Brussels was along the train route between Paris and Amsterdam, and jumping off the train for the night was an easy way to see another spot in Europe. We should have been a little skeptical based on the number of rail deals to leave Brussels, as opposed to those going in. We don’t regret stopping at all, but it’s not clear we needed to make this an overnighter.
It was an easy stop, the main sites are easily reached by foot, but Brussels wasn’t as friendly as the other spots we visited. It felt a little less welcoming, which could have been only our experience, but it was our experience. Also, it felt a little more on edge than the other cities. We saw beautiful things and kind people, but it felt dicey, too; not in a hold onto your wallet type of way, but with a deeper sense of discontent.
We arrived just after lunchtime and were able to walk to our hotel, which was almost a straight shot up from the train station, maybe a 10 minute walk, but through a slightly sketchy area. We never felt unsafe, but it wasn’t comfortable. We had to be buzzed into our hotel, but the building was clean, modern, and funky in a good way.
Upon check in, we were given a map where the man at the front desk circled the main attractions – also a straight shot up from our hotel, it could not have been easier – and asked if there was anything else we wanted to see. I asked for the comic book museum. That’s when he looked up at me with a strange face.
“Of fine arts?” he asked me quietly and very slowly while holding my gaze.
“Ummm, yes?” Maybe they consider comics a fine art, I thought.
He circled a location a little farther out from the main historical district and told us how to get there and about how long, all while maintaining a low voice. We thanked him, dropped off our bags, and headed out. Thankfully, that’s when I looked at the distant spot he’d circled on the map and discovered it was not the comic book museum. It was the Erotic Museum! No wonder he’d given me such a strange look, as this was probably not the typical family request. Part of me wanted to run back to the hotel to explain the confusion and that I wasn’t about to take my kids on a tour of erotica.
And with Manneken Pis so well represented, it felt we were pushing the boundaries enough.
The walk to the touristy-historical sites could not have been easier. Everything was right there, and more than looking at a map, we could just find the crowds. People crowded around Manneken Pis, around the walking waffle places, near the Grand Palace. We did a few laps, and we ended up eating an early dinner at a place in the central square. We knew it was touristy and we could get better food elsewhere, but the people watching was worth it.
It turns out, the Belgian Comic Strip Center was probably one of the least interesting things we saw. Walking around the cobblestone streets and searching for murals was the easy highlight. There are maps and addresses online, but we stumbled upon many of them.
Our hotel included breakfast, which was really good. Much nicer than the continental breakfasts offered at U.S. hotels.
After breakfast, we walked back to the train station, which involved going through a flea market of sorts in the parking lot. It was big and it was very crowded. Trying to get through the crowds with suitcases was an unexpected difficulty, but we made it through and had no issues getting on the train to Amsterdam.
Where We Stayed
A simple 10 minute walk from the Bruxelles Midi train station and minutes away from the historical sites. It was a good price that included a good breakfast.