I had never really known that Brussels was a city flourishing with markets. But then again, I had never really known London was either when I first moved here as a fresh-faced 18-year-old.
Visiting local markets is one of my most revered pastimes during trips away, be it food markets, antiques, flowers, you name it. During our #ParkInnExpress challenge (more to come on that soon), The Little Backpacker and I had been asked to locate a flea-market and oblivious to just how many markets come to life in Brussels at the weekend, we mistakenly ended up at a nearby antique market instead, spotting vintage maps, jewellery and crockery.
The Gare du Midi Market
The next morning on the tip-off of a local, we hopped over to the Gare du Midi market. I’m convinced you could purchase everything you would need for a weekly shop here – and more. With everything from clothes to shoes, flowers to fruits, this was very much a market for the locals. We couldn’t see many other tourists hovering and we sensed that cameras were not always welcome.
The Marolles Market
From here, we proceeded (a day late but who’s counting) to the nearby Marolles flea market. Set against the backdrop of beautiful brick buildings and barren wintery tree branches, this is another treasure trove for anyone with a love of kitsch brooches, ancient floral tea sets, ripe wooden furniture and even retro camera lenses. It is considered acceptable to haggle at this market and the tradesmen seem more relaxed here, many with their goods splayed out across the floor without the shelter of covered canopies, jovial in spirit, making the term, “lazy Sunday” a redundant entity.
The Place Jourdan Farmers’ Market
And if you still haven’t had your fix of weekend markets or if the hunger pangs are beckoning you to a food market, then head east towards the European Quarter to find the Place Jourdan Sunday Market. Head there early as it all starts to die down around 2pm but this is a haven for hungry foodies with vans and stands serving everything from rotisserie chicken to freshly-made Thai red curry, Moroccan-stuffed peppers to homemade Greek hummous. I even spotted an English Cornish pasty stall, which rather made me chuckle!
I also saw for the first time my favourite hot drink being made traditionally on the pan – a fresh Moroccan mint tea, made for once, the way it should be with the sparky spell of mint stretching for miles. So often in London, I see even expensive restaurants just sticking a mint leaf in a cup of boiling water and proclaiming that to be a fresh mint tea – it’s not.
The biggest draw at this market (proven by the 1 hour and 40 minute queue that Jodie from Little Backpacker endured) are the Frites in a cone from Maison Antoine, reportedly the best in Brussels. I had very much wanted to try out this renowned treat but unfortunately, I read in a guide book that they are fried in beef fat – the one and only food item I absolutely don’t eat. If the book was wrong, I shall cry at having missed out. And if it was right, then I think this ought to be better advertised and labelled so that vegetarians and others with specific dietary requirements are aware.
As I walked through the market, there was a progressive increase in the volume of my tummy rumbles and after spotting these goats cheese and honey stuffed parcels of indulgence, I succumbed to temptation. Do you see the gaping hole in the display below? That’s the one that ended up in my belly. I’d have liked it a tad warmer but the bitesize portion was just enough to replenish me after a morning of market mayhem.
Do you enjoy visiting markets? Which ones have stood out for you, at home or on your travels?