It’s February, and it’s really cold in France… Still, we didn’t choose to go somewhere warm ! Let’s go to Bruxelles for 2 full days. For this article, it’s only Juliette writing, as she went on this trip with Floriane, as in Tenerife !
Good to know :
Brussels is the capital of Belgium. According to where you are in the country, the official language is French or Dutch. We’re going in the French part, but it’s still not rare to hear people speak Dutch in the street.
No need to change the time on your watch : for us French people, the time zone is the same (UTC+2).
Being part of the European Union, Brussels has Euro as its currency and power sockets are the same as in France (easy!).
I thought it was so cold in Montpellier… But it’s because I’ve never been to Belgium before ! If you’re going there over winter, take a fleece blanket, a big coat… Everything !
Day 0 :
Even if our flight was direct (Montpellier-Brussels), we only took off late afternoon. We thus arrived in the evening.
There are two airports in Brussels : Brussels-National, the closest to the city, and ours, Charleroi airport. There are several ways to go to the city : taxi, Uber, train and then bus, shuttle bus.
Guess which one we chose ? The cheappest one of course : the shuttlebus ! We had bought our tickets online in advance with Flibco company : 15€ per person for a round trip. Indeed, by buying your tickets online, prices go from 5 to 14.90€ per person and by trip, whereas if you buy them on the spot it’ll cost you 17€ per trip every time… Moral of the story : plan your journey ! This bus works every 30 minutes from 4h30 am and will take you to Brussels Midi in about an hour. If you look it up on Google, you’ll see a bad ratings for this company but we still decided to make our own opinion of it : we did well because we had absolutely no problems with it.
Once we arrive at the train station with our suitcases in the freezing cold, we went a bit crazy and took the tube ! Ticket costs 2.10€. Our Airbnb is not too far from the city center, hence why we chose to walk around for the rest of our stay. And that’s good, when we see how much tickets cost, or the different offers they have (for instance : 14€ for 48h + 5€ for the MOBIB car… When for 28€ you get a 7 day pass in New York…!)
Day 1 :
We’ve only arrived in the Belgian capital and we’re already leaving for new horizons !
Indeed, thanks to a Belgian colleague’s advice, we decided to make a stop by Bruges, the capital of the Flemish section, located in the North.
This time, we’re heading towards Brussels Central train station. We organised our journey in advance on the website of SNCB train company. We were amazed by the large choice of offers and prices. We chose the internet weekend ticket, costing 15.80€ per person the return journey. Thanks to this offer, we could go anywhere in an hour and when we desired, as long as it was between Friday night and Sunday. There are many other offers on their website, at very affordable prices.
Here we are, in Bruges. The city center is only 5-10 minutes walk from the train station. We’re heading to the big place and we’re already in love with the paved roads and brick walls.
You can walk from one point of interest to another ; not to miss : Belfry tower, Saint Sang basilica, Saint Jean hospital… The big attraction is the horse-drawn carriage ride, but it costs 50€ so no thank you !
You’ll see canals defining and going in the old town. Seeing the little boats taking tourists around, it feels like we’re in Venice. Of course it makes us want to try it : 8€ per adult and 4€ per child for 30 minutes… But we decide we’re happy walking along the watercourse.
We read the Chieremolen mill was a must-see, but it’s a bit far from the city centre… But if you got time, it’s worth the detour because it’s really cute and you’ll even be able to see two more if you walk along the canal.
We are now completely relaxed after wandering around the streets of Bruges, but we’re also starving ! It took us a while before finding a decent restaurant to eat. Indeed, everything around the big place is so expensive, and known for being tourist traps ! We’re eventually choosing Arthie’s restaurant where we ordered a 14€ Angus burger, which we were happy with !
Once our stomachs full, the visit may resume ! We’re going back to the train station while going through the Ten Wijngaerde Princely Beguinane, which is nothing but a place where sisters live ; the atmosphere is peaceful, it’s like time has stopped : there’s only a few people, it’s calm, there are big trees, nice restaurants, everything is surrounded by Minnewaterpark and the lake of love.
We really enjoyed this unexpected getaway, but it’s now time for us to go back to Brussels.
Once we’re back, it’s a bit too early for the aperitif… We decide to be reasonable and go stroll in the Cinquantenaire Park (picture at the beggening of the article) and admire the Arc de Triomphe. The little vehicules painted in yellow (that you’ll find all around the city) let slip through a delicious smell of waffle.
The sun is starting to disappear and we’re feeling the cold more and more. We’re going to the Saint Hubert royal galeries, decorated for the Chinese New Year. There, you’ll find lots of nice little shops, including some selling chocolate…
It’s 7 pm, and it’s now time to go and try all the «drinkable» Belgian specialities !
We make 3 stops :
Goupil Le Fol bar, which is an institution in Brussels for its history and its unusual decoration. Their speciality is fruity wine, which is known to be excellent. We didn’t get the chance to try it because they don’t take cash… and we didn’t have any ! But only by stepping inside this bar we could sense the peculiar atmoshpere of this place.
Cirio bar, where we enjoyed the half a half : half of a glass filled with white wine and the other with sparkling wine, coming with small biscuits offered by the house. They also serve a large choice of beers, wether draught or bottled. We had a good time : the decoration is good, the people cosmopolitan and the staff really nice.
La Mort Subide pub, where they not only sell Belgian beers in 50cl but also in 75cl, for about 8.40€ ! We ate an omelet too, served with bread and butter for about 7€. The only downside of this place : the waiters have a limited amount of courtesy !
Day 2 :
Today is the day we visit Brussels ! We’re starting with a free guided group tour (based on tips) with Viva’s tour agency. But careful ! Although the official language is French, the visit is only available in English or Spanish.
The visit promises to be atypical because our guide takes us for her first guided tour, when the 2018 cold wave is at its greatest ! It’s the 5th of February and it’s impossible to stand still without losing a limb ! Still, our guide is really enthusiastic which is really nice. We go from one spot to another : Grand Place, Town Hall (picture on the left), Maison du Roi (King’s House), Comic Art Scene, Manneken Pis (the picture below), Saint Nicolas Church, Mont des Arts (picture on the right).
Shivering this much consumed a lot of energy, and it’s time to reful the bodies ! We’re heading to Fritland, located nearby the Grand Place, which is a very good spot to eat the famous fries, made with duck fat. It doesn’t look amazing from the outside (especially with that name) but it’s packed and noisy ; there are tables inside and outside but you have to be lucky. Floriane chose a copious Belgian bowl of fries for 3.80€, and I picked a «mitraillette» («tommy gun») which is nothing but a huge piece of bread filled with steak, fries and mayo for 5€ ! Portions are really big and tasty, a really good value for money… You need to have cash on you because they don’t accept payments by card.
All this delicious fat made us happy and willing to visit the capital even more. We can’t go to Brussels without going to Saint Michel and Saint Gudule cathedral. Its architecture is really impressive and it’s worth going inside… Plus, they have radiators !
It’s so cold… What a good excuse to go and eat a waffle at Maison Dandoy, a warm place recommended on multiple websites. The space is divided in two sections : you can order your waffle to take away on the ground floor (cheaper), or even buy all sorts of biscuits ; upstairs, you can settle and peacefully eat what you ordered. However, you have to be patient because although this place is famous, the first floor can’t contain a lot of people, and the waiter is alone there. But this is all forgotten and forgiven once we try our delicious waffles ! On the spot, the prices start from 3.50€ (about 0.60€ if you choose takeaway).
That said, we decide to go back to the flat, not to have to bear this cold one minute more.
To conclude :
Our expenses (per person) :
Plane (return journey) : 35€
Airport shuttle bus : 15€
Airbnb : 40€ for 2 nights
Tube : 2.10€
Train : 15.80€
Meal in Bruges : 14€
Aperitif : 12€
Fries : 4€
Waffle : 4.50€
Total : 142.40€
Avoided expenses (per person) :
Difference between online shuttle ticket and on the spot : 17€
No boat tour : 8€
No carriage ride : 25€
Breakfast at the Airbnb : 6€ x 3
Dinners at the Airbnb : 12€ x 2
Total : 92€
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