I Am Sorry, Brussels

I Am Sorry, Brussels

Back this spring, TripAdvisor conducted a survey and concluded that Brussels was Europe’s most boring city.  Mon dieu!  I couldn’t disagree more, and for that, I make a public apology to Brussels.  The Belgian capital is one of the most authentic European cities that I know and just because it refuses to not bow down to preconceived notions that tourists have about European capitals does not mean that it is boring.    There are plenty of reasons why you should love Brussels; here are only a few.

I Am Sorry, Brussels

Happy Kids Sculpture in The Square, Brussels


Some of the best food I’ve had on the entire continent has been in Brussels.  Going far beyond ‘Mussels in Brussels’, you can have mouth-watering steaks, rich and creamy pastas, and the best chips (French fries) in the world.  Top all that off with a Belgian waffle, topped with fresh strawberries, fresh strawberry confiture, and fluffy whipped cream.  What more could one want?

Tip:  Try the steaks at Aux Paves des Bruxelles (Rue Marche-au-Fromage 1-3).


Everyone knows that Belgian brews are some of the best ever made – in fact, some modern day brewing methods originated from the work in the medieval Belgian abbeys.  Brussels is full of pubs serving the good stuff on draught; the atmosphere is fantastic as you can find high-ranking EU officials mingling in the same space as an “in the know” tourist.

Tip: It might be in most tourists books, but still check out La Mort Subite (7, rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères).


The Grand Place or main square in Brussels is my favourite city square in all of Europe.  Ok, there I said it.  Feel free to agree or disagree with that, but it cannot be denied that on a clear evening the Grand Place is a magical and beautiful setting.  Pop into one of the cafes alongside the square’s perimeter and soak up the ambience.

Tip:  Head further afield and check out the art noveau grandeur at the Victor Horta Museum (25 rue Américaine).

Sense of Humour

Who doesn’t love the Manneken Pis?  As if the statue wasn’t adorable enough, the little boy appears to have an extensive wardrobe, ranging from military uniforms to sportswear and holiday-themed apparel.  I think this great statue reflects the fun, quirky sense of humour that Belgians have and it is this aspect of their society that makes Brussels such a welcoming place to visit.

Tip:  Did you know that Manneken Pis has a sister, Janneken Pis?  Head to the end of the Impasse de la Fidélité and see for yourself.

More Brussels Tips

We’ve plenty more tips for things to do in Brussels.

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I Am Sorry, Brussels

20 thoughts on “I Am Sorry, Brussels

  1. Jeremy Head

    I think the statistic says more about TripAdvisor users (ie Americans?) that it does about Brussels. Maybe the BEST places to visit are the ones that TripAdvisor users rate as boring?

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  3. JadedinBrussels

    Brussels is the pits. It’s as simple as that.

    Been living there for 4 months but luckily commuting back to Berlin almost every weekend.

    Nothing works in Brussels (electricity companies cut you off from supply without a single warning altough you signed up with them), service doesn’t exist and there is a general feeling is incompletion and unsophistication that often makes you wonder whether this is a developing country.

    If you are not into food and beer Brussels is just a disappointing, boring, dirty and sad place – and it’s not cheap either, to say the least !

    Stay away.

    P.S.: That peeing bronze statue tells you a lot about the place and is a well-chosen attraction- representing the place quite nicely.

  4. dillpixel

    Brussels is extraordinary, beautiful and brilliant, fun-loving, cultured, vulgar and bawdy, rich, honorable, well-educated and humble…like the people that reside there. Boring? NOT!!!

  5. Karen Bryan

    Jaded in Brussels – well you certainly are hacked off with Brussels surely there must be some good points?

    dill pixel – I agree that every city has good and bad points, just like it has horrible and lovely residents.

  6. JadedinBrussels

    Well, after one week of having no electricity at all they were so kind as to re-connect me to the net. Quite quick, don’t you agree ?

    Obviously, everybody is entitled to his/her own opinion so if you don’t find Brussels boring than so be it.

    I think it also depends on where you are coming from – certainly if you come from larger cities then I guess you very likely don’t like Brussels.

    Same as for nationalities: The French and British seem to like the place whereas Germans and Scandinavians apparently tend not to. As a Scandinavian colleague said to me: I asked other Scandinavians in Brussels what would be good about it and they replied:

    Chocolate and beer.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Coming from Berlin, and having traveled and lived a bit around the world I find Brussels a soulless, characterless and ugly place.
    Berlin has it’s fair share of ugly places and people are sometimes impolite and vulgar.
    But as with people it is with cities: There are those who look good, there are those who have personality, there are those who have both, and those who have none. Brussels is the latter.

    btw: Leuven, which is much smaller, I find quite nice but Brussels is just …

    Don’t say you haven’t been warned !

  7. dillpixel

    JadedinBrussels, here’s one thing that might bear mentioning…Brussels is wall-to-wall chemists and medical marvels. They might have something that can adjust that ‘tude! You seem kinda tightly wound. The blog is about travel in Europe, not occupying. Brussels is a really great destination and it would be unfortunate if anyone crossed it off their list because they got a negative impression from someone that’s, uh, jaded. ;0)

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  9. Albert Rosner

    I live 25 years in Brussels and think of my own city that it is not an attractive city at first sight :
    pretty much dirty, architectural chaos, no recent architectural prestige, too much criminality for a city that size, too many beggars in the streets, too much general poverty, chaotic and inefficient public transport, incoherent public services (no serious-size public libraries either in french, dutch, english, too little english knowledge in public space for the capital of Europe, etc…), no clear indications, no clearly defined centre, etc…

    On the other hand, once you know Brussels a bit, you discover the diamonds of this city : the secrets of the city reveal themselves if you are patient, and these are not Manneken Pis and the Grand Place ;-).

  10. khalif

    I agree and that’s why I would not advise Brussels to travellers. I have lived a few years in Brussels and had a great time. After a while you start to appreciate the city for more than just beer and chocolate. But to explain tourists why they should visit Brussels instead of Ghent or Berlin is almost impossible. Other cities have more straight forward directions to beautiful sites, interesting museums, nightlife etc. In Brussels many things are hidden somewhere in the quarters. They are scattered all around town. You have to discover yourself hidden-away clubs, beautiful parks and forest, the right frietkot (Belgian fries), the hidden medieval city under the royal palace, late night bars and tmosphere in the African district. It’s not just the Grand Place, it’s so much more. So yes, for travellers slightly difficult, but to live surprisingly nice.

  11. Karen Bryan

    khalif – thanks for your comment and describing some of the hidden attractions of Brussels. It sounds as though visitors to Brussels armed with a little insider knowledge could have a fantastic time in Brussels.

  12. Steve

    Karen, you couldn’t be more correct. Brussels is a beautiful city. I spent four years there and it never left anything to be desired. Wonderful food, culture and attractions – but unique compared to more common European destinations. Khalif is right on when he speaks of how it’s real attractions are just off the beaten path. I would even stretch to say that it’s probably one of the most family friendly destinations in Europe as there are hundreds of parks, light rail and tends to have a slightly more laid-back atmosphere. To this day Belgium is dear to me.

  13. Karen Bryan

    Steve – thanks for your comment. I can’t understand why Brussels has such a negative image in the UK, perhaps perpetuated by people who haven’t even been there?

  14. ALEX

    I’ve just returned (yesterday 16th Nov 2009)and I think Brussels IS the most boring place I’ve ever been to.

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  16. Hannah

    Thanks Andrew for pointing me to this great article. I’ve just returned from Brussels and I absolutely loved it. It isn’t the nicest city, but it’s atmosphere makes up for it. We stayed bang in the centre of the old town which was beautiful. I’d definitely recommend it – so relaxed and lovely to drink the beer outside in the evening.

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