A day in Waterloo
Did you know there are over 100 places in the world called Waterloo? And they all got their name from the Belgian location where Napoleon was defeated in 1815. The memorial dedicated to the historical battle that would change Europe's destiny is reason enough to visit this city in the Walloon Brabant, but there's more to it. Its commercial center is really pleasant and home to a few great spots that I gladly share with you. Follow me!
Brunch at Le Pain Quotidien | Chaussée de Bruxelles 123, 1410 Waterloo
Most of the time I shy away from chains because I prefer to discover unique places. But it should be remembered that Le Pain Quotidien is a special one and a true Belgian success story. Meaning 'the daily bread', their concept is centered around the tradition of breaking bread with loved ones. The first Le Pain Quotidien opened in Rue Dansaert in 1990 and now there are more than 200 locations throughout the world! The interiors made out of rough wood, featuring communal tables, are instantly recognizable and the menu is filled with amazing, veggie friendly options for breakfast and lunch. I swear it is almost impossible to choose between their tartines, salads and other daily suggestions (so I just gave up and ordered the avocado toast, a 'bloggers' classic').
Shopping at Faubourg Store | Chaussée de Bruxelles 212, 1410 Waterloo
If you're a man with a sense of style, you cannot miss Fauborg Store. Open since 2015, this concept store has a selection of small brands from Scandinavia, France, Belgium and even Japan. Although it definitely has an urban vibe, it is meant both for the teenage boy looking for Carhartt pieces and for the 30-something guy who wears mostly shirts.
Shopping at M and J | Chaussée de Bruxelles 165, 1410 Waterloo (inside the Galerie Wellington)
If you're a woman with a sense of style, M and J is where you have to be. This cozy concept store with Scandinavian interior is really of reflection of its owner, Maud, a young woman with an eye for things that are just that little bit different but still affordable. She handpicks all of the items in her boutique and adds new ones every week. Although the clothes and accessories are from a variety of smaller, European brands, they work perfectly together because ultimately they all correspond to Maud's personal style (which is why you'll always see her wearing pieces from the shop).
Cupcakes at M-Joy Cupcakes | Rue François Libert 19, 1410 Waterloo (on Parking Libert)
For something sweet, head over to M-Joy Cupcakes. Under the motto 'homemade happiness', they offer cupcakes of course, but also cookies, brownies, ... as well as many delicious drinks (hands up for their selection of homemade iced teas). And if this wasn't enough to convince you, the interior in pure 50s diner style with tiled floor and pink seats will surely do the trick.
Visit of the Waterloo Battlefield | Route du Lion 1815, 1420 Braine-l'Alleud
Napoleon was the first Emperor of France and quickly became famous for his numerous victories, turning France into one of the mightiest empires in history. That is, until he was defeated by the Duke of Wellington in 1815 on the Waterloo Battlefield. Not only were there enormous human losses during that battle, its ending also had a major influence on the formation of Europe as we know it. You'll easily understand it is kind of a big deal this part of history took place in Belgium, so it was decided to make it worthwhile for visitors.
The first part of the experience is the Memorial 1815, an underground museum that will you take on a journey through time with the most modern displays. Then you pursue to discover the Panorama, an immense painting (110m long) that covers the walls of a spherical building and depicts several scenes of the battlefield. It was made in 1912 and is really spectacular. Finally, you go outside to discover the Lion's Mound up close. Its location is said to correspond to the place where the Prince of Orange was injured during battle. On top of the mound a lion protects a globe as a symbol of the newfound peace in Europe. Going up the 226 stairs gives you an amazing view of the surroundings.
When leaving the Lion's Mound, turning left will take you on a pleasant walk though the fields towards the Hougoumont Farm, a location that played an important role during the battle. There's more history to be discovered over there, but whether you're in for that or not, I think it's a great way to take in a big bowl of fresh air. If you don't feel like walking all the way back, you can just take the free shuttle to your starting point.
The Waterloo Battlefield is open every day of the year, but of course most places in the city center are closed on Sunday. Entrance fee is €16,00. If you come by car, first park for free in the center at 'Parking Wellington' and then take your car to the battlefield area (less than 15 min). By train, Waterloo is just 30 min away from Brussels (the station is at 1,5km of the center). Later there is a bus that will take you to the battlefield.
Special thanks to my friend Maud (the owner of M and J) for her precious help on this city guide!