24 Hours in Brussels
When I first turned up in Brussels on a gloomy afternoon at the beginning of January, I was in a horrific mood. Horrific.
I’d was hungover from my birthday, I had those post-celebration blues, I’d missed trains and been delayed, the weather was shite, I was homesick, and on top of that I was convinced Brussels was going to be terrible, thanks to the really rough area I had to walk through to get to the Hostel. (I had fun playing ‘Brussels or South East London’ with my friends on our group chat. Do they even have bin men in the south of town???)
I spent all evening moping inside the hostel (which was actually really nice, it even had duvets) and eating my weight in stroopwafels instead of heading off to explore. But after I had a good moan to my mum, I was determined to enjoy my next and only day in Belgium. Nothing was going to bring me down. Not even the rain!
I started off the day by going on Sandeman’s free walking tour of Brussels, and ended up with the most hilarious guide, Adrien.
By the end of it I felt incredible welcome in Brussels and I had even made some fantastic new friends. I felt like a proper traveller! I learnt so much about the rich history of Brussels and Belgium which I was a little skeptical about existing, but low and behold, this tiny country has done some pretty neat shit. Did you know Belgium slowed down the Germans in the first world war by not letting them through to France – “I rule a country, not a road” were it’s leader’s famous words – effectively helping the allies to win? I didn’t, but maybe that’s because I never paid attention in school.
(Sandeman do free walking tours and a range of other tours all around major cities in Europe and I would highly recommend giving them a cheeky go. Absolutely brilliant)
I was so won over by the charisma and banter of my tour guide that it convinced me to sign up for their evening beer tour along with the other travellers I made friends with. Grumpy Liz was no longer! (That’s a genuine nickname I have earned in my 21 years of life btw)
With the afternoon off I headed for a photo expedition around Brussels. (I’d come on a Monday when all the museums are closed which was upsetting but I was determined to stay positive). After a (delicious) waffle that covered my entirely black ensemble in icing sugar and a (heavenly) chocolate mousse which made me feel like I could have gone into a chocolate coma (I’m literally such a moaner oh my god), I felt no better way to chill out would be to sit in a Delirium, a bar with over 2000 different types of beer, and cool off.
You can take the student out of the bar… oh wait no you can’t.
Until then I had no clue how strong Belgium beer was. Why did they give me such a small glass, I cried. Give me a damn pint! But oh no. After just 1/2 pint of Delirium Red, I was feeling it. Not a good idea. Lightweight Liz was beginning to make an appearance, so I did the only logical thing – I decided to walk around Brussels until it wore off, trying to look like I wasn’t tipsy. The security man in H&M was definitely giving my funny looks.
When it got to 5:30 I was feeling better, so I went to the starting bar of our beer tour, ready for a night of drinking even more and making friends. I’m usually nervous about talking to new people, but most travellers (especially solo) are super friendly, and with the combination of alcohol and good banter (Thanks Adrien), I was feeling comfortable in no time. Nothing like a few pints to make everyone besties eh?
As a 21 year old girl who drinks mainly Kopparberg, I was seriously schooled on beer. I can now officially say I’m a beer snob. I can pour a Belgian beer. (I mean you need a lot more head on Belgian beer than regular beer, and being physically incapable of pouring a regular pint at home, this was a challenge that spoke to me on many levels).
We ended the night back in Delirium where a cheeky bar tender gave us some unknown shots (which he called “OMG Shut up and drink” in a fake LA accent) and got very jolly on some delicious local beers.
One of the things I love about meeting people whilst travelling is that if you can’t remember their names you can always remember where they’re from, and you learn a great deal about a person with a whole other life (with the help of alcohol). All of the decisions you’ve both made, no matter how far apart you were born and raised, have led you into bumping in to these people that you’re making great memories with. It’s really special.
Oh, one last thing about Brussels – best chips I’ve ever had in my entire 21 years on this planet. And I’ve eaten a lot of chips.