Brussels: Architecture and Graffiti Hunting in the Rain

Okay… so Brussels- it’s a government city, it’s a transportation hub and it’s sprawling.  It may not have the design or fashion reputation of Antwerp but that did not deter your trusty Lamb411 tour guides from packing their rain accessories, jumping on a plane and spending a weekend touring the city.  Our goal was to hunt architecture (specifically Art Nouveau) and cartoon graffiti.

Typically when we travel, our exploration revolves around food and design.  Perhaps living in Copenhagen, a city full of both food and design, has spoiled our eyes and stomachs slightly, because if I were to judge Brussels on this criteria, I would not rush back.  It doesn’t have the bakeries of Paris or London.  We both found the food in Brussels rather mediocre- as in fine, but nothing to write home about. The customer service was also veering on the very laissez fair side.  We very much enjoyed spending time around Rue Antoine Dansaert,  and the Sablon, Ixelles and Uccle areas- they seemed to have more action going on and had a nice mix of retail/residential/arts/design, otherwise we found the city to be rather quiet, a typical touristy center and a tad boring- The mobs of tourists clustered around the little peeing statue- I don’t get it!  Haven’t people seen a statue with water coming out of it before? I believe it is called a fountain!

However- with a big BUT– if you like looking at buildings and appreciate street art (and of course antiques), Brussels is a wonderful place with a little from column A and a little from column B- throw in all the antique stores and markets and it can make for an exciting little weekend trip.  At the bottom of this post, I included my extensive Brussels map with lots of restaurant, retail, coffee, bakery and gallery recommendations.  We tried to visit as many as possible but like all good European cities, Sunday most things are CLOSED- which is why we save the museums/galleries for the city’s day of rest.

Lamb411 Brussels Hunting Architecture and Graffiti

Breakfast of champions at one of the few places in Brussels that will make filter coffee: Or Espresso Bar.  The other one, AUB SVP, was closed when we arrived.

Lamb411 Brussels Hunting Architecture and Graffiti

Lunch of champions at God Save the Cream: British inspired cafe

Copenhagen Brussels September 201312

Copenhagen Brussels September 201311

On to cartoon mural and graffiti hunting in Brussels….  Brussels is the comic book capital of the world and throughout the city you will see the most beautiful cartoon murals on the facades of buildings.  There is an official comic book mural walk which you can follow- We did not do the walk because we wanted the challenge of finding them ourselves. You can see more of the murals on the Mattador website article about comic book murals too.  We were not as successful as the article but made a nice dent in tracking them down!

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There are lovely details on and around the buildings throughout the city including decorative cast iron doors, and random artistic adornments on the exterior of buildings.

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Another thing that stood out to me was the use of symmetry in the design of public spaces and buildings.  Here are a few of my favourites in the photos below.

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I admired how diverse the architecture of residential buildings were in the various neighbourhoods.  You could be looking at the style and architecture of 10 different decades on one street!

Copenhagen Brussels September 201322

Copenhagen Brussels September 201321

We found beautiful examples of street art in the most random places.  Graffiti that tells a story, in contrast to tagging adds to the feel and community of a neighbourhood.

Copenhagen Brussels September 201320

Copenhagen Brussels September 201319

There were also several examples of tiles on the street and on the sides of buildings which I thought was neat. I walked into an antique store and the guy had a big box of individual tiles that came off buildings. I was tempted but did not purchase one.

Copenhagen Brussels September 201318

Copenhagen Brussels September 201317

My favourite was hunting for examples of Art Nouveau around Brussels- a great reason to visit the city if you are into that style/time period.  We visited the residence and museum of the famous Belgian architect who championed the Art Nouveau style, Victor Horta to get a better understanding of the public and private houses and buildings he designed around the city. Four of his buildings are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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Lamb411 Brussels Hunting Architecture and Graffiti

Brussels is, no doubt a great starting point and base from which to travel to other places around Belgium or western Europe.  Two days is more than enough in my humble opinion to observe, walk, taste and see.  Next time I visit, I would rent a car or buy a train ticket to see the countryside and other smaller cities.   Even in the rain- and there was a consistent mist-like rain, the city is a beauty.  As for the hair- that is another story….

Sunday NOTE:  There is a new cafe called JAT’ that is open on Sunday. We visited twice and it is a wonderful spot (free wifi, good snacks, nice atmosphere/design).

My Map of Everything Wonderful in Brussels

View Brussels 48 Hours in a larger map


Around Copenhagen These Days: Photos

A few photos taken around Copenhagen…

When the sun is shining, the city looks so beautiful. There is always something colourful going on.

Lamb411 Around CPH




















A CPH Made trip down Jaegersborggade

Jægersborggade is a great street to visit in Copenhagen.  It’s not a particularly large street where you would spend hours, but it has an interesting mix of local CPH made businesses that add to its vitality and draw.  Over the past four or five years, the Norrebro street has gone through quite the gentrification process, cleaned up its retail scene and re-focused as a destination for food (Coffee Collective, Relae, Manfred & Vin, Grod, Mikkeller + Friends beer bar is around the corner from Jaegersborggade)) and shopping.

Last Tuesday, I went on a one hour CPH Made tour of Jaegersborggade and got to meet three artisans/entrepreneurs who have been located on the street for several years doing what they do best.

I visited: Karamelleriet Inge Vincents, and  Ro Chokolade (pictures below).

Lamb411 CPH Made Jægersborggade

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All three owners gave our small group a nice talk and shared their experiences about working in the neighbourhood, what has changed over the years and a bit about how they got started in their respective lines of work.  For example, Karamelleriet is a business started by three members of a candy making family that spans multiple generations.


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Instead of sticking to the main strip of Copenhagen, there are many interesting streets in the neighbourhoods that surround Copenhagen K.  It’s worth exploring and venturing out- plus by venturing out you tend to stumble on a lot of the small artisans and craftsmen who are not into paying high rents to be located in the centre of the city.





Design outing in Malmö

It was a holiday last Friday in Denmark.  To make most of everything being closed in Copenhagen, we decided to jump on the train, cross the Øresund Bridge and go check out Malmö for the day.  Only a thirty minute train ride outside of Copenhagen, I was secretly hoping that Malmö would be our new, closer version of Dresden which we used to frequent while living in Prague.

Before we left, I tried to do a bit of research to figure out what to see, do and eat on the other side of the bridge. I found it surprisingly difficult to find information and I am an expert when it comes to this- I live for lists and hunting and came up with a measly four or five names. Pitiful by my standards.  Why was Malmö not blog worthy?  With a few addresses marked down on a sticky note, I decided to find out for myself.

We arrived and headed to laid back vegetarian restaurant, Chez Madame for a sandwich and walked back towards the center of the city.  The sandwich was on fresh bread and had an almond pesto with lettuce, sprouts and tomatoes.



After our bite, we zig zagged  towards the center of town, walked in and out of a few interesting galleries such as GKM. It was here I was introduced to the work of Yrjo Edelmann, a Finnish artist who specializes in painting life-like parcels.  Out of curiosity I asked how much a small parcel painting would cost- Nope! Way out of my price range. One can still admire and appreciate.

Tucked down an alley, we found Form/Design Centre– one of the best design stores I’ve been to in a while. It predominantly showcases the work of Swedish artists with a mix of other Scandinavian artists.  Form/Design is three floors in a renovated old building with furniture, accessories, books, kids items, fashion and a cafe.  I could have stayed and looked around for at least an hour but we had more of the city to cover and kept moving on.  There were a handful of adorable design/furniture stores around Form/Design, right in the heart of the city.

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We also enjoyed stopping by Svenssons, a higher end version of Habitat in London.  I am currently looking to replace my dining room chairs and was prepared to carry one back on the train if I found something suitable.

Coffee was enjoyed at  Djäkne Kaffebar where they serve filter coffee on their beautiful all white coffee bar. They serve a rotating line up of coffee from Scandinavian roasters such as Coffee Collective, Per Nordby, Kersh and Hedstrom, Koppi, and Tim Wendelboe.  Quite the line-up if you are into niche coffee roasters and a filter experience.

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Finally, we were surprised to find such a beautiful looking synagogue as we walked from Chez Madame into the centre of the city.  I wasn’t sure at first if it was a synagogue, knowing nothing about Malmo’s Jewish community, but caught sight of the Star of David on the windows and decided to walk over and take a closer look at its elegant looking design. Unfortunately when I came back home to look up the history of this synagogue, all I found were articles on anti-semitism and hate crimes from 2012 in Malmo.

Don’t get me started on racism (in general) around Europe. It is a topic that drives me crazy how in 2013, people can’t seem to accept people, regardless of race, religion, creed, socio-demographic background as a person.

We all came out the same way.


We headed back to Copenhagen around 5pm and did not make a visit to the twisted torso building, a famous piece of architecture in the city.  I think I prefer Dresden to Malmö in terms of things to do, different areas to visit and food to eat – there is not much going on which may explain why I had trouble finding cool things to do in the city but nevertheless, it was a fun getaway and a nice day outside of Copenhagen. I am sure I will visit Malmo again and will continue to hunt for neat spots along the way, so stay tuned.



Kristallwelten: The Swarovski Museum

On my weekend mountain retreat to the Austrian Alps, I decided I would do one fun thing for myself which was to visit Kristallwelten, the Swarovski Crystal World museum (and original site of the business).  Swarovski was founded in 1895 in the Austrian village of Wattens by Daniel Swarovski.  Wattens happened to be about 30 minutes away from where I was staying.

Exhibit by Arik Levy

Lamb411 Kristallwelten

Crystalline interpretations of famous buildings around the world. 

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I was not sure what to expect on this visit but I knew it would involve a lot of shiny and pretty objects.   The Swarovski Crystal Worlds is comprised of 14 underground chambers of crystal exhibits and art installations.  You enter the museum through a Giant’s head and proceed to walk through the caves of bling.  The museum was designed by the multimedia artist, André Heller, and the space does a beautiful job highlighting crystal through a variety of famous artists’ art, design and jewelry.

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It was a really cloudy day (and off season) so the lush green mountain backdrop I was hoping for was not quite there yet.


This is the Giant– When the weather is nice he turns into a fountain and water streams out of his mouth.


An extremely large and heavy chandelier made of crystal in the main entrance of the museum.

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A floor to ceiling wall of shimmering crystals.


Me in a reflective, crystal room.

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Outing: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

I’ve tried my best to cover as much of Copenhagen by foot as possible.  So far, I think I’ve done a decent job.  If you are scratching your head wondering why doesn’t she bike? Isn’t Copenhagen a biking city? Don’t 1/3 of all Copenhageners ride a bike to work?  The answer is yes but I prefer to take in the city on my two feet.  While biking is a faster, more efficient option of getting from point A to point B, you miss what’s going on.  The streetscape passes you by.  When you are biking, you are biking and have to pay attention to other bikers, cars and pedestrians.  This way, I take my time, pop in and out of places as it pleases me and really observe what is going on.

This weekend, I was craving an outing- something outside of the city but not too far.  I decided to pay the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art a visit to view their Pop Art exhibition which is on until June.

One (35 minute) train ride away and you find yourself in the small town of Humlebæk. The trip itself is quick and easy.  Once you step off the train, you feel like you are truly in the country- or in the forest (there are a lot of trees in the area).

We arrived just before lunch so eating was high on the priority list before we took in any Andy Warhol, Rauschenberg, or Roy Lichtenstein. The museum has a very nice cafe that serves sandwiches, coffee and tea, and pastries.  They also have a buffet but we were too early for that.

We settled on a vegetarian and salmon rugbrodsmadder (rye bread open face sandwich) for sustenance and grabbed a seat on the patio overlooking the museum’s sculpture garden, the Øresund strait and Sweden.   It was a bright and sunny day without a cloud in the sky.

Sandwich #1 Terrine of root vegetables, cabbage, cream of carrot- yes there are mini potato chips on top of my sandwich (for extra crunch?)


Sandwich #2 Smoked salmon from Daniel Letz, celery, pickles

Lamb411 Louisiana Museum

The patio of the Louisiana cafe


The sculpture garden and view of the water while we ate.

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Apparently the Louisiana Museum has undergone 7 extensions and renovations- here is a look at two of their buildings from the park in the centre of the building.


A bit of Pop Art- what a great exhibit.  I love seeing the works of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Hamilton, Eames, Panton and Sottsass.  Some of the pieces I recognized and have seen before at other modern art museums around Europe and others were new to me.

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Particularly the work of Verner Panton- this was a cool piece. You entered an enclosed space that was outfitted with warm coloured lights and mirrors to give it the feel that the room was going on forever.

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The museum itself is a stunning building (set of buildings).  The architects used a lot of wood, and glass so you feel like nature is around you at all times.  This is a picture of one of the long corridors that connect the buildings/exhibits.


The art is not only inside the building. There is a sculpture park on the grounds of the Louisiana and when it is nice outside, like it was this past weekend, the grass is filled with people sunning themselves.  There were quite a number of kids attempting to roll down this hill without success.  Each attempt resulting in a vertical position.  It was fun to watch.

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Across the water, you are looking at Sweden- I was amazed by how clear and blue the water is.

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Before we called it a day, we headed down to the museum shop for a peak.  You can find plenty of Danish and Scandinavian design pieces as well as posters and a substantial collection of coffee table art and design books.

As we walked back to catch our train back to Copenhagen, we stopped by Brødsnedkeren, a great bakery that serves homemade waffle cones and ice cream.  We each got a cone for the train ride back.

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Starting the last week of April, my flat will be packed with visitors until the end of July.  I am sure I will be making a trip back to the Louisiana soon enough and look forward to my next visit.


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