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A city break in Belgium

For my birthday this year, we headed to Belgium. Arriving Wednesday lunchtime and leaving on Friday evening, we had more than enough time to get a feel for Brussels and Bruges - including Belgium's very mixed weather. There was blazing sunshine, wind, rain and snow in the mere 54 hours we were there, so we were very glad to have dug out our winter coats. (Yes, at the end of April. Scandalous!)

Getting there was super easy: we caught the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels-Midi. It only takes two hours, and it's super easy to get through security and on to your train. (I'll never fly to Paris or Belgium again.) Oh, and because I'm signed up to Eurostar's loyalty programme, I'd amassed enough points to put a £40 voucher towards the trip. Combining this with their January sale prices... ker-ching!

One thing I found though when trying to find a hotel somewhere central was that they are pricey. So, for the first time ever, I booked an Air B&B. I'll always favour hotels, but when you're talking £134 for two nights in Brussels - opposed to over £400 - I was happy to give it a whirl. Ours, pictured above, was split-level and in a converted warehouse (we had the whole place), and was a ten minute walk from the Eurostar station, and a ten minute walk to the centre of Brussels. Ideal!

As you'd expect from the Belgian capital, Brussels is pretty opulent, and nowhere more so than La Grand-Place. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it dates back to the 12th Century. Basically, it's a beautiful massive square where you'll find shops, museums, churches and the town hall. It's impossible to capture the whole square in one picture, but it's quite something.

A stark contrast to Grand Place is Brussels' Atomium, which is the city's answer to the Eiffel Tower. Built for the 1958 Brussels World Fair, it's a little way out of town, but you can easily hop on the Metro to get there. If you like moody and futuristic monuments, the Atomium is for you. You can actually go up to the top - there are exhibitions in some of the circles - but we missed the last entry time so had to make do with snapping a few pictures in the rain.

Since I spent a lot of my childhood holidays in France (probably 90% of them), visiting The Belgian Comic Strip Center was a must for me. I had originally wanted to hop on the train to Musée Hergé, which is all about the creator of Tintin, but it was either do that or go to Bruges... Bruges won!

But, there is a little section about Tintin and Hergé at The Belgian Comic Strip Center, as well as the Smurfs and other famous Belgian comic book characters. (Most of them we didn't know.) There's also lots of information about the process of creating comic books, and all-in-all it made for an interesting few hours. Entry for adults costs €10. (It felt like most museums and tourist things in Brussels and Bruges had an entry fee of €10!)

A trip to European Parliament should also be on your agenda if you're ever in Brussels. There are a few different bits to visit, but the main two are the Parlamentarium and the Hemicycle. The Hemicycle is where the 751 Members of the European Parliament sit, which we didn't get to see because it was in a plenary session whilst we were there, then closed for the bank holiday. (Limited numbers are allowed in during these sessions.)

We spent more hours than we thought we would at the Parlamentarium though. It tells, amongst other things, the story of how the European Union came about, key moments in its history, plus explains how it works. It's free to visit (as are the lockers when you clear security, which is great because we had all our things with us), plus it's super interactive so you're not just reading information all the time. Well worth visiting, especially in light of Brexit.

There's obviously a lot more to do and see in Brussels, from the Royal Palace of Brussels (pictured above) - but, like our Buckingham Palace, it's only open in summer - to the cheeky little weeing boy statue (Mannekan Pis; pictured below right) that tourists flock to, but I felt like we got a good sense of the city in the time we were there. Oh, and the food is AMAZING, but I'll be sharing all about that in a separate blog post.

Have you been to Brussels? And where are you heading to on your holidays this year? x

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