When I think back on my first arrival in Belgium, all I could remember was the cold.
It was at least -10 deg Celsius, probably not a biggie if you were used to freezing temperature, but when I left the Philippines, the temperature was around 30 degrees. To say I had a bit of a shock is an understatement.
Despite the misery, I did manage to go around. A friend who’s based in Mollem-Asse took me to Brussels, and given the temperature, we decided on one destination only: the UNESCO World Heritage Site Grote Markt (“Grand Place”), Brussels’ historic and beautiful central square.
The Grand Place is a huge area with the city hall on one side and the King’s house and some guildhalls in another. There were quite a few outdoor cafés, and I can imagine how wonderful it would be during summer when you can sit outside and just people watch. It’s really great that for European city breaks, one could easily take the trains to get here from any point in Europe.
There are actually a lot more to see in Brussels during winter. For those who are in the city, for example, from the last weekend in November to January 2nd, there is the glorious Christmas Market in the Grand Place stretching to Place St. Catherine which has a lot of really interesting items on sale.
You can find anything in the 240 chalets specifically put up for the occasion, from locally made candles and soaps to Christmas decorations, Russian dolls, jewelry, children’s toys, and a lot more. Known as “Winter Pleasures,” the highlight of the Christmas Market is the Electrabel light and laser show in the Grand Place.
The best time to go to the Grand Place in Brussels, however, is during the summer season. Sometime in August every two years, over a hundred volunteers create a giant, colorful flower carpet in the market square, a local tradition that attracts thousands of visitors. What I wouldn’t give to be able to go back there and see this work of art!
Despite the cold (we even had to go inside the Belgian Beer Museum at one point to get warm!) it was a very enjoyable day for me. There weren’t a lot of tourists, and I had a glimpse, however brief it might be, of how wonderful it must be to live in Europe where you have easy access to such beautiful and historic sites like this.
Have you ever been to Brussels? Where did you go aside from the Grand Place?