Four Days in Belgium // Brussels + Ghent

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper's street style in Brussels, Belgium
This week I'm following up my Paris Travel Guide/Recs post with a Belgium Travel Guide/Recs post! As I detailed in last week's post, I was in Europe from April 6th to April 13th with my mom and my younger sister Sarah, who's currently studying Art History and French in France. We made a girls' trip out of Sarah's spring break and had the time of our lives bouncing between Paris, Brussels, and Ghent. 

Of course we took thousands of photos, tried countless amazing foods, and explored both touristy spots AND local spots (fun fact: we got some great local recommendations from Belgian friends of mine who were born and raised in Belgium)! This travel diary is a recap of what we got into during our 4-day stint in Belgium as well as a jumping off point for anyone who may be planning a Belgium getaway of their own — I highly recommend it ;)
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper's best things do in Belgium
Day 1 (Brussels): Walking Tour / Grand Place / 
Travel blogger Kathleen Harper's Brussels, Belgium city guide
The first two days of our vacation were spent in Paris, and on the morning of day three, we boarded an international train at Gare du Nord and headed for Brussels. Quick insight: I don't know if it was just us, but while in Europe in general, we had multiple issues with Uber. This particular morning, we actually had three cancel on us, resulting in us literally running all the way to the train station — luggage in tow. Luckily we made it, and even luckier, my sister, being the travel expert she is, had purposefully picked a hotel relatively close to the train station just in case this exact thing happened. #PreparationAlwaysWins

The train ride from Paris to Brussels was very pleasant. I mean, we sat in velvet seats and ate French pastries, so what more could you ask for? TBH, I kind of felt like I was on the Polar Express because trains typically aren't as polished in the US. It was a quick ride too, as we reached our destination in about an hour and a half. 

The first thing we did in Brussels was check into our hotel room. We stayed at The Augustin, a modern boutique hotel located just five minutes from Brussels' Grand Place, and it was fantastic.
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper posing in front of the Manneken Pis with her sister in Brussels, Belgium
After exploring the neighborhood a little bit and even wandering into a used bookstore, we decided our first order of business — before even getting food — was to see the famed Manneken Pis statue (pictured above). Yep, it's a tiny statue of a little boy peeing, and, I kid you not, it is one of — if not THE — most famous landmark in Brussels. 

The level of stardom this statue has risen to is hilarious! It's constantly swarmed by people taking its photo and posing with it, and the statue is depicted all over the city (exhibit A below). Get this — they even dress it up for special occasions and holidays! It may seem silly, but snatching a pic with this little dude is a must-do in Brussels. 
Manneken Pis in Brussels with Belgian waffles
Belgium travel guide and blogger sight-seeing tips
Next of course, we were all about the waffles. And let me just say, the streets of Belgium were literally filled with their sweet scent. Even if you wanted to, you couldn't escape the delicious smell (but um, why would you want to?). 

We headed to Mokafé for lunch and obviously we got waffles (along with yogurt and omelets). Mokafé is a spot locals go to for waffles, and it's located under the glass arch of the Galeries-St Hubert, which is an area with a lot of shops. 
Food blogger Kathleen Harper's Brussels waffles from Mokafé in Belgium
While we all know about Belgian waffles, what I didn't know before this trip is that there are actually two types of waffles in Belgium. The first is the Brussels Waffle, which is actually what Americans typically refer to as "Belgian Waffles." Brussels Waffles are very light and flakey with a soft inside and crunchier outside and they're made from liquid batter. 

The other waffles are Liege Waffles, and those are made from dough. They're soft throughout, sweeter, and chewier, and can be stuffed with chocolate or another type of filling. At Mokafé we had Brussels Waffles (pictured above) and they were just delicious — although all in all, Leige are my favorite kind.
Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium travel guide
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper at Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium
Our main activity this first day was a walking tour of Brussels. It lasted two hours, was entertaining and educational, AND was free. My sister booked it through Bravo Discovery, and while we did give our guide a tip at the end (10 Euros per person is common, but students can be free), it was still much cheaper than other city tours.  

Our tour met in Brussels' Grand Place (Grand-Place de Bruxelles), which you can see in the two photos above. Grand Place is the city's central square that's completely encircled by elegant historic buildings dating back to the 14th century — including City Hall. It's also considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.
Travel blogger Kathleen Harper on a free walking tour in Brussels, Belgium
Mary chocolate shop in Brussels, Belgium
As if "free" weren't enough, our tour ended inside a chocolate shop within Grand Place, and everyone in our group got a free truffle, which was delectable. This was our introduction to Belgian chocolate, and because it was so mouthwatering, we decided to stay in said chocolate shop and stock up on sweets.

We weren't in just any chocolate shop though, we were inside Mary Chocolatier, which has been selling hand-crafted chocolates created by artisan chocolatiers since 1919. Per their website, each chocolate is created with "the intent to attain the perfect harmony of flavors, scents, textures, and appearance." The below pics are me celebrating our chocolate purchases!
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper and her mom buying the best chocolate in BrusselsBest chocolate in Belgium
Kathleen Harper kissing the best chocolate in Brussels, Belgium
Food blogger Kathleen Harper at Fin De Siecle restaurant in Brussels, Belgium
For dinner (after sampling chocolates AND street fries), we went to a very yummy local hotspot recommended to us by our tour guide called Fin de Siecle. We had to wait in line to get seated (even on a Monday night), but the food was amazing and oh-so fresh. 

After our satisfying meal, we walked back to our hotel, taking in the Brussels' nightlife.
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper's travel guide to Brussels, Belgium
Brussels nightlife in spring 2019
Day 2 (Ghent): Brunch / MSK Museum / Gravensteen Castle
The Lys River in Ghent, Belgium in April 2019
We left Brussels on the morning of our second day in Belgium and took a 30-minute train to Ghent (or the Dutch spelling, Gent). Ghent was stunning! It felt like we were on a movie set the entire time we were there. It's very picturesque, very fairytale-like, and with the Lys River running through it, it felt extremely quaint and unlike any US city.

For both of our days in Ghent, we stayed at the Erasmus Hotel, which was more of a bed and breakfast than a modern hotel. The owner was incredibly sweet, and even though the hotel doesn't have an elevator, he helped us carry all of our luggage up six flights of stairs! 

After checking in, we went to brunch at Cafe Theatre Restaurant and Bar on a friend's recommendation, and we enjoyed quite the spread — as you can see!
Brunch at Cafe Theatre Restaurant and Bar in Gent, Belgium
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper at the MSK art museum in Ghent, Belgium
Feeling well-fueled, the three of us journeyed to the MSK Museum, also known as Museum voor Schone Kunsten, also known as Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, which is the oldest museum in Ghent. 

At the museum's front desk, we purchased a 3-day city pass, which turned out to be such a worthwhile investment. The 3-day pass costs €35.00 per person, and it includes free access to ALL the top attractions in Ghent — including public transportation.
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper at an art museum in Ghent, Belgium
Ok, so my mom was SUCH a trooper during this entire trip. This type of vacation requires early mornings, lots of moving around and traveling, and tons of walking. We were only a few days into our adventure, but my mom was so exhausted at this point that she literally fell asleep in the museum. She was OUT COLD. We let her sleep for about 20 minutes and this is me laugh-crying at how hilarious the situation is (people were totally staring). 
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper and her sister at MSK Museum in Ghent, Belgium
Travel blogger Kathleen Harper's Ghent, Belgium travel guide
When we left the museum, we immediately stumbled into a gorgeous park right across the street that featured a waterfall, pond, and blooming cherry blossoms. Next, we visited the famous castle in Ghent, The Castle of the Counts, or The Gravensteen.
Gravensteen Castle in Gent, Belgium
Travel blogger Kathleen Harper at Castle of the Counts in Ghent, Belgium
We took an audio tour of the castle, and it was a lot of fun. It's such a beautiful structure filled with rich history that was fascinating to learn about. It's a medieval castle that dates to 1180, and the view from the top alone (pictured below) is worth the visit. 
Best view from top of the castle in Ghent, Belgium
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper's Gent, Belgium pics and travel guide
For a midday snack, we got fries, trying a vegan place in the town center. A fun tidbit about Ghent is that it's actually been deemed the vegetarian capital of Europe, and we also got to experience that for dinner when we ate at a vegan-friendly restaurant called Faja Lobi Bed & Breakfast Cafe. Not much was open when we were hungry at 10 pm, but luckily we found this place, and it had excellent food and excellent service.
Streets of Gent, Belgium in spring 2019
Best Belgian fries in Ghent
Day 3 (Ghent): Sweets / Boat Tour / Graffiti Wall
Belgium travel blogger tips from Kathleen Harper
Our last day in Ghent began with me getting my hair done at Jay'z Hair & Beauty — they only accept walk-ins so it was perfect for me! Next, my mom, sister, and I went to Max for brunch where we tried the ORIGINAL Brussels waffle. This restaurant, which is very cute btw, is credited with serving the first Brussels waffles in Belgium. You can see our meal below — notice the lack of syrup ;) 
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper's Brussels waffles from Max restaurant in Ghent, Belgium
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper eating waffles at one of the best restaurants in Ghent, Belgium
After brunch, we walked to Saint Bavo's Cathedral, which contains a world-famous piece of artwork called the Ghent Altarpiece. My sister was dying to see it in-person so we actually listened to an audio guide about it while we were there, which made us appreciate the piece even more.
Saint Bavo's Cathedral in Gent, Belgium
The candies pictured below are called cuberdons, and I like to think of them as Jelly Beans on steroids. I'm not a candy person, but these bundles of joy are SO yummy. Carts sell them in the streets and they're available in flavors like raspberry, blueberry, lemon, strawberry, and more. 
Food blogger Kathleen Harper eating cuberdon candy in Ghent, Belgium
The Lys River in Ghent, Belgium in the spring
Once we were loaded up on sugar, we took a boat tour of Ghent, which we really enjoyed. I've never been to Venice, but Ghent definitely has a Venice feel due to the river that runs through it. There are so many restaurants and shops along the water too, which makes for ideal scenery.
Travel blogger Kathleen Harper on a boat tour in Ghent, Belgium on the Lys river
Travel blogger Kathleen Harper's guide for what to do in Ghent, Belgium this spring
After our tour, we were approached by some locals who wanted to show us around. They took us to the famous Graffiti Street and even provided us with markers and spray paint so that we could make our own mark on the wall! I've never graffitied before, but it's totally legal in Ghent — just only on this one street!
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper's pics on Graffiti Street in Ghent, Belgium
Kathleen Harper spray painting a wall on Graffiti Street in Gent, Belgium
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper's best things to do in Ghent, Belgium
This was the night we met up with my high school friend Flo! Flo was born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium and now lives in Ghent, but she went to my high school for two years, which is how I met her. She was in my gym class freshman year and we became fast friends. It was so special to finally visit her in her home country after all this time! 

My mom, sister, Flo, and I had dinner at Mosquito Coast, which is another vegan-friendly restaurant. It's considered a traveler's cafe and features cozy couches, walls full of maps and tokens, and a pretty terrace. We all had a great time!
Belgian street style for spring 2019
 Day 4 (Brussels): Best Fries & Waffles / Art Museum / Mont des Arts
Food blogger Kathleen Harper's Brussels, Belgium guide
Our last day in Belgium was spent back in Brussels. We stayed at The Bedford Hotel and we had a great experience at this hotel as well as all the other ones.

This was the day we discovered the BEST Belgian waffles and the BEST fries. Our favorite waffle — maybe even our favorite food ever? — was a Liege Waffle from a window shop called Vitalgaufre. Other bloggers and actual experts agree, this is THE place for the best Belgian Waffles in Belgium. They were so good, my sister and I turned around and got more as soon as were were finished eating our first round. My mouth is watering just thinking about them...
Food blogger Kathleen Harper eating the best waffles in Brussels
Mont des Arts in Brussels, Belgium
Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium
Our cultural experience for the day was going to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. There's six museums total, but we didn't go to all of them. The main one we went to was the Magritte Museum
Belgium travel tips and things to do in Brussels and Ghent
Fashion blogger Kathleen Harper at Mont Arts Park in Brussels, Belgium
Next to the museums was a beautiful park called Mont des Arts (pictured above). We took some time wandering through, taking pictures, and people watching. From there, we made it our mission (despite three cancelled Ubers) to get to Maison Antoine — aka the best fries in Belgium. 

The place itself reminded me of the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, as it was just a large stand outside with outdoor seating. The fries lived up to the hype though and even came in that famous Belgian cone! Oh and from now on, I'm only eating my fries with mayo — that or Andalouse sauce.
Food blogger Kathleen Harper eating the best fries in Belgium from Maison Antoine in Brussels
Food blogger Kathleen Harper's best restaurants in Belgium
Voila! That concludes my 2019 Paris and Belgium mini travel series. I'm so thankful that I actually got to eat a Belgian waffle IN Belgium, that I got to visit my friend in her home country, and that I got to tour a castle from the 1100s! So wild! My mom, sister, and I had the best time on this trip and are already dreaming up our next vacay — we're thinking Vienna? 

I'm going to leave you all with this quote: 

 “It is better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”

Three Days in Paris // Travel Diary + Tips & Recs

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Eiffel-Tower fashion blogger pics
For those who follow me on Instagram, you’re probably MORE than well aware that I recently got back from a weeklong trip to Europe with my mom and sister. Our girls trip expanded 2 countries and 3 cities and consisted of 4 train rides, 5 hotel stays, and literally thousands of photos. We had a fantastic time eating and sight-seeing our way through Paris, Brussels, and Ghent — and then back again. In a nutshell, it was magic. 

All three of us had been to Paris before (see my first and second Paris posts from two years ago here and here). This time around, we were in the City of Lights for 3 ½ days of our getaway, which is what I’m detailing below. 

Before we get started though, let me just say how much I LOVE PARIS. This gorgeous, historic city is almost unreal, and my heart truly lights up when I’m there. We ended up bookending the Belgium portion of our trip with Paris, and that turned out to be perfect. So we started in Paris and ended in Paris — I mean, can you even think of a better vacation?
Arc de Triomphe in Paris blogger pics
Day 1: Exploring / Balmain Hair Salon / Champs Elysées
Paris outfit ideas for spring
My journey began with an overnight plane from New York’s JFK to Paris’ ORY. I landed on Sat. April 6 at 9 am (and hit the ground running). I’m mentioning the exact date here because Spring can be a tricky season to travel in in terms of weather. It was an average of 52 degrees during our entire trip, but it was warmer than that the week before we were there, and then significantly warmer the week after we left. 

The outfits I wore did keep me warm, but as you can see, I did need heavier jackets, turtlenecks, and layers. Our last day was actually the coldest and I honestly could have worn a hat and gloves!
Paris city guide for spring
Paris marais cafe
After freshening up at our hotel, Hotel Des Comedies, which is located in the Le Marais neighborhood of Paris, we grabbed lunch at a nearby cafe and ate outside in the sunshine (this was the warmest day of our trip). After that, we walked around the neighborhood snapping photos and enjoying the cherry blossoms that were in full bloom. 

The concierge at our hotel was then nice enough to, at our request, book hair appointments for us at the Balmain Hair Salon located along the Champs-Élysées. I know right, *lands in Paris and immediately books hair appointment* — talk about an eye roll. But this is actually one of my best travel hacks. Getting your hair done will save you so much time and energy in the mornings, and it’s so worth it to not have to worry about your hair looking good while on vacation.
Paris long weekend travel guide
Paris cherry blossoms in april 2019
Paris fashion blogger city guide
At the salon, my mom and I got blowouts and my sister got an actual cut, which she desperately needed ;) and our experience was nothing short of memorable. The Balmain salon is just as glamorous and chic as you’d think, and we were treated like royalty, which is always a plus!
Balmain hair salon in Paris, France
Best hair salon in Paris on the champs elysées
Next, we ventured to the Arc de Triomphe where we took an embarrassing amount of pictures (which you’ll see is a theme during our trip, ha)!

For dinner, we ate at a buzzy outdoor cafe along the Champs-Élysées and watched the sun set over the Arc [insert dreamy sigh]. I ordered one of my favorite things to get in France, which is also super affordable — a Croque Madame. The waiter was slightly offended when I asked for it without ham though (#vegetarian), so I just took the meat off when it arrived and handed it off to my mom.  
Paris spring travel guide blogger
Paris France dessert
Day 2: Picnic / Eiffel Tower / Le Palais Royal / Angelina's
recommendations for fromagerie in Paris France
We got an early(ish) start on day two, beginning our morning the same way we began every morning in Paris — at a boulangerie! My sister speaks French (it’s one of her majors) and I took French for six years (...doesn’t mean I’m good though lol), so we always try and find the most authentic French spots, and luckily — when I’m with her — we have no problems communicating with shop owners. 

It was a Sunday and not everything was open, but we found a cute place not far from our hotel and, just like everything else in France, it was fabulous! Boulangeries are more abundant in Paris than Starbucks are in New York, and they’re typically just walk-in places where you order breakfast or lunch on the go. 

And yes, Parisians actually DO walk around carrying and eating baguettes (and yes, it is kind of adorable)!
Paris long weekend ideas
Eiffel Tower photo shoot locations
After exploring the 7th arrondissement of Paris, which is a “quaint yet sophisticated” neighborhood encompassing the Eiffel Tower, we decided to picnic beneath the Eiffel Tower for lunch. For supplies, we stopped by the Rue Cler Market, which is almost like a farmer’s market that features little shops and cafes. We bought fresh cheese and bread from a fromagerie, and were on our way.
Eiffel Tower picnic of bread cheese
Eiffel Tower blogger pics
For me, the photos I take while on a trip are my souvenirs, so making sure to shoot at specific locations is a high priority on my list; I view it not as just simply taking photos, but making memories. We shamelessly took hundreds of Eiffel Tower pics and had a lot of fun doing it. I wish I could provide an exact location for where some of them were shot, but we really just wandered around and happened to stumble upon some really cool views.

Paris Eiffel Tower photo shoot locations
Something I really wanted to do during this Paris trip was visit Le Palais Royal, which is a former royal palace located opposite the Louvre. The Palais-Royal now serves as the seat of the Ministry of Culture and the Constitutional Council, but honestly we were just there for the beautiful scenery — and to see the famous striped columns! There’s also a gorgeous garden there that you can walk through and sit in. It’s a little piece of paradise in the bustling city.
Paris Le Palais Royal blogger pics
Paris streets spring 2019
Most people who have planned a Paris trip before, know about Angelina’s. Angelina’s is a famous tea house located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris that’s primarily known for its almost pudding-like hot chocolate. Said hot chocolate should be a national treasure — it’s that life-changing. 

While at Angelina’s, we of course got three hot chocolates and then couldn’t resist also ordering some pastries, because France. This ended up being our dinner, as we had an early wakeup call the next morning for our train to Brussels. 

As we walked back to our hotel, we watched the sun set over Paris and took a few street photos along the way.
Pastries from Angelinas Tea House in Paris
Paris street style spring 2019
Day 3: Best Boulangerie / The Louvre / Tuileries Garden
Paris marais neighborhood pics
As I mentioned earlier, boulangeries were our jam while in Paris, but our favorite by far was the one we visited on the morning of our last full day. It’s a famous one called Du Pain et des Idées (in English, “Some Bread and Some Ideas), and my sister had been insisting we go. It turned out to be a true gem, and I still think of their unbelievable fruit rouge escargot, which I wish I were eating right now! 

We had to wait in a line to even get in the door, but it didn’t take too long and it was SO worth it. Not only was the inside gorgeous and quintessentially French, but the people were so nice and the pastries lived up to the hype. 

My sister made it clear that we shouldn’t be shy about getting EVERYTHING we wanted, and I really took that to heart. We left with seven treats!
Du Pains des Idees bakery in Paris
Best boulangerie in Paris
what to do in paris over a long weekend
Is any Paris trip complete without a visit to the Louvre (aka the most visited museum in the world)? According to my sister, that’s a hard no. She’s currently studying French and Art History at Notre Dame, so obviously the Louvre is one of her favorite places in the entire city.

Although my mom and I had been before, we hadn’t been with HER, which is a treat in itself because she can act as our own personal tour guide. But of course before entering, we had to take a plethora of photos ;)
Louvre glass pyramid blogger pics
Paris Tuileries Garden spring 2019
After a few (and by “a few” I mean four) hours in the Louvre, we walked around, enjoying the streets of Paris. During my last visit, the Tuileries Garden was one of my favorite spots, and this time we felt extra lucky to see the gardens in the springtime, as the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. It was breathtaking!
Tuileries Garden Paris April 2019
Tuileries Garden April 2019
For our last dinner in Paris, we ate dessert first, starting with this fanciful pastry from Pierre Hermé’s (pictured below), which, if you can believe it, tasted even better than it looked. It’s called an ispahan and it can only be described as heavenly. Pierre Hermé’s is the best place to get them, and they’re essentially a giant cake-like macaroon filled with fresh raspberries and cream and adorned with a rose petal. 

For dinner, we went to another neighborhood in Paris, Montmartre. My sister had a recommendation for a trendy French restaurant there called Bouillon Pigalle, and let me tell you, it was hopping! We waited in line for over an hour to be seated, but it was so busy for a reason. The best part is that it wasn’t touristy at all — it was clearly a Friday night Parisian hangout and everyone around us was speaking French. We enjoyed an amazing (and authentically French) meal on the roof, and ended our time in Paris on a major high note.
ispahan from Pierre Hermes Baker in Paris
Bouillon Pigalle restaurant in Paris
Bonus: African Food / Indian Speakeasy
Baranaan Indian Cocktail speakeasy in Paris
During the “½” of our 3 ½ days in Paris, we went to a casual dinner at a local hotspot called Osè African Cuisine. I’d describe it as a Chipotle but with fresh African food (think beans, rice, meats, vegetables, and sauces). It was satisfying, delicious, and unlike anything we have in the states. It was also not touristy AT ALL and the people who worked there were very friendly. 

After dinner, we went across the street to an Indian restaurant that has a speakeasy in the back called Baranaan Indian Cocktail. I drank out of an actual coconut and, get this, the theme of the place was Bombay’s prohibition era. The inside of the bar was decorated as if you were on a train. How cool, right?
Paris street style April
As lengthy as this post is, refraining from adding even more photos and tid-bits was actually a challenge! So if you have any questions or want more info, feel free to reach out to me via the comments section, email, or IG :)

Next up, a 4-day Belgium guide featuring the cities of Brussels and Ghent. Stay tuned!