Decadent Wittamer hot chocolate and the beauty of Brussels’ Grand Place…

I’ve recently returned from a wonderful weekend exploring Brussels in all her Christmas finery. For many years now I’ve been longing to visit Belgium but I had never quite made it there, other than passing through without stopping. It seems a lot of people pass by Belgium, and in particular the capital, Brussels, and for sometime now I’d been asking myself, why?

The photographs I had seen of Belgium’s towns and cities were enchanting and from what I’ve read on the web and learnt from chatting to people who had been there themselves, I had formed the impression of a vibrant and beautiful country which has so much to offer – great food, excellent beer, superb chocolate, stunning architecture, fascinating (if sometimes upsetting) history, beautiful towns and villages and I’m told, some of the best camp sites in Europe and at a fraction of the cost of what you might pay elsewhere. Not that I was planning on camping in December…  far from it! Thanks to Avios I was travelling in style, flying Club Class and staying in the 5 star Sofitel Le Louise, in one of the most affluent areas of Brussels. At last, I would be able to see for myself the truth about Belgium and what better time to visit than in the run up to Christmas.

Hot Chocolate at Wittamer, Sablon

Having checked-in to our très chic hotel, we headed straight out to explore and soon we were walking down quaint cobbled streets, passing beautiful historic buildings, quirky shops and this lovely park in Sablon.

Petit Sablon Square (with 48 statues representing different professions around the edge of the park)

Petit Sablon Square, Brussels

Wittamer

Wittamer, Place du Grand Sablon, Brussels

Wittamer cakes

Just some of the tasty treats on offer at the Wittamer café

First stop Le Sablon. Known for its night life, restaurants and surrealism, this is many people’s favourite part of the city but I had one thing on my mind… hot chocolate! Not just any old hot chocolate but a Wittamer hot chocolate. I’d been told by a couple of different sources that this was the very best in town. I knew it was on the Place du Grand Sablon and had a bright pink awning, making it easy to find. As I stared in through the shop window my heart did a somersault as my eyes beheld the exquisite cakes and pastries on display. We found our way upstairs to the charming café with its beamed ceilings, dramatic chandelier and oodles of character. Sitting down by the window, I soon had to sit on my hands to stop myself photographing other people’s orders. With eyes popping I watched a couple, each with a delicious looking ice-cream creation decorated with an over-sized macaron, pick up a white jug and slowly pour melted chocolate all over their dessert. Oh my! Having ordered our drinks, we waited patiently (ish!) and soaked up the atmosphere. A sense of serenity filled the air as everyone in the room indulged themselves in their favourite Wittamer treat. Then in front of us appeared our drinks, each with a couple of Wittamer chocolates and a large dollop of Chantilly cream. They tasted as good as they looked and were worth every cent of the 6.50€ they cost (each!).

A Wittamer hot chocolate

A Wittamer hot chocolate

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Thanks to Katie from An Unfamiliar Sky for tweeting me this tip together with a link to her fabulous post How to Eat in Belgium.

The Grand Place (or Grote Markt in Dutch)

From Le Sablon we walked on through more cobbled streets and I caught my first glimpse of the Grand Place, Brussels’ main square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and reputed to be the most beautiful square in Europe. I had high expectations! As I turned the corner I almost felt tearful. Beautiful is the not quite the right word… awe-inspiring, breath-taking, stunning… neither my words or my pictures do it justice. Every building that opened onto the square was an absolute gem. Grand and imposing with the most intricate of decorative adornment, these buildings almost sent me into a blind panic, as I wanted to capture it all in my camera, but in which direction to point it first!

Brussels Christmas

The town hall in Brussels on the Grand Place

 Maison du Roi (King's House)

Maison du Roi (King’s House), Grand Place, Brussels

We returned that evening for the sound and light show and fell in love with the square all over again!

Grand Place / Grote Markt

Grand Place / Grote Markt

Grand Place / Grote Markt

Brussels’ Town Hall

Brussels Christmas

Grand Place / Grote Markt at Christmas

Brussels Christmas

Grand Place / Grote Markt at Christmas

Brussels Christmas

The Guildhalls

Throughout the weekend we walked into this square a number of times and each time I caught my breath not quite believing what I was seeing. What’s more I know it will have that same effect on me when I return and return I will!

Disclaimer: This post has been brought to you in association with Avios. As always, these are my own, honest opinions.

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