Brussels, Belgium is a vast city that sits in between Amsterdam and Paris, making it a veritable melting pot of cultures. Yet, you’re never going to see the true face of Brussels by sticking to the popular pubs and tourist attractions. No, if you want to find the magic, you need to dig deep into the back allies, local breweries and eateries, cultural events, and history. If you’re looking to make your next trip to Brussels truly unique, then seek out these hidden amusements:
Comic Strip Route
When walking the artistic streets of Brussels, you might notice that some buildings have comic strip murals on them. These “bande dessinee” are targeted at the Franco-Belgian audience, but they make for an interesting tourist attraction as well. There are currently over 50 of these comics featuring characters like Tintin, Asterix, and assassin XIII found throughout the area known as the Pentagon. You can grab a map for the comic strip route at a Brussels Tourist Information Centre
for a single euro.
Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
In the 19th century, King Leopold II of Belgium designed the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. There are 30 pavilions all connected to the centremost complex, the Winter Gardens. Here, there are a number of tropic foliage, as well as azaleas, geraniums, and other flowers that bloom brightly. Keep in mind that these marvellous greenhouses are only open to the public during the first 3 weeks of spring, so plan accordingly!
52 and the Secret Garden
Looking for some green space that isn’t too crowded? Take a trip to Chaussee de Vleurgat, number 52. There’s a secret garden and Italian restaurant here that only the locals know about. The restaurant does get booked up rather quickly, so if you’d like to dine al fresco while overlooking a natural garden, be sure to get your reservation for 52 and the Secret Garden
Another park that we at Flyavel recommend is Bois de la Cambre, which is connected to the National Geographic Institute and the Cistercian Abbaye de la Cambre.
If you stick to the main roads, you’ll never know the true face of Brussels. Go off the beaten path. For example, there’s the Rue d’Isabelle, a mediaeval cobbled road that was mostly destroyed during the 20th century. Only a small section remains as part of the Coudenberg Underground Museum. Another example is the Rue Terarken, which runs between the 15th century Ravenstein House and the Palais des Beaux-Arts. Lastly, venture the Rue Sainte-Anne near Place du Grand Sablon, where you’ll find antique shops, art galleries, and a Congolese sculpture.
If you like oddities, head to the BELvue Museum. There is a bizarre collection of artefacts related to the Belgian royal family, including the corduroy jacket of King Albert I. You’ll notice one of the sleeves is missing. This is because the king was wearing it when he “fell” while climbing a cliff in the Ardennes. Such are the displays that you’ll find in this whimsical museum.
Brussels is more than frites and fashion. It’s a city full of hidden wonders that transport you to another dimension. You might go to Brussels for vacation, but you’re going to leave wanting even more.