the Grand Place and its surroundings.
The whole city center was decorated accordingly for this event. Various animations and a concerts with traditional Chinese music and dances was taking place on the Grote Markt in front of the Grand Place on Saturday, 24 February.
We watched some of these performances and we were amazed to see all this traditional Chinese costumes and the musical instruments. The square and the whole city was very crowded.

The Grote Markt square itself is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city’s Town Hall, and the King’s House or Breadhouse building containing the Museum of the City of Brussels. Also some nice cafes and restaurants. We visited La Roy d’Espagne, a very nice place to eat and drink.

There is Brussels Hard Rock cafe on the opposite side of the square.

Behind the square you can find a lot of small restaurants. We were so happy to find 6 Greek fast food restaurants in a row. It was difficult to choose in which one we are going to eat but they all serve almost the same menu. We choose Hellas, everything we ordered there was super nice and tasty especially their home-made pita.

Generaly in the center of Brussels you can see many beautiful and historical very well-preserved buildings, museums and art galleries.

The famous Maneken Pis is a small bronze sculpture known as a symbol of the people of Brussels. During its history, the small statue faced many hazards. After the bombardment of Brussels of 1695 by the French army, it was triumphantly placed again on its pedestal. On that occasion, the following passage from the Bible was inscribed above its head : In petra exaltavit me, et nunc exaltavi caput meum super inimicos meos (“The Lord placed me on a stone base, and now I raise my head above my enemies”). There are a lot of legends about the Maneken Pis. The most famous according to our friend Clair is the one that said: In the 14th century, Brussels was under siege by a foreign power. The city had held its ground for some time, so the attackers conceived of a plan to place explosive charges at the city walls. A little boy named Julianske happened to be spying on them, as they were preparing. He urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city. The funny thing is that the statue is actually very small and that they dress the statue with costumes in different occasions several times each week. Since 1954, the costumes are managed by the non-profit association “The Friends of Manneken-Pis”, who review hundreds of designs submitted each year, and select a small number to be produced and used. His wardrobe consists of around one thousand different costumes, many of which may be viewed in a permanent exhibition inside the City Museum.

One beautiful place I can suggest you to visit is Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, built in 1847.

Today amazing shopping street under an arched glass-panned roof with a delicate cast-iron architecture framework. The gallery consists of two major sections, each more than 100 meters in length. You can find there a lot of nice shops with sweets and pastry, cafes, luxury products and attractive accessories.

There you can actually watch pastry chefs preparing the sweets from the shop windows.

Our beautiful friends from Brussels showed us a bit of Brussels night life at the St Gery District, the liveliest and busiest areas in this part of town. The square and the streets leading into the square are packed with pubs, bars and restaurants any day of the week is an area that is vibrant, some of the bars and cafes here are awesome such as Bar Mappa Mundi, Cafe Bison, Le Roi Des Belgies and many more. We visited some of the best bars and clubs, my favorite was Le Roi Des Belges where I had the best Irish coffee ever. Le Roi Des Belges is really easy to find, it is located on Rue Jules Van Praet in an area teeming with pubs, bars and restaurants and some amazing architecture buildings such as the Opera. Good atmosphere, great staff and plenty of space to sit.

If you wish to try nice Belgian beer in the quite place where you can easily talk with your friends I suggest a cozy bar at the Beursschouwburg, a multidisciplinary arts center, situated in the heart of Brussels. There are so many events and performances, concerts, screenings, parties, festivals and exhibitions going on there any time of year. This place is definitely worth visiting.

Cherry on the pie of our Saturday evening was delicious dinner at the Michelin star Kolya restaurant. Great food, excellent service and cozy atmosphere under the glass dome. Restaurant Kolya is placed in the Manos Premier Hotel just 300 meters from Avenue Louiseand and Place Staphanie. If you wish to eat there you need to book your table at least few days in advance.

Sunday morning after our friend Clair suggestion we visited the beautiful garden Jardin du Petit Sablon and the antiquity market in the area.

The area has a lot of art galleries, cafes, restaurants and pastry shops. Best choice for a Sunday morning brunch.

Later on we used the city elevator to go up on the high part of the city.

There you can see a huge building, it is the Justice palace of Brussels. We did not go inside but from outside the building is spectacular. This is the largest court in Europe, with more than 60 huge court rooms, the structure is massive and huge with impressive architecture. The building was under renovation at that time.

Later we walked back to the center. This area has a lot of nice restaurants and famous brand shops.

Since we got late check out from our hotel, we also visited the Botanical gardens on Sunday. Unfortunately when we arrived I realized that my cameras battery was off. So I could not take any pictures, but you can find plenty on the web, the place is amazing.

Most of the places we visited by walking because our hotel was in the center of the city, but we also used taxi services few times and in comparison with Amsterdam where we live we found taxi services in Brussels a lot of cheaper than in the Netherlands. We did not have time to visit the famous Atomium monument but we passed by with our bus since we were leaving, so we saw it from the bus window. The monument was originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and it is located on the Heysel Plateau, where the exhibition took place.

Our weekend in Brussels beside of the nice places we saw and nice moments we shared with our friends, left in our mouth taste of great Belgian beer and Belgian chocolate. I am sure that we could see more of what we did and what I described in this blog post, but the time was not enough.

I will be so happy to return in this beautiful city again, maybe next time in the summer time as our friends suggested. I would like to dedicate this article to Pierre and Clair. Thank you Pierre and Clair for the nice moments we spend together in Brussels. Also I would like to express one big thank to my boyfriend for organizing a beautiful and romantic dinner for us at the Michelin star restaurant Kolya, this was the most amazing experience of the weekend for me.

I hope you enjoyed my article and learned a few facts about the Brussels. See you on the next journey. Stay positive and enjoy every moment. We have only one life. The waves of happiness are precious and important in our lives neither are small or big the result is the same.

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