Nutmeg was last in Brussels a couple decades ago (more or less). At that time she and her friends stayed in an unrated hotel – sometimes called a “youth hostel”. It was a rainy depressing few days, the city was uninviting, the food marginal (keep in mind a student budget) and the place was filled with beggars.
So fast forward… the accommodations are not grand this time, although certainly a big step up from the hostel. The sun has shone for 2 out of 3 days and the beggars are gone. That is not to say you should not watch your pockets, just do so with the same level of caution you would apply everywhere.
Brussels fast facts:
- population of over 1 million
- 55,000 of which are European officials
- over 200 different nationalities can be found (1 in 2 people have foreign roots)
- the city covers 170 sqkm (10 times the sprawl of Paris)
- home to NATO and the EU
Apart from being the centre of European politics, Brussels has a fascinating and old history that dates back to the 11th century when it began as a small dukedom the size of the current downtown area. In 1830 Belgium became independent and Brussels became the capital of Belgium under a new king and parliament.
Belgium became an independent state in 1830 after protests against the policies of King William of the Netherlands. Since then, Belgium has created its own Constitution and proclaimed its own sovereign – King Leopold of Saxe-Coburg was the first king of the Kingdom of Belgium.
An interesting fact is that Belgium is separated into 3 regions mainly due to differences in language – French and Dutch speakers. The regions are Flanders in the north (Dutch), Wallonia in the south (French) and Brussels in the centre (Bilingual). There is a small area called Ardennes that also speaks German but it is not an official region.
Nutmeg has warmed up to Brussels for several reasons; they speak French here and will tolerate her rusty skills (unlike the French), the chocolate is fantastic, the coffee is decent and the shopping rivals any other centre. Ginger had never been to Brussels before, so did not share Nutmeg’s slightly jaded view. He loves the beer selection and is really happy with the moules and frites combination.
The architecture is interesting and the Grande Place (Grote Markt) is beautiful although in Nutmeg’s opinion the city is not as esthetically pleasing as Paris or Vienna. There are lots of museums and galleries. The Costume and Lace Museum currently is displaying a fantastic “Sixties” exhibition.
The chocolate is definitely a highlight some vendors that Nutmeg recommends:
- Frederic Blondeel
- Pierre Marcolini
- Galler (the best packaging)
- Corne 1932 (a few free samples)
- Corne Port Royal (good selection and their bars are more affordable then the first three)
- Cafe-Tasse (tons of free samples, you will be guilted into buying)
So in Nutmeg’s opinion Brussels has been redeemed! Plan a visit.
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