In August we visited amazing, lovely, laid back Brussels and had so much fun exploring this European city on our own! Most travelers visit Brussels on a layover but this city has so much to offer and is a destination in and of itself!
We stayed a week and enjoyed it so much. While planning our trip, I discovered there wasn’t a “one stop” resource for travel to Brussels which is sad because I think everyone should travel to Brussels!
So, if you’re ready to see the world and get out of your comfort zone, Brussels is a perfect starter European city! And, as an added bonus, you will begin to understand the diversity of our world!
Logistics to and from the Airport
Flying to Brussels from the United States is easy as many major airline carriers fly nonstop to Brussels and discount fares can be found!
Baggage Claims/Customs/immigration at the Brussels airport was fast and easy and the agents were super nice and spoke English.
Transportation from the airport to the hotel was streamlined as well. At the Brussels airport we simply followed the signs and took the escalators down to -1 Level, bought our train ticket into Brussels and boarded all within 10 minutes. The train ticket includes an airport surcharge fee and the cost was €8.50 versus €5 for the airport bus shuttle. Taxis are available but the train/bus is definitely doable and preferred.
For more info about Brussels Airport click here.
Airport Train versus Airport Bus Shuttle
- Location: Your hotel location will help decide whether to use the train or bus (if your hotel doesn’t have a shuttle or you don’t want to spend the extra money on cab fares). If your hotel is located close to the European Union Buildings, then the bus would be the natural choice as that is where the bus stop to the airport is located. Please note however, the bus stop is separate from the metro train station and is actually on the street sidewalk (no covered shelter) once you arrive. The airport bus makes several stops, thus about 20 minutes or so to get to the stop. If you need to take the metro to then get to your hotel, the subway/metro station is 2 intersections away from the bus stop (a huge round about). That means packing your luggage. So, my advice is only take the airport bus if your hotel is near that stop around the European Union.
- Time: According to their website, the airport express trains depart every 15 minutes and make only 3 stops…North, Central, and Midi stations. Quick tip…the train doors do not automatically open and they will close if you do not push the button on the right and the train will continue to the next station! How do I know this? We were supposed to exit at Central Station and got to see the Midi Station as well!! Also, another quick tip, keep your train ticket in hand because the train conductor will come by to punch it!
We stayed at the fabulous Raddison Blu Royal Hotel, Brussels during our stay and the Raddison Blu was truly a home away from home! The hotel’s located within 3 blocks from Central Station which is Brussels’ main terminal and located in the heart of the old city near the Grand Place and art museums.
Every Raddison Blu staff member was super professional and welcoming! All spoke English as well so checkin/checkout was easy.
There are several nice hotels within the old city/Grand Place. The closest hotel to Central Station is the Hilton, which sits directly in front of the main Central metro/train station.
If you plan to spend a few days to a week in Brussels, I highly recommend purchasing the Brussels Card.
You can purchase a Brussels card for 24|48|72 hours. Your time starts when you first use your card at a museum/attraction that accepts the Brussels card.
We chose the 72 hour card. The customer representative was extremely helpful and because we had a high school student, she recommended that we only purchases passes for two adults, as most museums offer steep student discounts or free entry to students!
Quick tip…most museums are closed on Mondays, so take that fact into consideration as to when you begin your Brussels Card pass.
Inside you’ll find a description of the museum/attraction, hours, and nearby metro/bus stations.
The Brussels Card gets you free entry into 30 museums and reduced entry into 6 attractions!
Brussels truly is a beautiful gem mans I don’t wish to spoil anyone’s own travel discovery of its charm, but here are my ….
Top 5 Must See Museums/Attractions in Brussels! (In no particular order!)
1. The Atomium! It looks like a tourist trap, but it really has charm! I won’t give it away but take the metro out and spend a morning/afternoon of learning and discovering!
2. The Natural Science Museum
This is the place to see dinosaurs! Seriously, Brussels’ natural science museum is ranked in the top 3 in the world for dinosaurs! We were blown away, and we’ve been to the museums in NYC and DC! Do not miss it!
3. Musee Magritte Museum
The artist Rene Magritte was Brussels’ native son and this museum houses a comprehensive collection of his early years in advertising to his masterpieces. Over 230 works of art are collected here but sadly, photography is allowed.
Magritte was an important surrealist and paved the way in iconic advertising images…using art as a way to disconnect the meaning of a word to its image. I always love seeing comprehensive collections of artists because you can see their ideas and growth take shape over the course of the artist’s careers.
This center contains the artistic heartbeat of Brussels. Fun and funky, we enjoyed the History of Belgian Fashion!
5. Belgian Comic Strip Centre
Brussels is wry and witty and we learned about the rich history of Belgian comic strips at this museum! Go for the Smurfs, stay for the amazing art nouveau building by Victor Horta.
Getting Around Brussels
If your hotel is located near the Grand Place, walking is the easiest and simplest way to see the Grand Place, outdoor cafes, and certain museums. To take full advantage of your Brussels Card requires using their metro system.
Now, some may be shy about exploring via a foreign city’s subway system, but do not fear! Brussels’ metro is super easy!
Again, we went to a nearby metro station and the Metro employee spoke English and was super helpful. Since we were staying for the week and had 3 travelers, we chose to pay €5 for the plastic reloadable Metro card. We told the Metro clerk how many rides we wanted to load on the card. The clerk assured us we could have 1 card and swipe 3 times to get access past the turnstile to enter the platforms.
We initially loaded the card with 20 swipes and then we reloaded once more before we left Brussels!
The Brussels Card employee had told us if we could get our €5 back spent on the reloadablecard by bringing the Mobib card to their office at the end of our visit. We chose to keep our card as we know we’ll return at some point when we’re back in Europe!
Belgium is known for 3 things:
1. Belgian Waffles
2. Belgian Chocolate
3. Belgian Fries/Fritte
I also hear that Belgian beer is world renowned as well…but we didn’t explore the beer on this trip!
I can’t possibly squeeze everything about Brussels in this rather lengthy post…but this should get your wanderlust kicking in!
If you have a specific question about Brussels, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer!
Also, follow me on Instagram here to see more travel photo. You can also see where we travel to next using #oakgrovesocialtravels !