Brussels: More than chocolate, waffles and beer

Welcome to Brussels, Belgium. Considered to be the Capitol of Europe, Brussels offers more to the visitor than just beer, chocolate, and their infamous Belgium waffles. It is an art lover’s paradise with more than 90 museums, sculptures all over the city and very ornate buildings. The Grote Markt Brussels (Grand Place Bruxelles) will rival any other public square in Europe with its details in architecture.


Arriving in the city:
Once you land in Brussels Zaventem Airport, work your way down to level 1 and catch the train into the city center. This will cost about €12 and will take about 10 mins. (Click here for more information and to buy your ticket online). The central station area of Brussels is very hilly. Even if your hotel is a short walk from the station, it might be worth it to get a taxi. Most of the side streets are cobblestone, so rolling luggage over it could be troublesome.

Where to stay:
I stayed at Motel One about a 10-minute walk from central station. It was a good area, plenty of restaurants and close to some landmarks. You’re right behind St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral and another 5 min walk to the Grand Place Market Square of Bruxelles. Nice lobby, great fixtures around the hotel and an outdoor patio area. Rooms were clean and beds were comfortable. I went in the middle of July (high tourist season) and a room was $60 a night (very affordable!).

Another area that looked nice to stay in, with plenty of restaurants and shopping was in the Anneessens district. A nice modern restaurant that I would recommend is Publico.

What to eat/drink:
Eat everything! Since Belgium has so many influences from other countries there is a wide array of foods to try. But let’s be honest, you gotta have a waffle and some chocolate!
Drink local beer. Belgium is famous for their breweries and has plenty to choose from. One place that’s infamous in Brussels is Little Delirium, famous for its award-winning beer this place literally take up an entire ally on both sides. Seemed to be geared towards the young traveler, it was definitely a place to have a pint and a few laughs. Here you will also find the Jeannke Pis statue.
The points of interest that you would want to check out are very well spread out. Normally, I don’t recommend the city tours as I find it better to explore on your own. However, in the case of Brussels, the hop on/ hop off city bus has 2 separate lines that’ll take you around the city where you can check them all out. You save €2 by booking online and the pass is good for 24 hours from when you activate it (first ride) so you can use it over 2 separate days!

One of the best things about Belgium is that the country has a great metro system and if you are there for 3 nights or more, I would highly recommend taking a day trip from Brussels. Antwerp/Ghent/Bruuges can all be reached in about an hour for about €15 R/T. I took a day trip to Waterloo and it was probably the best part of my trip to Brussels.

Waterloo:
Of course, this is the famous site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s last battle where he was defeated by a joint force of Great Britain / The Netherlands / and Prussia. I went during the week in high tourist season and there was hardly anyone there. There are 4 parts to the museum:

1) Wellington’s museum. Located a short walk from the train track and on the main road in Waterloo, this where Wellington devised the plan that would defeat Napoleon.

2) ‘The Lion’s Hill” and Museum’, A very cool modern museum that portrays the weeks leading up to and the day of the battle. Very interactive, with a 4D movie and pictures that have animation. Lots of clothing shown that was worn by both sides. There is a virtual reality that makes it feel like you are on the battlefield.

3) Mount St Jean. An old farmhouse that was used by Wellington as a hospital. Very graphic showing pictures and paintings of the types of amputations that were needed to be done. One surgeon had to amputate nearly 400 individuals (with about half of them ending up dying). There is a micro-brew there that makes Waterloo beer. It was tasty. There was something very peaceful about just sitting in the courtyard and having a beer (with a couple roosters running around).

4) The Last headquarters of Napoleon also known as the Ferme du Caillou is where Napoleon spent his last two nights (the 17th and 18th of June 1815) coming up with his battle plans. Spoiler alert: he did not win.

Here is my suggestion for doing the tour from Brussels (if you don’t have a car):

1) Get a train ticket online. It was about €7.90 RT and the ticket is good for all day. It also doesn’t matter what stop you get on or off at (which will come in handy later). Click here to search the train schedule.

2) Take the train from Brussels to Waterloo
a. When you get off it is a little confusing. There isn’t a whole lot going on at this station. You will walk off the platform and go to your right. You’ll then come to a round-a-bout which you’ll need to go straight. It is about a 15-20 minute walk (Flat street) to the tourist office.

3) Once you get to the main road in town (Chaussee de Bruxelles) you will see an old church on your right. Directly next to it is a white building, which is the town’s tourist office.

4) Buy your ticket to all 4 museums. This was €20 for an adult. (Total value if bought all separately was €36. You’ll want to go to at least 2 of the museums which will run you about €20 anyway. This gives you flexibility for your schedule.

5) Right across the street from the tourist office is the Wellington museum. Perfect to do right away.

6) Take the W or 365 bus to “Lion’s Hill.” It’ll cost €2.50 per person but it beats the 4 km hike.

7) Here you will be able to do the museum, 4D movie, and walk the 226 steps to the top of “Lion’s Hill”

8) If you’re up for a little walk (and the weather is permitting) it’s a 15-minute walk to Mount St Jean. You’ll walk along the side of a road but there is a small sidewalk for you.

a. I was told that there is a shuttle that goes back and forth from Lion’s Hill to Mount St Jean but I did not see one or any signs for one.

9) Lastly, if you still have the time/energy, you can take the 365 bus to Napoleon’s spot. I didn’t make it here so it had been a long day, but the ticket you get is good for 1 year 🙂 So it gives me an excuse to go back!!

When you are ready to leave, either from Mont St Jean or Napoleon’s spot, have the person there call you a taxi which will run you around €10. Otherwise, it’ll be a 45-60 min hike. Have them take you to Braine I’Alleud (pronounced Bran Ah All Lund). This station is closer to where you will be, and the area around the station has places to eat/drink and the trains run more frequently to Brussels. (There is an express train from Braine I’Alleud straight to Brussels.)

Let me know what you think? Have you been to Brussels before? Any pointers you can pass on, I would love to hear!! Happy Travels!!!

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