How to experience New Years in Brussels.
November 22, 2005 9:15 PM   Subscribe

New Years in Brussels this year. All by myself. What's the best way to spend it?

First trip to Europe, two weeks with London as a homebase, and skipping around to check out the capitals across the English channel by wandering around and seeing a handful of 'must-sees' touristy things. I'll be there on the 30th till the 1st. I know the local celebrations will just sweep me away, but anywhere specifically that I should go or avoid? Other general advice about Brussels also welcomed.
posted by margaretlam to Society & Culture (16 answers total)
Check out the Musical Instruments Museum--it's amazing: a huge and beautiful art deco building with every musical instrument ever, and at the door, they give you a pair of headphones tuned to pick up a radio broadcast from each display, which lets you listen to every instrument. Or, visit the Comic Books Museum, if you're into that.

Brussels is one of the greatest cities in the world, and the people are incredibly friendly. Drink some Kwak out of its weird glass. Enjoy Brussels; it's better than Paris.

Don't feel at all afraid to ask the locals for directions. They are really, really nice. If I could live anywhere in the world, it'd be Brussels.
posted by interrobang at 9:50 PM on November 22, 2005

I'd imagine there'll be a nice new year's celebration in the Grand Place in Brussels. A must see.
posted by masymas at 11:09 PM on November 22, 2005

Found a bunch of good info on Brussels sightseeing over at
posted by JPowers at 12:32 AM on November 23, 2005

Go shopping in the Dansaertstraat/Rue Dansaert and surrounding neighbourhood: design shops and high fashion (and equally high prices). Or the avenue Louise (even higher prices).

Visit some Horta and other art nouveau buildings (see for more info).

Eat the real Belgian french fries at 'Chez Antoine' (Place Jourdan): you'll have to stand in line, but man, are they delicious. Take your fries to 'Chez Bernard' (a café across the street) and eat them there with a fine Belgian beer. Don't pay attention to the loud eurocrats from the nearby European institutions.

Must visit the Poelaertplein/Place Poelaert (near the Palais de Justice and only a few steps away from the avenue Louise): the view from the square is amazing. You can see the entire Brussels from there.

Then, descend towards the Sablon/Zavel (it's in walking distance) and eat a pastry at Wittamers. Cross the Sablon and buy chocolate at Marcolini's (expensive, but the absolute very best in the world). Buy another pastry at Marcolini's (expensive, but he wasn't crowned world pastry champion for nothing) for when you get hungry in the middle of the night.

Have fun!
posted by NekulturnY at 1:11 AM on November 23, 2005

Poor you Brussels alone! I hear some chump say how brilliant Brussels is, take it from me it aint. I suggest either a bottle of vodka and a jar of paracetamol or dont bother going??
posted by indio1919 at 2:15 AM on November 23, 2005

two weeks with London as a homebase

MeFi meetup!
posted by grouse at 3:24 AM on November 23, 2005

When I lived in Brussels, I frequented a very friendly Irish pub called the Irish Bank in Ixelles. Try that. Also, I second the Grand Place (where I proposed to my wife!) and Sablon. Beautiful at any time of year.
posted by AJaffe at 6:55 AM on November 23, 2005

The instrument museum is indeed worth a visit. It's also en route to the Palais de Justice and the Sablon if you're coming from downtown. That'll also take you by the big art museum in town, which has a ton of Magritte's work.

Frites and beer are a great place to start, but you should augment that with gaufre chaud. They'll probably be selling them out of trucks by the art musuem. If they're not there, just wander around a bit - the trucks are everywhere. They're not like waffles here, they're for eating raw with your fingers. Quite delicious. And the ones you get from trucks taste as good or better as the ones they'll try and sell you out of stores in the shopping area / City2, at a fraction of the price.

Have fun!
posted by heresiarch at 7:43 AM on November 23, 2005

Response by poster: Yup. The food. The art. The justaposition of the old and the new together. That's what I'm there for. Waffles from a truck sounds like a great idea... and nothing like eating it in the 'cold'!

Grand Place for New years is certainly an idea, but I'm the kind of person that avoids all the city hall based celebrations. Looking for more quirky, interesting, intimate settings.

Thanks for all the suggestions though. They confirm some of the ideas I've been thinking about already!
posted by margaretlam at 8:07 AM on November 23, 2005

Take a train to Amsterdam ;)
posted by BorgLove at 8:46 AM on November 23, 2005

My suggestion would be to take the train to Antwerp instead.

Antwerp's only a 40 minute/5 euro ride from Gare Centrale and honestly... it's a much more fun city when it comes to all things holiday and party related.

The area around the University and even the tourist district along the Meir and Groenplaats(sp?) are full of bars, nightclubs and all-around good spots to hang out. An amazing dancehall/grime/rap scene if you're into any of those styles of music, too.

And don't forget to drink some Palm while you're there. Amazing beer.
posted by huskerdont at 10:48 AM on November 23, 2005

Ghent is an amazing town as well...
posted by AJaffe at 11:16 AM on November 23, 2005

yeah, go to Antwerp or Ghent and drink some beers: Chimay, Westmalle, that sort of beer.
posted by Substrata at 2:39 PM on November 23, 2005

Response by poster: Well... maybe if I had more time... remember that this is my first time in Europe in GENERAL, despite spending the last four years basically studying it... I'd head out to the other places. So while the more seasoned travellers or european residents around here might get 'bored' with Brussels, I'd be happy to immerse in the 'mundane' and the ordinary. I'm still grateful for the ideas though!

I figured at this point, do the museums and site seeing things on the Friday and Saturday, and when everything's closed on Monday/New Years Day, I'll just wander the streets before heading back to London in the evening.

And amsterdam is on the list. It's probably a good idea to work it around my Brussels visit. :P
posted by margaretlam at 8:10 PM on November 23, 2005

It's not mundane, it's quirky, and sometimes ugly, and interesting. Every street is a different quartier, all by itself.
posted by NekulturnY at 12:39 AM on November 24, 2005

Le Cerceuil is fun. It looks a little more touristy than it used to, but still worth a visit. They have a superb collection of Belgian beers on tap.
posted by sophie at 8:56 AM on November 24, 2005

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