Brussels is very walkable. The centre is compact, mostly flat and there is plenty to see. Unfortunately our Saturday tour was rain-filled but that didn’t stop us and indeed many others from rambling around Brussels’ stylish shops and charming streets.
One of the most entertaining aspects of walking around Brussels is the variety of ‘bande dessinee’ (cartoon strips) that can be seen on city buildings, the scale and quality of which puts a lot of other street art to shame. A few pieces that we saw covered three or more storeys but even so, they’re easy to miss if you don’t make the effort to look up or even behind you every once in a while. We spotted a few along the way but if I go back I may consider paying a visit to the Centre Belge De La Bande Dessinée (Belgian Comic Strip Centre) as it is much more of a considered art form here, and deservedly so.
Tourist must-sees include the dramatically beautiful Grand Place, well deserving of its Unesco World Heritage status and the diminutive Manneken-Pis. Despite the fact that it was devoid of any fancy dress, it didn’t fail to draw the crowds and tourists elbowed their way in to get their picture taken beside the incontinent statue.
We headed south-east of the Manneken-Pis, towards Place du Grand Sablon, stopping off at some interesting photographic art and film bookshops along the way. I found Brussels to be a fun place for window shopping and walking around we discovered that there is a good spread of boutique furniture, gift and clothes shops.
For anyone looking for older items, Place du Grand Sablon is the place to come for antiques shopping. Every Saturday an outdoor market is set up although close by there are plenty of other permanent antiques dealers to visit. Even the rain didn’t deter the market traders although customers were in short supply that afternoon.
Needing a break from the cold and the rain, we ducked into The Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium. The main hall is free to visitors but special exhibitions off to the side require an entry ticket. We hung around for ten minutes marveling at Jan Fabre’s ‘Globe of Beetles’, which is as the titles implies, a giant globe studded with dead armoured insects. It is an impressive collection and even though the bugs are getting a little dusty, the colours are something to marvel at.
We then walked down to the long shopping arcade that is the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. This appears to be the place to come if you’re looking for fine chocolates, shoes, jewelry and fashions. The shops line the appropriately named King’s, Queen’s and Prince’s galleries as the place does have a regal air about it. On a Saturday afternoon shoppers have to duck and weave their way through from one end to the other, as it’s a popular thoroughfare. Rue des Bouchers cuts through the middle and provides an escape route if needed.
After resurfacing on Grasmarkt, we treated ourselves to a well-earned waffle at the Funambule waffle shop at 7 Rue de Taborat. I went all out and got one with strawberries, cream and melted chocolate. We had to eat our thick waffles with the world’s tiniest plastic fork but I didn’t see anyone let even a crumb drop to the ground.