Brussels is a popular destination for people who enjoy mini-cruise breaks since it is easily accessible by boat and not too far from the UK. The Hull-Zeebrugge ferry takes 13 hours overnight, but the journey is enjoyable with plenty of entertainment and food available.
Booking a cabin is usually the best thing to do, so that you can get a comfortable night’s sleep before waking up in the morning to go and explore Brussels.
But is Brussels worth the journey? What is there to do there? If you’re a politician, there is plenty to do of course, since Brussels is where the European Commission and NATO are based, but what if you’re a mere tourist who wants to explore this thousand-year-old city?
The two main languages in Brussels are French and Flemish, with speakers of both languages steadfastly avoiding talking to each other in anything other than their own language.
However, both sides do generally speak English very well, though it is worth brushing up on your French or Flemish depending on which area you are planning to visit, just to be polite – they really do appreciate it.
The obvious place to start your visit is at the Grand Place. In winter, it is lit up in spectacular fashion with Christmas decorations and markets and it is worth a visit at that time of year to see those alone. But at any time of the year it is worth a visit to have a look at the typically-Belgian architecture in the form of guild houses and the town hall.
There are several open-air markets to explore, and in the outskirts of town you will find supermarkets that have chocolate counters like we have meat or dairy counters in the UK.
They’re the best and cheapest places to stock up on selected boxes of chocolates to take home as gifts or to indulge in yourself on the journey home.
In the main centre, though, there are chocolatiers (which are a bit more expensive but which make delicious chocolates), waffle houses, fritteries and beer bars and, on Sundays at Gare du Midi, there is Europe’s largest open-air market to explore.
Another product that Belgium is famous for is lace and you can buy large examples (such as tablecloths) of intricately-woven designs or tiny examples in the form of lace butterfly badges that are nice to pin on your handbag as a reminder of your trip.
The city centre is nice and compact and can be easily explored on foot, but if you want to go further afield the Metro (underground) will take you quickly, safely and cheaply to just about anywhere.