More often than not the Benelux countries of Belgium and Luxembourg go unvisited as most people tend to stay in the Netherlands for the comforts, or not, of Amsterdam and the windmills that are more familiar. However, both countries have a national identity all their own. Brussels, the capital of Belgium is one of the most International and important cities on the planet as it is home to both the European Union and NATO, not to mention several gastronomic delights which I will detail. Luxembourg City is one of the most notorious banking havens in Europe and a very nice place to visit but only for a day or so as there isn’t a whole lot to do aside from checking out the old city and the surrounding sites.
We spent a day in Brussels touring around the center of the city which is where all the sites that the visitor would want to see are located. The offices of the EU and NATO along with the Atomium (a cool relic from the 1958 World’s Fair) are a little further out of the city center. The city center consists of some of the finest selection of places to eat this side of Tuscany. There are more chocolate shops in Brussels than anywhere I have ever been and that’s not a bad thing because they are absolutely amazing and I don’t even like chocolate. The chocolate fountains in the window with strawberries waiting to be dipped and the peanut brittle are just divine. No trip to Brussels is complete without trying some or at least bringing some back as a souvenir for others to enjoy.
Additionally, Belgium is known for their fries and in a much different way than their neighbors to the north as they don’t necessarily drench them in mayonnaise by default-only if you ask them. The fries however, are served in cones and they are in my opinion way better than in the Netherlands as they are more thoroughly cooked as I like them crispy and smothered in this spicy sauce that I cannot remember the name of right now but trust me it was excellent.
The two final pieces of the Belgian belly buster tourism trip is to have waffles and beer. The waffles as many of you know are amazing and they are as good as advertised. There are two types; De Lieges and Brussels. Both are very good with the former being smaller, sweeter and denser with a crunchy caramel crust and able to be handled by hand whereas the latter needs to be cut with utensils and enjoyed similar to a Belgian waffle you would get in the States. The beer of course from Belgium is legendary and as good as anywhere in the world. My favorite is Duvel but there are so many good ones that it would take a page to name them all. Belgium is also the home of Stella Artois and our hotel had a free bar giving them away which was nice!
To be honest, aside from the Grand Place, which is the main square in Brussels, and one of the best in Europe there isn’t too much to see tourist-wise in Brussels. Of course there is the Mannekin Pis which is for some reason the number one tourist site in Brussels. If you don’t know what it is, I have posted a picture of it and as you can see it’s a small boy taking a leak into a fountain. It’s also very small and very disappointing after looking around for it a while but you take the token picture and try to avoid the hundreds of Asian tourists making ridiculous poses in front of it.
From Brussels we jumped on the very scenic train to Luxembourg City, passing through the rolling hills and farmland of the Belgian countryside. I always try to stay awake on day trains because I love to see the countryside while in transit and I was barely able to as the clouds were gathering but was hopeful the rain would hold off for the 3 hours we had in Luxembourg.
This was my second time in Luxembourg and my first visit was very unmemorable so thankfully this one was much better. Luxembourg is the third smallest country in Europe and a very nice place but it lacks much in terms of excitement. However, the main square is packed with restaurants and we sat down for some Mexican food. It seemed to be the best option as France and Italy don’t give you many options other than their own cuisine as it is so good and that’s what’s coming up for us.
The caverns of Luxembourg are very pretty and the old town is small but nice. I was surprised to see a lot of very rude people in Luxembourg and this was very apparent in only the few hours that we were there. I really don’t remember that being the case the last time I was there. Who knows?
We are currently on the train to Paris and I personally cannot wait. The City of Lights is one of the worlds great places and I cannot wait to chill out for a few days and take in the French food, culture and revisit some of my favorite haunts and show a Paris first-timer around one of the best cities on Earth.