As part of my travel challenge, I wanted to try see as much of Europe as possible. Europe has so much history and you probably know by now that I absolutely love learning about stories of the past. Flights from Dublin to most places in Europe are approximately 2 hours long (including Brussels) and Ryanair and Aer Lingus constantly have sales to European destinations.
I never had any plans to visit Brussels, as in it wasn’t on “my list” but I want to get more adventurous with my travel destinations and not just go to “mainstream” places, if that makes sense. So I went online, chose a weekend (April 24th to April 26th) and searched “From Dublin” to “Anywhere” and I settled on Brussels (after chatting with my husband of course!). After that, I learned Brussels was in Belgium (lol), and I was delighted that I was able to scratch another country off the map. We had initially planned to see just Brussels but our itchy feet led us to Bruges and Lille too!
You can watch our Travel Vlog at the end of this post.
We flew from Dublin to Brussels with Aer Lingus and 2 return flights cost €340. Thinking of it, that was actually expensive. Flights to Europe are usually a lot cheaper, especially if you fly with Ryanair. I just have no patience but I’m going to get better at bargain hunting. The flights were only an hour and fifteen minutes in total and we flew into Brussels (BRU) airport which was only about 30 minutes from our hotel on a bus.
We got a bus from the airport and the tickets were €4.50 each, one way. Make sure to get your tickets inside the airport because if you pay on the bus they charge you €6 each. We didn’t know at the time but we should have bought a 24 hour travel ticket at that stage, more on this below.
We stayed in the Thon EU Hotel on Rue de la Loi. The hotel itself was nice but nothing special. The room was small but clean and that’s the main thing. It was a 2 minute walk from the EU Commission, but that was the only positive regarding the location. If you follow me on Snapchat you’ll have heard Darren say the it was like we were staying in the Stillorgan Industrial Estate (I still laugh at that!). It wasn’t like an industrial estate at all but it was surrounded by offices which meant that everywhere was closed on the weekends! There was nowhere open within a 20 minute walk. We were only a 5 minute metro journey away from the city centre, so it wasn’t too bad at all!
It cost €190 for 2 nights and I thought that was really good value. Although if you want to stay in the City Centre, you can get accommodation for the same price so we made a mess of this booking to be honest. That’s what happens when I choose the accommodation!
Travel Tip: Stay in the City Centre, but if there’s much in the price difference, staying a bit outside is grand!
The transport system in most European cities, except Dublin, is fantastic. Brussels is no exception. You can get a 24 hour travel ticket for €7.50 and use it on both the buses and metros. If you’re staying in the City Centre however, you wouldn’t really need it. These tickets can be used for airport transfers too.
Brussels is famous for chocolate, chips and waffles and I can confirm that they all taste delicious! The chips taste like “chipper chips” but they’re thinner. I’ve never tasted “chipper chips” anywhere else in the world, only Ireland, so I was rather impressed.
The waffles are amazing! I got Nutella (my favourite thing in the world to eat) with fresh strawberries and cream.
As I explained before, I’m a very picky eater so don’t expect amazing things from the food sections on my posts!
Things to Do and See
To be very honest, there’s not a whole lot to do in Brussels. The buildings are beautiful, the people are friendly and there is a nice atmosphere around the place. Brussels is famous for 4 things, chocolate, chips, waffles and beer! So we made a conscious effort to experience them all, when in Rome and all that.
Beer Tasting Tour
Before we left, Darren booked a beer tasting tour on Viator.com. We met the group at Scott’s Bar, the first bar of 3 on the tour, at 5.30pm and weren’t surprised to learn that our tour guide Mick was Irish.
This was the best part of the tour. Mick told us how beer is made and it’s history while we were drinking a Trappist beer. Here’s a beer fact for you, a defining characteristic of a Trappist beer is that it is made in a monastery. There are only 11 countries in the world that make Trappist beer and one of them is Belgium. Another characteristic is that it is really strong. The one I chose was 9.5% alcohol!
The next pub on the tour was a place Moeder Lambic and there we were given 3 different beers to taste, a blonde, an amber and a dark beer. This was a way of deciding which type of beer you liked ahead of rising the last place on the tour Delirium Cafe. I hated them all.
This place is infamous because it holds the Guinness World Record for having the most kinds of beer than any other place in the world, over 3000 kinds! We went with the group but left shortly after because it’s manic and filthy to say the least. It’s located down a lane and there are a few other bars, owned by the same people, so you can go in and out of each with your drink and each place has different kinds of beer. We were told not to use the toilets in any of the bars, except one, as I said… filthy. Not my scene at all. You don’t get a free drink here as part of the tour either, so there was really no reason to stick around.
The beer tasting tour was a bit of craic, we met some funny people and enjoyed the Trappist beer in Scott’s Bar but overall, for a 2 and a half hour tour, it was not worth €22 each!
Price: €22 per person, you can buy tickets here.
Travel Tip: For all tours, you should arrive 15 minutes earlier to avoid losing your place (and getting in trouble!). Also, the food in Scott’s Bar looked delicious and they were screening football all weekend (if your partner is sports mad like mine is).
La Grand Place- Brussels Main Square
The Square is stunning. The buildings are so beautiful and look fit to house royalty. It’s very lively with tourists and there was something different going on everyday including a concert of some sort, girl scouts shouting random chants and people busking.
This is one of the most famous things there is to see in Brussels and it is essentially a statue of a little boy weeing! Nobody really knows why the sculptor made him but there are many myths that are told. One of which is that a mother lost her 2 year old son and when she found him, he was urinating in someone’s garden. Another is that a little boy saved the castle from being blown up when he urinated on a bomb that was about to explode.
Anyway, it made me laugh when I seen it. He had a little outfit on which I thought was gas! There’s a female version, Jeanneke Pis, down the lane at Delirium Cafe. The owners put her there to attract tourists to the area. If you want to see him, he’s straight down the street to the left of the tallest building in the Square (see picture below), keep walking until you see the crowds!
This building was constructed for an Expo in 1958 and was only suppose to be temporary. However, it soon became a major tourist attraction so the decision was made to keep it. The top sphere is a restaurant and boasts panoramic views of Brussels. We didn’t visit because it didn’t really interest us but it does sound like a cool place for a meal.
Price: €12 for adults and you can buy your tickets here.
That’s the extent of what Brussels has to offer, if you have anything else to add to the list I’d love to hear from you. We covered all of the above on the first day (with the exception of the Atomium) and on the second day, we headed off on a new adventure, to visit Bruges.
We got the Metro to Central Station and from there we got a train to Bruges. The tickets were about €15 each and the journey was about an hour in total.
Things to See and Do
Like Brussels, there is not much to do in Bruges but the place is absolutely breathtaking. It’s like a town straight out of a fairytale. It definitely has Beauty and the Beast vibes. The buildings are so unique, I’ve never seen anything like them anywhere else and it has a very serene atmosphere.
Bruges looks like a great place for a spot of shopping. We visited on Sunday and none of the shops were open but they had most mainstream European shops there including Zara, Mango, New Look, H&M and Jack & Jones.
A Boat Ride
This was my favourite part of the trip. It was so relaxing cruising along the canal listening to the tour guide. I couldn’t really hear him with the sounds of the boat but it didn’t matter, I was just so content. It was exactly how I imagine Venice to be, now that’s a place that’s on “my list”. The weather was beautiful that day too, it reached 19 degrees!
Price: €8 for the operator that we went with but there are a few different companies along the canal.
De Halve Maan Brewery Tour
I would have loved to do this tour but the last one was at 4.30pm and we missed it! This family brewery serves most places in Bruges and you can even see the pipes underground carrying the beer from the brewery. The main reason I wanted to do the tour was because at the end you can go up to the rooftop which supposedly offers an amazing view of Bruges.
Price: €8.50 for adults and you can buy your tickets here.
We headed back to Brussels that evening, ate a McDonalds (I know, very exotic) and start making plans for our last day. Our flight wasn’t until nearly 10pm so we had loads of time left. We had seen everything worth while in Brussels so we decided to rent a car and drive to another city.
Travel Tip: My number one travel tip, no matter where you are travelling, research what other cities and/or countries are around you. Try to see as much as you possibly can.
Hiring a Car
There are a lot of car rental companies in Midi Station. We went with Avis, because we went with them in Iceland and had no problems. We got an Opel Corsa and it cost €111 for 1 day including insurance and a GPS. Darren was driving and he needed to produce his full licence, his passport and there was a deposit of €240 taken from his card (he got it back within 5 working days). It was a really straightforward process and the staff very helpful.
We had decided to drive to Luxembourg which was only a 2 and a half hour drive away. However, there was a bit of drama (Darren left my camera in Avis) which meant we lost 2 hours (we had to turn around for it and got caught in traffic for an hour and half). We would have just arrived to Luxembourg and would have had to leave straight away for the airport so we went back on to Google to see where was closer.
France borders Belgium and Lille’s just an hour and 15 minutes from Brussels. The drive there was lovely. I really felt like we were in the French countryside (we were!). By the time we arrived there, we had about 4 hours to kill. We parked the car in Printemps Shopping Centre (like Arnott’s) and from there we walked the whole of the city. It was very pretty and very different to Brussels and Bruges.
We stumbled across a church, the biggest, most beautiful church I have ever seen. It was really breathtaking inside. Whilst researching for this blog post, I found out that it is Lille Cathedral.
We drove from Lille to Brussels Airport. We had arranged to leave the car there with Avis beforehand.
When we landed in Dublin, we had been in 3 countries in one day, so we were exhausted from our adventure to say the least. As always though, it was so very worth it! I really enjoyed our trip but Berlin remains my favourite European city to date and you can read why here.