Visit: Brussels (on the cheap)

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In the last couple of years loads of my friends seem to have visited Belgium and returned with very positive reviews  – including E, who posted lots of lovely photos from her trip last March

As usual, D and me were on a budget trip (see Paris and Amsterdam) – but, also as usual, we still had a brilliant time

So I thought I’d share some of the things we got up to…

Getting there

Eurostar tracks in Brussels

We were lucky to grab some cheap tickets in the Eurostar sale a few months ago – always something to look out for (I was even luckier as D paid for both of us as my Christmas present!)

Train is probably my favourite way to travel on the whole – and I find it amazing how quickly the time goes by when reading the paper, listening to podcasts and munching on almonds

It took little over two hours to travel from St Pancras in London, to Brussels Midi station

Staying there

We used our favourite website, AirBnB to book a room in a beautiful apartment owned by a lovely couple who lived close to the city centre

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For £40 a night we had a comfortable bed, use of a kitchen and access to lots of local knowledge – in a much nicer environment than a faceless hotel

Eating there

The benefit of being able to use a kitchen meant we cut back lots on the cost of food (a technique we use a lot when travelling about)

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Each day we ate breakfast at the house, then made up sandwiches of cheese and ham, packed up with bananas, nuts and a big bottle of water for the day – and on two of the evenings we made pasta for dinner

This didn’t mean we missed out though – we still enjoyed a great meal out at a great Ethiopian restaurant, Kokob (recommended to us by a lovely couple who helped us with directions) and stopped off plenty of times for hot drinks and sweet treats

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There’s literally chocolate shops lining every street you walk down – and we discovered the shop assistants seem perfectly happy to just serve you up a couple of chocolates, rather than a huge box (which is good news when single chocolates generally cost around 1 euro each!)

What to see

Now I have to admit, we didn’t really take full advantage of the array of museums on offer in Brussels – this was partly due to money, partly due to the weather and partly to due with our interests not entirely matching up with what the museums offered

However we did make it to the Musical Instruments Museum (or the MIM) – a beautiful building teeming with all kinds of wonderful creations from all around the world

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Each visitor to the museum is given a little hand held device with earphones which activates every time you walk towards a display cabinet and plays an example of the instruments in action – very clever!

It’s also worth going into the museum just to sit in the top floor cafe with a hot chocolate – a really lovely building with views over the city

We also spent a little while at the Parliamentarium – it doesn’t involve any stargazing but is a free museum attached to the European parliament buildings, which walks you through some of the EU’s history

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And of course we had to see the dramatic Grand Place (including the town hall with its unsymmetrical design) and the Manneken Pis (the little statue of a fella peeing into a pool – I was more amused by the graffiti besides him, which looks like the work of French artist Invader)

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But most of our time was spent wandering the streets – looking up at the architecture, spotting TinTin graffiti, people watching, browsing vintage and design shops…

What to buy

And while we’re on the subject of shopping… one of the highlights of our trip was spending time at a Sunday flea market – there was so much to see!

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From boxes of bric-and-brac priced at 1 euro, to oil paintings, film cameras and old letters – it was almost overwhelming!

I was also delighted on our final day to happen across an organic supermarket – filled with fresh fruit and veg, crusty bread and huge barrels of nuts, cereals, rice and dried fruit to scoop up into paper bags – I wish there was one in Leicester!

For once we didn’t come away with any vinyl, although we did happen across a couple of record shops – and then remembered we were on a budget!

Some tips:

  • People speak a mixture of French and Flemish, and information tends to be printed in both – people tend to be very good at English too
  • Always check ticket prices – we thought our days of discount tickets were over, but it’s only 2 euros to get into the MIM if you’re 26 and under
  • You can take buses, trams or the metro – but we found the city was easy to walk
  • It’s legal to drink alcohol in the streets in Belgium, should you want to!
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8 thoughts on “Visit: Brussels (on the cheap)

  1. Wonderful! I’ve always been curious about Brussels but most people I know think it would make the most boring holiday in the world! Thanks for sharing your tips and showing your photos. Perhaps I can change someone’s mind and go on a city break sometime – would love to board the Eurostar again :)

    • makedospend says:

      I’d definitely recommend it! We also took a day trip to Bruges, which I’ll also try and do a short blog post about in the next week…

  2. You summarized your trip so well it makes me want to visit some day. I think you covered the basics perfectly. Thanks for sharing and lovely photos 😊

  3. Jessica says:

    Sounds like a fantastic break! The eurostar deals are a great way to take a short trip.
    Re. the organic market, have you tried Leicester wholefoods? It’s a cheap way to buy pulses, grains, etc.

  4. Janet says:

    I really liked Brussels when I was there last summer, and would love to go back for a longer break (we only spent about 24 hours there, and as it was a hen do we didn’t really manage much cultural stuff!). My favourite thing to see was the street art on the comic strip walk, which is just amazing.

    • makedospend says:

      We intended to do the comic strip walk but never quite got round to it – we did happen across quite a lot of it though and were very impressed!

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