A rookie’s guide to Brussels

I’ve been to Brussels twice now, and I wouldn’t say I have become an expert on the hidden gems of the city. But then again, I know few people that have visited Brussels for fun and not for work, and I thought that I might as well share some of my favorites if you ever happen to swing by. Hang on.

Shopping
If you do go to Brussels, make sure that there is a lot of free space in your luggage and that you did receive your last pay. The thing is, Brussels is great for shopping. Especially second hand shopping. If that’s not for you though, there are several streets that are great for mainstream shopping. On Rue Neuve you will find H&M, Zara, Primark etc. But watch out, it will be crowded. If you’re looking for something more quiet (but also more expensive), head to Rue Antoine Dansaert and don’t miss Filippa K and Brandy Melville.

Second hand
I’d say you’ll probably find the best second hand close to Place du Jeu de Balle, which is also a flea market that is open everyday. I found all sorts of cool stuff on the market – old vinyls, Levi’s jeans, old clocks, portraits and broken lighters. Definitely worth a visit. The vintage gems in this area are Foxhole (great for second hand shopping at regular prices – neither pricey nor cheap), Bernard Gavilan and Melting Pot Kilo on Rue Haute where you can buy second hand clothes at a kilo price (that is where I bought my Nikes!).

If you head to Ixelles, make sure to stop by Retro Paradise. The prices are a bit higher but it’s well worth it – you can find a lot of hidden gems here. And it’s still not crazy expensive. Next to Retro Paradise lies Spullenhulp – Les Petits Riens which could be well worth a visit too – at least the prices are much lower.

If you happen to visit Brussels the first Sunday of the month, make sure to pay a visit to Brussels Vintage Market. It’s a three-floor market where you can find anything from vintage designers’ clothes to cheap sport clothes in the basement. There is also a bar in the hall =you can drink a beer while checking out the racks.

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Going out
I don’t think you’ll ever have a problem finding bars in Brussels – there are at least three in every corner. And most of them are real cozy. And they serve splendid Belgian beers of course. But also anything else you’d want. If you want to go clubbing, you should probably head to Fuse. That’s actually the only club I’ve ever been to in Brussels, but they also have a really good reputation.

Eating out/drinking coffee
Alright alright guys. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to try Belgian fries while in Brussels. You do know french fries are originally from Belgium, not France right? For the best fries in town (or so I’ve heard), head to Friterie de la barriere.

And eating out? Now this is where you should ask a local for tips since I haven’t eaten out much in Brussels. Finding a restaurant is not tricky at all – they are everywhere – but sorting out the most touristy ones is a bit more difficult. Finding some fast food won’t be hard though. I had a good veggie burger at Ellis Gourmet Burger once, which is supposed to be the best burger place in Brussels.

If you’re looking for coffee, head to Place du Jeu de Balle and explore the streets nearby – Rue Haute, Rue des Renards and Rue Blaes for instance. There are loads of hip cafés and great second hand in that area. In Saint-Gilles, try out Maison du peuple, and if you are in Ixelles you should definitely head to Café Belga for coffee or drinks.

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Sightseeing
Well well, here comes my weak point. I’m really not the sightseeing-kind-of-girl. But there are lots of great places to check out in Brussels. Head to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts to get a good look at the fancy blocks in Zavel (it’s really pretty and definitely worth the stroll). In Zavel you’ll also find magnificent churches, fancy cafés and shops, art galleries and luxurious chocolatiers. Then there are all the touristy sightseeings of course, such as Grand Place, Mannekin Pis (not at all an impressing guy), Atomium etc etc, but I’ll let you find out about all that for yourself, ’cause I really don’t think the world needs another blog entry telling you to check the common tourist sites out. There are plenty of nice parks if you visit in summer or in spring though.

One interesting thing about the city is that every block looks entirely different from the other. There’s the fancy blocks, there’s the city center, there’s the hipster hood and there’s the poorer blocks. There are Flamish parts, French parts and parts dominated by entirely other etnic groups. Anywhere you go, you’ll get a new angle of the city. I definitely recommend you to go to Brussels. It’s pretty and it’s inspiring and the beer is worldknown. What else would you need?