Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the home of the European Union, consists of a historic centre and a range of additional regions around the edge.
Home to around 172,000 people it’s pretty small as capital cities go which definitely has its advantages as you can get a good feel for the city in a short space of time.
Of course you cannot do everything Brussels has to offer in 36 hours but you can tick a few good items off the list!
For the purpose of full disclosure I will say that Brussels wasn’t my favourite European break. Unfairly for Brussels we visited on one very very cold February weekend where a freak storm had travelled in from the East as basically froze most of Western Europe.
We did however travel in on the Eurostar which is perhaps my favourite way to travel. Big comfy seats, good views and a pretty quick travel time. Winning!
Due to the cold we didn’t do as much as I would have liked but here are my top things to do in 36 hours – especially if it is cold!
The Grand Place
I don’t think any trip to Brussels could be complete without visiting the Grand Place. With buildings dating back to the 17th century it quite often gets piped as one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe.
The square itself is surrounded by guildhalls from carpenters to boatbuilders to brewers. The two larger buildings are the town hall and the King’s House which now contains a museum.
We did a lot in 2017 and boy can I feel it now. It’s probably the first year I haven’t got frustrated about where we are going next or have time for the wanderlust bug to really hit as there was always something around the corner. Which I appreciate makes us very very lucky!! I’ve still got some content to come around our amazing safari in Tanzania as well!
It’s been hard to narrow down our favourites of this year but after much deliberation I’ve managed it!
2017 Top Experiences:
Seeing Northern Lights – This was one of the most spectacular things we did this year, the aurora is incredible. We prayed and hoped that we would get to witness them, especially after our failed attempt in Iceland. Standing out in the cold was well worth it!
One thing I really loved about Stuttgart was it’s accessibleness. You could get anywhere really easily, either by walking or the S & U bahns. It meant we could easily get out to Ludwigsburg within half an hour and back into town in no amount of time. I love German transport and Stuttgart really makes the most of it.
One of the draws of heading to Stuttgart, other than the beer festival, was a squash festival. As in, pumpkins. Yup, you read that right, a pumpkin festival. The annual event is held at the Palace of Ludwigsburg and this years theme was Romans.
Every year wooden structures are built and are then adorned with hundreds of pumpkins. All different shapes, sizes and colours. There were also large pumpkins and a showcase of lots of different squashes.
Other than a work out at Wasen our weekend in Stuttgart was filled with a museum, a squash festival and a walk around the town.
First up was the Mercedes Benz Museum. Stuttgart is home to two car giants, Mercedes and Porsche, both have museums in the city but we opted for Mercedes as it was closer to the beer festival site.
Carl Benz’s first car built in 1886 is what the museum is celebrating with more than 160 vehicles on display. They range from some of the oldest built cars to new futuristic ones. There was a good supply of buses, trucks, cars and F1 cars to keep everyone happy.
When the world thinks of beer festivals they think of the obvious choice Oktoberfest…but if you’re after a slightly less crazy but equally awesome option head a little further south to Stuttgart, Germany. Stuttgart is the home of Cannstatter Volksfest, or Wasen. A large beer fuelled festival that runs at the same time as Oktoberfest.
I’d say that Wasen has a slightly more family feel to the event, less stag do’s and more work parties. We saw everyone from teenagers to pensioners in the traditional clothing, stein in hand. The event is HUGE, with at least 7 beer tents seating approximately 5000 people per tent (based on some slightly tipsy calculations) and a fun fair to boot.
For the French part of our weekend adventure we caught an Easy Bus from Geneva airport to Morzine in the French alps for a couple of days of fresh mountain air.
The drive was about an hour and a half with lots of twisty roads up into the mountains which made for some good window watching.
Morzine is a small village that revolves around skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. It’s a cute place but does feel like it was a home base for many native english speakers. I don’t have a problem with that, especially as we were a party of 3 english people, but I like my adventures to include at least some of the local lingo.
Getting ready for a two trips this weekend. First is a trip to Stuttgart and the second biggest beer festival in the world for my birthday next weekend and then a trip we have been waiting for all year in 19 days!!!
For now here is my thought of the day.
One of my sister-in-laws moved in Geneva 5 years ago but it has taken us until this year to make the journey to see her. Which is terrible if you ask me, especially considering it the flight was really quick! We spent a whirlwind 24 hours in Geneva and I can safely say it won’t be the last time!
Unlike 99% of our trips this was not one organised by myself which did leave me a little uneasy but I needn’t have worried as we had an amazing time.
Victoria has a lovely central apartment with high ceilings, white walls and sash windows – if I ever live in a city that’s the type of apartment I want! We stayed with her which meant we didn’t have to fork out for a hotel which I’d read could be pricey in Geneva (much like the rest of Switzerland.)
Our flight arrived late on Thursday evening so after a lie in and a leisurely breakfast Stuart, Victoria and I met up with her friend Ana to begin our tour.
First stop of the day – CERN.
We last went to the West Dean Chilli Fiesta in 2015 so we thought it was time to head back this year. What shocked me a little was how much the tickets had increased in price and how almost unaffordable it has become. Given that I wanted to look for ways to make the most out of your ticket price.
The main jist of the festival is around chillis (obviously) so there are a hundred odd stalls selling everything from chilli chutney to beer, ice cream and plants. Most of these stalls offer free tasters of their wares so you can spend the day wandering round tasting chilli products without buying anything. It is done by lots of people but equally if you taste something amazing would you really be able to resist?
While spending some down time in the Lake Balaton area of Hungary we made a small side trip to a small peninsula called Tihany. It was about an hour’s drive around the lake from Siofok and was pretty easy, Hungarian roads make lots of sense and are easy to navigate! You do have the option to take a ferry across the lake instead but it didn’t fit in with our timings.
There are several things to do on Tihany, most famously is the Benedictine monastery and the Tihany echo. One was more impressive than the other. First off though we decided to check out a Lavender museum as Tihany is known for is lavender farms.