Singapore Airlines recently returned to the future, reprising their Singapore to Brussels flights after a 19-year hiatus. As a guest of Singapore Airlines, I snare two seats to test out the trek between Australia and Belgium via Singapore. And then spent five days in a country steeped in history, a must-do on anyone’s bucket list.

Fly in style to beautiful Changi Airport

Experience Premium Economy from Australia to Singapore

My first flight is between Sydney and Singapore. I book into Premium Economy, a class that offers more than Economy without the spoils of a full-blown Business Class offering. As expected, it is a step up from Economy, offering a larger seat pitch, larger meals and in-flight entertainment screen, and overall a better travel experience.

I won’t go into detail about my flight experience here, as I have already written a full review of my A350 Premium Economy flight from Sydney and Singapore. Make sure to give that one a read for a more in-depth review.

Changi Airport – the perfect stopover

A great benefit of flying with Singapore Airlines to Europe from Australia is the ability to break up your trip at the beautiful Changi Airport. In my view, this is the best airport in the world, or at least the best airport that I have visited.

So, with several hours to spare until my connecting flight to Brussels departs, I plan to forgo my usual lounge appreciation ritual and instead take in some of Changi Airport’s attractions. Now, to set expectations, some of these attractions are attractions, while some others are, let’s say, ‘nice to have seen… once’. Most of the latter are found airside, so if you do have a large transit time, consider heading through immigration and checking out some of the landside attractions – the most notable being The Jewel Changi Airport.

I start my ‘airside attractions adventure’ at what becomes my favourite airside attraction, the Changi Airport swimming pool. This is a great way to pass the time while waiting for your connecting flight. There are apron views with an Australian flavour, as the pool deck looks out to gates where Qantas planes are parked. Plus a jacuzzi, bar, comfortable lounge deck chairs and absolutely sensational pool weather; what else can you want from an airport?

The airside attractions

After I cool down and down a beer, it’s off to explore the terminal attractions. Now, I’m using the word ‘attractions’ somewhat loosely. Don’t expect Disneyland-quality rides here. Rather, they are attractions to pass the time while you wait for your next flight. This is not to say they aren’t worth visiting. Quite the contrary, especially for ‘avgeeks’ like myself. If nothing else, many of these attractions provide great airport views.

My favourite attraction? I’d say it’s a tie between the Enchanted Garden in Terminal 2 and the Cactus Garden in Terminal 1. The former has a great photo (i.e. Instagram) platform overlooking a nice small pool filled with goldfish. The latter provides great runway views. The sunflower garden also earns a special mention. Sunflowers are beautiful in colour and shape and radiate a sense of contentment and happiness. Very fitting, especially as I’m about to embark on a great trip to Europe.

Just a note of caution, though, for those allergic to smoke. Some of these attractions are frequently used as smoker areas as well, so depending on how much ventilation the attraction has, you may wish to stay clear.

There are many more Changi Airport attractions to see, but I ran out of time to see them all on this occasion.

Onwards to Brussels in Singapore Airlines Business Class

After spending a few hours relaxing in the Terminal 3 SilverKris Business Class Lounge, it’s time to head to the boarding gate. After going through security, I’m straight onto the plane. I’m lucky to have arranged pre-boarding so that I can get some uninterrupted photos of the cabin.

And what a cabin it is. It is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration and sports a calming mauve palette. Each suite offers ample space and a lie-flat bed, promising a comfortable flight to Europe.

Again, I have written a full review of my A350 Business Class flight from Singapore to Brussels, so make sure to have a read if you’d like to know more about my flight experience.

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Belgium, here I am!

Before I know it, I am landing in Brussels. It’s amazing how the comfort of a Business Class seat and the ability to rest on a flight makes time fly.

A jam-packed itinerary is on the cards. Six days covering Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and the historically important region of Zonnebeke.

First stop: Brussels

Our first point of call is our Brussels accommodation. The Hotel Amigo is our home for the next two nights. It is a beautiful and centrally located hotel and boasts many top A-list celebrities and ‘people of power’ as its guests. This even includes former US Presidents.

The rooms are adequately spacious and include all the expected amenities of a top-scale hotel. I’m happy to see that this also includes a desk, which can be missing in many modern hotels nowadays.

What do I love the most about this room? Hands down, the Tintin theme. A very Belgian touch. And a throwback to my childhood where my weekly library borrowings at school were Tintin comics, to the ire of my teachers who argued that comics were not real books. You can find a Tintin image hanging in the bathroom, right next to a small figurine of Tintin’s sidekick, Snowy. I confirmed that this is standard in all of the hotel’s rooms.

Being located in central Brussels, Hotel Amigo has another main selling point in addition to Tintin (yes, I know, the latter may be just my selling point): location, location, location! In fact, as the hotel manager pointed out, the hotel is just a day trip away from other bucket list European cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, and London.

Exploring Brussels by foot

I quickly check in and make my way to our first walking tour of the city. It doesn’t take long before we come across a frites shop. Belgian fries, just like Belgian chocolate, are world-famous. The secret to making the world’s best fries – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside – is all in how they are cooked. Or cooked twice, for that matter. The first at 140 degrees Celsius and then again at 180 degrees. I know where my first port of call for lunch is. Well, so I thought, but more on that shortly.

I continue the walking tour with my media group, taking in the sights and amazing architecture of this historic city. I really love walking down European streets. From cobblestone paths to ancient buildings, I feel that I have been teleported back a century, where the only thing that’s changed is cars replacing horses and carts – and the occasional Maccas and Starbucks, of course.

Tintin makes another cameo appearance in a large wall mural featuring himself and Captain Haddock running down a flight of stairs. And then there is Manneken Pis. What is Manneken Pis, I hear you ask? It is a sculpture of a naked boy urinating in a fountain. So what is the point of Manneken Pis? Well, it symbolises a heroic legend, or perhaps more accurately, an accidental heroic legend. As the legend goes, the young boy saved Brussels when enemies were storming the gates, threatening to bring the city walls down with gunpowder. But alas, who was at the gate walls but a young boy who was, shall we say… busting. So he relieved himself and, by doing so, put out the fuse. What an entrepreneur!

Lunch in Brussels

Lunch on the second day of the trip is at La Quincaillerie. This restaurant specialises in Belgian cuisine, specifically seafood platters and oysters. The location is in a former ironmongery, creating a unique restaurant setting. It’s an upscale restaurant in a factory-style setting—an odd combination, but it works.

The meal is sensational. The freshest oysters I have ever tasted, a cod loin perfectly complemented with penne, olive oil puréed potatoes and baby spinach. The lunch is capped off with a beautiful créme brûlée.

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As any frequent traveller knows, even the best-laid plans are never foolproof. After a promising morning of walking the beautiful Brussels streets and building up an appetite – I’m looking at you, frites – a migraine knocks me out for the final portion of my time here.

But there’s so much more to see and do in Brussels, including:

  • Lunch at Aux Armes de Bruxelles, a famous restaurant opened in 1921 that serves Brussels cuisine, including mussels.
  • Belgian Beer World, the world’s largest interactive experience centre about beer.
  • La Pharmacie Anglaise, offering creative cocktails, wine and Champagne in a quirky setting.
  • Dinner at La Table de Mus, a restaurant in the Michelin Guide with one black cover. It offers modern European cuisine.

Beautiful Bruges

On day three, I farewell Brussels and head to Bruges, the capital city of the West Flanders region in northwest Belgium. To say this city is quaint is an understatement. History oozes from every corner, from Markt (Market Square) to Hotel Duke’s Palace, my accommodation for the night. I can feel the centuries-old history.

Speaking of my accommodation, Hotel Duke’s Palace is the former residence of the Burgundian aristocracy. It now serves as a luxury five-star hotel in the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage city of Bruges. From the moment I step into the hotel’s foyer, the elegance is apparent – the marble pillars, the grand staircase, and the palace itself. It is a great way to stay in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

The Market Square is quintessentially European. From outdoor dining to historic churches, it is all here. I love the look of the buildings surrounding Markt. They remind me of my Lego toys from my childhood. From cobblestone streets to arched tunnels adorning the snaking rivers, it really is a picturesque city.

Lunch in the Market Square is at Tompouce restaurant, one of many lining the Square. I dig into a meat lover’s feast, being served beef, lamb, and rabbit. I am especially excited about the latter. Being of Maltese descent, rabbit stew is the Maltese national dish, and I remember having this when I was younger. It is exactly how I remember it. Absolutely beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, I don’t think I have had a latte as good as the one I had here. It’s the perfect combination of coffee and milk. Overall, a great lunch.

Australians leave a great mark on Belgium

I come to what is undoubtedly the highlight of my trip – and not just the highlight, but the most touching and memorable part. It is the visit to the Zonnebeke region of Belgium, which was part of the Western Front in World War I. Australian soldiers played a pivotal role in this area, especially during the Battle of Passendale.

For myself, and I’m sure many others, World War I is an eternal distance away from today. An eternal distance in terms of geography, with this battle taking place on the other side of the world. And an eternal distance in terms of the span of time that’s passed.

To various degrees, we have all seen the black and white films showing our soldiers running onto beach shorelines or fighting in trenches. But with that eternal distance comes a disconnect – one that separates the humanity of the situation to seem like nothing more than a Hollywood war movie from the actual reality. The reality is that these young men were loving sons and brothers, uncles and nephews, all with a story to tell and a loving personality to share.

Polygon Wood and Tyne Cot

And that reality strikes home as I visit two major memorials in Zonnebeke: Polygon Wood and Tyne Cot. These memorials are the resting place of many Australian World War I soldiers. War is cruel, and war is thankless. I run into many Australian headstones that say nothing more than ‘Known unto God’. No name, no identity. Other headstones include ‘Loving son and always the larrikin’ and other similar sentiments that quickly humanise those soldiers lucky to have been identified.

It is only when I visit these memorials that I fully realise the enormity of the sacrifice these young men made. If you are making a trip to Belgium in the future, this should be among the top of your bucketlist items. You won’t regret it.

Antwerp is an architecture admirer’s dream

On a lighter note, the next part of my trip takes me to Antwerp. I don’t know exactly what to expect from the city, having only heard about it. And in my previous trips to Belgium, I had never ventured any further than Brussels and Bruges.

Antwerp is an architectural paradise, starting with its Central Railway station. This building is simply amazing. From the numerous detailed arches to its grand staircase and main clock, it is just spectacular. Having been built between 1895 and 1905 and maintained for well over a century, the architecture is quite unique, especially from the modern-day stations we see today. It is no surprise that this station has won many awards, including from the American magazine Newsweek as the fourth greatest train station in the world and first place by the British-American magazine Mashable for the most beautiful railway station in the world.

The architectural grandeur does not stop at the Central Station. The city is renowned for its unique buildings, none more so than in Cogels Osylei. This street is world famous for its collection of unique houses, all built between 1894 and 1906. And when I say unique, I mean unique. Not just in terms of the style of houses from the norm but also within the street itself. No two houses are alike.

The styles range from different periods in history, predominantly Art Nouveau but also Neoclassical, Art Deco, Moorish, and Gothic Revival.

What are you waiting for?

It is always welcome news when an airline opens up a new route, especially one so well respected and loved as Singapore Airlines. The Singapore to Brussels route provides a new gateway to Europe. And from Australia, Singapore Airlines also provides a fantastic transit stop at Changi Airport, offering plenty of attractions, including The Jewel.

Once you step foot in Belgium, you are spoilt for choice. From the bustling streets of Belgium’s Tintin-themed capital, Brussels, to road trips to other great cities such as Antwerp and Bruges, you won’t be disappointed.

But the highlight of my trip is Zonnebeke. It is a reminder that the privileges and freedoms I had as a young adult and still have today are not shared by all. Definitely not by the soldiers at the beginning of last century. And a great motivator to live life to the fullest, travel well and discover the world. And a trip to Brussels flying Singapore Airlines fits this bill neatly.

All photography by Daniel Sciberras, who travelled as a guest of Singapore Airlines.

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Back to the future with Singapore Airlines returning to Brussels was last modified: July 8th, 2024 by Daniel Sciberras