Brussels is not like Paris, Rome or London. It’s not a city on most people’s “places to visit before I die” list. And the number of famous tourist sites are small and some a little unsatisfying (um, the mannekin pis?). Some travel sites reckon you only need half a day to see the city’s sights.

Well, it took a little while but I have fallen in love with this city. It is a bizarre place sometimes, I still don’t understand the politics, and there are way too many glass and steel buildings being built. But it has become home. And if you know where to look, what to visit, and who to follow, I think you might like it too…

So here over the next few weeks/months/years I’ll try to update my favourite places and things to do, in an attempt to lure you here and keep you here. (Feel free to add your own tips in the comments!)

My favourite…

Places to visit:

Place de Jeu de Balle, in the Marolles disctrict has a daily flea market, where I have grabbed some great bargains. Walk there from Place du Grand Sablon and there are countless antique stores to explore which look small from the front but open out into huge treasure troves!

Palais de Justice – the courts of Justice have been covered in scaffolding for as long as I’ve been here and probably will be as long as I stay, but tear your eyes away from the amazing view from Place Poelaert in front of the Palais and wander just inside the imposing  facade, especially at night. Souring pillars and grand staircases in the amazing entranceway! Like many beautiful buildings in Brussels the crumbling walls need a really good clean, but that doesn’t take away from the beauty of it.

While you’re there, take a trip in the wonderfully bizarre outdoor lift that connects the Louise district with the Marolles district.

Parc du Cinquantenaire – a big park next to the European quarter, you can climb the huge arches for FREE for a great view over the city by going through the Military museum and up the stairs or elevator. The military museum also has a lot of big planes and tanks if you have a five year old boy needing distracting.

Talking of great views, one of the best views in the centre of Brussels is to be had from the top of the parking garage above the GB Supermarket behind De Brouckere. Don’t let the rattling ancient lift put you off, the views are great coz you’re right in amongst it all.

The Koelkelberg Basilica. Out of the centre, this Catholic cathedral is the sixth largest in the world, according to Wikipedia, and also the largest Art Deco building in the world. Dad and I made a sunny autumn visit here in 2008 and loved it. It is bulky, modern and imposing, but so much space, and the views from the top over Brussels (for a mere €4 to get up the elevator) are stunning. Get the metro to Simonis and then walk up through the park towards it.

Restaurants and cafes:

Cafe Arcadi in the Galleries du Reine right next to Grand Place is my ultimate favourite place for lunch. They serve amazing tarts and pies in an awesome vintagey style cafe with old food posters and black and white photos of Brussels covering the walls. The tarte au forestiere is my personal recommendation.

Café des Spores (Chsee d’Alsemberg 103-108, 1060 Saint Gilles). This is an awesome little restaurant serving small tapas-style dishes all centred around mushrooms and truffles. So totally worth leaving the city centre for…

Le Pain Quotidien (all over Brussels). Actually they even have these cafes in England now but since I’ve been to most of their Brussels cafes, and I LOVE their coffee and their nut tarts, I had to include it here. Also it has special significance for Rasmus and I but you’ll have to ask in person for that story :)

Mi-figue Mi-raisin (Rue Archimede 71). This organic vegetarian cafe is not far from my work. A little too pricy for lunch everyday but I adore the interior of it, with its stained glass windows and cushioned seats. When I lived around the corner I used to sometimes stop here on the way to work for a lait russe…

Il Gallo Nero (Rue Franklin 7) is close to home and work. Rasmus and I eat here so often the waitor knows us, and last time we got take-away pizza we got free wine while we waited! It’s friendly and relaxed and the food is good.