- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Brussels, Belgium
Lively and interesting markets
If you really want to experience Brussels like a local, you should visit the markets. One of the noisiest and most hectic food markets in the city would have to be Clemenceau market in the Anderlecht district. Here you can find clothes, but more importantly you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, different cheeses, olives and other food items. Don’t be intimidated by the vendors who all scream that their oranges are the cheapest or their bananas are the tastiest. You won’t find many tourists here and although the place might seem a bit dingy, you’ll definitely forget that you’re in the EU capital.
Another interesting market is the antique and flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle. You can find all kinds of interior design items and African art pieces here, along with paintings, vintage books and jewellery. And if you approach the market from Avenue du Louise, you’ll see the grandiose Justice Palace and the observation platform of Louiza.
Parks for all tastes
If the weather is nice, one of the best ways to pass the time is to visit a park. Luckily Brussels has many different parks, so you’ll surely find a favourite. If you prefer to be alone, read a book and observe other people, you should go to Jean-Felix Hap’s garden. It’s a lovely private little park near the European quarter. Just walk straight along Avenue d’Auderghem until you reach Etterbeek’s youth house (Maison des jeunes D’Etterbeek) and then enter through the fence. It can be tricky to find, but if you prefer privacy, you should definitely come here. The search is worth it!
If you prefer to spend your weekend with friends playing badminton for example, head to Parc du Cinquantenaire (also known as Jubelpark). It’s also close to the European quarter, but it’s much bigger and more crowded than Felix Hap’s garden. There are many playgrounds for children and there’s a corner where people play badminton and other sports. In the middle of the park there’s the triumphal arch, a car museum, an art museum and a history museum. If you prefer less manicured surroundings and are willing to travel beyond the city centre, you should visit Bois de la Cambre. Located on the edge of a forest, this park has a lovely lake with an island in the centre. It’s also quite big so there’s room enough for everyone to find a spot to enjoy the nature.
Walking around the city and having fun in the parks will definitely make you hungry. If you enjoy sitting in the sun and listening to live music, head to Café Belga in the Ixelles district. When the weather permits, the café opens its windows and doors and you can actually see people sitting on the ground enjoying small picnics. If you want to order like a local, choose either a Belgian beer or a peppermint tea (made from fresh peppermint leaves). It’s also a place where you can listen to up-and-coming Belgian and French indie bands.
If you happen to be in the city centre, make sure you stop by Café Central on Borgval Street. It’s popular on weekends, and they often have DJs and live acts offering up a musical delight. Also, there are two foods you absolutely must try during your stay in Brussels: fries and waffles. Both can be found at various cafés and street stalls.