12 HOURS // MOULLES IN BRUXELLES
After a short Parisian affair it was time to say Au Revoir to Paris and head to the popular weekend tourist spot for French and English alike, Brussels. We opted for the budget-friendly bus journey which we got through Megabus for about €15 each, you can also use Eurostar or budget airlines. It was a relatively short 4 hour journey mostly spent sleeping after a disgustingly early start to the day. There were a few moments of “ is this Bruxelles?” followed by frustrated conversations about not knowing as neither of us had been there before.
When we did arrive it was straight off to the hotel…and then back to the bus station…and then past a church….and then back to the corner. Yup, lost again! Half an hour out of our tight sightseeing schedule just to realise we were right near our hotel. For this visit we used 9Hotel, a hotel that markets themselves on boutique travel experiences. For about $125 through Agoda we were treated to modern eco architecture, organic high-end toiletries and all the little trimmings that made us never want to leave. Considering we were only spending one night there it was probably a bit lavish for a backpackers budget but what the heck, you only live once.
We were straight into the sightseeing, we had our standard list of 250 things to see and do and we wanted to get through it. We couldn’t locate the Museum of Musical Instruments but for €8 we urge you to visit. It is closed Mondays though so keep that in mind when planning. Next on the list was the Comic Strip Museum, when we arrived we decided not to pay the €10 each as it was more like a gallery of comic art and the only ones we really recognised were Tin Tin and The Smurfs. So far we were off to a bad start.
We decided to head to the town square and came across a cute little bar that sold baguettes, schnitzels, beer and more beer. Considering Belgium is well known for it’s beer we tried a few before we explored Galeries St. Hubert, full of beautiful chocolatiers and gift stores. Being Christmas time, everything was done up beautifully and the smells were divine. If you’re gifting chocolate don’t stress too much about which brand to go with, all are amazingly delicious and worth the extortionate prices. We were cautious about spending too much in Europe but we did fork out for some mind blowing chocolate covered almonds, normal chocolate is now ruined for us.
The Galeries are separated into two buildings by Rue de Bouchers, which translates to Butchers Street. This street is the hub of plenty of little restaurants that will no doubt tantalize your taste-buds. Although prices are inflated for tourists desperate to try mussels in Brussels hawkers will barter for your business, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price or find out what they’re willing to throw in.
When you finally move past all the delicious smells and wipe the drool of those chocolate store windows you will come out into the Grand Palace square. There is nothing more ‘European’ than seeing the beauty of towering medieval architecture and quaint cafes littering the town square. The rest of the afternoon was a blur of bar-hopping to taste as many Belgium beers as we could. Do the smart thing and grab a tasting paddle if you’re unsure or get a stein to amuse locals with, nothing like playing the tourist card...
We were lucky enough to get the hot tip about Groupil Le Fol a bar that looks more like the entrance to an antiques store. The bar has a tiny little entrance and then opens up into several dark and dramatic rooms that are filled to the brim with antiques, knick knacks and well, junk. It was fabulous and theatrical and everything a tiny little hole in the wall should be. We’d highly recommend enjoying a few, kinda pricey, wines and let a few hours waste away, don’t forget to check upstairs for more nooks and spaces to hide away in.
We finished of the evening with some fabulous Greek food in an alley behind the main square. It was fairly reasonably priced and after months in Asia, we were craving some of our home comforts.
On the way home we ticked the last box in Bruxelles and went to see the famous Mannekin Pis,it’s not drastically impressive but it sure is hella funny to watch a statue of a tiny boy pee. We had a laugh, took some inappropriate photos and then it was off to bed for us and time to enjoy a boutique bubble bath.
If you have a little bit of extra time to ponder the amazing streets of Bruxelles, we recommend checking out the following things:
The Toone Royal Theater is famous for it’s puppet shows and we were bitterly disappointed that it was closed on the day we were there.
Getting there from Paris: Megabus runs a fairly direct service to Brussels from Paris which takes btween 4.5-5 hours depending which service you choose. We go the 4.5 hour service and left early in the morning to maximize sightseeing in Brussels. Buses leaves Paris from Port Mailot Coach Park which can be somewhat confusing to navigate. It’s really just a big car park with buses. Don’t line up with the stack of others as that’s for the airport shuttle. Stay in the car-park and find the Megabus with your destination and stand there. When you arrive in Brussels you’ll be in the center at Rue du Cardinal Mercier Coach Stand, right next to Gare de Bruxelles Centrale.