Exploring Brussels

After two days of traveling we finally made it to Brussels. While a visit wasn’t on our initial itinerary, it was the best place to find award availability so we decided to take a couple of days and explore! After dropping our bags at our hotel, and a quick shower to wash the travel off, we headed out to see the city.

The Renaissance faire that was setup in the square was on a break, I later learned that it was part of the annual Ommegang festivities, so we walked out of the Grand Sablon Square, first passing Petit Sablon Square, and then headed towards the Palais de Justice. Unfortunately, the building was covered in scaffolding which detracted some from the overall design.

a group of statues on pillars in front of a building
a street with a building in the background
Palais de Justice covered in scaffolding Brussels Belgium

To the right of the Palais de Justice was The View Bruxelles observation Ferris wheel. It stood in stark contrast to the surrounding area and was perched at the top of a hill overlooking the Marollen neighborhood below.

View Bruxelles Ferris Wheel Brussels Belgium

There was an elevator down to the Marollen so we hopped in and headed down. It reminded me of a smaller version of the Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon.

The Marollen from above Brussels Belgium

We wandered around the neighborhood and popped in and out of a couple of shops before finding ourselves at the Church of Our Lady of the Chapel. I’ll say at this point we had no idea where we were going nor what we would find around the next corner. There was a memorial to Pieter Bruegel the Elder on the side which, while I have no clue who he is, was neat looking.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder Statue Brussels Belgium

After passing the church we stumbled upon a pedestrian street lined with restaurants and bars, the Rue de Rollebeek. With the sky looking like rain was on the way, we cruised up the street in search of shelter and cold drinks.

Rue de Rollebeek Brussels Belgium

We grabbed a couple of seats at Café Pastel on the covered portion of their patio and ordered some drinks. It started to drizzle and we sipped on cocktails before continuing on up the road.

Cocktails at Café Pastel Brussels Belgium

We didn’t realize that we had basically made it back to the square where our hotel was located and the Pierre Marcolini shop caught our eye. The exterior was decorated with a ton of large flowers and inside we found a massive selection of sweets and chocolates. We loaded up on some sweets and headed back to our hotel to change and get ready for dinner.

a building with flowers on the side
a display of different colored macaroons

Back at the hotel, there were some sweets also waiting for us in celebration of my birthday which was a nice surprise.

NH Collection Brussels Grand Sablon Birthday Sweets

Our dinner reservation was at 7:30p so we headed out from the hotel around 6:45p and took the long way around to do some more sightseeing. The jousters were back in action in front of the hotel so we stopped and watched them go at it for a few minutes before heading off in the direction of the Royal Palace of Brussels.

Jousting in the Grand Sablon Brussels Belgium

Much like the Palais de Justice, the Royal Palace was also undergoing some renovation work and it was partially obscured by scaffolding, though still impressive nonetheless.

Royal Palace Undergoing Renovation Brussels Belgium

We continued down the Boulevard de Waterloo, past many high end shops and made our way towards the Porte de Hal where the restaurant, Le Bistro, was located.

a group of people sitting at tables outside a building
a group of people sitting at tables outside a restaurant

The space was small but spread out over multiple levels which made it feel much larger. The restaurant was buzzing with the evening dinner rush and seemed like a mix of tourists and locals.

a brick wall with a bar and a group of people sitting at the counter
a group of people sitting at tables in a restaurant

We were seated quickly and, starving, ordered soon after arrival. Mrs. ATX Jetsetter was excited about all of the mussels available and ordered a large steamer pot of them for her dinner while I had the fish, both of which were delicious. After dinner, we got the check and were offered two complimentary glasses of an after dinner spirit which was a nice touch.

a plate of food on a table
a bowl of mussels
a group of glasses with liquid on a table

From there, we headed back towards the Sablon on the Rue Haute and headed for Plumette, a local cocktail bar that had some great ratings that was a short walk from Le Bistro. There were some fun street art installations over the streets which gave a festive vibe to the area even though the sky was turning gray.

Cloud Art Above the Street Brussels

It began to rain again as we neared Plumette so I was happy when we ducked in and they had a table ready for us. The place was absolutely packed.

Plumette Brussels Belgium

The mood inside was lively but subdued and we ordered a couple of after dinner drinks. I had a smoked Manhattan and we relaxed at the end of a long travel day. We finally called it a night and headed back to the hotel around 10:00p, jet lag finally catching up to us.

a bar with a mirror and a lamp
a glass with a drink in it

The next day we spent most of our time in Bruges, which I’ll write up in a separate post, and returned to Brussels just after 6:00p. We wanted to go and check out the older part of the city, near the Grand-Place, but first decided to check out the antique market that had popped up across the street from the hotel. While we weren’t looking for anything in particular, I did find a cool keyboard looking thing sporting an Air India sticker that was older than me.

a group of people walking around a street with tents
a wooden piano with yellow and black keys

We wandered over towards the Grand-Place and spent some time walking the streets. The architecture in this part of town was absolutely amazing.

a group of people walking on a cobblestone street
a street with people sitting at tables and people sitting at tables

In the square, there was a practice underway for the Ommegang festivities later that night. A large group was out twirling flags and a review stand had been set up to one side.

a group of people outside of a building
a group of people in a square with flags
a large building with many windows with Museum of the City of Brussels in the background
a group of people in a city
a large building with many windows

From the Grand-Place, we made our way over to the Delirium Café and surrounding bars. We stopped in to grab a beer and I heard a tourist ask one of my favorite questions of the entire trip.

Tourist: I’ll just have a standard Belgian beer.

Delirium Bartender: Sir, that doesn’t exist.

a group of people walking down a narrow street
a man behind a bar

Luckily, a table in the alley came available just as we stepped outside so we sat and sipped our beers while we people watched.

Delirium Café Exterior Brussels Belgium

After finishing our beers, it was time for dinner. A little before 9:00p we arrived at Chez Leon and were seated on the patio immediately. We passed by earlier in the day and the place was packed so we were looking forward to trying it out.

a group of people outside a restaurant
a group of people sitting at tables in a street

We started off with a couple of beers (when in Belgium ya know) and perused the menu.

Beers on the table at Chez Leon

Starving, we hopped right in and started with mains, the fish and chips for me and another giant bowl of mussels for Mrs. ATX Jetsetter, both of which were delicious.

a bowl of mussels
a plate of food on a table

After dinner, we headed back towards the main square where the full Ommegang festivities were underway. The crowd was massive so it was hard to get a clear shot of what was happening but everyone seemed to be in a celebratory mood. The square was also lit up in various colors which provided a great visual effect.

a crowd of people in front of a building
a group of people in clothing holding signs in front of a crowd
a crowd of people in a city
a crowd of people in a crowded area with buildings
a crowd of people in front of Grand Place

We stayed and watched the show for 10-15 minutes. Getting tired, we snuck around the backside of the square and made our way back to the hotel as our time exploring Brussels was coming to an end.


While Brussels was a destination that hadn’t been on our radar prior to this trip, we had a fantastic time and would absolutely return to the city in the future. It was intended to be a jumping off point for our Italy trip but, we easily could have spent two or three more days in the city.

In this Trip Report

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