1. Find the Grand Place (the former market square). If you get lost on the way because you never really studied the map, seek help from a painter/poet who will show you the way. The Grand Place is fringed with guild halls, each building like a piece of elaborate jewelry.
2. Meet up with friends who are traveling in the UK. They can take the Eurostar from London to Brussels in about two hours—the same amount of time it takes from Delft! Spend the day together. Since you are most excited about spending the day with friends and not about tourism, don’t plan much. This will lead to a lot of aimless wandering and difficulty finding restaurants, but you will enjoy it, because you are talking to friends the whole time.
(2a. But probably the next time you day-trip somewhere, you’ll look more closely at the guidebook beforehand. And maybe call a couple restaurants to confirm their opening hours.)
3. Visit a Belgian chocolate shop, like Neuhaus. Chocolate shops occur every five feet.
4. Visit a Belgian beer shop. Each beer has its own unique glass. Buy one—like the one for Straffe Hendrick.
5. Perhaps skip the combo ticket to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. One ticket encompasses the Magritte, Ancient, and Modern collections, but it’s 13 Euros a person even though the entire Modern section and chunks of the Ancient section are currently closed for renovation or repair. Hopefully after the renovations they’ll increase the signage in the area that links the collections so you don’t have to wonder if you’re on your way to art or the boiler room. Choosing only Ancient (for the Rubens and Bruegel works) or the Magritte will save your attention span and your wallet. If possible, see the Magritte collection with a kind artist so you can ask all your questions about surrealism (“So am I supposed to understand why the ball is in the tree?”) without feeling too foolish.
6. Don’t eat dinner on the Grand Place. Every restaurant sports the same menu and the same high prices (we saw the same thing on the main square in Bruges). Take the time to find a place that isn’t wholly tourist-oriented. We loved Nuetnigenough (I don’t even know if this is meant to be one word!), still near the Grand Place and with a fresh art nouveau-y feel.
The space is small and the service was friendly. Most importantly, I wanted to eat my way through their entire menu item by item (Chorizo and potatoes in cider appetizer? How did I miss this until after we’d ordered?).
Since two of our party had to dash back to the train station, we did not eat the menu item by item, but settled for one dish apiece. My rigatoni in sauce with mushrooms and bacon was delicious, and at around E12-15, our lovely meal cost less than lesser fare would have right on the Grand Place.
7. Ask for directions repeatedly on the way back to Brussel-Zuid station, get disoriented, make the train anyway.
8. Reflect on an excellent day with excellent friends.