Greetings from Brussels everyone! 15 days ago, i decided to go out of my Paradis for the first time (excluding the match between AS Monaco & Beşiktaş) since i settled down. However, the question came out: Where to go? I was considering to go to Paris in order to visit my very good friend whom i haven't seen for ages. But unfortunately, he was not available. No worries, i promised him for the Christmas! Then suddenly, i decided to go to Brussels.
- I am 22 years old now and i felt like i had to find a fourteenth country before it gets too late.
- I speak French, they also speak French and it takes only 1h40m by plane from Nice.
- Belgium seemed like a lovely country. Even i could prepare my bag and move there. But my inner voice took the micro: "Do not be a fool. You do not even know anything about there.". However, i decided to search the life experiences in Belgium on the internet. But none of them were satisfying enough.
Eventually, i spoke: "What are you waiting for? An invitation?!"
There are two terminals at Aéroport de Nice Côte d'Azur. Terminal 1 is used for the non-EU flights whereas Terminal 2 is used for the flights across the Europe. In other words, i had to use Terminal 1 when i came to Nice but this time, i had to use the other one. Even if you have an annual ticket of Lignes d'Azur, you have to pay that 6€ to get to the airport. And it's for sure that Terminal 2 is much more beautiful than the other one. I didn't even have to show my visa or residence permit during the passport control. The officer saw the cover and just asked me where i was going.
Heading to the downtown
I flew with one of those less expensive companies and believe me, even that flight was much more comfortable than Nice flights of Turkish Airlines.
There is a point you have to pay attention. I landed to Brussels International Airport but the locals call there Zaventem. So, you might get confused when you ask a direction.
I had to took the train from BRI (Zaventem) to go to the Central Station. For the train, you have to go down to the floor -1. The ticket machines serve in four languages: French, Dutch, English and German (You may guess which one i chose :)) ) like all the signs in the airport and the announcements on the train. La Gare Centrale was the second station after Zaventem but wherever you go, you have to pay 8.80€. A bit expensive, isn't it?
Things to Do in Brussels
1- Tasting Frites
Belgium is famous with its three dishes: chocolate, waffle and fries. First of them to try was the frites. It was the first time when i went out in Brussels. It was noon and i was looking for something to have lunch. Therefore, i found this restaurant while i was walking around Brussels Stock Market. I knew that soon or later, i would have to taste it. So, i decided to combine this obligation and my hunger.
The potatoes are so fresh, they are not as salty as the ones sold in fast food restaurants, thicker and softer... It costs just 5€ with a drink and it was absolutely saturating. However, you have to go there before 12:00 PM otherwise the queue gets so long as you see in the third picture.
P.S. Order some frites or fries. If you order French fries, i cannot assure that they will treat you well.
2- Visit Grand Place
Here is exactly the downtown. Let me say it; when you get there, you will feel so small. Why? Because you will immediately find yourself among gorgeous buildings enriched by a marvelous gothic architecture. This square offers you many options. Here, you can take a coffee and observe people while you are enjoying it. You can go to Hard Rock Cafe or take a walk to backstreets as well. On the other hand, it is really close to most of the touristic places (and they do not take more than 7 minutes on foot).
P.S. Do not forget to go there twice, during the daylight and during the night. Because it offers you different but splendid views.
3- Get lost in the streets
Just walk around the city and benefit its offers. Stunning architecture, comfort, modernism, not cold but also not over warmhearted people, crosswalks in LGBTI colours...
4- Manneken Pis
It takes just 6 minutes from Grand Place to get there. I saw almost the same phrase in everywhere: "It is so small so that you cannot realize it easily.". Well, it is a bit false. It is true that it is so small (maybe shorter than my knee) but it is impossible not to realize it for sure. You can get the reason when you move to the second picture. And also, you have to wait at least 10 minutes to find some space to take a picture or a selfie.
5- Galeries Royales St. Hubert
Here, you can find many Belgian chocolatiers (Godiva, Le Gorurmand Belge etc.), many worldwide famous brands (Givenchy, Prada etc.), several lace and leather shops. Either you can go shopping or observe the shop windows.
6- Enjoy your Waffle
Belgium is especially famous for its waffle. When you get out of Galeries Royales St. Hubert, you can buy a waffle and eat it while you are watching a street musician in front of the gallery. The cost of an ordinary waffle is around 3€. Depends on where you buy but if you want to put some ingredients like i did, you have to pay around 6-8€. But do not worry, unless you desire a waffle with Oreo, you do not even have to pay 8€.
6- Take your beer and drink it on the stairs of the Bourse
I'll be honest with you. Even the center of Brussels is much cheaper than Nice. If you are so tired of walking around, you can just buy a 50cl Maes or Jupiler (1.07€) and drink it on the stairs of the Bourse while observing the people. Sounds like the Spanish Stairs in Rome, does not it? No worries, you will get the same taste with it (except the pool :) ).
Did you know that this fantastic structure is inspired by the thought against nuclear weapons after WWII? Well, i did not. Would you like to find out the rest of the story? The thoughts of Ike, its building process, sketchs, discs, newspapers, many brochures of Expo 1958... Then, what are you waiting for? Just take the metro and go!
You have to take 2 metros to get there from the downtown. Also, the prices are acceptable. Either you can just visit Atomium or you can combine your visit with Mini Europe. Here, you can find the tariff.
You will find the history of Atomium in the first two floors. However, there are 6 floors in Atomium and the rest is used for exhibitions. Either you can take the lift (which i do not recommend at all due to the extreme queue) or you can take the escalators.
I was extremely lucky that there was an exhibition about René Magritte (which is one of my favorite painters). Unfortunately, i could not find anything about The Treachery of Images but the exhibition allowed me to rediscover him and his stunning works.
This is the way out. It seems like a space ship or a night club, does not it? You should have witnessed us while we were partying with Alors On Danse played by me!
You got tired and you are starving? No worries... Around Atomium, there are many RVs in which they sell fries, waffles and ice creams.
8- Take a walk on Rue Neuve
Rue Neuve is street full of shops and cafés. In other words, it is the right place to go when you need something.
The Nightlife in Brussels
When i compare it to the nightlife in Nice, there are advantages and disadvantages.
- The fun starts at 10 PM whereas it starts at midnight in Nice. And it lasts just 2 hours in Nice.
- You can buy a pint just for 2€. It is 6€ in Nice.
- You can find more space to dance in every bar of Brussels even if the amount of customers is higher than the ones in Nice.
- You have more options to eat after you drink.
- Bartenders are much more rude.
- They have exclusive rooms where you can smoke your cigarette. If you do not want to smoke in 8 degrees, it is okay but let me tell you that these rooms stink and you can lose your way in the fog(!)
- When it is around 5 or 6 PM, there are many many teenagers. It is not a cool stuff as you may guess!
What is my impression about the city?
I LOVED IT! I can count many many reasons for it. At first, Brussels reminded me of Istanbul in many ways. The weather was absolutely like the weather of Istanbul in October. Rue Neuve seemed to me like a tighter Istiklal Street. And the avenue crossing Rue Neuve and the Starbucks -probably the coolest one that i have ever gone- reminded me of Maslak. The decoration of Delirium was like a random bar in Kadıköy (also like a bar in Nişantaşı where i stop by usually). Also, the cobblestones in each street were like the ones in Cihangir... If you are from Istanbul and if you speak French, i am sure that it will not be hard for you to adapt in case you decide to move.
Approximately 2% of the Belgian population has Turkish origins and most of them live in Brussels, Antwerp, Genk and Ghent. I was not looking for my citizens when i was there. Even i spoke French with the Turk. Well, you might be surprised but i have a wise reason. Let me explain it to you by an event happened to me on my last day.
I had to take the tube to Gare du Nord in order to take the bus to Amsterdam. The voyage would last 2h45m and i would definitely get hungry during the trip. So, i decided to have my lunch before i depart. The closest restaurant to the tube was a Kebap restaurant run by the Turk (If you see the word Kebap on the board, that restaurant is a 100% Turkish but if it is written Kebab, it means that they have Arabic origins). Anyway, while i was waiting in the tube, i realized that my backpack was missing. I was frightened and i literally sprinted back. When i got in, i involuntarily reacted in Turkish: "Where the hell is my backpack?!"
- "Somebody took it away!"
- "Sorry pal, somebody came in and took it away..."
+ "It's been just 5 minutes since i left here! Tell me that you are joking."
(They laugh and give my backpack)
- "Be careful next time, okay?"
Externally i said: "Oh bro, i was so scared. Please do not make this kind of jokes anymore..." but internally, i was like: "Oh my god, what kind of retarded people you are?!"
Despite this unfortunate event, i had an remarkable and adventurous vacation in Brussels (also in Amsterdam but it is the topic of an another article). I had seven flatmates in total. First two were Bordelais (from Bordeaux) and the rest were from Malaysia. I could get a chance to meet with my Bordelais flatmates in my second night because i was extremely tired in my first evening. They were in Brussels for a homosexual festival. They already knew that i had a girlfriend but they were so nice to me. They gave me some alcohol, bought me some food and they gave me a bottle of vodka which i enjoy while i am writing these lines.
According to the house rules, smoking inside, drinking inside and going out to the balcony was forbidden. However, we did all of them. I cannot forget my locator's face when she smelled the window and asked me whether we smoked there or not. I thought she were having a heart attack! And i was repeating the same sentence: "I don't know. I have no idea!". What could she do? Fly to Bordeaux and kick their butts?
All of them were so funny and nice people...
While i am about to finish my article, i want to say some things. Brussels is a bilingual city but people speak more French than Dutch because it is also an international city and it is easier to learn French unless you speak German. Even though the French find the Belgian accent so funny just because they speak slower and prolong the vowels... When i was in Brussels, i saw a city how Istanbul should be. Urban planning, hygiene, tranquility, mutual respect, the architecture etc. I do not consider Istanbul as my home but i cannot deny that there is not a small part inside me which loves there.
And would i move to Brussels if i had a chance? Definitely.