After hearing from a few friends that Brussels was not much more than a dull and boring city, my expectations before going were unsurprisingly not very high.
However, low expectations can often have its perks. As the old cliché goes, ‘the only way is up’ and up indeed it went baby. I found myself wondering what the hell they were talking about. Brussels is not boring and it is not dull. You just need to know HOW to explore it. Once you do, all the jigsaw pieces start coming together.
So let me show you how.
Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the city before going in terms of what it had to offer visitors. I had seen pictures of the Main Square and it looked architecturally beautiful, and another photo of the Atomium which looked awesome but that was about it. Neither of them wowed me enough to warrant a visit anytime soon but it just so happens that every two years Brussels is home to the flower carpet festival; something I had been dying to see for ages.
Ever since I clapped eyes on a photograph of the flower carpet with its brightly coloured petals and exotic patterns I had become fixated on seeing it. I don’t actually know why. I never buy flowers for myself or try to make things look pretty. Ok, admittedly, sometimes I like making daisy chains. But I much prefer seeing flowers in the wild as opposed to cut, pruned and then plonked in a vase. I think I was attracted to the size of it. Sometimes bigger is better. Let’s admit it. Like the Atomium for example.
If the Flower Carpet had been in Paris then I would have gone to Paris. If it had been in Copenhagen then I would have gone to Copenhagen. Basically it didn’t matter where I was going, I just wanted to see the damn thing. But I’m happy it was in Brussels, if it wasn’t I might never had bothered going and I would have missed out on exploring a truly great city.
One of the reasons I enjoyed walking around the city so much was because I kept stumbling across street art. Don’t get me wrong, the flower carpet was cool to see, a lot of effort had been put into it but after seeing it once I wasn’t bothered about seeing it again. Of course I recommend seeing it because it really does look fabulous, but it’s a novelty, and a secondary reason for visiting Brussels after the city itself. Once you’ve made your way through the crowds to see it, you naturally want to retreat back to somewhere more spacious. That’s when exploring the streets of Brussels makes perfect sense. Go to the places where fewer people go, head down the alleys, stroll through the side streets. Say hello to a stranger. Do whatever the monkeys you have to do to make yourself feel like you’re getting to know the city. Maybe it’s eating Vegan food on a big red bus. I did that, and I’ve got to say the food was good and it was a nice way to keep dry when the weather decided to spit rain for a little while.
There are two types of street art in Brussels: the comic book strip murals and then the rest. (The ‘rest’ also includes these fantastic open-minded pieces advocating sexual and gender equality. Another reason why Brussels impresses me).
There are 42 comic strip murals to find so that should keep you busy for a few days! I love the one depicting the Adventures of TinTin because it reminds me of my childhood.
When you’re looking for street art you go down streets you might not have bothered going down, that’s the best thing.
These other comic strip murals also put a smile on my face:
And saving the best for last:
Brussels really is a city you want to get to know. If you don’t make an effort with it then you might end up calling it dull and boring. And you would be wrong.