When planning a holiday, it is very important for me to consider 3 rules to have an enjoyable trip. First is that the journey to whatever destination should be easy, not too many connecting flights or other forms of travel to get to the destination. Second is to have enough time to relax on the holiday, I am not a fan of the ‘country tour’ where every destination has to be seen and half the holiday time is spent on a bus. Last is to stay in a hotel or accommodation which is safe and comfortable with enough space to be able to relax without feeling the need to get out all of the time because the room is small.
So with those rules in mind my wife and i set off on our summer holiday.
Sometimes life shows us that even with all of the prior planning and research things still go wrong. My wife and I chose Brussels for a number of reasons and researched in depth for the right place to stay. We selected an Airbnb which from the pictures posted online looked Awesome. It was big, in a trendy area, and seemed decorated in a snazzy way. As soon as we walked in the door, however we knew it was not the place for us. It was dirty (the owner had a dog), hot, and the overall design made the apartment seem dingy. So. We just landed in a new country, we don’t know anyone, and we are now sitting a place that could potentially ruin the whole experience. WHAT TO DO? In the end we were very lucky, after frantically searching for a suitable hotel to stay in and making the booking on the spot, we caught a taxi across town hoping for the best. The hotel was very nice, clean and well situated. It became our base for enjoying the whole of Brussels, and had one of the best hotel breakfast spreads I have ever enjoyed.
Overall I would recommend Brussels over both London and Paris. After visiting all three cities I found Brussels had everything the 2 much bigger cities have to offer, without the crowds, traffic, and the high prices. The center of Brussels can be walked across in a day. It is the location of the European Parliament and European Commission so it is a mixing place for people from all over the world and especially the European Union. Situated between both France Germany and the Netherlands it takes many of their cultural aspects and its own to have a vibrant mix. Our visit was in summer so the weather was perfect, warm during the day and cooler at night.
We spent our days walking the streets of the city and enjoying the different aspects it has to offer. Close to the hotel was the area of Ixelles which contains many nice restaurants and much of the high fashion shops.
30 minutes walk from our hotel was the historical center of Brussels with the famous Grand Square, where the buildings have all been renovated to their Baroque era splendor, after being destroyed during the world wars. Around the Grand Square is the main tourist areas along with the popular restaurants and chocolate shops. About the chocolate. Belgium is famous for its chocolate and we were not disappointed by the number of different shops and wonderful flavors on offer.
Something unexpected for us which we frequently enjoyed is the Belgian Waffles. Around the city and everywhere in Belgium, the first sign you will notice is the wonderful smell of the waffle shops. We enjoyed them plain with a cup of coffee.
They are better than any donut or croissant in my opinion.
Something enjoyable for us in Brussels was being able to walk 20 minutes and be in an almost completely different place with a different vibe and atmosphere. The area of Sainte Catherine is very good for independent outlets selling fashion and very interesting consumer goods. There is also and artistic district with unique galleries and flea markets selling antique goods.
One day we decided to visit the Botanical Gardens, which is situated about 20 minutes drive from the city center. It was the highlight of the trip for me. A very interesting experience for us and a great opportunity to get some good pictures.
Zak Ibbini is an avid traveler and passionate about health and well being. He has lived in the UAE for more than 30 years and is Director of Alpha Data Recruitment, the outsourcing and recruitment division of Alpha Data.