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VISIT: belge une fois

VISIT: belge une fois

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break 00

we had precious little time to explore brussels having lost a day of our long weekend to eurostar delays, so in order to make the most of our visit i turned to a few of my belgian friends on twitter and facebook for recommendations on the very best sights, shops, cafés and museums to visit.

the best tip i was given was to check out independent hotspots guide newplacestobe which turned out to be an absolutely wonderful gem of an online guide book, with numerous listings for fab coffee spots, restaurants, bars and shops to visit, not just in brussels but all across belgium. seriously, if you’re planning a trip this summer, make their guide your first port of call when planning your itinerary, as new hotspots are added regularly.

we’d had grand plans to visit eateries such as balls & glory (i’ve heard so many good things about these little handcrafted meatballs!), takumi, les filles, ici and manhattn’s burger joint, but the weather just wasn’t playing ball and our haphazard journey on foot across the city required us taking shelter from sudden downpours in the nearest eatery as the heavens suddenly – and frequently – opened above us, wreaking havoc on our best laid plans. but regardless, we still managed a good portion of our planned sightseeing, so without further ado here’s my selection of the best places we visited during our wet and windy weekend in the belgian capital:


Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break 02

VIEWPOINT

our first port of call on saturday morning was to take advantage of the calm before the storm and take in the view overlooking the marolles from the promenade alongside the palais de justice, a short walk from sofitel brussels la louise where we were staying.

from this vantage point you can see the whole of downtown brussels and the heysel plateau beyond – well, perhaps on a good day with much clearer visibility than we had! but still, even with the grey rainclouds gathering threateningly overhead the view across the city rooftops was pretty spectacular, so much so we even spotted a newlywed bride and groom stopping to have their photograph taken against the dramatic backdrop of the sprawling city landscape.

 

 

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break 05

PISTOLET-ORIGINAL

on the face of it, a pistolet is simply a bread roll, which seems like a pretty boring thing to get excited about, right? but it would appear everyone in belgium is obsessed with pistolet: a puffy bread roll that offers the perfect ratio of soft, delicate centre to crispness of crust. if you’re looking to experience this quintessentially belgian speciality then pistolet-original, a high-end delicatessen in the sablon, is your best bet. this cute, cosy café offers all kinds of filled-pistolet options, from homemade steak tartare and grey shrimp from zeebruges to traditional delicacies such as bloempanch (blood pudding), rollmops or a good flemish terrine (‘potjesvlees’).

pistolet original comptoir épicerie, rue joseph stevens 24-26,  1000 bruxelles 

MAISON DANDOY

maison dandoy want to “make your senses twinkle and dance,” offering oven-fresh biscuits that are rich in flavour and sweet in scent. established in 1829, the spectacular array of handcrafted biscuits include the traditional belgian speciality, speculoos, that have made in the traditional way with real butter, brown sugar and handcrafted wooden moulds. these crunchy spiced biscuits certainly have the power to seduce – even this usually dairy-free blogger had to try one to see what all the fuss is about and oh boy, it was a struggle not to go back for more! happily the almond bernardins were dairy-free treats i could indulge in without guilt, and a jar of their confiture de speculoos may have made its way home with me too..

maison dandoy, rue de rollebeek 50, 1000 bruxelles 

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break Maison Dandoy

BELGE UNE FOIS

easily one of my favourite discoveries in brussels, the belge une fois concept store is the brainchild of two local graphic designers, arthur and natacha, which brings together nearly 50 different belgian designers in one space. there are plenty of tongue-in-cheek slogan tees, fun illustrated egg cups by atelier jopo and limited-edition jewellery pieces by boudou boudou on display, alongside dapper bow ties by edmunds and cute illustrated notepads, badges and stickers from jon bon and pupa. there’s even a ‘chill & food’ corner at the back which has been furnished with an eclectic array of retro furniture, where you can indulge in a sweet or savoury waffle along with a cup of piping hot coffee, while kicking back to enjoy the buzzing creative atmosphere. the adorable brussels ketjep bottles littering the formica table tops are just the icing on the cake!

belge une fois concept store, rue haute 89, 1000 bruxelles 

 

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break Belge Une Fois 01

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break Belge Une Fois 05

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break Belge Une Fois 04

L’ATELIER EN VILLE

just along from belge une fois we discovered a fabulous café housed in an old industrial building, with exposed brick walls and steel beams. the popular café serving up a selection of bagels and other brunch-time treats runs down the left-hand side of the large warehouse style room, while the rest of the ground floor is full to the brim with stylish furniture and design pieces that are all for sale.

upstairs we discovered clothing lines garçon (for him) and fille (for her) filling the shelves with an eclectic mix of scandi-minimalism and edgy-boho designs. i particularly loved the selection of mojave-inspired accessories in earthy tones and was very tempted by a soft tan-coloured leather rucksack.. but in the end decided to save my pennies for more foodie indulgences!

l’atelier en ville / fille, rue haute 64, 1000 bruxelles 

ELLIS GOURMET BURGER

i suspect ellis gourmet burger may be the belgian equivalent of our gbk, but one of their outposts provided a very handy and welcome respite from the rain and served us up a much-needed quick yet tasty burger ‘n’ chips combo on a blustery saturday afternoon.

they have some great burger options on the menu, from the seasonal ‘amazing glazed porc’ served with slaw accompaniment which i indulged in, to 3 different veggie options which delighted my non-meat-eating bestie (who opted for the tasty ‘soy classic’), plus french fries made in traditional belgian style with bintje potatoes – served with lashings of mayo, natch.

ellis gourmet kitchen, locations across brussels

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break 08

ELISABETH CHOCOLATIER

an independent boutique just a stone’s throw from the grote markt, elisabeth chocolatier brings together famous belgian delicacies from all over the country alongside local culinary traditions in a perfect little chocolate box of a shop. having visited our fair share of chocolate shops over the weekend, i can heartily recommend elisabeth as the sweet haven you should seek out if you only have a few hours to spend in the city. from artisanal melo cakes and the real cuberdon noses to frederic blondeel’s divine chocolate truffles and elisabeth‘s trademark ‘broken’ chocolate, it’s difficult to choose just one to recommend trying, but i made my way back across the channel laden with a few packs of crispy golden belgian waffles which were promptly devoured by my work colleagues, so they must have been pretty darn good!

elisabeth, rue du marché aux herbes 55, 1000 bruxelles

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break Elisabeth Chocolatier 02

HUNTING AND COLLECTING

tucked away on a little side street full of cool independent boutiques, the whitewashed interior of contemporary fashion and culture store hunting and collecting is a described as a ‘work in progress’ – an ever-changing canvas for ideas in interiors, atmosphere and retail experience which is refreshed twice a year. bringing together trendsetting clothes and objects from international design brands, the space houses a stylish mix of fashion for men and women alongside lifestyle items and an impressive selection of fashion-forward sports footwear.

hunting and collecting select store, rue des chartreux 17, 1000 bruxelles 

DIITO

next door to hunting and collecting we discovered the beautiful decor store diito, a furniture and interior gallery meets showroom, bringing together exciting new designers alongside more established european design houses such as muuto, &tradition, tom dixon and carl hansen.

there’s also a pleasing selection of beautiful vintage pieces too, creating a wonderful design haven it is all to easy to lose a few too many hours (and euros) in!

diito, 19 rue des chartreux, 1000 bruxelles 

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break Diito 02

CHOUCONUT

we discovered chouconut via a recommendation in eurostar magazine and immediately knew we had to seek it out and sample their delectable-looking petit choux buns. the pretty art-nouveau patisserie is run by baker giovanni and baptiste, who fill these plump beauties with a dazzling array of flavours, from an intriguing sounding green apple, balsamic and raspberry to more traditional caramel au beurre salé.

they also sell a range of confitures and pates a tartiner; a jar of incredibly tasty praliné noisette chocolat may well have found it’s way home with me…

chouconut, avenue jean volders 46, 1060 saint-gilles

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break Chouconut 02

BOZAR

i was really excited to visit the bozar centre for fine arts to see the new daniel buren exhibition, as he’s an artist i’ve always been fascinated by – not hard to understand really, given my love of stripes!

since the 1960s, french artist buren has developed an oeuvre characterised by his vertical stripes motif inspired by french café awnings. the often short-lived nature of daniel buren’s works – with 80% being transitory – mean a classic retrospective of his work would have been impossible, so buren came up with an original solution to the problem by imagining a scenic drive through his inspiration, featuring more than 100 artists from the 20th and 21st century who have had an influence on his own career, including paul cézanne, jackson pollock, fernand léger, pablo picasso and piet mondrian.

Accor Hotels Sofitel Brussels Weekend Break Bozar 02

the innovative presentation appeared alongside a fascinating new film which offered a complete panorama of the artist’s temporary and permanent installations over the years (although sadly almost entirely in french, with no english subtitling -boo!)

i’d certainly recommend the exhibition if you get the chance to visit though – take a cushion to sit on as the seats for the video presentation are incredibly uncomfortable (especially as the film runs to around 1½ hours) and make sure you have another hour or so to wander the exhibition and get to grips with the layout;

daniel buren: a fresco runs until 22 may 2016. bozar centre for fine arts, rue ravensteinstraat 23,  1000 bruxelles 

i’m sure i’ve missed a few gems off in my whistle-stop guide so please do let me know of any top tips you might have that i should check out on my next visit to the city!


my 2-night stay at sofitel brussels le louise was provided free-of-charge by accor hotels, however my trip itinerary and photography are my own. 

 

 


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  1. Jessica

    13 March

    Great list Kate! I’ve been meaning to visit Brussels and you’ve just put some fab places on the must-visit list for when I do :)

    • kate

      15 March

      Thanks Jessica! Do let me know your top highlights when you do go xx

  2. Molly

    14 March

    Wow, you fitted a lot in on your whistle-stop tour. Lovely photos and write up, I really want to go to Brussels now, if just for a little green apple, balsamic and raspberry choux bun – sounds amazing!

    • kate

      15 March

      Thanks Molly! Yes, Chouconut was definitely a highlight and well worth hunting down. I’d almost go back to Brussels just for the chance to taste a few more of their offerings :)

  3. So many fab spots! I’ve never been to Brussels but thinking I really need to change that soon. Great round up! xx

    • kate

      15 March

      Thanks hun. Yeah, I think you’d like it, lots of nice fashion boutiques, vintage store and of course homewares! :)

  4. Sian Meades

    14 March

    My friend is going to Brussel this weekend, I’ve sent this straight to him. I’ve only ever been there for day trips, but this might tempt me into a weekend there!

    • kate

      15 March

      Oh you must Sian, especially if you’ve a sweet tooth like me! Thanks so much for sharing xx

  5. cate

    14 March

    I’ve never been to Brussels but I think I need to now, at least my sweet tooth is telling me to! Beautiful photos and great to know about newplacestobe, hadn’t heard of it before x

    • kate

      15 March

      Thanks Cate! Newplacestobe really is a fantastic site – always fab to make a discovery like that before visiting a city as has loads of great ‘insider’ tips xx

  6. Sounds like you had a greatly trip despite the rain. You certainly packed a lot in. I’ve never been to Brussels but I’ve always wanted to go. At least now I have a good starting point of where to visit.

    • kate

      15 March

      Thanks Stacey! Yes, loads to see & do in the city, especially if you want to indulge your sweet tooth ;)

  7. Maxine Brady

    15 March

    Considering you had a limited time there you crammed in loads. Makes me want to go and shop – love the grey T’s with the slogans and the fun notebooks.

    • kate

      16 March

      Those slogan tees were so fab Maxine – I couldn’t decide which to buy so refrained but really regretting it now!!

  8. That Hunting & Collecting space looks ace. You fitted loads in despite the time constraints!!

    • kate

      16 March

      Yeah, Hunting & Collecting is such a fab space and has a really considered mix of fashion and interiors. I’m excited to go back again and see how it has changed from season to season. xx

  9. Arianna

    15 March

    WOW! Well you seem to have managed to fit so much in one day! So many fab finds hun – must go back and try Chouronut – looks so dreamy, YUM! A x

    • kate

      16 March

      Their cafe is super cute too interior-wise – dreamy is definitely the word! xx

  10. geraldine

    15 March

    Love the itinerary Kate. I should definitely go back to explore Brussels again.

    • kate

      16 March

      Yes, definitely *plenty* to see and do and we barely scratched the surface on our 2 days there! x

  11. Laura

    22 February

    We were on the same delayed Eurostar last year and we are using our vouchers to visit Brussels in March. This is a really hand blog post.
    Thank you

    • kate

      24 February

      Oh no – that was such a horrible journey wasn’t it? :(

      Happy to hear you’re using your compensation for another trip though, and that my tips have been useful – it was such a whistlestop tour that I didn’t fit in half the things I wanted to, so I’m sure you’ll find lots of additional gems as well.

      Hope you have a great holiday – and a better Eurostar experience this time! xx

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