Last month I was invited by the Brussels graduate schools to spend a few days in the Belgian capital and try out its student life.
I had never been there before, I actually almost knew nothing about the city and had no particular expectations to be honest, but it just took a few hours for Brussels to steal my heart.
Photo by Flickr user Ben Heine
I thought that as Brussels is a big city with so many important institutions and organizations, student life here would be a bit boring. However, for my surprise, it’s definitely not the case of this amazing city. Actually, the presence of people from all around the world (especially young students and interns) creates a unique atmosphere of multiculturality that enriches everyone that comes to this city. In fact, the locals and foreign people who have been living in Brussels for a long time are very proud of their city and are eager to help you find the best hidden spots.
During my short stay I met a lot of different people, from locals to Erasmus students, including interns and entrepreneurs and every single one of them loved their experience in Brussels and told me about the huge amount of opportunities that you could find here.
To be fair, it should also be said that you will be surrounded by a very competitive environment, in the good sense of the word “competitive”. In fact, getting to know so many people telling you about their stories, their background or even being able to speak 4-5 languages fluently, encourages you to take your life to the next level.
I think that all of this makes it a wonderful destination for an experience abroad as Erasmus!
“Another cool thing about the city are the comic strips that you will find on more than 50 walls.”
Brussels: Something to See in Every Corner
Now, talking about the city specifically, Brussels may not have the monuments of Rome, but every corner of the city offers you a different experience. I’d say that it’s a lot more about discovering and feeling the city, whether it has to do with its symbols, museums, gastronomy, art galleries or nightlife.
Starting from the city centre, you can visit the famous Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can admire some beautiful buildings like the Town Hall and the Breadhouse. Also, every two years in August, an enormous Flower Carpet is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. Other important things you can visit are: the Brussels Stock Exchange, St. Catherine’s Church, the Royal Theatre and the Manneken Pis, symbol of the Belgian capital.
Going East you can find a variety of museums located in the large neo-classical architectural complex of Place Royal, such as the ING Art Center, which hosts and organizes prestigious exhibitions with the aim of highlighting Belgian and international artistic heritage, or Magritte Museum, dedicated to the work of the Belgian surrealist artist, René Magritte. Near this complex, and close to Warandepark, the huge and beautiful Royal Palace can be found.
“It just took a few hours for Brussels to steal my heart.”
Going North you can walk along the Royal Galleries and a beautiful narrow street full of restaurants and bars. Almost at the end of this street there is the Delirium Bar, one of the first places you should visit for sure. Here you can try an infinite number of beers, especially Belgian beers, which are the best I’ve ever tried without any doubts.
Obviously Brussels is not just the city centre, in fact you have to walk around to all the different neighbourhoods to be able to feel the essence of the city and understand the process of integration that led people from completely different countries live together in harmony.
A good thing about walking from one place to another in Brussels is that on your way, you will find so many different places to eat Belgian fries, waffles and chocolate. Be careful if you are on a diet because for sure you will find it difficult to resist them! There are chocolate shops almost everywhere, but the best ones could be Neuhaus (from the name of the inventor of the pralines), Pierre Marcolini, Wittamer, Belvas, Jean-Philippe Darcis and Frederic Blondeel.
There are also some beautiful parks where to relax if you feel tired and many bars where you can enjoy a quality beer. I really liked Moeder Lambic in Place Fontainas, because it offers more than 40 refined beers (not only from Belgium). If you’re not an expert when it comes to beer, don’t worry!, the staff there is very friendly and will know what to recommend you.
Another cool thing about the city are the comic strips that you will find on more than 50 walls. As well as contemporary art museums, street art is very much appreciated here. If you are into contemporary art, I recommend you go to visit MIMA Museum, quite new place locates in the Molenbeek area, that is already receiving a lot of consideration.
Brussels after dark
However, Brussels (and Erasmus life) is not only to be appreciated in daylight, but also at night. Nightlife here is quite interesting because of the variety of bars and clubs. Among the dance clubs, the most famous are Fuse and Mirano Continental but, if you are willing to party as a local, most Belgians prefer going to underground clubs or switch from bar to bar since these usually have dance floors. Some of the most outstanding partying areas are the city centre (including a gay specific zone), the Flagey Area or even in the Quartiere Europeen, where the European Parliament is located.
Then, there are also special parties organized once a week/month by some groups in different locations or in the same one. You can find all of the most famous parties and their location at this link.
If you’re going to Brussels during the summer, I also recommend you go to the Rooftop58, a new rooftop bar located on the top of a 10 floor parking lot, where a huge number of university students meet.
What I noticed and really liked about Belgians is that they are very open and love to have fun. They really don’t care too much about the looks as it can happen in other big cities like Milan or Paris. This can help if you’re on Erasmus and you want to meet new people.
As you see, Brussels has a lot to offer to International students and I’m 100% sure that if you’re going to choose it as your next destination you won’t be disappointed!
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