A 3-Day City Break in Brussels & Bruges

Last week, John and I took a lovely and spontaneous, last-minute trip to Belgium. We booked three days away staying in Brussels and planned to visit Bruges whilst we were there. We were in desperate need to go away for a few days and explore something new, especially since we hadn't been anywhere since our holiday to Kos in October 2017. We had a really nice time and I wanted to share some of our holiday snaps as well as giving a little bit of a guide to seeing Brussels and Bruges in only 3 days. We flew to Belgium and took one of the earliest flights we could to ensure we had a full day to take advantage of, as well as taking one of the latest on the last day to also make the most of our time.

Day One - Brussels

On our first day, we arrived at our hotel, the Aloft Brussels Schuman in Brussels, really early. Our room wasn't quite ready so we were able to leave our bags at the hotel and go out for a bit before checking in. We decided to see if we could get something to eat and walked into the town centre which happened to be a lot further than we thought on foot.

Tip: take the train if you want to save on time and energy, it's a lot easier on your legs unless you like long walks, which in this case, will take you about 30 minutes into the centre from this hotel.

After we managed to get something to eat, we decided to do a little bit of sightseeing since we were already there. We first went to Grand Place which is the heart of Brussels and only round the corner from Panos which was the little bakery place we ate at.

Grand Place is a well-known square in Brussels surrounded by the most beautiful gothic-style buildings and their town hall. The square branches off into lots of little alleyways where you can buy all the chocolate, all the beer and all the waffles your heart desires! We walked around the square for quite some time and with all the detail, beautiful buildings and things going on, you could spend a decent amount of time just admiring the architecture. One girl was sat drawing the buildings, another couple were taking a panoramic photo and lots of people just sat to eat in the middle, enjoying the sights. It really was a lovely place to be.

After we'd been at Grand Place, we headed towards the direction of the Mannequin Pis, a landmark I knew I had to see. Walking down the lanes was really lovely and I loved seeing all the little shops as well as these fantastic comic strips that were hidden between walls. They were all over the city and I just wish I took photos of more of them.

The Mannequin Pis was a funny landmark and one I was glad I ticked off the list of things to see in Brussels. It was a lot smaller than I imagined and higher too. I also thought it wouldn't be in such a tight and hidden little corner but it was neatly tucked away and protected by a fence. What's cool is that not far from here is a museum housing all his outfits past. Mannequin Pis is known to be wearing different outfits on different occasions. During our first visit, he wore his birthday suit but on the third day when we returned, he was wearing a fun colourful outfit! I didn't get the best picture of it though I'm afraid.
In the surrounding areas, chocolatiers take advantage of this hotspot selling chocolate versions of the boy, other chocolates and of course, waffles!

After seeing some of the sights, John and I began to flag as we'd been up since 3am for our flight. We decided to head back to the hotel as we were now able to check-in and have a power nap. With the help of our map apps, we walked through a lovely garden and found ourselves back at our hotel. We'd walked quite a lot so we were more tired than before. A power nap became a three-hour nap which was very much needed!

With a power nap in the bag, we got ready for an evening out and some dinner. We weren't sure where to go, but then I found this cool little American/Belgian style diner called Manhattn. It did the most amazing burgers and the famous Belgian Frites. We both had the Harlem Chicken Burger which was amazing. I'd definitely recommend paying this place a visit!

After dinner, we headed into town back to the Grand Place area and had a couple of drinks. We went into this bar called Au Brasseur and John had a beer tasting tray whilst I sipped on a pina colada! I also tried the beers and liked one called Delirium. I'm not a beer fan at all, but it was one I could drink so I was happy to join John in drinking some Belgian beers. The atmosphere was really lovely there too. Lots of people were drinking and having the beer tasting trays whilst musicians played on the street. It was the perfect way to finish up our first day in Brussels.

Day Two - Bruges

For our second day in Belgium, John and I booked two train tickets to Bruges. We used the Brussels Rail app which was extremely easy to use and took away all the stress of travel. We left late in the morning after a well-deserved lie-in and got to Bruges at about midday. Our first stop when we got there was to find Bruges centre and so with our map apps to hand, we found our way walking through some of the most beautiful streets.

Bruges is well-known for all its canals and medieval architecture. The streets are cobbled and you can tell that this is a city well looked-after with beautiful flowers on almost every bridge you see. I couldn't help but have my camera out at every moment to make sure I didn't miss a pretty sight! We spent a lot of time walking through the streets and enjoying the sights. I saw a sign for Minnewater Park which is well known for the 'lake of love' there.

Minnewater Park was gorgeous and a lovely place to relax. I loved seeing all the ducks and swans relaxing on the bank by the canal and we saw some people painting some of the scenery which was nice to see. I don't think I've ever seen painters painting outdoors like that before.

We started to get a little peckish and we made our way back to Bruges' cobbled streets to find Frites which we were dying to try. Though we had frites the day before in our dinner, it wasn't the same as getting a cone with a dollop of sauce on top. John and I both went for mayo on top and they didn't disappoint! It was delicious and I just wish I remembered the name of the place we went to.

After our frites, we decided to find Bruges' famous Markt which was like Grand Place but in Bruges! It was a beautiful square just like Grand Place but more open. I preferred Bruges Markt simply because it felt a little more open and social. There were restaurants around one side and lots of horse and carriages waiting to take tourists on a ride around the city. It was a lovely atmosphere and our spot for our first Belgian waffle from a place called Chez Albert. (I don't know why we waited for the second day to have one!)

The Belgian waffle was like a dream! It was really hot so I decided to get one with icecream whilst John chose strawberries and cream. It tasted amazing and my only regret is that I didn't try more waffles whilst I was out there. The photographs speak for themselves really, don't they?

With food done, John and I decided to take a walk down the canal. I wanted to find the Bruges Whale but upon re-googling it, I found out the installation had been removed quite a while ago. Nevertheless, the day was warm and the canal was looking gorgeous so we continued on our walk. I couldn't stop taking photos of the beautiful views and buildings. I could have walked around there all day.

It was starting to get late and we decided that it was time to head back to the train station, especially as we wanted to get some chocolate from here before we went back to Brussels. Luckily for us, the shops were beginning to close and we managed to get to a chocolatier that we wanted to go to called Dumon and bought a box full of chocolates! It was a fun experience, especially when there are so many amazing flavours of chocolate to choose from.

With chocolate in hand, we walked back and every street we went down was just pure beauty. I loved it. I started wishing that we'd stayed in Bruges instead because it was so pretty and John agreed. It was a gorgeous place that I'd happily visit again.

 Day Three - Brussels Part Two

Our last day in Belgium began with breakfast at a patisserie local to our hotel. We'd checked out of the hotel and left our bags there to make the most of our last day. We'd planned to get all our shopping done on our final day and basically buy more chocolate and have some more food.

On our way to the city's centre again, we found ourselves going there a different way than last time and found this amazing mural on the ceiling of an underpass near the station. It was only at this point that I remembered the Smurfs originate from Belgium. I wondered why there was so much Smurfs and Tin Tin memorabilia around. I love the Smurfs and thought this artwork was well placed and a lot of fun. Around the corner was the comic museum which I did consider visiting, but skipped out of our itinerary this time.

For our last day, we found ourselves shopping mostly down the arcade which was nearby and we hadn't visited on our first day. Down here there were lots of coffee shops, jewellers and chocolatiers. We ended up buying some chocolate from one of the places and admiring all the others. It was nice to discover more of Brussels, especially since we thought we'd seen it all on the first day. We took a walk down some of the alleys we went to on the first day too and just enjoyed the atmosphere. It seemed livelier than the first day too. Maybe because it was closer to the weekend?

It was about 3:00pm when we decided that our time in Brussels was done. We'd seen all we wanted to and we'd bought all the chocolate we wanted too. Brussels was lovely but it was more of a working city, especially being the heart of the European Union Commission Offices. Out of the two cities, we definitely preferred Bruges.

If I were to visit Belgium again, I'd definitely stay in Bruges this time and take a visit to places like Ghent and Antwerp. I'd also want to discover some of the histories by the coast too. I really loved Belgium and if you've got a sweet tooth for chocolate, it's a great place to visit. The sights are beautiful and the waffles are worth the visit! I think next time, we might drive too. It's not that far and it probably would take the same amount of time (or less) as flying considering the distance.

Top tips for visiting Belgium

Stay as close to the centre as possible. Though our hotel was amazing, really comfortable and accommodating, it was too far from the city centre where we wanted to be. We spent money on Ubers because we had done so much walking and your hotel shouldn't be too far from where you want to be. I'd suggest staying as close to the centre or local transport links as possible. We had a local train station but Uber was cheaper in this case.

Expect to pay more for food. I don't think I realised how expensive the food was going to be. Though a plain waffle can cost just €2, you're paying a lot more for the toppings! Expect to pay close to €5-6 for a topping filled waffle. Dinners will be expensive but even more so, the drinks will be! If you're not a beer person, expect to pay €10 for a cocktail whilst beers are about €3-6.

Download the Belgian Rail App. This app saved all the days! We used this app spontaneously on our first day to get from the airport to the hotel and it was so easy to use. We bought our tickets on the app where it stored it in case you needed to show them to the ticket inspector (which we did). We also used it to buy our tickets to Bruges and our ticket back to the airport. It kept our journeys entirely stress-free! Keep in mind, this is only for the train and not for the metro.

Take it slow with the beers. Local beers have a higher percentage of alcohol so take it easy on the beers! Though I don't drink beer, I did have some and they are around the 7-10% mark making them quite strong compared to our usual 4-7%. Drink them slowly and enjoy them!

Don't rush. Brussels and Bruges were easily seen in a day even when you take it easy. We kind of rushed because we're on-the-go people and can't seem to stop and slow down for 5 minutes. We tried to keep our walking pace as casual as possible and take in the sights as much as we could. If you want to take some tours, most will fit around your day quite nicely. If you want to go somewhere like the Atomium which is further out of the city centre then you may need another day for that.

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