After a few very busy days trying to fit in the main sights of Bruges and Brussels, we decided to slow down the pace a little bit more on our final day in Belgium’s capital city and head away from the bustling tourist centre and explore a different area.
The Palais de Justice – great views over Brussels
With that in mind we made our way to what is known as Belgium’s Royal Quarter, but didn’t head for the museums. Instead we decided to explore the Marolles neighbourhood, the city’s oldest area and once that was originally home to its poorest citizens. Now however, it’s home to quaint and refined streets filed with lovely little boutiques, tea rooms, antique shops and flea markets.
Our morning began with a metro train to Louise, where we were able to take in the Palais de Justice, which looms high over the city, giving you some great views. The building was impressive, but sadly had a lot of building work going on, so wasn’t as picturesque as I’d hoped – but take a look and tell me what you think! It closes to the public at the weekend, but if I ever return on a weekday I’d love to explore this building steeped in history.
A great place to get some panoramic views is the front of Poelaert square, just beside the palace. The square is also home to a beautiful monument in memory of the Belgian soldiers who fought in the World Wars.
To soak in the views a little bit longer, we headed over to the big glass lifts in front of the palace that allow you to go down to the Marolles area without trudging down a big old staircase. Not for those with a fear of heights, it allows you to see more of the city as you descend from the dizzy heights of the palace.
Belgian boutiques, tea shops and street art
If you want to spend your Sunday in Brussels just going for a slow walk and soaking in the ambience, you can’t do better than the Marolles district. Although many of the shops were shut on the Sunday we visited, there were still several little boutiques open where you could peruse antiques or trawl through rails or quirky vintage clothes, and of course, there were cafes and restaurants a plenty to rest at and partake in a bit of people watching.
One of the area’s main roads is Rue Haute, which is where you can find one of the city’s most well known murals – the Peeping Policeman. Over 40 pieces of comic-strip street art can be found all over the city and as long as you know roughly where to find them, it’s not too hard as you just need to look out for groups of tourists with their cameras out!
Belgian antique and flea markets
Our Sunday plan had been to slowly make our way to the Sablon Antique market, a well-known weekend event where you can find over 100 stalls selling everything from jewellery to furniture, but in the end we got sidetracked by another, smaller flea market that we came across first.
Only meaning to stay a few minutes, we spent well over an hour meandering through its haphazard pathways, trawling through boxes of random bric-a-brac!
I loved looking at the antique jewellery and chinaware, old metal signs and European artwork, but my favourite stalls had to be those selling crazy collections of clocks, ones with boxes of old photos and postcards and another selling tonnes of retro Belgian comics – of course I had to pick a few to take home and attempt to translate – what a unique memento to bring home!