What inspired you to begin your blog, S Marks the Spots?
It may sound cheesy, but my inspiration has been my love for the city I live in. Truth is, however, that this love affair did not develop overnight! Having previously lived in very lively capitals like London, Paris and Athens, I spent my first couple of years in Brussels going to the same places and complaining about how dull it was. This sparked my interest in discovering new spots around town and creating a space where I could share all these hidden gems with other people. Within a few months S Marks the Spots was born, and ever since I never stopped blogging.
You have lived in many beautiful cities around Europe, when did you begin to appreciate Brussels as a unique destination?
Brussels is one of those places that you have to live in for a while to fully appreciate everything it has to offer. I guess this is true of any city, but even more so with the EU capital, a destination which is often overlooked for being grey and boring. Apart from obvious reasons, like the great beer culture and tempting offer of fine chocolate, it is the quality of everyday life that makes Brussels unique. Distances are smaller, housing is more affordable compared to other major European capitals, and the city has a truly international vibe. Not to mention that it is full of great foodie and fun places for those who are willing to go beyond the beaten path.
Although you must be very passionate about delivering great content, blogging, in this day and age, can be quite laborious. How do you continue to find fresh perspectives of the city?
Blogging is indeed rather time-consuming and requires a great deal of dedication. Having said that, it is also rewarding in many different ways. After all these years of living in Brussels, I still feel like a tourist in my own city as I keep discovering new spots and exciting things to try. Instagram, Pinterest, and magazines are great sources of information, but both tips from readers and walking around Brussels are my favorite ways of finding great new spots.
What has been the most memorable experience of your blogging adventures?
There have been numerous memorable moments I got to experience thanks to my blog, so I will cheat and mention three instead of just one. I still remember the excitement I felt when I hit publish for the first time and shared online my first blog post on one of my all-time favorite pastry shops in Paris. Despite knowing very little about blogging back then, I felt as if I had landed on the moon! Being featured in a noted Belgian newspaper is something I never expected when I started blogging, so I had to pinch myself when I saw S Marks The Spots in De Standaard. I celebrated with a glass of champagne and still cannot stop smiling when I think about it. Last but not least, one of the most remarkable moments has been my nomination for best Travel & City blog at this year’s Weekend Blog Awards. I am ecstatically happy and it is really the biggest reward I could ask for.
For first-time visitors to Brussels, what are three must-see places to get an authentic perspective of the city?
One of my favorite activities when exploring a new city is to visit a local market, and Brussels has plenty of them. I happen to love the Chatelain market where apart from delicious street food, you can enjoy drinks al fresco with the locals and get to see one of the most charming neighborhoods in Brussels. Vintage lovers will also appreciate the Marolles, a quirky area famous for its second-hand shops only a short walk away from the beautiful Sablon. Visit the antique market at Place du Jeu de Balle, get a glimpse of Brussels’ comic murals, and take the lift to Place Poelaert to admire the wonderful view.
No visit to Brussels is complete without trying the famous Belgian frites. There are various fritkots around the city, but Maison Antoine seems to be a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Head to Place Jourdan, grab a cone of chips and enjoy them in true Belgian style: together with a glass of beer at one of the surrounding bars.
What are your tips for finding new cultural experiences in Brussels?
My advice would be to keep an open mind and stay curious. Brussels is a multicultural hub and there is always something new and foreign to discover. Try different cuisines, visit an exhibition at a museum, attend a concert and keep an eye on the city agenda for the latest happenings.
Is there an event in Brussels you believe is a ‘cannot miss’?
Brussels hosts a number of different events throughout the year, so it is easy to find something appealing. If you are lucky enough to be in town while the Flower Carpet is on, do not miss a chance to see the Grand Place in full bloom. Other favorite events of mine are the Jazz Marathon, eat! Brussels, the Museums Nocturnes and the fireworks show for Belgian National Day.
Your ultimate day in the city includes…?
Brunch at one of my favorite places, which you can find listed here, or fresh seafood at Noordzee, followed by a stroll around the Grand Place and ice cream from Frederic Blondeel. Some quiet time with my book at Le Petit Sablon, or the Bois de la Cambre, watching the sunset at Mont des Arts and having a glass of wine (or two) with my friends at 13 Degrés.
We hate to do this to you but… Belgian waffles or chocolate?
That’s a hard one! I have a major sweet tooth and normally cannot resist either, but if I had to choose, I would go for chocolate.
Finish this sentence: ‘When I think of Brussels, I think…’
Of a wonderful little gem waiting to be discovered. And I am lucky enough to call this place home.