What to do for a working week in Brussels?
February 22, 2008 12:39 PM   Subscribe

What to do for a working week in Brussels?

Finally - work sends me somewhere interesting. So, what can I do after 6pm on a weekday? I will maybe have 1-2 weekend days depending on logistics. Should I try to head out-of-town for one of those weekend days?
posted by jkaczor to Travel & Transportation around Brussels, Belgium (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *cough - sorry* - more details, I only speak English and this will be the week of March 10th.
posted by jkaczor at 12:40 PM on February 22, 2008

Maybe you'd like Bruges?* It's only an hour away.

*No need to have grown up on a farm or be retarded.
posted by kittyprecious at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Bruges, one of my favorite cities. Bonus: unlike Brussels, everyone in Bruges speaks English. Climb the bell tower, see the Michelangelo Pieta at the Church of Our Lady, take the Straffe Hendrik brewery tour, fuck around with the swans at the Lake of Love, settle in for a few hundred Belgian beers at the frankly incredible De Garre.
posted by Skot at 12:48 PM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I was in Brussels, I took trips to Bruges, which is very pretty, Namor, which has an awesome old fort and a very cool museum dedicated to this artist, and spent a night in Luxenbourg, because I never met anyone who did that. Here's my Ask about Luxe ...

I didn't see much of the nightlife in Brussels proper, though.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:50 PM on February 22, 2008

Best answer: Oh! And while in Brussels, it would be a crime for you to miss out on one of its most awesome bars, La Mort Subite.
posted by Skot at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2008

Best answer: I go to Brussels a couple of times per year on business, and it's one of my favorite destinations. I wouldn't sweat the lack of language skills too much: Brussels is a VERY international city, and most people will speak at least some English. It helps to know at least pleasantries and numbers up to 100 in French, but that's not a dealbreaker if you don't.

Eat at La Vilette - awesome Belgian cuisine.

Take a walk around the Grand Place - touristy, but it's so very pretty.

Try to find Janneke Pis. Everyone knows where Mannekin Pis is, but finding Janneke is another story entirely.

Catch a show at the Botanique.

Oh, and ditto Skot - La Mort Subite is an awesome place. So is Delirium cafe.

Definitely walk up the rue des Bouchers, but don't eat there - it's overpriced crappy food for gullible tourists.

Go to the Musical Instruments museum on Mont des Arts, right near the palace.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2008

One more thing: Everyone here is saying "go to Bruges". I've been there, and it's quite pretty, but it's also thick with tourists most weekend days. I would recommend taking the train to Leuven instead.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:34 PM on February 22, 2008

Best answer: When I lived in Brussels, it was near the Place Louise (there is a subway stop there). The streets leading off of this square have a lot of high end shopping boutiques so consequently good people watching (at least as good as people watching can be when it is 2C out. I lived on the Rue Jordan (about a block away from the Place) and it a pedestrian only street with numerous restaurants and cafes. My favorite was an Italian place that I have subsequently forgotten its name.

The Grand Place is also quite lovely when lit up at night. There are some bars off of the square as well. Actually, beer and food would be the centerpiece of your trip. There are so many different kinds of good Belgian beer and I miss them greatly.

As for heading out of town, you can't miss with Bruges as people mentioned. Antwerp is also relatively close as well. If you are willing to take a train, you can make it to Paris in ~90 minutes or so. The trains schedule starts early and run relatively late, so it is feasible to make a day trip out of it if you want.
posted by mmascolino at 1:37 PM on February 22, 2008

Best answer: If and when you do find Janneken pis, do NOT miss the Delerium Tremens bar at the end of the dead-end alley, it is amazing beer in a country filled with amazing beers. (alley is off the Rue des Bouchers)

If you are a beer enthusiast, I would recommend picking up some of the beer-glasses, they're pretty good as far as souvenirs go. Each of the glasses is distinct to the brewer in shape and design.

Try a Kwak beer, it comes in a tall glass with a rounded bottom that is not capable of standing on its own, so it comes with its own wooden holder. Bizarre custom but good beer.

If you have a full day you can do a day trip to Amsterdam, the train ride takes about 2.5 hours and isn't too expensive.
posted by spatula at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2008

Seconding a trip to La Mort Subite, seeing the Grande Place by night and a day trip to Bruges.

Antwerp is defnitely worth a day trip - if you're eating/beer drinking try the Pelgrom restaurant.

Beaches? A day trip to Knokke-Heist can be good fun, especially in wet & windy tourist-free March.

Back to Brussels:
Do try the waffles (best bought wrapped in paper from an outdoor stand).
Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art
Chicory museum
Good list of museums here.
posted by ceri richard at 2:13 PM on February 22, 2008

Best answer: I hope you like beer and fatty food. For Brussels, my advice is that after you've seen the beautiful buildings and spent a few hours in the art museums, you should just find a good bar or restaurant and camp out there. Make it an orgy of eating and drinking, because the city itself--I think--can be a bit disappointing, like a gorgeous fountain filled with yellow frothy water and beer cans, or a 15th century church with a hobo urinating on the side of it--both of which it features.

My favorite bar was the Poechenellekelder, right across the street from the Manniken Pis. You can eat outside and drink outstanding beers, close enough to the Grand Place to appreciate the atmosphere but somehow shielded enough to not be overwhelmed by the tourists.

Also, in case you haven't been convinced yet, Bruges is mandatory. The beauty of the place was so overwhelming I didn't care about the tourists or the fact that I was paying $50 for dinner (incidentally, among the best meals of my life). It is probably my favorite place.

In Bruges, we stayed at the Hotel Brasserie Erasmus, which is a bar/restaurant on the first floor and a cozy but beautiful hotel upstairs, run by an 80-year-old Flemish lunatic named Tom. I wish I was there right now.

Oh, and don't forget to get some frites and gauffres from street vendors. They deserve their reputation.
posted by tsmo at 2:18 PM on February 22, 2008

oh how could I forgotten the waffles. Absolutely get a waffle (or two or three). I personally preferred the hot waffles with the sugar crystal center (au sucre) as opposed to the one covered in chocolate. IMHO better tasting and less messy.

Speaking of chocolates, that is another good thing to bring back as souvenirs. In addition to the brand you know (Godiva) there are several others including which was much more reasonable in price than Godiva.
posted by mmascolino at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2008

If chocolate is your thing, I would 2nd skipping Godiva. Go to Pierre Marcolini. The chocolate is pricey but ridiculously delicious. Seriously. I think Marcolini is now in NYC and Tokyo and some other places, but this is the original. Going here is the only time in my life I have ever felt conspicuously underdressed in a candy store--its a neat experience just to check the place out.

Also, NATO Headquarters is there, you can get a tour.

Third, drink as much and as wide a variety of beer as you can handle. It is also totally kickass.
posted by jtfowl0 at 5:36 PM on February 22, 2008

Response by poster: Cool - lotsa excellent suggestions - I will mark the best answers when I get back.

(Food cost is not truly an issue, work provides an excellent daily allowance - and pretty much anything one person can spend food/beverage-wise is covered. And fatty foods - well, heh - I have no issue there ;-)

Sigh, unfortunately I've never been partial to beer, but maybe thats because I've only tried North American stuff - bitter aftertaste just gets to me. However - I'm willing to experiment (once had a clover-based beer that was simply amazing).

Chocolate shopping is a must - definately will skip the Godiva and look for the hidden/local chocolatiers. See, here in Calgary we have an ex-Belgian who makes truly excellent chocolate.

I definately will see a museum/gallery or two - I don't mind dirty fountains w/drunks pissing in 'em, t'would be different if the family was with me. (I've NEVER been to Europe or anywhere that measures it's history in more than 2-3 centuries....)

Thanks for the suggestions all!
posted by jkaczor at 9:01 PM on February 22, 2008

Response by poster: So - the Delerium Tremens - is it the same as the Delirium Cafe?
posted by jkaczor at 9:08 PM on February 22, 2008

Well it's the same brand with the pink elephants. Their flagship beer is called "Delerium Tremens" but there are others with the delirium nom de guerre like "Delerium Noel", etc.

They might have more than one location now that I think about it, but there definitely is one in the alley with the Janneken pis statue. Or, was 3 years ago when I went there.
posted by spatula at 10:10 PM on February 22, 2008

If you get into Bruges, by the way, my favorite Belgian chocolates were from Pralinette, a rather tasteless looking little shop just off the main square, two doors down from Hotel Brasserie Erasmus. Pierre Marcolini's are perfect in the way a supermodel is. Pralinette's are perfect the way the girl next door is when you're 15.

And, yeah, the Delirium Cafe is the one in the same alley as Jeanneken Pis, which is a way better sculpture than the Manniken Pis. I thought the place was more a novelty--the beer menu is literally the size of a phone book--than it was excellent, but it's probably worth swinging through just for the bragging rights of being in a bar with 2000+ unique beers.

If you're feeling like a beer novice, jkaczor, you shouldn't worry. When I was in Belgium a lot of the bartenders/waiters were well equipped and happy to recommend things on pretty much any criteria you can name. Starting with "nothing too bitter", I'm sure they could take you for quite a journey.

And frites should be eaten with mayo, and gauffres don't need anything on them to make them delicious. Enjoy your trip.
posted by tsmo at 11:26 PM on February 22, 2008

Response by poster: Got a whirlwind tour of Brussels, Bruges, a sea-side resort town (name escapes me - apologies) & Antwerp from my work colleague on Saturday (thanks Wesley for giving up your day for a Crazy Canuck) - including an exquisite big band concert.

As well as many of the other places listed above - saw the Atomium very cool for an engineer-type like myself. When in Bruges, we headed for the top of the Bellfort - very nice view.

... and.... now I understand why people like dessert... my god... the pasties, the mousse... yum... strangely enough - I lost weight, but walking everywhere over cobblestones'll do that to you...
posted by jkaczor at 4:54 PM on April 20, 2008

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