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Brussels

Don't.

(I suppose I should elaborate on that? But I really hated Brussles. Other Forum members warned me. It is just a big dirty city. Scummy ponds, graffiti-covered buildings, un-swept streets, crowds of tourists and locals. And we had our cell phone stolen.

However, if you do go to Brussels:

We stayed at the Brussels Hotel Welcome. It is highly touted in the RS guide and their website makes the rooms look like foreign fantasies, each decorated to reflect a different country. The price is reasonable. But it's 30 years old and shows its age. There are dings in the paint, crud around the the faucets, and the doors aren't soundproof. The non-smoking hotel has a smoking area just down the hall from the Vietnam room. The halls are claustrophobic, and the lobby is piled to the rafters with junk. The complimentary breakfast was just barely edible--with flies settling on the pastries and open jam jars. It was not without redemption: the little window boxes with flowers were lovely, our rooms looked out over a nice quiet street, and the unique memorabilia in the rooms was fascinating (my son stayed in Kenya and loved it). To give credit where it is due, the people who run the place--a man and his wife, their daughter, and a lovely receptionist named Jen--couldn't have been nicer. They gave advice about where to eat, made reservations, helped us report our stolen cell phone to the police, called taxis for us, and were always smiling and friendly when we arrived or departed. All they need to do is clean the place up and it would be a great place to stay.

As to where to eat, my review is equally depressing. RS recommends a place in St. Catherine called La Villette Restaurant. He says it is a "romantic, subdued alternative" with a proud chef and charming interior, facing a small square. We dropped by one night about 9:30 to be told by the hostess/owner that even though the sign said they served until 10:30, they were closing early. They could not seat us--although there were about 6 tables still full. So we made a point of making a reservation for the next evening at 8, but when we arrived and asked for a table inside, were told that they weren't serving inside that evening. I mentioned that I have asthma and the cigarette smokers at the patio tables would be dangerous for me, but the same woman said she couldn't help that. We never did eat there, and I have no hesitation at discouraging others from doing so. The charming little square across from the restaurant was where we had our cell phone stolen off a park bench, by the way.

However, Jen at the Hotel Welcome recommended Le Boussole (not listed in RS, but should be), just down the street. It was very nice--good food, good service, good prices.

Posted by
23253 posts

About your stolen phone on a park bench? How did that happen?

Posted by
145 posts

I took my son's cell to get a photo of a little boy on the slide. Put it on the park bench between us. Then it wasn't there.

We asked in nearby stores and restaurants to see if someone had turned it in, and everyone told us "bad area of town; it's gone". The police were very nice, but also said "bad neighborhood" as they gave us the paperwork (as if they did this regularly) to file a claim with our insurance.

This is St. Catherine's neighborhood, by the way.

Posted by
5544 posts

We had such excellent meals in both Brugge and Brussels. Sorry you had such bad luck. The seafood is excellent.
And the smoking at outdoor tables? We have experienced that in many areas of Europe, Spain, Italy, Greece come to mind.

Posted by
2855 posts

I am one who likes Brussels a lot. I hope your report doesn’t put people off it who would enjoy its great architecture, art, food, and other attractions. That being said, I do know, personally, how a couple of bad experiences can color your entire view of a place. Being a crime victim and staying in an unsatisfactory hotel are high on my list of what spoils a visit.
On Hotel Welcome: many years ago, we, also on the recommendation of RS, stayed there. There was no AC, of course. It was quite warm, so we needed to open the window. When we did, we were assailed by the noise of people coming from a nearby bar. This went on ‘til the wee hours. Our choices were to roast or to be kept awake by noise. A good night’s sleep was not an option.
That experience and another dismal hotel in Stockholm have led me not to use Rs’s recommendations ever again. It’s not that they’re all bad. We have chosen hotels and found, upon arrival., that he recommends them. I just don’t find him reliable. Also, I think updates are not frequently enough. With Tripadvisor and booking.com it’s easy enough to find current reviews of plenty of places for any budget, many more than could possibly be included in a book.

Posted by
25 posts

We loved Brussels also! What's not to love about beautiful architecture, great food and interesting sights. It may not be for everyone, and I often read comments poo-pooing Brussels, so I'm very glad we gave the city a chance. We loved it so much that we added it onto a trip planned for next year!

Posted by
1932 posts

In 2010, we stayed in the Silk Road Suite at the Hotel Welcome and loved it. It was the last night of our trip and the owner himself drove us to the airport the next morning.

Sorry you didn't enjoy your stay. It sounds like they were extremely hospitable.

Posted by
44 posts

I am sorry to hear that your experience in Brussels was so disappointing. I lived in Brussels for a year a while back and found it to be a fine and welcoming cosmopolitan city with excellent art museums, a wide array of cuisines to enjoy, good public transportation, and delightful historical and modern architecture. In fact, Brussels developed its own style of Art Nouveau town house architecture, led by Victor Horta, and there are many stunning examples to be enjoyed. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and look forward to returning.

Posted by
4777 posts

Brussels is one of those places that either clicks or does not based on your interests. I think anyone could do a quick overnight, or just part of a day while en-route to someplace else. The Grand Place, a little shopping or gawking, a decent meal, and on your way. If you like beer, then worth some more time, a trip to Cantillon, Moeder Lambic, and a few other places. Add a bit more time if a museum interests you. But to compare it to Paris, Amsterdam, London, or any other European Capital...No.

Posted by
885 posts

I'm one of those who thinks a day trip was enough and unfortunately I didn't find the dining any better. It's a nice day trip as the Grand Plaz is neat and the museum of Brussels/Belgium in the city hall is rather interesting. I also recommend the musical instrument museum. But it seemed rather grim to me as well. I made a day trip from London on the Eurostar.

As for dining, I had an unmemorable meal of mussels and fries but the beer was on point. Don't miss the waffle stalls though and I ate my way through several chocolate stores.

I think Brussels is you either like it or hate it.