Before this trip, all I knew about Brussels is that it is the headquarters of the European Union and that Jean Claude Van Damme was from there. Like Rotterdam, it surprised me as well, but in a different way.
The idea of going to Brussels was brought up because Belgium had a semifinal World Cup match on this night, so watching the game in the country that is playing seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Since the match was not to start until 8 PM, that gave me the whole day to do some exploring.
I took the Eurostar from Rotterdam Centraal Station. The hotel said I only needed to be there 15 minutes before, and they were right, as I probably could have shown up five minutes before and been okay. The walk from the hotel itself was only 2 minutes. Since this was an intra-EU trip, there is no security or immigration. The process could not be simpler.
It was a short one hour trip to Brussels, the same leg that I had taken before on the way to Rotterdam. The thing that I immediately noticed upon arrival is how dirty the city is in comparison to Rotterdam. This reminded me of New York City, a real, gritty city. Another thing that stunned me is the diversity, also like Rotterdam. The image we have in our minds is of blonde haired people, but in reality both the Netherlands and Belgium are very diverse populations. The population looked like a real melting pot, something I felt a bit ashamed that I did not know.
This time, the hotel was a few subway stops away from the train station. The hotel was near the Grand Place, and frankly a disappointment compared to the one in Rotterdam. The room was small and not as nice as the one in Rotterdam. That being said, the demand is high in Brussels so I don’t think hotel companies care to make improvements that much.
The one thing I noticed right away is the architecture. It reminded me of Buenos Aires, and seemed Parisian even though I’ve never been to Paris. In each direction as far as the eye could see, I noticed beautiful buildings.
Since it was morning, I had to grab none other than a Belgian waffle. This waffle was different than any waffle I’ve ever had. The difference was that the waffle itself was built with caramelized sugar, making it extra sweet. Add to the fact that I chose to have Liege syrup as my topping, it was truly a sweet overdose.
From here it was off to the main attraction of Brussels, the Grand Place.
The square looked smaller than I expected, maybe because some kind of stage was being set up. One interesting thing is that there were free tour guides everywhere who spoke in many languages, though the main language spoken here is French. That being said, I did notice locals speaking other languages like Spanish and even Arabic, so this city gave the vibe of a truly European city. It made me understand what that actually meant, and why the European Union is so important.
Now that I’d seen the main site and had a waffle, the plan was to head to Bruges, a typical European romanticized city, which is about an hour away, and make it back to Brussels in the evening for the match.