Remarkably I have hardly published any conventional travel content about Brussels on the blog despite my two years of working in the city.
The visit of family for Christmas is an excuse for an old fashioned tourist trip to the capital of Europe, with the twist that I have two teenage nephews to entertain so we have to pick out some sights that provide lots of wow. A small nondescript statue of a boy peeing in a fountain really doesn’t cut it I am afraid, the Manneken Pis must be the most underwhelming icon of a city I have ever come across.
The Atomium however, now that’s more like it. Out to Hysel, emerge from the metro to the symbol of modern life from the 1950s and work our way up into the structure. The high speed lift takes us nearly 100 metres up the central shaft to some great views from the top level, then there is chance to wander round most of the modules and levels where there are exhibitions and displays about innovation.
It is cleverly done because the lower levels have no windows, just an occasional porthole so you lose all sense of which level and which direction you are moving. Plus they have added some fun by playing with the linking escalators, for example one has been darkened and has coloured lighting and spaceship-like sound effects which appeals to big kids as much as younger ones. My first time inside, but a big tick box for the Atomium.
Outside the Hysel entertainment area is a bit sleepy for winter but as my visitors come from outside Europe we have to wander into Mini-Europe and have a bit of fun with the impressions of 28 countries of the EU. It is all a bit twee but they put in some good enough impressions of the countries and lots of mucking about such as steering your boat round the harbours, making Mount Vesuvius erupt, ringing the city bells and chasing thieves round Paris so it sort of worked. Some very odd exhibits which made me chuckle – somehow the entire display for Luxembourg consisted of a motorway bypass, which seems a bit unfair. Some sort of Belgian joke?
Time for a Belgian delicacy before we go back to the city. Waffles with the lot? Of course!
Then it’s back into the city centre of Brussels and the order of the day is very much Grand Place by day and by night, the Royal Galleries and window shopping seemingly endless quantities of chocolate. Now that’s a Brussels we can enjoy.