Our guide to Brussels – part I

I have been living in Brussels for few months now but I have to admit this city still remains a mystery to me. It is not an easy place to get to know – with two main languages, European Union institutions, a mixture of cultures and styles it takes a while to find your paths here.
Below few places I have discovered, but I am sure this is just a beginning!

Most of my days and definitely my weekends start at Charil (rue Ste-Catherine 34) – the best bakery I have discovered so far, not only in Brussels, but generally in Europe. It helps it is just around the corner from where I live at the moment although I have no doubts I would make it there even if I had to travel from the other side of the city. I can officially confirm I am addicted to Charli’s bread after I was almost counting days for the bakers to come back from their holiday and open the place again. Two very long weeks when I would have given a lot for a little piece of their baguette blanche, le campagne bread or famous pain au chocolate.
I can hardly think of a better Saturday morning than espresso, a croissant with homemade blueberry jam and freshly squeezed orange juice at Charli.

If you are looking for good coffee check OR café – they select and roast their beans and serve one of the most outstanding espresso in this part of Europe. Their little bar at rue Auguste Orts 9 is always packed with trendy coffee lovers and is a perfect place for a little break during the day.

For lunch check the local institution, a little fish bar called Mer du Nord (Rue Sainte Catherine 1). By any means it is an exclusive or posh place but it gets crowded since early morning. A wonderful mixture of local freaks, tourists, young families on their ways for a weekenxd stroll, trendy girls searching for sales…
The staff, a collection of Brussels’ strangest characters, makes sure that you get the experience you deserve – just be careful about their sense of humour. You order, local seafood, fish, fish soup or tuna burger  with a glass of chilly white wine, will be loudly announced with your name or a random nickname the waiters thought was funny.

At the same square, opposite to Mer du Nord, there is place widely recommended as truly Belgian – La Villette (Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains 3). This traditional old Brussels tavern with red checked tablecloths, more than 40 types of beer and seasonal food is perfect for a dinner on a lazy day. And afterwards try their Crème brûlée à la Chimay– I can guarantee it will be the best crème brûlée you have ever had.

Those who are looking for more modern cuisine should head to rue de Flanders. I haven’t yet checked all places there but my culinary intuition is telling me I am going to find few treasures there.
So far Ihave been to Henri (rue de Flandre 113), a nice minimalistic-style place led by 3 young food lovers, which has become so popular that reservations are necessary a long time in advance even for lunch on a week day . The food is simple but with a little twist and the menu changes every three weeks.
Selecto (rue de Flandre 95-97) – another modern spot, not cheap, not that typical (they don’t even serve Belgian fries!) but with a wonderful selection of meat and fish.
They define their own concept as “bistronomie”, a high quality version of the traditional French bistro-cuisine in an informal setting. Definitely works for me!

Place Saint-Géry is where young, beautiful and successful meet in Brussels. So if you feel like becoming a part of the city’s high society try these places:
Mappa Mundo – with international crowds, Latin rhythms and the best mojito in town
Roi des Belges – traditional Belgian bistro on the ground floor and cool club with live music on the first floor, something for everyone
Zebra – a trendy place for the hip and beautiful

And if you feel like shopping after your aperitivo then try trendy shops at rue Antoine Dansaert and rue des Chartreux – a paradice for fashion lovers.
Those who look for a more traditional and quite environment will enjoy a cup of very good tea in nearby AM Sweet (Rue des Chartreux 4), a lovely little café run by a charming couple and their dog called Cezanne.

A trip to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without chocolate! At Place du Grand Sablon you will find all the greatest chocolatiersGodiva, Leonidas, Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini, you name it and it is there. My personal favourite is Patrick Roger (Place du Grand Sablon 43), a French chocolate maker, whose shops serve also as a display area for his giant sweet creatures. Just check yourself what he is up to this season.
No-one will be disappointed with Pierre Marcolini’s pâtisserie (Rue des Minimes, 1 and Place do Grand Sablon 39) either, another treasure I have discovered here.

Food at Sablon is really nice too, a little bit pricy though. I like Lola (Place du Grand Sablon 33), a wonderful modern place and a more traditional Au Vieux Saint-Martin (Place du Grand Sablon 38).
Les caves de la Nonciature (Rue des Sablons 7),which made it to my list of 5 best wine bars in Europe, is perfect for a glass of wine before your dinner and nearby Pixel (rue Ernest Allard 39/41) is my favourite spot in the city for when I want some quiet time with my book or Saturday newspaper.

Last on the list today is Fonteyene The Kitchen (107 Rue Gérard) which I discovered just when I moved to Brussels and searched for a place to live here. It is a bit further from the tourist attractions (take metro lines 1 or 5 to Merode station to get there) but definitely worth the trip. A perfect place for a nice, quiet lunch.

And after lunch why not to take a walk in Parc du Cinquantenaire, one of the nicest green spots of Brussels?

More about Brussels you can find here.
And I will be letting you know about new places I discover soon!

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