The Dominican Hotel, Brussels

I recently stayed at The Dominican Hotel in Brussels, an urban retreat built on the site of a former monastery near everything in Brussels. Brussels itself is easily walkable - my mom and I only took cabs to and from the train station. The lounge is packed every night, in a cool way, not a "I can't breathe and am too hot" way. I loved the self-service shoe shine machine on every floor to spruce up my well-worn boots after miles of daily walking. And the lobby and breakfast area is gorgeous - high ceilings, rich draping, floor-to-ceiling windows, cozy nooks. If it had been warm enough, I would have been sipping my morning cappuccino and chowing down on eggs in the garden.

Here are more of my favorite discoveries in Brussels - and finding a delicious chocolatier - on my National Geographic column, Urban Insider.

Room at The DominicanLobbyMore lobbyLounge

The Original Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels

I live about 5 minutes from a Le Pain Quotidien in New York and hold a lot of my business meetings there. It's easy, with great coffee and food, and feels very European with communal tables and the long wait time to get your check. I found the original Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels today, first opened in 1990 and now with locations all over the world. It is much smaller than other ones and in the cool Dansaert neighborhood, at 16 Rue Antoine Danseart. There is a larger, flagship property in the sophisticated Sablon area, as well as others around the city. Stop by, buy some mini waffles to go or have the tuna/hummus tartine (much better bread than in the states) and pay homage to a chain that is actually consistently good.

Hidden Alleyways in Brussels

I flew into Amsterdam today, hopped on the Thalys train to Brussels, and have spent the afternoon exploring with one of Brussels' greeters. This is such a cool thing that is now in several cities around the world, like the Big Apple Greeters in New York. Basically, they volunteer their time to show visitors around and you get some great insight into a new city. I loved this hidden alleyway she walked us through. The red brick building on the right with iron rods on the window is a former jail. Below is a snapshot of how homes were identified before there were numbers - "Look for the rooster!"