Monday 3 July 2017

42 Hours in Brussels

Back in January some friends and I booked flights to Brussels for just £40 return in the January sales, a few months passed, then all of a sudden our weekend break was just around the corner and none of us were really prepared. One of my friends did some hasty research and we booked two apartments, hoping for the best. I honestly didn't know what to expect from Brussels because I knew almost nothing about it but a weekend and a shedload of culture, food and drink later and I can honestly say I'm in love.

So here's how we spent 42 hours in Brussels.

Getting there
As I said earlier, we booked our flights in the January sales and we booked through eDreams. The flights were with Ryanair and we flew from Manchester airport to Brussels Charleroi on a Friday night, and back on Sunday night. We booked shuttle tickets online to take us from the airport to the city and back, which cost about £25 and meant we didn't have to worry about it when we arrived. The shuttle coaches run about every half hour from both the airport and the city, which meant there was no waiting around and we could make the most of our short time there.

Where we stayed
We stayed in Grand Central Apartments, which we found through some very quick research on and let me tell you, we got so lucky. There were eight of us staying so we booked two apartments and they were absolutely brilliant. The apartments were gorgeously decorated, super spacious and had everything you'd need for a long or short stay, including a fully kitted-out kitchen and two bathrooms with towels and toiletries. But the best thing by far about Grand Central Apartments was the location. Situated just a few minutes walk away from the Grand Place and central Brussels hundreds of bars, restaurants and museums - it was the perfect base. Once we arrived we didn't need to get any kind of public transport as everything we needed was in walking distance. These gorgeous apartments also only cost us a total of £58 each for two nights - which is ridiculously good! Definitely recommend.

What we did
As we only had a short time in the city we decided to go on a walking tour on the Saturday morning so we could explore the city, get our bearings and get some recommendations for the rest of our time there. We heard that these tours can get filled up pretty quickly on a weekend so we booked online for a 10am tour with Viva's Tours, which was completely free. The tour was to start at the Grand Place so we went to a restaurant there for breakfast (more on that later) and then found our tour guide. Our tour guide was called Rodrigo and told us that he was actually from Mexico but was studying for a masters in Brussels, he was very friendly, funny and incredibly enthusiastic, and he really made the tour a great experience.

The walking tour took us round the city centre for about two hours, stopping at the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis, Rue des Bouchers, the Royal Palace and much more. Our guide, Rodrigo, had so many interesting facts and tidbits to tell us about everything but there wasn't a boring moment and it didn't drag at all. He also gave us a lot of great recommendations about where to get the best fries, waffles and beer and which museums to visit and which to avoid. It was so helpful and interesting - I'd definitely recommend booking onto a walking tour if it's your first visit to Brussels!

On the Sunday we were all deathly hungover (again, more on that below) but we did manage to perk up enough for a visit to the chocolate museum, which is located just outside the Grand Place. It cost six euros to get in, which was worth it for the free chocolate samples alone. It's a really small museum, you'd struggle to spend more than an hour there, but it's full of the interesting history of Belgian chocolate and includes seemingly unlimited chocolate samples and a chocolate making demonstration. A great way to while away a Sunday morning.

Where we ate/drank
I'm not going to lie, we spent the majority of our time in Brussels eating and drinking. But in a city that's famous for it's fries, chocolate, waffles and beer, what else can you do?!

We had breakfast both days at La Brouette in the Grand Place, mostly because it was convenient and we could sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere of the square. However it was definitely overpriced and the food was pretty average, you could definitely find cheaper, better cafes outside of the Grand Place.

If you're on a budget then I can definitely recommend any of the €1 waffle places located around the Everard t'Serclaes statue, just off the Grand Place. There are so many little kiosks and you can get just about any topping you can think of!

For fries, I can recommend the Fritland (we actually went there twice!), it's a tourist trap but the prices are so reasonable and the fries are actually excellent, with a good range of sauces. If you're planning on a night out then stop by Fritland beforehand and line your stomach with one of their mitraillettes: a baguette filled with meat and salad, piled on top with fries and sauce - so bad, but so good.

We spent a good portion of the weekend drinking in the sunshine and I've lost track of all the little bars we stopped at - we had to try them all! But I particularly recommend Le Cirio for their half-and-halfs (half champagne, half white wine), Belmonte for gin and Aperol spritz, and any of the little supermarkets/shops to grab a beer to sit in the Grand Place! Considering drinking in the street is legal in Brussels, everywhere was very civilised and there was nothing nicer than sitting with a Belgian beer and admiring the lit up Town Hall.

My thoughts
Despite only staying for 42 hours, Brussels really made an impact on me. I immediately liked it, and I immediately felt comfortable and excited to see what it had to offer. There's so much more to see in Brussels than the few things we did but I truly enjoyed every minute.

I think that Brussels is the perfect place for an indulgent weekend away, whether it be with friends, as a couple or even for a hen or stag do - it's the perfect mix of food, culture and a good night out. I'd definitely go back for a few days to explore some more.

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