Proven Wrong About Brussels, Belgium

Assumptions can be bad, and sometimes downright dangerous  – we all know this, so why do we never seem to learn?

I will be honest, I didn’t have very high expectations about Brussels. I don’t know where I got it from, but I thought it would be boring.

But already when we stepped out of the central train station I knew something about my assumptions were wrong: We were greeted with loud samba music and a stage where people were getting their hair a make over in all of the rainbows colors.

Continuing to another square there was heaps of fun entertainment for kids, and there were concerts everywhere around the city.

It was a Sunday and the whole city was buzzing with people – after having rested at our Brussels hotel, we went out to walk the streets in the evening. All of the sudden we entered the most beautiful square I had ever seen.

I had heard that Brussels was an ugly city, but the buildings in the Grand Place were incredible!

Strolling down the cobble stoned streets we heard music. Turning around the corner we saw a big crowd circling a little orchestra.

There were about 7 people in the orchestra, and they weren’t very good musicians – but the vibe was incredible.

Soon the whole place turned into a street party. People were dancing to the music, inviting strangers to dance with them and really let go.

They didn’t care who was watching, they just wanted to dance.

The following day we realized more and more what a fun city this was, and how many cool free stuff and events they had so often.

I had no idea that Brussels was such a fun city, that it would be such a care free place.

Brussles, the city where all the important decisions about Europe are made, I expected boring seriousness and grey suits, not random street parties to appear out of nowhere.

I’m so glad that the Europe Train Challenge brought us to Brussels.

Because of my silly assumptions it would probably have taken me a long time before I got there – but now it won’t take me long before I return …

17 Responses to Proven Wrong About Brussels, Belgium

  1. Diane H. June 10, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    Great post.  As we travel I’m struck by how often our expectations of a place form the actual experiences. On this trip to France we seem to consistently be underwhelmed by the highly-rated places (Palais des Papes – great building but no furniture or art to give it context) and absolutely love places that we knew nothing about before we go there (Mornas Fortress – can’t even find it in the guide books and is amazing). There are exceptions of course (Pont du Gard never disappoints) but it’s fairly consistent. 

    We’re trying to have low expectations and not over-educate ourselves about the places we go so we have a chance to be delighted, but of course there are limits to that approach  – you don’t want to pass by a wonder of the world and not go because it’s overrated.

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

      I completely agree, having high expectations can really set you up for disappointment.

      Plus, it’s always nicer to be pleasantly surprised about something 😉

      Great to hear about France, will keep that tip of the Mornas Fortress in mind.

  2. Sarah Wu June 10, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    wow look how fun the city is. love that video

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      Brussels is great, I love how in the video it just starts with two people and then more and more come – and the fact that most of them are guys was so cool!

  3. Joaquim Rocha June 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    I also love Brussels and I also had low expectations the first time I went there due to having read a book by Bill Bryson where he says the city is gray and uninspiring, but the book is really old so things might have changed…

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

      Great to hear that you liked Brussels too!

      It’s funny how we get those expectations and assumptions about places we’ve never been from the most random things.

  4. wendy June 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    great to read!!!! I am from Belgium, and I am often disappointed to hear that eurotrippers only spend one day, or none, in Belgium. We are the “capital of EU”, but you can interpret this different than grey suits: it also brings different cultures and countries together, and that makes Belgium multicultural and open. And Belgium always has been on the crossroad of important trade routes (in middle age), so it always was influenced by other cultures… that’s why we have beautiful art (buildings, paintings…). And still it’s a country for art, and fashion. Think about the diamonds and fashion in Antwerp. And besides our beautiful city centers (I think Gent, Bruges, Antwerp, even Leuven can offer more), we also have some nature (yeah, Flanders is one big city, I know, due to our not so excellend urban planning in the past, but we have) and geological phenomena. I think that you will love Leuven (the student’s town, certainly in October and February, when the students don’t study totally, try to participate in a “cantus”, student’s tradition with a lot of Dutch/English/German/Latin songs and beer) and Antwerp. Also Brussels has to offer more than the square. Justice palace is really impressive, and the nearby “marollen” where every sunday there is a market, and it’s more a popular neighbourhood, more bohemian… I think you can spend 3weeks in Belgium, certainly when you know locals who can let you experience their country…  

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

      Hey Wendy,

      Great to hear about Brussels from a local’s perspective. There really is a lot to see in Brussels, and I would love to go back and see more of Belgium.
      I hope you enjoy our new “Brussels episode”:

      Thanks for sharing more tips about Brussels and Belgium!

  5. Acceleratedstall June 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    We all fall prey to stereotypes and assumptions – most important things are that you’re aware and willing to change your mind/opinion.

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 15, 2011 at 11:53 am #

      Well said, always being open to change your opinion is what’s important :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Anila Babla June 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    You gotta feel sorry for Brussels, it’s got a bad press from great travel writers like Bill Bryson but I had an amazing time… Thanks for doing your bit to give it cred

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      Yeah, Bill Bryson probably just had a bad day, he should give it another shot!

  7. Andrew- The Unframed World June 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I agree that assumptions are dangerous but sometimes low expectations can be a great set up for a good time. Not saying that Brussels deserves the bad press though! It sounds like a fun place to visit.

    • Sofia - As We Travel June 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      That’s very true, we usually try not to have too high expectations because we hate to be disappointed, I think it’s important to give every place a true chance, no matter what other people have said about it.

  8. Unexpected Traveller June 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Brussels can be lots of fun but travel writers (and most visitors) stick to the old, familiar (and boring) sights like the unusual Mannekin Pis statue which is quite unremarkable if you ask me. No wonder they think of it as boring.

    While around the Grand Place, did you see this:

  9. Sofia - As We Travel June 15, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Haha no I didn’t notice that, funny!


  1. Brussels, Belgium - Video Episode - Europe Train Challenge - June 13, 2011

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