The first stop on my 2018 Euro Trip was in the land of chocolate (and beer and fries, if you ask a local), aka Brussels, Belgium! I had heard a lot of mixed reviews about the city – some people loved it, others hated it so I was very interested to explore it myself.
But before I jump into everything Brussels, I want to explain a bit more about the Eurail pass and why I chose that for the first half of my travels. First of all, it just made logistical sense – all of the cities I wanted to hit up were only a couple hours apart so it didn’t make sense to fly. Plus, there was a summer sale for passes and you get the youth rate if you’re 27 or under #score. In most cases, the pass is super easy to use – you can hop on any train going anywhere. HOWEVER, if you’re taking it to or from London or Paris (I am 90% sure these are the only cities), you need to make a reservation and you will have to pay a small fee of around 30 euros. Do it and do so at least two weeks in advance or else you will get stuck buying a 200 euro ticket to get to Brussels day of like me #eurotripfail. And lastly, I chose it because even without the summer sale, buying a 15 day pass was cheaper than buying individual tickets (not to mention it opened up my schedule to not be tied to a certain time, the ability to take whatever train that day AND I was able to use it for some inner city trains). Researching the pass price vs. individual tickets is something that is imperative if you plan on training it! General rule of thumb, if you are only going to a few locations, it might make more sense to buy individual tickets but if you are going to multiple, a pass is your best bet.
Now back to Brussels! Although I only had a day and a half there (I ended up leaving Chicago a day later so I could have an extra day with Michael), I feel like I was able to cover a lot of ground. Brussels is a relatively small city with the majority of the main attractions near the city center. On a recommendation from a friend, I signed up for the Sandemen’s Free Walking Tour on my first (and only) full day in the city. This was something I planned on doing at each location so I could learn the lay of the land and figure out what I wanted to explore more or things I didn’t need to re-visit. It also didn’t hurt to find a friend for a few hours!
The Brussels walking tour was probably one of my favorites (and not just because the guide brought her puppy with). Since so much was near the city center, we were able to see all the main tourist things and then I asked her for some local spots to head to after.
My absolute favorite thing in Brussels was the Musical Instruments Museum. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense but hear me out. On the roof, there is a cute little restaurant with panoramic views of the city. Brussels is relatively flat. But also very short (like most of Europe), so you don’t have to go too high to get a great view. But this one just so happened to come with an excellent meal, as well. If you don’t make it here, head to the library just across the street. That also has a restaurant and great view of the city on their top floor. However, it was also here I realized just how important a water bottle is. Many places across Europe charge more for a small bottle of water than for a liter of beer. With that being said, before you make your way across the pond, buy yourself a water bottle that has a built in filter! That way, you can literally drink the toilet water if you’re desperate (I haven’t been yet but I’ve definitely had my fair share of sketch bathroom sink water). I got this one and although it’s no where near the size of my Nalgene back home, it fits in my purse and doesn’t have a straw sipper that leaks on planes (because yes, that happened when I went to France and it was a mess). I also got super lucky and was able to tour the Royal Palace of Brussels for free. However, it was so beautiful, I definitely think it’s worth the cost.
Although I got to see the majority of what I wanted, had there been an extra day in Brussels, I definitely would have made my way to the Atomium, mini-Europe park and Cinquantenaire. It was justtttt far enough out of the way that I couldn’t make it. I also would have loved to do a day trip to Bruges or Ghent. Both are accessible by a quick train ride and from what I could tell, are pretty cute cities. Maybe next time!
Food & Drinks
Sights To See
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