‘Anyone who knows me know I’m a massive fan of anything unusual. I love a tourist hot spot as much as the next girl, but nothing grabs my attention quite like something a little quirky. These are my top picks for Brussels’
Manneken Pis is the symbol of the city and you’ve probably already heard about the 1cm 61cm statue of the peeing boy that’s so famous around the world. However, in the interests of gender and canine equality (take that, cats!) Petit Julien (as he’s also known) has a sister and a dog. And, yes: they’re also peeing.
‘Jeanneke Pis was a *little* much for my liking, but a peeing dog? I’m so here for that’
Located outside the city centre on Rue des Chartreux 35, this Very Good Boy is a design by Tom Frantzen and has been urinating on the streets of Brussels since 1998. He’s nowhere near as famous as his brother and sister but, as far and I’m concerned, he’s by far the best. He stands on the street, casually cocking his leg against a bollard and minding his own business. And you can be safe in the knowledge that he won’t and attempt to hump your leg as you pass.
The Coffin Bar
Brussels has a *lot* of bars. They’re literally everywhere and they all pride themselves on friendly service and excellent Belgian beers (of which there are shit tons). The Coffin is the quirkiest one we found and it a pretty creepy place to enjoy a drink or two…amongst the bones of the dead. Coffin Bar is located just off the main Grand Place Square in the city centre and you can take a walk out here afterwards, in the presence of the living.
The Famous Four
No one should really be allowed to visit Brussels without trying out four things: Waffles, Chocolate, Beer and Fries. Because obviously. To be honest, this is what I do on *all* of my holidays.
‘I realise that, to Belgians, this is probably much like saying that it should be illegal to visit Scotland without wearing a kilt whilst drinking whisky and looking for large water-dwelling monsters, but sadly, it’s true: it should be illegal, and when I’m in charge it will be. Mark my words…’
Anyway, given Belgium is famous for all four delightful consumables (amongst countless others…like, it invented gin, for example, and it’s a miracle the women in my family haven’t all gone to visit on some sort of Pilgrimage), it’s only fair that you should check them all out. Simultaneously, if possible. They’re all very widely available and, some of my favourites chocolates from Godiva or Nehaus (the inventor of the praline and my favourite person on earth…); Kriek Cherry Beer, Leffe or Westmalle Blondes, and waffles and chips or ‘frites’ from a million stalls and stores off the Grand Place.
Dinner and Atmosphere in Matonge
Matonge is an area in the Ixelles neighbourhood and has some of the most authentic African food in the city. The name comes from the area of the same name in the Congolese capital of Kinshasha and brings its vibe and flavours to the Brussels, along with its culture and people. Many of the residents that I met were raised between Belgium and the now Democratic Republic of Congo, which was previously a Belgian colony. The whole area has a relaxed, friendly vibe and has a plethora of cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating for sitting and watching the world go by with a coffee or beer. The food is also incredible, with chicken and goat dishes, explosions of spices and lots of peanuts.
‘The chicken moambe from Inzia (at Rue de la Paix 37) is sensational and is often part of the restaurant’s buffet menu, which means you can literally eat it until you make yourself sick. I did #noregrets’
We also loved the communal tables and chilled out company at Soleil D’Afrique, (Rue Longue Vie 10), which offers sit in and take out meals from their menu. Also, their staff is so friendly and helpful.
This giant structure was initially built for the 1958 World Fair Expo to be held in Brussels and was not intended to be a permanent visitor attraction. Once the fair ended, however, it stayed put and has been a magnet for visitors ever since. Standing at some 335ft high, there are 9 steel atoms in the shape of a unit cell (apparently…I honestly have zero idea what the even means). Anyway, in terms of quirky, it’s right up there with the peeing dog, IMO. The Atomium is a museum displaying both permanent and temporary exhibitions. Entrance is permitted to six of the nine spheres, with the top one boasting a restaurant with panoramic view over the city’s skyline. The Atomium is always an impressive and unusual sight but, when viewed at night, is even more special. Lit up by more than 2900 LED lights, it illuminates the sky and, despite being a little out of the city centre, it’s definitely worth making the trip.
What are your favourite quirky things to do and see in Brussels?