Regen

Het begint net te gieten wanneer mijn shift in de bibliotheek erop zit. Alsof de weergoden beslissen dat ik best nog efkes blijf. Ik besluit hun oordeel te negeren en begeef me al trippelend door de grote plassen naar de tramhalte. Mijn voeten worden zompig en wanneer ik wandel zuigen ze, slurp, slurp, het water gretig op.

De tramhalte is als een eiland in een bijna letterlijke zee. Tegen de stroom in, vind ik een plekje in het kotje. Alsof er een glazen wand is tussen mijzelf en de buitenwereld, kijk ik vanuit het hokje naar het park. Lekker binnen, denk ik. Gezellig, denk ik achtereenvolgens. Andere uitgeregende mensen volgen mijn voorbeeld snel. De een al wat beter gekleed op deze stortbui dan de andere. Ja, mevrouw met de slippers, ik heb het over jou. Maar iedereen is welkom in dit glazen kooitje van droogte. Het is hier lekker warm. Kom binnen, zet u. Samen op het veel te krappe bankje. Naast elkaar, ongeacht taal, religie, cultuur of huidskleur. Maar goed dat België zo’n regenland is, denk ik dan. En mijn zompige voetjes ben ik zo vergeten.

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Umamido

If there’s one thing Gillian and I like to do, it’s try new places to eat. Especially meals that I wouldn’t normally cook at home or that are really hard to recreate. Umamido is one like that, as it’s a Japanese noodle (ramen) restaurant. I’d driven past here a couple of times on my way to work and last week we finally got to try it. My favourite bits were the edamame and the gyoza! There’s plenty of locations too, if you’re interested in your own bowl of asian goodness. You can find their menu here.

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Forcado Pastelaria

Everytime I take tram 92 to the city centre from our house, it goes past Forcado. It’s one of the few café-like places that looks cozy from the outside looking in. It’s a Portuguese pastelaria that has specialised in pasteis de nata, the national pastry. The places has been there since 1982 and still, it’s extremely popular. And with reason! One bite of the pastry took me straight back to Lisbon; if heaven were a pastry, it’d definitely be this! For those that like experimenting with flavours, they have different variations of the traditional pastry, ranging from speculoos, chocolate, praliné to lemon and coffee.

Where? Charleroise Steenweg 196, Brussels (close to tram stop Janson)

When? Every day from 10am till 6pm, except for Mondays

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Brussels from A to Z

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If there’s one place I had to pick when it comes to music, it’d definitely be the Ancienne Belgique. They constantly host some of my favourite bands and singers but are also not afraid to invite newcomers. Its location, right next-door to the famous and impressive Stock Exchange called De Beurs or La Bourse, is right in the city centre and on sunny days, this traffic free area is the place to see or be seen.

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As the palace for fine arts, Bozar is one of my favourite museums when it comes to modern art. They constantly switch up their collection and always have some temporary exhibitions going on. It’s where art is life and life is art.

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C  – Place Saint Catherine is the place to be on a sunny day when people flock to the restaurants and bars on the cozy square with the impressive church. This lively area also has lots of seafood restaurants.

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The so called hipster neighbourhood is the Dansaertstraat, where you can spot Dansaertvlamingen (Flemish speaking people that live in Brussels but don’t see themselves as Flemish but rather as from Brussels – let’s say it’s complicated). In any case, it’s where all the cool kids shop till they need a latte.

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In 1935 Brussels hosted the World Expo and for that, our infamous balls of steel, aka the Atomium were built. Now the Heizel still has some gigantic halls left over and to date this is still the place to be for huge events and enormous shows or exhibitions.

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Place Flagey is just one of those places that everyone knows: this oasis of space contains a mixture of cultures and architectural styles and is therefore an unexpected discovery where creative spirits meet. Yet another great place to people watch and soak up the sun.

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If you’re looking for the #1 attraction for tourists, it’s definitely the Grote Markt or Grand Place. This place is the most central in Brussels and it’s where all the historic guild houses as well as the Town hall are located. Try some chocolate on your way there in one of the many praline shops.

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H is definitely for Horta, one of the most famous art nouveau architects ever.  Lots of houses and buildings in Brussels still carry his signature and his style is what makes me look up in awe from time to time. If you’re looking for another gem of an architectural creation, check out the Sint-Hubertusgalerijen, not by Horta, but nonetheless magnificent. Especially around Christmas time, with the lights covering the ceiling.

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Brussels is basically one big international food market. You can try anything here: from Italian to Moroccan, from Lebanese to Chinese, from Japanese to Indian, from French to Scandinavian, from Turkish to Mexican: it’s all here!

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We all know Manneke Pis, right? The peeing statue that is disappointingly small (“That’s it ?!”). If you’re looking for a different approach, check out Jeanneke Pis, the lesser known female version.

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The Kruidtuin, also known as the Botanique, is one of the gardens worth a visit in the city. The garden is located right next to the famous concert hall with the same name.

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If you’re looking for a place to spoil yourself with some expensive shopping, the Louizalaan is the place to be. This super duper fancy shopping streets leads to the Gulden Vlieslaan, where some of the big shops like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Furstenberg, Gucci – to name a few – are located. A girl can dream (and window-shop), right?

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One of my favourite places is definitely the Mont des Arts or Kunstberg. Besides being the hotspot for all the cool museums, this hill offers a unique viewpoint over Brussels. The perfect place to sit on the stairs and watch the world go by until the sun sets.

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The Museum of Natural Sciences or Natuurwetenschappen Museum is just one of those museums that are cool to see. Have a browse through the stuffed animals or pretend to be a dinosaur. So many options.

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For the opera lovers out there, the place to be is the Munt or La Monnaie. Besides the opera, the Muntplein is a lively place with more often than not, lots of activities going on.

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I love a good cityscape view, which is exactly what the Poelaertplein or Place Poelaert offers. It’s located right next to the Justitiepaleis. If you look closely, you might be able to spot the word “Hollywood”. Let me know if you find it!

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As the capital of Europe, it speaks for itself that there is a Quartier Européen. It’s where the big buildings are with all the European organisations. There’s some nice places to eat or have a coffee there too!

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The main shopping street is called the Rue Neuve or Nieuwstraat. It’s where the mainstream shops are. It’s located between the Munt and Rogier.

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Another one of my favourite area is Sint Gillis, which I like to think of as Hipster Central. It’s where you can find edgy beer shops, second hand stores, cool coffee bars. It’s a nice place to hang around on a sunny day and just discover.

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My favourite green area is definitely Ter Kamerenbos or Bois de la Chambre. We drive through it often, but more enjoyable is the walking and biking. It’s quite big, but that’s what makes it so nice to venture out there: there’s always a quiet spot somewhere to soak up the green. Whether it be summer, winter, autumn or spring – it always draws me in.

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As most big cities, Brussels is also a university city, with the ULB and VUB on the edge of the city. It’s pretty cool to see how the students just blend in with the inhabitants.

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If you take the elevator at Place Poelaert, it will lead you to the Marollen, a place for strolling past the second hand shops or browse the brocante market at the Vossenplein or Place du Jeu de balle, after which you can have a beer in the sun. An afternoon well spent.

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Another day, another park – The Warandepark, or more often called plainly, the Park, is the park across the Royal Palace. It makes for a nice place for a stroll and perhaps a Liege waffle?

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It seemed impossible to find something with an X until I realised what was right in front of me (e)Xpats – okay I cheated a little bit. One of the reasons I love it here so much is hearing the different languages from all over the world and hearing about people’s experiences with Belgium as a country.

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Yzer is located in the northern part of Brussels. It’s the area with Tour& Taxis, one of the biggest sites and buildings that regularly hosts events or festivals. Besides that, there is also the Kaaitheater with innovative and surprising performances. Near the water, the Kaai, in the summer there is Brussel bad – a makeshift beach with cocktail bars and Latin-American music.

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The Zavel or Sablon is located in the heart of Brussels. It’s got a market on weekends and houses COCO donuts – the best donut place in Brussels (so far). Park Egmont offers another green oasis in the busy centre.

JAT

JAT forms the ideal hub for a sunday catch-up with a friend or a break from sightseeing the museums at the Mont des Arts (Kunstberg). They serve really good coffee and delicious iced teas paired with gorgeous looking sweets. For those that are not as sweet toothed, they also serve soup and sandwiches. There’s definitely something for everybody. And the cozy and colourful seating with the wooden interior complete the feel of a cozy sunday afternoon. Sit back and relax.

Where? Rue de Namur 28, 1000 Brussels – close to the Magritte Museum and Museum of Fine Arts as well as tram stop Koning and Metro stop Naamsepoort/Porte Namur

When? Open everyday – weekdays from 8am till 7pm, weekends from 9am till 7pm

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Ballekes

Nice to meat you! … is what I could’ve said to this restaurant in Sint-Gillis in Brussels. The name doesn’t lie: this concept restaurant revolves all around meat balls. You can order 1 or 2 depending on how big the hole in your stomach is, and pair them with whatever sauce tickles your fancy. For the healthy ones amongst us, there’s salad to go with that, and for the others (me, who am I kidding?) there’s chips. The food is nice and the place is bright and open with lots of windows to people watch. Yet.. nothing really compares to Balls & Glory. A solid and deserving alternative, me thinks! You can also order their meals through Deliveroo!

Where? Chaussée de Charleroi 174, 1060 Sint-Gillis (Brussels)

When? Mondays from 6.30pm till 10pm, Tuesday-Friday from 12pm till 2.30 pm and from 6.30pm till 10pm. Saturdays from 12 till 3pm and from 6.30 till 10.30pm. Sundays from 12.30 till 3pm and from 6.30 till 9.30 pm.

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