Hey everyone! How’s life? 🐞🐞
Well, I am going to open this blog post sharing a secret with you: I had never, ever, ever, been to Brussels (or to any other place in Belgium) before moving here….
Yeap! I hadn’t! So, three months ago, was the first time I set foot in that country and I came to stay! 😎 Funny huh? I didn’t know what to expect. I had some friends who had visited Brussels for 2 or 3 days and told me that it was OK, while some others hadn’t liked it that much, at least compared to other European cities. Anyway, I decided not to let myself think whether I would like the city or not, so that I won’t have negative feelings about it before even moving there. Moreover, I am not going to go into detail regarding the way Greeks react to the sound of the word Brussels…Pimples all over the face etc etc… 😊As a matter of fact, that’s just a natural reaction to the events taking place in this city that have affected us all and have nothing to do with the city itself of course! In any case, whatever can happen, will happen…
So, to cut a long story short, it turned out that I love Brussels. I adore it! Trust me when I say that this town has a whole lot more stuff to offer to the visitor than just Manneken Pis or the European Quarter (which are great as well, but I will give them the credits they deserve later on). It is a beautiful, multicultural, colourful city! I have done a lot of walking around (like, a looooooot of it! 👣) & my plan is to show you several spots (or even all of them, why not?) of Brussels, just the way I saw them…. 👀
First neighborhood to visit: Sablon!
I am not sure yet if this area is my single favourite ONE, but it is most certainly ONE of my favourites. The first time I visited the neighborhood was on Christmas time, so you are about to see a lot of lighting in the photos. Furthermore, the day I went to Sablon, I had visited the Marolles neighborhood before, so I first bumped into Place du Grand Sablon (there are two twin squares in the area: the larger one is called Grand Sablon and the smaller one is called Petit Sablon).
Before starting to walk around the Grand Sablon Square (get ready for that!!), you HAVE to discover the charming pedestrian street Rue de Rollebeek with its cute little stores and restaurants.
OMG, OMG, cuteness overdose:
Moving on to Grand Sablon square and…boom: numerous chic restaurants, hotels, pastry shops, chocolateries, antique stores, fashionable boutiques are right there, waiting for you! Sablon is considered a symbol of Brussels charm and lifestyle and not without a reason.
So, OK, the first time you visit a place, the first thing you do is to try and understand what is going on, you look all around the place in order to get a first idea, right? That is what I did. So I saw the square, which has in the middle some kind of a fountain monument donated, as I read somewhere, by a Scottish exile as a gratitude gift for the hospitality he had received! I immediately felt how much I was going to like that place and then…I saw IT! I saw Maison of Haute Chocolaterie Pierre Marcolini… 🍫🍫🍫
You know Pierre Marcolini, don’t you? Well, if you don’t, my first question is: WHY? And my second, not question, but advice is go.and.find.one.of.his.stores.right.now! At first, I didn’t realize that it was a chocolate store, I thought it was a jewellery store or something. As soon as I got closer though, I saw all the chocolate… 🍰 The truth is that the store needs not shy away from a comparison to a jewellery shop 💎, both in terms of the luxurious level of pretty much everything in there (the decoration, the chocolate boxes..) or even its prices!! Well…Marcolini is a widely known and elegant chocolatier haute couture after all! YUMMY!
All around Grand Sablon Square, you can find other famous pastry shops and chocolateries as well (yeah, I ate a LOT of chocolate that day). If I remember correctly, there is Leonidas, Godiva and Neuhaus. There is also the famous pâtissier Wittamer, one of the suppliers of the Royal Court! If I am not mistaken, Marcolini was trained at Wittamer! Pretty amazing info, huh?
I have seen those brands before in other places -not just in Belgium- and I have to say they are pretty famous in their field! Of course, for someone who is a chocolate freak (like me!), having tasted their chocolate beforehand, well that’s a given! However, what I hadn’t heard of before, was La Durée. It’s a brand coming from Paris and my first impression (searching their website of course as well, what kind of a digital marketer would I be otherwise?), is that it’s a lot more than just a tea or a pastry shop. If you love 🍬 Alice in Wonderland 🍬 style, cute pink cups of tea, tea itself 🍵 and macarons, you will highly appreciate this place! We did not have the time to sit down for a cup of tea, but I definitely have THAT on my to-do list.
OK, that’s enough about chocolate, macarons and pastries in general, because I’m drooling again! To continue, in Sablon, apart from chocolateries, you can find luxurious boutiques (such as Christian Louboutin), restaurants, antique shops (we are talking about really, really, reaaally expensive antiques!) and hotels, as I have mentioned above:
Speaking of restaurants, there is one which caught my attention and you will understand the reason why. It’s called The Mercedes House and even though I am not a crazy fan of cars in general, I noticed that place! Bart De Pooter is the two star renowned chef of the restaurant. There is even a showroom with exclusive cars and themed exhibitions, as well as a shop with unique accessories. The thing is, you can sit down, drink or eat and have a Mercedes right beside you! Picture that! Visit their website and try the virtual tour they have! I have not even thought of checking out their prices, as I am certain that I will faint if I do it, so… In any case, it is pretty impressive!!
Before going on with the tour and as I love museums, I have to mention that: there is a museum of Erotics and Mythology in the area, which is indeed well hidden from the sight of a plain passer-by. I have not visited it yet so as to form a personal opinion, but I’ve heard that it has one of the best and most attractive collections of paintings and sculptures of this kind in Europe. Actually, it is the private collection of Dr. Guy Martens, who, “after having acquired more than 800 art pieces (no comment!), he came up with the amazing idea to make this beautiful private collection available to the public”.
So, after being sure that I had not left ANY single spot of Grand Sablon square unexplored, I found myself at the opposite corner of the square:
There, the overwhelming ⛪ church ⛪ Notre-Dame-du-Sablon is situated and you simply cannot pass by without noticing this stunning edifice (this happens quite often in Brussels, at least to me!).
Crossing Rue de la Régence, I found myself in Petit Sablon:
Beautiful, isn’t it? The park is surrounded by Gothic columns with little bronze statues on top which represent the ancient professions!
Inside the park, there is a ⛲fountain⛲ and the statues of Egmont and Hornes, two Counts who were executed in 1568 in Grand Place!
Around the fountain, in a semicircle, there are statues of humanitarians of the XVIth century waiting to be admired. I remember seeing Henri de Brederode, Gérard Mercator and Abraham Ortelius!
I have found this beautiful video, in case you want more visual of Petit Sablon:
…and that’s me:
🌇 This is the moment when I thought that it would probably be a good idea to finally go back home, after having walked many, many miles that day, eating like tons of chocolate, totally freezing because of the cold, never letting my book down of course and feeling grateful for having experienced yet another discovery!
Hope you enjoyed the tour… Until the next post…
Don’t walk, dance… 💃💃💃