I am traveling to Belgium at the end of October and will be spending 2 days in Liege and 1 day in Brussels. For someone that is going here for the first time, what would be the things to check out in either places. I know I would be cramming a lot in to 3 days in such a cool country but time is not a luxury on this trip!
We spent less than 1 full day in Brussels and I wished we had more time. It was a lovely Spring day, sunny, blue sky, lots of tulips everywhere, perfect weather. We basically went on a walking tour, guided by a friend who lives there, here are the sights we saw:
We started walking from our hotel ( Pantone Hotel) to Avenue Louise, a major shopping street. Quick stop at Place Poelaertplein which is one of the best viewpoints in Brussels. We proceeded to Petit Sablon, a small square with a pretty garden (full of tulips that day) and pond, checked the glass work at Église Notre-Dame du Sablon across the street and walked to the Place Du Grand Sablon, to check all the chocolate stores around the square - Pierre Marcolini, Leonidas, Godivaand Neuhaus among others (they had great Easter decorations at the time, very nice). We also stopped by at L'Univers du Thé they have an amazing selection of teas from all over the world, I had to buy a few (ask to see and smell their amazing Blue Tea).
We kept going towards the Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée Magritte and the Royal Palace of Brussels. We stopped on the way to eat some delicious waffles from Liege. Across the street from the Royal Palace there is a huge park, Brussels Park. We didn't have time to go in so we turned around to walk to the beautiful Grand Place. If it's a sunny day, try to get there early because at the time we got there (late afternoon) most of the square was in the shade.
After taking in the beautiful buildings, we walked to the Manneken Pis statue, which is as everybody says - small and not that great, but oh well. On the way to the statue we saw a lot of chocolate stores and waffle vendors.
We went across the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, very pretty, and again, lined with chocolatiers and their wonderful Easter displays. At the end of the Galeries, you arrive at a narrow street called Beenhouwersstraat lined with restaurants, including the very traditional Chez Leon and Aux Armes de Bruxelles. We had a typical Belgian dinner at Chez Leon, with steamed mussels and beer. It was good but overpriced, I've heard Aux Armes de Bruxelles is better.
On our way back to the hotel we had delicious Liege waffles with chocolate and strawberries at a street vendor nearby. Best waffles I've ever had, for sure!
I wanted to go to the Atomium but unfortunately it wasn't nearby and we had less than 1 full day, so we skipped it.
You can see my photos of this day here.
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If you like modern history, you can take a train out of Brussels to
Atomium, the former site of the 1958 World's Fair. Yes, it's a tourist hub, it will be crowded and expensive. But I'm a sucker for World's Fairs and this one is pretty slick and fun as far as design goes.
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Oh, dear, now I'm in trouble! I'll be honest with you: I'm not a big fan of Brussels. I visited this city 5 times and didn't like any of these visits. I don't want to disappoint you because you might be a person who actually like such places.
Personally: I would trade Brussels for Leuven. It's about 20 min train ride. A small, cosy, university town with spectacular Beguinage. But this is all very personal. I simply prefer small and clean towns over huge, dirty and crowded metropolis.
Hello Drew, for Liege, if you visit it by night, you must go to 'Le Carré' it's a place with a lot of pub and people. if your visit by day, you have to go to the center and walk through the town by food. You'll see a lot of things very nice.
In Bruxelles, I don't know very well, it's too big. But the thing that you must see is the Atomium. It's well known.
One tip for Belgium from a fellow American who was just there - US credit cards (even with chip and signature) won't be accepted everywhere. (only chip & pin, which we don't really have many of in the US yet.) I didn't think this would be a big deal, but it was actually really inconvenient. Cary enough cash for sure!
At all automated ticket machines such as metro/subway etc, the only thing accepted is a chip & pin card, or Euros (but sometimes only coins, no bills!). We always had to wait in line at a ticket counter to buy tickets from a cashier - and even then sometimes the only option was to pay with cash. Once I ended up in a subway station in Brussels late at night (ticket office closed) with no way to buy a ticket because I didn't have enough small change for the machine. Thankfully someone kindly helped me out! I really wish I had gotten a pre-paid chip & pin card before I went - it would have saved us a lot of time standing in lines, and made life much more convenient.
Try this website to whet your curiosity and plan your trip (http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/Belgium/Province_de_Liege/Liege-352110/Things_To_Do-Liege-TG-C-1.html). It is well written and actually answered some of the questions I've had about some of the statues and bridges!
Another place to visit 15 mins. away to the South of Liege is the Ardennes American CemeteryArdennes American Cemetery. It is a WWII American Cemetery which is the resting place of soldiers who died in the fighting here in WWII. You can learn more about these cemeteries at ABMC.org.
In Brussels, you will want to see the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis which is just off one of the side streets from the Grande Place. Also on Virtual Tourist is a list of interesting sites which you can choose from based on your interest: http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/Belgium/Region_de_Bruxelles_Capitale/Brussels-357567/Things_To_Do-Brussels-TG-C-1.html.
Have a great trip!
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Dont miss Brugge. The "North Venice" like they call it. Really a must seen. Strongly recommended