4 is a lot for a city I have never intended to visit. I never planned any trip to Belgium to see Brussels. All the four times that I involuntary visited Belgium, I was waiting to catch my connecting flights. I either had little time or happened to be there during a train strike and couldn’t make it to Antwerp and Brugges. Having said that, this city somehow slowly, secretly grows on me.
- Half a day to sample major highlights of Brussels, most in or surrounding Grand Place/Grote Markt.
- Take a picture in front of the Manneken Pis aka the peeing little boy.
- To please the feminist movement back home, you should also pay a visit to the boy’s rival, Jeanneken Pis, the peeing girl, hidden in a dead end street, Impasse de la Fidelite, right by the lobster paradise on Rue des Bouchers / Beenhouwersstraat (Butchers’ Street).
- Now that you’re here, stroll down the alley packed with restaurants displaying red-hot lobster, fatty fish and water-dripping fresh mussels.
- Eat Frites (Belgian fries), said to be the best fries in the world.
- Choose and snack from many different kinds of Belgian waffles.
- Remember to try snails from sold from a snack stand. (summer only)
- Sample Belgian chocolates and buy a couple of boxes as gifts for friends and family back home.
- Bargain for oddities at the flea market @ Place du Jeu de Balle-Vossenplein
- Buy frozen mussels pack from any super market and cook it if you stay at a place with kitchen or return on a short flight.
- Full day to get to know Brussels a bit more. You will do all of the above, except you do it more slowly and soak in the spirit of Brussels. Plus a visit to some museums. In the evening, sample local pubs to try Belgium’s hundreds of beer. Visit French-speaking and Dutch-speaking only pubs to have an understanding of the bilingual nature of the city. My CS host took me to this oldest French pub in Brussels and then later to a Flemish pub where Dutch-speaking artists hang out. It was very interesting.
- 2 hours to walk the comic route. (You should be able to get this map from a tourist office or at your accommodation. Or ask a local to highlight this route on a regular tourist map.)
- 4 hours + to walk the comic route and visit the Comic Strip center.
– 2 hours to walk around the EU head quarter. This area is far from the city center Plus 3 more hours if plan to visit Mini Europe which displays a range of small models of major European cities and landmarks.
– 4 hours to explore different ethnic neighborhoods of Brussels:
- Moroccan neighborhood @ Molenbeek-St-Jean or Sint-Jans-Molenbeek especially if you live in the Generation Youth Hostel, a couple of blocks away. There are many cheap Moroccan and Arabic restaurants and many clothing and shoes stores.
- African neighborhood @ Chaussée d’Ixelles/Elsenesteenweg, south of Brussels with colorful clothing shops, women braiding hairs, men socializing in barber shop. (Some online travel guides say that these areas are not safe, do keep it in mind)
- 5 hours for a quick trip to the famous battle site of Waterloo, only 15 km away from Brussels.
- Train ticket bought at vending machine let you use local bus for free (TEC).
- You can pay on the bus or at ticket vending machine
- Brussels National airport (BRU) is directly connected by train (€5 oneway) and bus via metro station Schuman, the EU area.
- Brussels South Charleroi airport (CLR) is directly connected by. Bus from Brussels Midi/Zuid ( €13 oneway, €22 return). The bus parks on a street without any obvious sign, so make sure ask the people who work in the train station to get there. Train to Chaleroi station where you take bus 58 (free) or the airport bus, line A. 58 doens’t go on the weekend. A bus goes every day. Last bust from Chaleroi station is at 10. (See update schedule below)
- Hostel: from €18
- Budget hotel: from €50 per room
- Bus 1-ride: €1.50
- Bus one-day: €4
- Bus 5-ride: €6.50
- Metro: almost same as bus
- Taxi: €20 for a less than 10 minute ride
- Fries: €2
- Kebab: €5-10
- Beer: €2-5
- Lunch: €15-20
- Museum entrance: €4-8 (discount €2-5)