I’m often asked: why Brussels?
Each time I hear it, I laugh because for me the answer seems obvious. If you know Brussels, how could you not be in love?
From its bizarre yet majestic architecture, cobblestone streets, use of the French (and Dutch) language, raging nightlife and more diversity than you’d find most other places, Brussels is unique.
And even the word unique doesn’t quite capture the ambiance of sitting on the Mont des Arts steps with a bottle of wine, having deep talks as you watch the sun set over the city.
Unique doesn’t exactly sum up the underground techno and deep house parties that carry on into the next morning.
Weekends are meant to be spent dancing with friends and finally taking an Uber home at 8am the following day.
And give it a week of living here and you’ll become friends with at least one person who djs.
It doesn’t describe the fact that you can find a frites shop, waffle stand or chocolatier on every corner and you may even start smelling them from blocks away.
After living in Brussels for long enough, your nose will start to know.
You’ll quickly discover your favorite mayo and will never stray from ordering it every time you get fries or a kebab. For me, it’s Brazil sauce.
And if you’ve been to Europe, you know the beauty that is the kebab and in Belgium, the durum.
In all honesty, there are never too many kebab shops and they’re never closed when you need them, even if that need is at 5am as you’re heading home from the bars.
We’ve all had a drunk 5am kebab, which feels so right the night of but the next day feels like ‘shit why did I do that, I should go for a run’, before preceding to lie in bed all day.
Unique doesn’t explain the sacredness of Belgian beer and the culture surrounding it.
It’s not just delicious, it’s social and perfectly acceptable to go for a drink with a friend and end up getting a 9% beer, still without the intention of getting completely lit (though sometimes that happens too).
I’ve also had dinners consisting of just beer. Why get off work late and deal with the hassle of eating when you can skip right to the fun stuff? Plus, they’re so calorie-dense that it works.
Again, unique doesn’t capture the nights spent sitting in the center of the Grand Place with strangers, just enjoying, drinking Jupiler and listening to the one random guy who always happens to have a guitar.
Unique doesn’t convey the vibe of the people in this city and how you won’t meet one person with the same or even a similar life story and what brought them to Brussels.
On the other hand, it’s just as likely that you’ll be saying ‘what a small world’ on a weekly basis. Don’t be surprised if you bump into someone who’s been or is from your hometown, even if that happens to be 4,000 miles away.
Unique doesn’t describe the ease of reaching London
or Paris by train,
Amsterdam by FlixBus,
or Berlin with a 10euro flight.
It doesn’t describe how, even after living in the city for years, you can go for a walk or hop off a tram and still find a street or neighborhood you’ve yet to discover and that looks so unique from the rest.
Its infrastructure is quirky.
Unique won’t show you the students at weeknight happy hours in cimdix, the classy weekend brunches in Chatelain, hipster food markets and bio shops in Saint-Gilles, the glitzy chocolate shops of Sablon or the brilliance of Parc Cinquantenaire and of course the shock of Grand Place, looking even more impressive each time you walk through it.
It won’t explain that, as the heart of Europe, people come and go, perhaps living here for a few months for an internship or to study and building close bonds with the people around them, as they’re all new to this place.
Complain that it’s dirty, drunk, constantly raining, bureaucratically slow, falling apart, overcrowded, full of crazy drivers and insane traffic, high in taxes, expensive at restaurants…and I will agree.
However, for me, I can forget it all because this is Brussels
and I love it.