Phan Quoc Vinh

Brussels is known as the heart of Europe, and even a one day visit was enough time to find enchantment here.

Shopping and art 

I began a day in Brussels in the Old Quarter, where I stopped first at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a glass-roofed compound of splendid shopping arcades designed and built by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer from 1846 to 1847. Containing luxury shops, theaters, cafes and chocolate shops, the gallery’s motto is “Alles voor iedereen” (Everything for everyone) which you can find carved at the entrance and it certainly doesn’t lack for options. But even if you’re not there to shop, Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a stunning architectural feat well worth a visit.

Moving outdoors, you can  take in some of Brussels’ delightful some of parks. You won’t be disappointed with the majestic landscape and nature of Mont des Arts, Parc du Cinquantenaire and Brussels Botanical Garden.

Brussels is also a hub for scientific research, fashion, business, and a special highlight, comic books, which can be seen through its comic museums and statues along the streets. I was able to spot numerous works of public art and graffiti featuring iconic characters such as Tintin, Gaston, Lucky Luke and the Smurfs. No matter where you stand in Brussels, street art is never far out of sight.

And while New York boasts the imposing Statue of Liberty and Copenhagen prides itself on its enchanting Mermaid Statue, Brussels has its own famous figure: the Manneken Pis, or Peeing Boy, a symbol of the city which can be found near at the fountain near the Grand Palace.

You can also  with find the boy’s “younger sister” Jeanneke Pis, on Beenhouwersstraat St., a statue erected in 1987. There is even a dog figurine called Het Zinneke, created by artist Tom Frantzen.

Chocolate and beer

I stopped by a little haven with the sweet name Le Temps du Sucre for some genuine Belgian chocolate. From button-like chocolate truffles to gold coins to a lollipop of the Manneken Pis and a miniature Grand Palace Square, the options were endless in this cradle of the chocolate world.  Another iconic snack to be found are Belgium’s traditional frites (Belgian-style French fries.) There are hundreds of shops and stands selling frites (called Frikots) around the city and enjoying the snack on the street was a rewarding experience. 

When it comes to drinks, Belgium is known as home to some of the world’s best beer. La Mort Subite, H20 or La Porte Noire are a few bars worth visiting in Brussels to sample varieties from ales to wheat to fruit beers brewed with enchanting raspberries, blackberries and cherries. There are also many renowned Trappist beers brewed by monks, some of which can be quite strong at 8 or even 12 percent alcohol.

Whether you have one day or several to visit Brussels, there is plenty to see, buy, eat and drink in one of Europe’s most charming capitals.