When you first get off of the train in Brussels, you may be tempted to dive right into what makes Belgium famous: its beer. However, with potency ranging in the 6% to 8% ABV for a dubbel and 8% to 10% ABV for a tripel, it is best to grab a meal first, or your memories of Brussels may remind you of your college days. Restaurants specializing in Belgian cuisine and serving Belgian beer are all the rage stateside these days, but this is your chance for the real deal. If you are looking to eat outside and marvel at the architecture of the buildings in the Grote Markt, grab a table outside at Le Paon [Grand-Place 35, Brussels, Belgium Phone:+32 2 513 35 82] in the northwest corner of the square.
The outdoor seating provides wonderful views of the beautifully restored buildings as well as whatever happens to be going on in the square. You can look at the menu if you wish, or you can just fulfill your lifelong dream of eating mussels in Brussels.
No, not those muscles – these mussels:
(n.b. In this photo, I’m suffering from one of the worst colds in history and look like crap, but I included it anyway, because I wanted you all to see how wonderful the mussels are, and because I love you. You’re welcome.)
For your side, be sure and get frites. French fries actually originated in Belgium, not France, and here they call them frites. Together, mussels and frites (not beer and chocolate) make up the national dish of Belgium. Now that you have (at least ordered) your meal, you can help yourself to a beer. After all, it’s not like you are driving anywhere.
Once you’re settled in, it’s time to soak in the beauty of the Grote Markt. The Grote Markt, or Grand Place, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The buildings were constructed in the 17th century, after a devastating artillery attack by the French left the original buildings in ruins. The guildhalls which owned the buildings were required to submit their plans to the Central Magistrate for architectural approval, which is one reason why the square has such a harmonious air. If you are lucky enough to visit during August of even numbered years (weird, right?) a huge flower carpet created from millions of colorful begonias is set up for a few fleeting days. But even if you miss this spectacle, the Grote Markt is a stunningly beautiful place for a stroll.