Wel­come to my place . . . Brus­sels

The Irish Times Magazine - - TRAVEL- BAG -

Han­nah O’Brien- Møller is a 20- year- old lan­guages stu­dent who is half Ir­ish, half Dan­ish. She grew up in Brus­sels as the daugh­ter of two ex- pats, but then moved to Dublin to study, and is cur­rently on her Eras­mus year in Vi­enna.

“I still have a strong con­nec­tion with Brus­sels as my par­ents and my brother still live there. I do very much con­sider it home and re­turn of­ten.” Where is the first place you bring peo­ple when they visit Brus­sels? Def­i­nitely the main square – La Grand Place. In sum­mer you can weave through al­ley­ways on bumpy cob­bled streets and squeeze past res­tau­rant ta­bles out into the main square to en­joy a cof­fee while tak­ing in the beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture of the town hall. In win­ter, grab a warm Bel­gian waf­fle on your way in and watch the fab­u­lous light show that is on ev­ery evening in De­cem­ber. And then in the af­ter­noon, go for a cof­fee in the cosy cafe Les Gens que J’aime, and try a Bel­gian beer in the evening in the Delir­ium Café. The top three things to do there, that don’t cost ( much) money, are . . . Get a gaufre ( a Bel­gian waf­fle), with top­pings or with­out, but in my opin­ion they’re just as déli­cieux on their own.

A visit to the Magritte Mu­seum to see some of the Bel­gian sur­re­al­ist’s best work is es­sen­tial, and af­ford­able.

Browse a flea mar­ket. The one at Place du Jeu de Balle in the morn­ing is an es­pe­cially good place to find a bar­gain, while lis­ten­ing to a busker play­ing the ac­cor­dion. Where do you rec­om­mend for a great meal that gives a sense of Brus­sels? Get chips – Bel­gian style – at Frit­land. It may not seem like much, but they are def­i­nitely the taste of Brus­sels, es­pe­cially if you get may­on­naise on the side. How­ever, if you’re look­ing for proper food, Le Per­ro­quet is my favourite place to go. Try one of their fa­mous pitas and def­i­nitely don’t miss dessert. I would firstly ask if they have any tarte au su­cre ( lit­er­ally su­gar tart, a Bel­gian favourite) and if not, try a dame blanche ( ice cream with choco­late sauce and a moun­tain of Chan­tilly cream). Then just sit and en­joy the fan­tas­tic at­mos­phere, the stained­glass win­dows and gor­geous art nou­veau in­te­rior. Where is the best place to get a sense of Brus­sels’s place in his­tory? The his­tory of Brus­sels is best seen in its ar­chi­tec­ture. The guild houses in La Grand Place are par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful baroque mas­ter­pieces, fram­ing the gothic town hall on ei­ther side. There are also art nou­veau gems to be found through­out the city. For what should vis­i­tors save room in their suit­case af­ter a visit to Brus­sels? A box of Bel­gian choco­lates. No con­test. In the city cen­tre you’ll come across a choco­latier ev­ery cou­ple of me­tres, but Neuhaus is the place to go for re­ally good qual­ity Bel­gian choco­late that is still af­ford­able. My favourite thing to do is to ask for a lit­tle sa­chet and fill it up with a few dif­fer­ent flavours to try. If you’d like to share your lit­tle black book of places to visit where you live, please email your an­swers to the five ques­tions above to abroad@ irish­times. com, in­clud­ing a brief de­scrip­tion of what you do there and a pho­to­graph of your­self. We’d love to hear from you.

Han­nah ( left) with her Ir­ish friend Jenny in front of the 15th- cen­tury town hall in the Grand Place, Brus­sels

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