Our Trip To Europe Part 3 Brussels And Antwerp
Happy Labor Day everyone and I hope you are all enjoying your long weekend!
The third and final part of our European trip recap is about Brussels and Antwerp. After our wonderful time in Bruges we headed back inland to Brussels via train which only took about an hour. We were staying in Brussels for three nights at the Sofitel Hotel Le Louise which we found to be excellent especially for the price. Its located right on one of their main high end designer shopping streets and is close to alot of great restaurants and popular tourist spots. We arrived around 6:45pm so after we checked in and freshened up in the rooms, it was dinner time so we decided to relax that evening and visit their patio bar area which was very nice for drinks and then we had dinner in their restaurant. It was a beautiful atmosphere but the service was again a bit slow and disorganized, but we were kind of getting used to this European standard by now, not really…
The next morning after breakfast we took a hop on hop off bus across the street from the hotel and rode all over the city getting off at the places we really wanted to visit and then jumped back on the bus to visit the next place on the tour. The buses run by the stops every 30 minutes and are a great way to see the city – we rode both of their routes completely and loved it.
Our first stop was the Royal Palace, the official home of the Belgian King and Queen. The building is a highlight of Neo-Classical architecture and overlooks Brussels. Inside, it is beautiful and filled with the most amazing chandeliers in magnificent ballrooms decorated with lots of gold leaf and white marble. Outside, the gardens are just as beautiful and you can tell they maintain them very well. Next we stopped by the Atomium which is one of the most unique structures I have ever seen. Built for the 1958 World Fair, the Atomium represents a molecule’s nine atoms magnified 165 billion times and is over 300 feet high. You can go up into the spheres which provide magnificent panoramic views of the Brussels and its surroundings, but we passed unfortunately as the line was just too long, but we did get a nice sandwich and salad for lunch there to put us on for the rest of the afternoon.
Next stop for us was the “Grand Place” which is the main square in Brussels and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. The square is filled with ornate, baroque and gothic guild houses, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It dates back to the eleventh century and serves as the city center and it is a great place to enjoy Belgian hospitality at one of the many terrace cafes and bistro’s. It is also a venue for many concerts & events throughout the year including the Brussels flower festival that fills the square completely with beautiful flowers every two years.
We did our fair share of walking around the square and Brussels where we also got to see the Manneken Pis. This famous statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain is a perfect representative of the irreverent Belgian humor. Belgium is as you know famous for chocolate and with so many chocolate shops on every corner, we couldn’t help ourselves and even though I was in heaven by now I felt like I was in a chocolate coma. Speaking of food, when in Brussels you have to try their fries or frites as they call them with mayo that comes in a cone with mayo or any other toppings you might like.
Saturday we took a day trip to Antwerp by train which took about 40 minutes. When we arrived at their train station I was stunned with how beautiful the building was, probably the most beautiful train station I have ever been to, you can see a photo of it below. The main reason we visited the city was for my interest in fashion and I really wanted to see the MoMu Mode Museum but as luck would have it, it was closed for the month of August. I only got to see the outside display of pictures of all the different exhibits and designers they host.
The MoMu Museum is set in the heart of the city’s fashion district, and it is (from what I have been told) a dynamic and inspiring space with soaring ceilings and distinctive contemporary architecture. It is also home to the fashion department of the Academy, and the relationship between the two institutions ensures that MoMu is always evolving as a living museum with active links to current contemporary fashion culture as well as historical exhibits. We walked all around this area of Antwerp and went into some great boutiques including Renaissance a very high end designer store where we had a fabulous lunch outside on their street patio.
I think Avant-garde is an everyday thing here in Antwerp which has become Belgium’s most fashionable city since 1988 when the Antwerp Six (Walter van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee), who are all graduates from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Arts, showed their collections at the London Fashion Week. Other noteable designers I really like are Raf Simons, Kris van Assche and Bernhard Willhelm and they have also once called Antwerp home.
I don’t know where the time went on this day, but it was getting late so we decided to head back to Brussels. We took the train back to Brussels, grabbed some dinner near the hotel at a local Italian restaurant which had romantic outside seating on the street along with many other restaurants which created such a great atmosphere all around, a perfect way to top off the evening.
The next day it was time to say goodbye and head back via Easy jet to London’s Gatwick airport for a one night stay before flying back to Los Angeles early monday morning. When we arrived at Gatwick we put our bags in the hotel room at the airport and ran to the train station and caught the Gatwick Express into London’s Victoria Station, then a Cab to Butlers Wharf at Tower Bridge and had yet another great dinner – then another cab to Victoria and train back to the airport hotel – such a nice way to end our holiday. During our 10 day trip we definitely moved around alot but it really wasn’t bad at all and I am so glad we did it this way as I loved everything about it and I am so looking forward to see what we can plan for next year.
Any Ideas? I would love to hear about your experiences in Brussels and Antwerp or ideas on where to visit next time.