When planning our trip, we went back and forth about whether to stay in Brussels or Bruges, and where to day trip to. We ended up staying in Brussels with a day trip to Bruges, which worked out well, but I think instead of 3 full days in Brussels we should have added a day trip to Ghent or Antwerp. Now we know.
Getting to Brussels from Charleroi Airport is easy, there’s a shuttle that goes directly from the airport to Midi/South Station. If you book it online here, you can save yourself some hassle/money at the airport. It runs every half hour and takes a little less than an hour depending on traffic.
Getting to other cities is very easy and fairly inexpensive as well. Trains run from Midi or Central to Bruges and Gent (as well as many other locations). These are both on the metro, and therefore easy to get to and transfer at. Handy computerized trip planners are available in Midi to help you out.
Getting around Brussels: Most areas are very walkable, and it isn’t too far to get from the EU area to the Grand Place area. The metro was great and easy to navigate (yay google maps!) so we didn’t have any trouble getting further afield, to other neighborhoods and the Atomium.
We stayed outside the Grand Place area a bit, closer to the EU buildings, which was nice because it was a bit out of the fray (the Grand Place was constantly packed) but disappointing because many restaurants and bars in the area were closed over the holiday weekend. As a side note, it seemed like most restaurants and bars had free wifi for customers, which was a pleasant surprise!
The EU Parlimentarium was impressive and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the EU, or lives in it. It is free, and if it wasn’t the holiday weekend we would have also been able to take a free tour of the parliament building itself. Basically, it goes through how and why the EU was formed and how it has grown and developed since its inception. For someone who isn’t from Europe but now lives here, it was a good and interesting intro.
We also visited the BELvue Museum, which is a museum of Belgium’s history from its founding in 1831 through the world wars and now as home to the “capital” of the EU. It also follows the royal family through the years, highlighting their contributions to Belgian culture.
Our final museum was the Musical Instrument Museum, an impressive collection of instruments from around the world. It is definitely different than other museums I’ve visited in the past, and it had come with good recommendations. You are given a set of head phones at the entrance which, when you walk up to various instrument exhibits, the instrument in view will play over the headphones. I really enjoyed it, but wished a bit more information had been provided about the history of the instruments in English.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed Brussels and would definitely go back to take in more museums. It was a little sad that they were only open for 2 of the 4 days we were in Belgium (as Sunday and Monday were holidays) but we made the most of it while we were there. More posts coming on food and our day trip to Bruges!
Have you been to Brussels? Thinking about going? What did you enjoy most?