The Clouds Amidst the Ancient History of Brussels

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Brussels Grand Place

Unlike Antwerp, where my experience had been positively colored by my friend Jill and her lovely family, Brussels had left me extremely cold, to the point where I routinely told people I hated the Belgian capital. But, is that really true?

Brussels, Belgium

The weird thing? This brief, bizarre stopover – I was literally mesmerized by how quirkily terrible both of the aforementioned transit hubs were – was what inspired me to take a trip to Brussels earlier this week.

Pink petunias at Grand Place in Brussels
Brussels Belgian waffle

Another alluring thing about the prospect of going to Brussels for a day, one of several options I had as part of my recent trip to Belgium with Visit Flanders, is that I knew I could see all of Brussels’ main attractions by making a loop around the city.

Brussels Centraal Railway Station
Belgian chocolate
Angel statue in Brussels
Belgian waffle

The historical center of Brussels, the Grand Place or Grote Markt, is located just a few minutes’ walk from the city’s central railway station. After taking a stroll around the plaza, and perhaps having a drink or coffee in one of the many cafés that line the square, you can very easily find your way to Brussels’ next-most famous attraction.

Beautiful building in Brussels

As is the case with many hyped stone creations, from Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, the Pissing Boy of Brussels is much smaller than it appears in pictures, although the number of Asian tourists taking selfies in front of it was worth the hassle of navigating the crowds en route to the statue. That, and the copious amount of stalls selling Belgium’s iconic foods: Fries, chocolate and waffles.

Trees in Brussels
Reflection in a Brussels window
Taxis in Brussels
Brussels Grote Markt

After standing in front of the lilliputian pissing boy for about half a minute, I opted not to make the trek to Brussels’ third-most popular attraction – the gaudy, ubiquitous “Atomium” – and instead to walk around and take in the city’s weirdness: What Brussels lacks in beautiful buildings, UNESCO World Heritage sites and any unifying element whatsoever to its visual design, it makes up for in extremely strange details.

Hollywood Sign in Brussels
The pissing boy of Brussels
Marilyn Monroe Graphic
Missing person in Brussels

I’m almost tempted to say that I like Brussels, although some of that no doubt stems from the short amount of time I spent there. While I probably won’t come back to Brussels for at least another eight years, I can safely say my Brussels day trip was one of the most satisfying urban excursions I have ever taken.

Robert Schrader
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who's been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as "CNNGo" and "Shanghaiist" along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.
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