Earlier this year a friend and I decided we would take a weekend break somewhere. With the prices in Ireland rising I checked out Skyscanner for cheap flights and settled on Brussels. Return flights were €60 with Ryanair and most 4 star hotels averaged at €100 a night, so it worked out cheaper than what we could pay here with the added benefit of ticking off another country on my list.
The flight was an early one and even though it was slightly delayed we still arrived at 9am. After looking at a website that showed prices for transport from the airport to the city we chose to take a taxi as there were two of us and seemed to be the same price as two rail tickets. However I would not do choose this option again if I return to Brussels. The taxi cost €45 to the centre which isn’t far, on a Saturday morning so there was no traffic. The driver was also extremely rude and unhelpful. It also turns out that on our return to the airport the train tickets were cheaper than expected at only €8 each. So I would go with the train in future!
Our hotel was Novotel Brussels Centre Tour Noir that I had picked due to price and TripAdvisor rating. It was €100 a night or €115 with breakfast if you booked as non refundable. I recently noticed on my booking.com app that if your friend books and stays somewhere using a link that you both can receive a €15 refund off booking.com so we did that and basically looked at it as getting our breakfast for free!
The hotel is nice with a bright reception. There is a small lounge area with computer games for children and a few computers for guests use. Our room wasn’t ready so we left our luggage and went to explore Brussels.
We ended up taking a couple of right turns which lead into a small market place where a lot of restaurants were putting out their outdoor tables. We browsed the different menus and commented how pricey they seemed to be. I was quite ignorant going to Brussels, unaware of the language or culture. It didn’t take long to realise that French and Dutch are spoken, you can also see it in the architecture with the different styles. I am a big fan of Paris and I loved Amsterdam so I liked how Brussels looked.
We made our way back to the hotel to use it as a base and looked up Grand Place as we had a walking tour booked for there in the afternoon. As we made our way to Grand Place we noticed the amount of restaurants and chocolate shops everywhere. There seemed to be a nice vibe around the city. Though a lot of homelessness too.
Grand Place is a pretty square steeped in history. The buildings were centuries old. It’s also extremely busy with tours and tourists. After a quick bite in Starbucks’s we decided to find the shopping street to kill time before the tour. It wasn’t far away at all with the likes of Zara, H&M, Mango etc. Shopping isn’t top of my list when visiting countries however the street doesn’t have as much to offer as other cities that I’ve visited so if that’s what you are into I might pass on Brussels.
We joined the tour at 1:30 with our guide Frazer who is Scottish. He gave us an entertaining run down on the tour and Grand Place. From there we moved on to see Manekin Pis, a miniature statue, an old church that was part of a pilgrimage to El Camino, the royal galleries which are beautiful filled with chocolate shops and restaurants. We stopped at a beautiful cathedral on our way to the Royal Park. We stopped here as Frazer told us about the EU parliament buildings, spoke about the recent terrorism in Brussels and thanked us for coming to view the city he called home for four years. He was very passionate when speaking about Brussels and it was nice to hear. We then went to the Royal Palace where he briefly spoke about its history and we finished our tour with a gorgeous view of gardens and the city. As it is a free walking tour a tip is expected to a certain extent. However on both SANDEMANs tours that I have taken part in it is not hard to part with your money. The guides I have met are well read in their history and entertain you aswell. I would recommend this if you are visiting.
The walking tour is a brilliant way of finding your feet in a city. I am good with direction anyway and there’s always google maps but I still appreciated the fact that I had an idea where I was going thanks to the tour. Brussels is compact so everywhere we wanted to go we walked to.
We were peckish so we made our way to a burger restaurant, where we just had a mains and some rosé. It wasn’t nearly as expensive as the restaurants we had viewed earlier! Due to our early start at 3am and the km’s we covered on our tour we were feeling tired but decided for one last drink before heading to bed. It was only about 7pm so we didn’t want to go too early! I don’t normally do this so don’t judge but we ended up in an Irish bar. It had the GAA match on tv for us to watch with a bottle of wine so we settled in there. Soon enough we were joined by a stags from London and before we knew it it was 1am. We made our way back to the hotel to get our backs and check in!
Obviously the next day we weren’t in any hurry to leave the hotel so after breakfast we went back to bed for a while. Breakfast had the usual cold meat and pastries offering along with a small selection of hot food. Tea and coffee were offered along with a juicer to have fresh oj. It filled us up anyway.
When we got up we went and got Belgian waffles with strawberries and cream. Not really my thing but I don’t drink beer so I thought I’d try the waffles! They were nice but too much for me. We strolled through the city as we made our way to the Palace. It’s open only in August for viewing. However after going into the cathedral we passed the day before we got to the gates at 3:45pm to find that they close at that time! We decided to go to the park and chill out for a while. It’s nice to take time to do that on a city break as so often you are trying to cram things in!
Afterwards we continued to stroll as we get we had seen everything that we wanted to see. We settled in a nice Thai restaurant to people watch and have dinner. Again this wasn’t as expensive as we had expected. I think mainly if you are just having a mains and either drinking house wine or local beer it will be similar prices to Dublin. However imported beer or cider is pricier with a pint of Magners costing €8!
We arrived back at the hotel a lot earlier this time as we were exhausted from the day before, we also still managed to clock up a lot of steps walking around!
The next day we tried the palace again to discover it doesn’t open on Mondays so we never got to see inside! We also picked up six boxes of chocolates for €10 and split them between us. They were by far the nicest chocolate I had tasted!
We walked to Central Station which was ten minutes walk from our hotel. It was quick and easy to get to the airport. I would advise though that once past security there is only one restaurant really for food and I thought it over priced. €20 for a burger meal. We went to the newsagents where I got a salad for €5 so a lot cheaper. Just maybe eat before going through security unless you don’t mind paying that!
Overall I liked Brussels. I’m not sure there was enough to make me return there however I have heard Bruge is lovely…
This is the link booking.com offer €15 reward on if you use to book and stay 😊