suggestions for girlfriend's birthday in brussels
August 22, 2010 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I am going to be in Brussels in a couple weeks on vacation with my girlfriend when it is her birthday. Does anyone have any suggestions for fun, romantic, not too expensive things to do in Brussels for her birthday (restaurants, activities, etc.)?
posted by bucksox to Travel & Transportation around Brussels, Belgium (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If she's not afraid of the water, take her to Nemo 33 for an afternoon of indoor diving. They are a lot cheaper than you would think, including packages such as 2 dives and a meal for 60 euro.
posted by Iteki at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2010

I spent a couple of weeks hiking through belgium earlier this year and Brussels was one of my favourite places. I wasn't there long but one restaurant I'd definitely recommend is Fin de Siecle. Fantastic and authentic Belgian food with a great atmosphere and friendly staff. It's fairly well hidden so isn't inundated with tourists. Also there's no signs on the door so you could easily miss it entirely, I had to look in the window to figure out it was a restaurant. If you want a romantic evening with fantastic food in an authentic and buzzing atmosphere then this is definitely a good choice. Here's some reviews from Google maps, naturally they're very good:

However, I don't think the address on Google Maps is accurate, here's a professional review of the restaurant (which also says it's fantastic) which gives what I think is the correct address:

And here's the Google Map to that address:

For a nice bar which specialises in live music you might want to check out Bonnefooi. Their website is It was a cool place and not touristy.

Naturally if you're in Brussels you'll want to have a look at the Grote Markt, it's not exactly original but it's a beautiful square with nice architecture and street performances.

Grote Zavel is the place to go if you want to check out the pricey chocolate shops. All the big names have a shop on this square. Although most Belgians simply get their chocolate at a supermarket for a reasonable price, but shops like Godiva and Neuhaus are good to see. Here's a map of that square:

Don't go too far north or you could end up in the prostitution district. If you travel through the north train station you'll get a good look at it which is a little depressing and seedy. The rest of Brussels is great though.

If after a while you fancy seeing somewhere else you're not too far from Antwerp, so a day trip there isn't out of the question. Personally I didn't care for it after spending 3 hours lost on their incomprehensible tram system, but it's a fascinating and buzzing city so worth a look.

Hope you have a great trip.
posted by Spamfactor at 9:02 AM on August 22, 2010

I cannot possibly say enough good things about La Vilette, right across from St. Catherine's. Fantastic traditional Belgian cuisine at a fairly reasonable price.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2010

Oh and I forgot to say in case you don't travel often and are new to it, it's usually worth finding places away from the central squares to eat, not just in Brussels but worldwide. For one thing these places are usually wildly overpriced, but worse they are tourist traps. Not that other tourists are inherently bad, but to experience a country properly you want to find the hidden gems, and you'll be happy you've found somewhere really authentic and off the beaten track. So I'd recommend not purchasing anything on the main squares
posted by Spamfactor at 9:13 AM on August 22, 2010

Le Char D'Or, is just off the Grand Place and has very reasonably priced, delicious Belgian food.

La Maison du Chocolat Artisanal
is my favourite chocolatier. They'll always give you a freebie even if you know exactly what you want and are just plain lovely people.

Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique is a fantastic gallery but you can't go wrong with any of Brussels' galleries and museums.

Finally, just walking around the city is a wonderful experience.

Hope you both have a brilliant time in my favourite city.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 10:53 AM on August 22, 2010

It depends on your definition of fun and romantic, but I really enjoyed the Belgian Comic Strip Center. It has a permanent collection and changing exhibitions (and a big version of the rocket from Tintin on the Moon! ahem). Also The Musical Instruments Museum sounds super.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 1:44 PM on August 22, 2010

Seconding the Comic Strip Center, lots of Smurfin' hot Smurf action.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 4:38 PM on August 22, 2010

Seconding the Musical Instruments museum, I visited in winter 2003 and really enjoyed it. Plus the building itself is a very pretty Art Nouveau structure. It's fairly small too, so no museum fatigue. I think I also just did a lot of walking around looking at the architecture and eating gaufrettes and pommes frites from street vendors. Google says there is a Magritte museum too.
posted by anotherkate at 6:31 PM on August 22, 2010

Oh, and don't forget the beer! Belgian beers in general are yummy, but I recommend trying kriek and gueuze while you're there.
posted by anotherkate at 6:33 PM on August 22, 2010

You want to do something inexpensive and romantic in Brussels, here's what you do:

Go to Place Flagey. (If you're staying in the center, you can get there on either the 71 or 38 bus from De Brouckère.) Head to Café Belga, sit outside, have a beer. If you're willing to try something unusual, try one of the excellent Cantillon beers, which are made in the traditional style in Brussels.

Then walk across the street to Frit Flagey, the little trailer next to the pond. Order some frites and get them in the traditional style, with mayo. They'll be the best fries you ever had in your life.

Take your frites and stroll south along the Étangs d'Ixelles. See the exotic looking ducks and geese and keep an eye out for the bright green parakeets that live in the trees around the ponds (there are actually Two Species you can spot if you look carefully).

When you get to the far southern edge of the ponds, head across the street and into the lovely Abbaye de la Cambre. Check out the grounds, the really pretty 18th century buildings (which now house the National Geographic Institute and an art school), and head up through the terraced gardens to Avenue Louise.

Follow Louise south for a couple of blocks until you come to the Bois de la Cambre, which is kind of Brussels' version of Central Park. Make sure you stop at one of the trucks in the park selling hot, fresh Gaufres. (That is, waffles. Make sure you buy one from a truck -- they're an amazing treat and the ones on the street are better than at any restaurant.)

In the Bois you can take the boat to Chalet Robinson, which is on a little island. You can discover the semi-hidden and very cool stone and wooden bridges, people watch on the lawns, and stroll through the very pretty forests.

When you're finished there, you can hop on the 94 tram at the north end of the Bois and take it down Avenue Louise and back to the center. All that could easily fill a good chunk of a nice day and not cost you more than €20.

One other thing: I don't know why Spamfactor wrote several place names in Dutch, but, despite our official bilingualness, everything in Brussels is in French. So when you go hunting for the chocolate shops, you want to head to the Grand Sablon (which, by the way, you can get to from the 94 on your trip back from the Bois). If you ask someone, "Waar is de Grote Zavel?", they will just look at you like you're crazy.
posted by dseaton at 1:46 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry the map I had was in Dutch so it didn't occur to me at the time, dseaton is right, better stick to French.
posted by Spamfactor at 3:58 AM on August 23, 2010

I'd second Spamfactor for Fin de Siècle on Rue des Chartreux, quick walk across the Grote Markt (Grand Place), and Grote Zavel (Sablon). To keep things cheap, the best thing to do on the Sablon is to go to Wittamer for a hot chocolate - it's an expensive restaurant, so don't eat there, but the hot chocolate there is amazing. Otherwise there's a very nice chocolaterie called Laurent Gerbaud which is great for tastings, does an amazing hot chocolate, and is not at all snobby like the Sablon chocolate shops.

I wouldn't go for the comics museum, but I agree with anotherkate about the Musical Instruments Museum - from the outside it's one of the most beautiful buildings in Brussels, and the restaurant on the top floor is relatively cheap, has amazing views and a nice terrace.

dseaton's suggestions are great too.

St Catherine is another really pretty part of town, and it's nice to spend a lunchtime standing at the counter outside at La Mer du Nord with a glass of white wine in your hand, eating fresh fish fried in front of you. It's not too pricey either.
posted by creeky at 8:23 AM on August 23, 2010

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