I’m sure you’ve read many articles about what to see in Brussels, and that with a bit of research you’d have found Grand Place, Maneken Pis and the Atomium as some of the main top things to see while you’re in Brussels. But I want you to join me and experience Brussels like a local.
And for locals I do count myself, as indeed, I lived in Brussels back in 2016 for one year of Erasmus exchange. So who would know the secrets of that city better?
Best ways to reach the city
Assuming you’re coming from abroad, you have two airports to reach Brussels; Zaventem and Charleroi. Let me explain you the main differences between those two and its pros and cons so you can better decide which is the more convenient option for you to land at.
1) Zaventem-Brussels Airport. This is the main airport of Brussels, and also one of the busiest airports in Europe. Can you guess why? The main European institutions are in Brussels (like the Parliament or the Commission) and so that brings a lot of professionals from Europe and beyond, to the city.
PROS: It is the closer airport to the city centre (only 14km) as you can be in the city centre in just 20 minutes of Train. The train that leaves you directly to Gare Central (the centre of Brussels) and costs 5€ one way.
CONS: the cheaper airlines like Ryanair, don’t land to this airport, therefore it will cost you more money to land in Zaventem.
2) Charleroi-Airport: it is the second airport in Brussels, that is actually placed in the region of Charleroi.
CONS: it is further to the city centre(60km) which means it is 4 times further than Zaventem Airport. Thus, the public transport from Charleroi is a Shuttle that departs every 20/30 mins and that costs 17€. If you take a taxi it could be up to 100€.
PROS: the cheapest airlines land there, like Ryanair.
Where to stay at?
As a post focus on how to experience Brussels as a local, I will recommend you to stay at Airbnb and the best quarters to stay to get the best of the city. Given that I have never been in any hostel, because rather I was living in the city or when I was back, I stayed at friends home’s. Airbnb’s are a good choice. The prices are from 20-30€/night up to whatever you want to pay. I’ll stay affordable here though. Best quarters to stay at:
1)Schuman area. This is the quarter where the EU institutions are placed. It is calm, safe, and relatively close to the city centre. Like 3 stops by metro and 20 mins by walk.
2)Saint-Catherine square area. That is a cozy, beautiful area, very close to the centre but at the same time is pretty calm. Bars are 5 mins by walk, and the city centre 10.
AREAS TO AVOID:
Molenbeek . That area is not very recommendable as for instance is where the terrorist from the Paris attack were hidden and used to live. I haven’t been there many times, but it is not a very known area, nether is close to the centre so better not to stay at that quarter.
2)Also, avoid staying close to Gare du Midi or Gare du Nord, both the worse places during the night, unsafe, full of weirdos, homeless and there’s plenty of issues going on around. So check the location of your airbnb and try not to be right next to them.(Gare=Train Station).
What to do?
So if you go to Brussels you need to get a real Beer Belgian Experience. And by that I don’t mean to go on a beer taste tour, well do it if you wish, but here I will tell you which bars any local and person living in the city will have visited more than once. Be ready to enjoy the unique BEER PARADISE, given the fact that the belgian beer was added in the UNESCO Wolrd cultural Heritage list.
During your visit, I recommend you to first stop at Delirium Bar. Filled with Erasmus students, and real drinking people, Delirium is a very special spot, as it is a very old bar, placed in the centre of the city that also offers a menu of 2,000 different beers to choice at. The beers I recommend you to try:
1)Jupiler & Maes. Those are pilsen belgian beers, similar to Heineken in terms of soft taste and alcohol degrees, but they actually have their own unique taste. Those are the cheapest you can drink while your visit in Brussels, you shouldn’t pay more than 4€ for a 1/2 of one of those. Most students drink these options on their daily basis, that’s what I’ve been told though. Because, I never been in Brussels as an Erasmus student, so..
2)Duvel & Leffe & Trappist. Those are abbey beers. Better known abroad than in the country, people drink them less, they have a more heavy taste, sometimes they’re black beers but even if they’re blond beers they’re pretty strong (starting at 6,5 degrees to 11). They are more expensive than the pilsen. You can pay from 5€ for a 33cl glass to 6-8€ for a 1/2 litter.
3) La Cherry Chouffe & Castle Rouge. For those that like fruity taste beers, then you should definitely go for one of those. Even if it taste sweet it is pretty alcohol strong. Its percentage is about 8% of alcohol. And its price around 4-6€ depending on the bar.
More bars every local and Brussels student knows....
BARS WITH DANCING OPTIONS:
1) The BigGame. Place right in front of the Bourse, filled with students, there’s parties going on every day and the beers there are cheaper than in other bars.
2) Celtica is also a good choice. That is a pub which also has live music on the weekends, and some parties upstairs. Nice to grab some more beer.
3) Le Corbeau. That is a bar which during the weekends people stand over the tables and start dancing there until late night (6am).
4) NUA. That is a nice karaoke-bar with a mini-club upstairs(there’s literally a very small space but still people dance there and enjoy the party.
Bloody Louise: fancy club placed in Louise Avenue, though there’s many hip-hop parties.
Fuse: for all those that enjoy techno clubs, that’s your place to be. Is a hard place, many people taking pills and more, but still check it out. Also pretty far away from the centre.
Chilling bars and options for couples
Let’s say you feel a bit tired of beer noisy places, and you wanna find other kind of environments, probably more romantic and chill. Take on account you still will find beers there, but it will be pretty different vibe. Then you should check:
1)Le Goupil le Foul: it is such a curious place. Back in the times, it used to be a “bourdel”, and nowadays has been converted to a bar. It is super cozy, super intimate environment, small cozy spaces, all dark being the candles almost the only point of light, old fashioned french music sounding…very nice.They serve awesome sweet wine called “vin de noisettes” I recommend you to try.
2)Mappa Mundo: that’s also a cozy bar, filled with couples, good jazz music and relaxing vibe in general.
3) Le petit Sablon area: it’s kinda fancy but very nice and adult vibe. You can grab a glass of wine with a nice view to the Sablon if you’re lucky with the weather.
Places to eat good
I can not finish a post without talking about food! Brussels is filled with many good restaurants and offers many kind of food! Don’t lose the choice to try it.
1) Gaufres & Waffles : best place to eat waffles in Brussels. Here they make gourmet options served into a delicious waffle, like duck &foie grass. They are super tasty and they offer salty and sweet ones as well. We try one with apple ice cream, chocolate, and specoloos that was super yummy! Prices are between 13€ for the salty waffle and 3,5€ for the sweet.
2) Davi Thai. For those vietnamese food lovers, next to La Bourse, there’s this super nice decorated restaurant that offers incredibly tasty & quality food. Don’t forget to taste the lychees as a dessert and the flower they came with that is totally eatable. The price of one complete dish, some spring rolls as a started, some vietnamese bread and an alcoholic drink will be around 25€/person. Not cheap, but worth it.
3) Fritland. That place is a bit touristy but if it’s your first time in Brussels you need to go there just to grab their Metrallette. Do you guess what will you eat? I already tell you it will be served with plenty of belgian fries (the best in the world), inside of a bread and who knows. Go explore yourself!
If you are interested in politices, laws, European affairs...
Then you should visit some EU institution. The best option for you will be to schedule a visit in the European Parliament, but if you write me I can asses you on this matter. I also have first-hand information on EU internships as I did one for a legal EU firm and have many friends who have did an internship there. It is a great opportunity for you to understand more about the EU.
If you have enjoyed reading post as much as I did while writing it, I invite you to leave a comment, like the post and why not, check my social media! You’ll find out additional info about Brussels and its institutions in my Highlighted BXL stories in IG 😉
& Check more of my posts about Europe!