sightseeing in brussels, belgium

Our stop in Brussels was… interesting. As soon as we deplaned and got in line for customs, we were hassled by three men while they looked through every page of our passports over and over again. They didn’t just ask us questions about our previous stops… they were grade-A jerks. After everyone else from our plane had left the building and we were the only couple still at the customs desk, we were finally allowed to go on our merry cranky way. Then we realized the airport wasn’t even close to the city center (a point I mentioned in my discount airlines post) and we had to ride a bus for a few hours. After we arrived at our hotel half-asleep and annoyed, we went straight to bed and woke up in the morning with a better outlook on life. But then my husband informed me that he would have to work in the hotel conference room most of our trip.

You know how I mentioned that travel teaches you patience and other fine life lessons? This is why. Because sometimes your trips are not like how you imagined them. Sometimes they royally suck but you have to make the best of the situation. While I gorged myself in an attempt to feel better (vegetarian lasagna… yummy) at the hotel restaurant, my husband worked in the conference room a few feet away. He stopped by the table to eat a few bites of his food… then he went back to work. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

This continued for a few days and then we were finally able to go sightseeing in Brussels. The tour we found sort of sucked too because the guide took it upon herself to explain to everyone how much she hated Americans. Even though she was rude the entire tour, I really liked her perfume. That made her tolerable. Because she smelled nice.

Oh well. We were able to see the Atomium, Brussels town hall, Cinquantenaire Park, Royal Palace of Laeken, Congress column, Egmont palace, European Union Parliament, Chinese and Japanese towers, St.Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, Notre Dame du Sablon, Autoworld, and a million other things, so that made our visit worth it.

Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Someone playing with a sword in the park…
Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

Have you ever had a similar experience?


Filed Under: Belgium, Travel27 Comments
  • Brittany Ruth

    I went to Brussels a couple of months ago and wasn’t too impressed either. The only thing I really loved was the food, the scallops, mussels, chocolate, beer, waffles, and fries!

    -Brittany Ruth

  • Ech and Will

    Ugh customs agents can be real jerks sometimes. I had an American one try to trick me or something and kept asking me questions over and over like he was trying to catch me in a lie. And what a bummer about your tour guide! I haven’t had any anti-American problems yet. Thankfully so far everyone has been open and friendly toward us.

  • Helene

    I was just in Belgium – the town of MEchelen very close to brussels. I’ve been to brussels before but have not had that problem- that sounds awful! I LOVEDDDDDD Brussels and really the whole country of Belgium.

  • Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife

    It is funny because while my husband and I loved it there most everyone else I have heard of going did not, makes me wonder about my ideas of traveling!!

  • Amanda

    I haven’t been to Brussels but I have wanted to go- it looks beautiful in pictures. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your experience more!

    I hate going through customs/ border patrol. Sam and I took a bus once from London to Paris to save money, and while the discount was AMAZING, the bus itself smelt of baby sick and I was the only non-EU citizen on the bus so when we crossed the border they made a big stink about me. Even though I had my passport, visa, all other paperwork, etc. And mind you, we crossed the border at 3 am because it was a night bus. xx

  • Amy @ The Tide That Left

    Funnily enough, we had an awful day in Brussels about 4 years ago. We’d just been to Gent and Bruges, and Brussels was just such a let down.

  • Vanessa Morgan

    It’s weird to see all the places I walk by everyday on your blog. It’s a pity you had so many problems during your trip. When did you visit Brussels?

  • Shannon at Beginnings in Bayern

    Yikes! Sounds like quite the trip. I never understand people who bash other nationalities…doesn’t it occur to them how close minded it is to judge a whole nation on a few jerks? Not to mention it’s rude. Hopefully your next trip goes better!

  • Sarah Beth

    When I was in Rome and at the Vatican, my study abroad group got a tour guide for the Vatican Museum because it’s such a huge place. I so wish we hadn’t and am so glad that we didn’t do it for any of our previous tours. She was’t rude or mean, but her voice in my ear was more distracting and annoying then anything.

  • Blogger Ash

    Oh, no! So sorry to hear that you had a bad exprience. Wish your hubby wasn’t so tied up either!

    ~ Ashley @ A Cute Lifestyle

  • Jade

    Oh gees, this didn’t sound as fun as I had hoped it would have been for you! I have had terrible luck with customs officers all over the world now, it appears that having a passport that’s been dropped in coffee, water & red wine isn’t exactly travel officials friendly! Hopefully you can visit Brussels again and have a better time, because I’ve heard other amazing stories about the city!

  • Gesci

    We spent a few days in Brussels, and while we didn’t mind the city itself, liked the food, and the assorted things-to-do weren’t spectacular but weren’t too bad, neither of us could get over how just plain DIRTY the city is. There was trash everywhere, dog poo all over the sidewalks, streets and sidewalks torn up with no repair in sight, etc. We stayed with a host couple through AirBnB and they (he a native Belgian) gave us a walking tour of the neighborhood and told us about the really poor infrastructure in the city and local government.
    But we had a good time walking around and seeing the things to see. And I ate and bought TONS of chocolate, duh! We went into the Atomium- that was a novel experience, for sure!

  • la petite lulu

    Ahhhhhh, Brussels… This made me smile :) The one and only time I flew into Brussels was on my first ever trip to Europe (the first time we moved there). The airline lost my bag. All my belongings, for our move. And I wasn’t a seasoned traveler at that point and hadn’t done the half pack in my husband’s bag *just incase* mine got lost. I sat on the luggage carousel and cried for a loooooong time. It did re-appear days later but I also have not so great memories when it comes to this place!

  • the florkens

    Wow. What a terrible start to a trip — at least you managed to get some rocking pictures though! I guess that counts for something! :)


  • Debbie Buisson

    Oh, so sorry y’all didn’t enjoy it :( We did, not as much as Bruges. We made the wrong choice in staying in Brussels rather than Bruges, but we still enjoyed Brussels. We had a great time at the bar by the Mannekin Pis and of course gorging in waffles every night. We also had a fantastic time during the New Year celebration in the square! I do have to agree with a previous comment that the city is filthy! Probably the worst I have seen (or maybe it was the NY celebrating and the city didn’t get around to cleaning by the time we left) but there were also homeless folks everywhere. Besides that, we had fun!

  • Megan C. Stroup

    I really do not understand the “hating Americans” thing. I know many of our countrymen (and women) can be obnoxious, but I can’t think of a single country from which I would claim to dislike all their citizens! At least you got some beautiful pictures out of the tour. And didn’t have to smell any b.o. ;)

    I also wanted to invite you to participate in Travel Tuesday link-up today! I always love introducing my readers to new travel bloggers through the link-up, and I really think my audience would love your blog, because I do. :) Have a great week!

  • Jodi

    Ugh I hate when travel “issues” come up. It makes for a not so fun vacation. I really want to visit here. It looks so pretty. Hopefully the lady who hates Americans will learn to keep her mouth shut. Doesn’t she realize that those Americans are the ones paying her salary since she gives tours to tourists!!!??

  • Casey

    Oh the joys of traveling. Hate that for you guys (customs officers in Europe scare me!)! But I have to say, I’ve heard Brussels is known for providing less than desirable vacation experiences. That’s probably why we’ve skipped it on our numerous trips to Belgium. Bruges is where it’s at! :)

  • Irene

    You got some lovely photos! Yeah, Brussels is not everyone’s cup of tea and I guess it’s hard to love it. I for one like it but it’d be a lot better if it was cleaned every now and then.
    I’ve never had a problem at Charleroi airport but I think they’re real jerks with everyone who don’t speak French, really nasty officers … If you don’t speak French they usually make open your luggage and mess everything up, at least that’s what I’ve noticed when traveling from Charleroi.

  • themovetoamerica

    Nevr been to Brussels but have experienced the joys of customs! Poor you!


  • The Slow Pace

    Yesterday I had a pretty awful experience at the airport too.. Anyway, I hope you try the fantastic Belgian chocolate. It’s a very nice way of improving your day! ;)

  • kristin

    Such gorgeous photos from your trip! I love reading your posts and seeing your photos!

  • Casey Martin

    Sounds like our trip to Rome… we had so many debacles that it made the whole trip just a mess!

  • Erika from Chimerikal

    Hmm. An experience like that (along with the other unlucky sort of stuff) can really color a person’s view of a city. I know you didn’t say much about Brussels, but I find it hard (personally) to like a city if I don’t have a good time. That said, I don’t know too many Belgians but I know that they are much more direct than Americans for sure, and even other Europeans sometimes. But there’s a line between “cultural differences” and then flat-out acting like a you-know-what… and it sounds like if this woman was directly insulting and making generalizations, then she probably falls into the second category. Boo. But at least her perfume was awesome. And give me waffles, give me good beer/wine there, and I’m set. HAHAH. :)


  • Sarah

    Bummer that Brussels wasn’t the wonderful experience you had hoped for! It’s so disappointing when that happens. I’ve never been to Belgium before, but your photos are quite pretty. :)

  • Elle Alice

    Sad that your trip wasnt all you want it to be! Your photos turned out amazing though! :)

  • Bonnie Rose

    I havent really experienced that yet but that really stinks it was not the experience you went there for. Though you made me laugh about the perfume comment. My husband got to go to see the NATO building for his Masters course but didnt get to see so much of the city because of work. I would love to go with him so that we could see it together. Do you plan on returning? Thank you for linking up with Belinda and I for Travel Tuesday!

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose