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…
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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)
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!
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!
- 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!