Brussels Stories and Tips

Wandering the Grand Place

Christmas Display in a Shop at the Grand Place Photo, Brussels, Belgium

Behind our hotel (Royal Windsor Hotel) was perhaps Brussels' most famous attraction - the Grand Place. This cobblestone square contains buildings that date back to the 17th century. It attracts tourists because of its restaurants, shops, and markets in addition to its stunning architecture. During our visit, the Grand Place was decorated for Christmas. The shop windows had holiday displays and the outdoor Christmas Bazaar was in full swing. The brisk temperature added to the holiday atmosphere.

We found ourselves wandering the Grand Place on more than one occasion during our weekend in Brussels. Often the reason was for food but other times it was for souvenir shopping or for taking in one of the outdoor Christmas programs that were happening that weekend.

Belgium is known for quite a few delicacies despite being a relatively small country. The Belgian waffle is a popular association but the country is also known for chocolate, French fries (pommes frites), beer, and mussels (moules). Chocolate shops are plentiful in the tourist areas of Belgium. To attract customers, some of these shops have large sculptures made of chocolate at their storefront. Often, these places provide samples of their products. Most of the souvenirs we bought for family and friends were boxes of chocolate.

We also ate our share of pommes frites during our visit. They are served in paper rolled up like a cone. You eat them with tiny plastic forks and are given a choice of ketchup or mayonnaise. My wife and I shared an order with ketchup everyday as a snack. The pommes frites were delicious but not unlike good fries I've had at other places.

A few blocks from the Grand Place is one of the Brussels’ other popular attractions - Mannequin Pis. This odd attraction is a small statue of a little boy urinating into a fountain. There is always a crowd of people in the area photographing this spectacle. My wife and I waited our turn to snap a picture as well.

During our final night in Brussels, there was a Christmas show going on in the Grand Place that included singing and laser lights. My wife and I were all bundled-up on this brutally cold evening as we joined the crowd in witnessing this event. It was spectacular. It was a great way to spend our final evening in Belgium but I could think of no better way to end it than with a Belgian waffle and hot chocolate. My wife and I found a waffle shop called Gaufres de Bruxelles and did just this. I learned there are different varieties of waffles. My wife had the Liege waffle that contained crunchy sugar crystals inside. I had the Brussels waffle whose interior does not have crunchy sugar crystals. Of course, I dressed it up with whipped cream, ice cream, and caramel sauce - heavenly!

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