Brussels has garnered a reputation as a boring business destination, but I discovered a range of shops, restaurants and cafes that illustrated a creative and exciting side to the city. Just two hours from London on the Eurostar, Belgian is accessible and easy to get to. As the capital city Brussels is home to many of the flagship stores and important sights. We particularly enjoyed the chocolate, beer and chip tasting!
The Dominican – this hotel has a focus on design, art and history and is set on the site of what used to be a 15th century Dominican abbey. Located in the centre of Brussels, this accommodation is part of the Design Hotel group featuring the designs of the renowned Amsterdam brand FGStijl. The interior is a modern renovation and revitalisation of the old cloisters and original architecture.
WY Brussels – this is the newest project from star chef Bart De Pooter, and was prompted awarded a Michelin star. It is a very special and unusual eatery, concealed within Mercedes House, the posh car showroom. We enjoyed a delicious lunch here trying their specialities like the innovative Bacon and cabbage dish.
La Boule D’Or – those searching for traditional Belgian cuisine should head to La Boule D’Or. Most often crammed with hungry locals, this characterful corner café serves favourites like meatballs and steak with chips. Prices are reasonable and the service is friendly.
Hortense – we were delighted to discover this spirits and cocktail bar, hidden in a tiny cave along Place du Sablon. The little candlelit bar is very atmospheric and serves up tasty inventive drinks. We enjoyed short flavoured cocktails accompanied with the house salt and pepper popcorn.
Chez Franz – this local and atmospheric venue is easy-going and trendy. The perfect stop for a hearty weekend brunch or an evening pint of Belgian blond beer.
OR Espresso Bar – a micro roaster, coffee training centre and coffee bar this little venue was recommended to me several times as the best place to get my morning caffeine fix. Small and characterful I was pleased with my strong but creamy takeaway flat white.
Marolles Flea Market – This street market is open every day all year round and is the place to find a bargain. Rare antiques and vintage trinkets are found amongst the modern tat, you just need the patience to rummage through.
Museum of Musical Instruments – housed in a magnificent Art Nouveau building this impressive collection of instruments from across the ages is presented here in an informative and fun way. As you walk around the audio guide will play you the authentic sounds of the instruments in front of you.
Manneken Pis – “Little man Pee” in Dutch and le Petit Julien in French) is a bizarre landmark in Brussels. The small bronze sculpture depicts a naked little boy urinating into a fountain’s basin. It was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder and put in place in 1618 or 1619.
Maison Dandoy – we stumbled across this charming little biscuit shop. A sweet institution established in 1829, Dandoy produces irresistable oven-fresh biscuits. Coincidentally the original shop is found in Brussels on rue au Beurre (Butter street).
L’Antichambre – an unmissable boutique on the Brussels shopping scene. Owner Anne Pascale has created a sensual shop with the highest quality scents from Grasse, and will work with clients to create their very own bespoke fragrance. I was lucky enough to make my own, which I named Resolument Moderne including Chocolate, Spicy Pepper and Fig ingredients. L’Antichambre also produce a range of beautiful scented candles, try the unique flavour Le tomate verte.
Mary – this pretty feminine shop has packaging that is just as lovely as the chocolates. There are now a few branches of this artisan brand, all stocking the signature illustrated boxes filled with seriously delicious treats. My favourite chocolate shop in Brussels, a box of Mary chocolates would be a memorable gift for someone special.
Hunting and Collecting – this spacious, cleanly arranged shop stocks a range of labels, which are rotated regularly, so you are bound to find a new gem every time you visit. The basement hosts art exhibitions whilst upstairs you can browse the tailored clothes, and lust after the design objects and striking accessories.
Pierre Marcolini – when you ask the locals in Belgium for the best chocolate, most will point towards the haute chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini. The shop is more like a museum with immaculately presented chocolates everywhere you look. I loved the coloured heart collection, which are almost too pretty to demolish!
La Fabrika – Opened by Kelly Claessens in 2010 this design haven stocks a beautifully curated collection of classic furniture, unusual books and chic accessories that would complement any home. La Fabrika is a trendsetter in Brussels and is popular with the stylish Bohemian locals.
Le Typographe – I have been excited about my trip to this stationery emporium for months, so entering the doors of the perfectly ordered shop was a joy. Alongside the carefully hand-picked pens, pencils and other writing paraphernalia Le Typographe stock their own brand, often neon, cards, envelopes and notebooks. An atelier of the finest stationery, I wanted it all.
Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with Eurostar.
· Eurostar operates up to 9 daily services from London St Pancras International to Brussels with return fares from £69.
· Tickets to any Belgium station start from £79.
· Fastest London-Brussels journey time is 2 hours.
· Tickets are available from eurostar.com or 03432 186 186.