Brilliant Brussels

Jessica Pook visits Brussels during the Flower Carpet Festival and discovers a vibrant yet relaxed city that encourages visitors to stop and smell the roses

Day 1: Beer and begonias

Morning: Clients can arrive in the heart of Belgium in just two hours thanks to the Eurostar. Hit the ground running with a guided tour of the Palais de Justice. This iconic landmark is still a working courthouse, one of the largest in the world, and impresses with opulent courtrooms and marble columns. A guided tour is the best way to learn about some of the cases that have been tried here.

Afternoon: Head to Frank for an organic lunch and healthy juice. Then it’s time to delve into the country’s famous beer scene with a tasting and cycling tour with Beer my guest. Beer enthusiast Maggie leads groups on a three-hour exploration by bike. A highlight is a visit to Cantillon which is the last original brewery to produce traditional Lambic beers. The tour also passes famous landmark Manneken Pis as well as the European Parliament building.

Evening: Dine at the elegant Aux Armes de Bruxelles: popular dishes include shrimp croquettes and chicken vol-au-vent. Next it’s time for the main event, the Flower Carpet Festival. Held once every two years over four days in August, a carpet of begonias is displayed at the Grand-Palace of Brussels amongst a backdrop of Gothic architecture.  Enjoy panoramic views of the sound and light display from the City Hall balcony. 

Day 2: Design and desert 

Morning: Grab a coffee to go and discover Brussels’ Art Nouveau scene on a walking tour. Art Nouvau was a popular style in the 1900s with characteristics including stained glass and wave-like curves. Belgian architect Victor Horta was one of the founders of Art Nouveau and visitors can tour the Horta museum, his former house and studio, to fully immerse themselves in the movement. You don’t need any design knowledge to appreciate the extravagant and intricate craftmanship. 

Afternoon: Visible from across the city is the spaceship-esque Atomium which houses exhibitions and multi-level digital installations, but visitors mainly come for the panoramic views across the city. Have a bite to eat in the restaurant suspended 100 metres above the ground. Across the road is Mini Europe, offering a birdseye view of some of Europe’s most iconic landmarks on a much smaller scale.

Evening: Take part in a chocolate- making workshop with Planète Chocolat and learn the secrets of world-famous Belgian chocolate (save some as an after dinner treat). Swapping sweet for seafood, make a stop at Braseries Georges for dinner and order the seafood platter – a mountain of oysters, mussels, prawns, lobster and more. Enjoy the buzzing terrace atmosphere before heading home.

Book it with… Eurostar

Clients can stay in the Warwick Brussels, a five-star hotel in the city centre, plus Eurostar train tickets from St Pancras to Brussels-Midi, from £176pp. Departing December 3 and returning December 4, 2022. eurostar.com; visit.brussels