There’s no other way of saying this: Brussels is a weird city. It’s not a place that is on every traveler’s to-go list when spending time in Europe, but it is in a country that I wanted to spend a little time in, so I made a quick stop there during my spring break Euro trip, and I’m glad I did!

After arriving in the city, I checked into my hostel. I don’t often plan out a lot of my trips in advance, so usually I’ll pick up a few city guides from the front desk to see what the must-see things are.

I knew right away that I was going to enjoy my day in Brussels when I looked at the city guide and saw the motto “We’re ugly and we like it.” Brussels isn’t a breathtakingly beautiful city like many other places in Europe; it always seems to fall just short of “pretty,” but it never fails to satisfy the qualifications of “interesting.”

One barely has to look further than the main attraction of the city: Manneken Pis. This fountain, which can be found in the side streets close to the main plaza, is a small boy doing exactly what his name suggests. Nobody knows the actual significance of the statue, but I think that’s what makes him so interesting. He certainly won’t win any beauty awards, but he will remind you of the “irreverent spirit” that Brussels is so proud of.

Always full of contradictions, Brussels’ other main point of interest is the impressive Grand Plaza. This brick square is surrounded by tall historic buildings that certainly could win awards. (In fact, it is named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.)

Informally called “the comic book capital of the world,” Brussels is filled with many murals and paintings from some of the world’s most beloved comics.

Even so, graffiti abounds all throughout the city and can be just as interesting as the rest of the street art.

The contrasts continue in the architecture of the city. With so many different styles, pretty buildings aren’t hard to come by.

But at the same time, everything seems to be under construction.

As a testament to the diversity of the people who live in Brussels, shoppers can satisfy themselves at an elaborate shopping arcade.

Or they can pick around piles of antiques (and junk) at the flea market at Jeu de Balle Plaza.

Looking through my photos of Brussels, I’ve found one in particular that I think summarizes the entire city quite well: a statue of the Manneken Pis standing atop a metallic hot air balloon sculpture and poised to do what he does best.

Even the shiniest of exteriors doesn’t hide how truly offbeat Brussels can be. But why should that be hidden? Brussels is shameless, eccentric, and different. What it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in personality. Brussels is ugly, and I like it.

Love, Elizabeth

Would you ever consider going to Brussels?