Of the many food items that Belgium is known for (beer, mussels, waffles, fries, etc) chocolate is by far my favorite. How convenient that they have a chocolate museum with samples throughout!
The museum is located just off of Grand Platz. The visit starts off with a visit with a master chocolate maker. He made the point that they don’t make chocolate but they do form it. He showed up how pralines were made and then gave us a sample!
Little chocolate dispensaries were located throughout the museum. Displays showed where cocoa beans come from and how they’re processed. There were also various chocolate moldings and pourers.
Since 2003 the European Union has allowed up to 5% of other fats in chocolate other than cocoa butter, ruining the quality of it. Belgian chocolate has continued to use 100% cocoa butter in its chocolate, maintaining the high quality it is known for.
Manneken Pis is supposedly the third most famous statue in the world after the Statue of Liberty and Christ the Redeemer. It has over 900 costumes and tends to have a new one every couple of days. While I was there I saw one from Ethiopia and another costume whose actual theme I can’t remember.
The oldest costume is from King Louis and was a gift after his soldier stole the statue. Manneken has a wide variety of costumes, even a condom costume worn for World AIDS Day.
Nearby is the Garderobe Manneken Pis which features a small number of the costumes gifted to this little statue. Some have some pretty unique backstories as well. An audio guide is included with the cheap price of admission. It’s worth a visit and won’t take too long.
The ticket to the Garderobe also gets you into the City Museum which is the former King’s house. It features the original Manneken Pis Statue and a couple more costumes.
In the 1980s, Jeanneke Pis was added in the alleyway next to the Delirium Cafe. If you go at night as I did it could be a little intimidating with a bunch of drunk people standing around blocking your path but just push through and make your way to the back to see this gem. The money thrown into her fountain goes to cancer research so donate away!
Goodness! I love European Transportation! The U.S. is slowly getting better but there’s nothing quite like arriving anywhere in Europe and taking a quick train ride (and one that is offered every couple of minutes) into town.
On the way in, I saw the Atomium created for Expo 58 off in the distance. As it isn’t in the center of town I skipped a visit.
I took advantage of a free walking tour meeting at the Grand Platz and began to explore the city. This central square has City Hall with the former King’s House across from with with the guild mansions surrounding them. It was all meant as a power trip to try to prove who was really in charge.
- Brussels means “house in the swamp”. It was on the highway between France, Germany, and England and became a city for trade originally. The street names around the Grand Platz reflect good for sale, ex. meat, chicken, etc.
- German, Dutch, and French are the official languages.
- A guild is a union of people with trades and crafts. They had the power in the city due to being the main source of the economy of the city.
- Belgium is called the “Prostitute of the EU” as it has belonged to all a lot of the countries. As a result they are the capital of the EU.
- Brussels is the second most international city in the world behind NYC.
- City Hall was built by a drunk addict. It is asymmetrical. Legend says he went to the top and jumped off upon realizing this.
Notice that it is asymmetrical.
Belgium is famous for the inventions of the comic book and have a museum dedicated to them. Tin Tim, Asterix, and The Smurfs are all Belgian. There are also lots of murals around town featuring comic book characters.
- Manneken Pis is the third most famous statue after the Statue of Liberty and Christ the Redeemer. More on this in another post. (And in case you haven’t heard of this statue, it is of a little boy peeing. A girl statue was added a while ago nearby as well.)
Manneken Pis is one of his many costumes
- The Delirium Cafe has 3,000+ beeers on tap. At the end of this alley is Jeanneke Pis (the girl statue).
- Belgium became a country in 1830.
- It had the first shopping arcades in all of Europe. This is where Belgian chocolates were invented.
- Belgium is famous for Mussels and Fries so of course I had to try some while in Belgium!
- Fries were invented here as well. WW2 soldiers ate them and thought they were in France because everyone was talking in French but they were in Belgium.
- Chocolate is famous here! (More on this in another post.)
- I’m assuming you’ve heard of the Belgian waffle, another great creation from Belgium. Rumor has it that the best ones from from the yellow trucks and are not the “tourist” waffles which have tons of toppings. True Belgian waffles have crystallized sugar in them.
- St. Michael is the patron saint of Brussels and is featured on the city flag.
- The saxophone was created in Belgium. There’s an instrument museum with the largest collection of music instruments in the world.
- In WWI Belgium slowed down the Germans to allow the French to get there in time as Germany decided to bypass the heavily defended French border on the way to Paris. The Germans never made it to Paris due to the mighty Belgians!