On my way from New York City to Amsterdam during my 2014 Euro-Trip, I had a short 10-hour layover in Brussels, Belgium.
Despite having a short time frame to work with, I was able to get a lot of things accomplished and see everything on my list. The city is very easy to navigate and a lot the major sights are accessible by foot, which makes planing a trip to the city very convenient.
Sightseeing in Brussels
Look at the Manneken Pis
Going to Brussels and not seeing the Manneken Pis is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids, or going to New York and not seeing the Empire State Building; it is something you certainly cannot avoid, and one of the things that many people travel to the city to see.
The statue of the peeing little boy known as Manneken Pis was erected in the early 15th century and still stands erect today literally pissing into a fountain. I nearly missed seeing this little guy because of his small stature, but luckily a large crowd of tourists was gathered around him snapping up photos and I was able to capture this great one too!
Location: Located at the intersection of Rue de l’Etuve & Rue de Chêne
Head to the Atomium & Be.WELCOME Sign
The Atomium was built for the 1958 World Fair and is now one of the major symbols of Belgium. Comprised of a total of 9 spheres, the public is able to access five of them. Unlike many of the city’s sites, the Atomium is a little bit of a distance from the city center and is best reached by train or car.
Directly in front of the Atomium, there is a be.WELCOME sign similar to the iAmsterdam sign in Amsterdam. The sign was created as a dedication to the history of immigrations in Belgium.
Note: You might run into gypsies in the parking lot between the train and the Atomium that prey on tourists by trying to get them to ‘sign a petition’. Be vary wary of these women who often operate in groups as they are scam artists. Luckily, I had not only learned about this scam a while back, but I had also witnessed the same scam in Paris. See my article on how to avoid getting scammed while traveling to learn about other types of scams to avoid.
Location: Square de l’Atomium // Getting There: Take metro line 6 to Heysel / Heizel station
Visit the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Sometimes when you are traveling you literally just happen to stumble upon things, and that is how I ended up at Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.
Located in the center of the city, the exterior of the church reminded me a lot of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In the interior of the church, I fell in love with the massive organ pipes that stretched all the way up to the ceiling and appreciated the calm atmosphere.
Location: Rue du Bois Sauvage 15
Cost: Free to enter the chapel ; 1 euro to enter the archeological site
Check out the Street Art
The city has a decent-sized creative street art scene with various images scattered throughout the city. In the city of the naked peeing little boy, it would be highly inappropriate not to give him recognition in the street art scene within the area, and artist (unknown) captured him nicely and in living color with his/her work entitled Manneken Peace.
Go to Brussels’ Best Kept Secret: Parking 58
Above the heads of unknowing tourist and residents alike is a free parking garage where one can have sweeping views of Brussels ten stories up without the crowds. In fact, when I traveled to the parking lot, there was only one person up there with me when I arrived and five people up there when I left.
How did I discover this gem? By reading travel blogs! Not only am I a travel blogger, but I am an avid travel blog reader, and some of a city’s best gems can be discovered through the blogs of locals.
Location: Rue de l’Evêque, 1
Drink Belgian Beer
While I was in Brussels I visited Delirium Cafe, a bar that won won the Guinness Book World of Records title for ‘The Most Varieties of Beer Commercially Available‘ in 2004. With over 2,000 beers in stock, Delirium still holds the record today, so I knew that this place was where I wanted to go to have a drink.
All that I knew when I arrived to the bar was that I wanted to try a cherry beer but I had no idea which one to order, so with the help of the bartender, I ended up drinking a Kriek Boon, comprised of 25% cherries and 4% ABV.
Location: Impasse de la Fidélité 4A
Hours: 10:00 am – 4:00 am (Monday to Saturday) and 10:00 am – 2:00 am (Sunday)
Tips for Drinking Belgian Beer by a Local:
— Andgie the Engi (@AusAndgie7) November 2, 2015
Eat Belgian Chocolate
A trip to Brussels would be incomplete without stopping to have at least one bite of chocolate in the country known for it’s chocolate, where places like Godiva and Neuhaus were born. Generally speaking, I am not a HUGE chocolate consumer (don’t let my obsession with Japanese Kit-Kats fool you) but I knew that when I headed to Brussels this was something that I must try. I decided to give the chocolatiers at Neuhaus a try (after all, they are the inventors of the famous pralines), and I certainly was not disappointed. Location: (Multiple)
See the Jeanneke Pis
Tucked away in a little alley across from Delirium Cafe sits (well more like squats) the sister of Manneken Pis, little miss Jeanneke Pis. Poor little Jeanneke doesn’t even get half of the recognition that her brother does, although she too is quite talented at aiming. Unlike her very famous brother, Jeanneke is protected by a lovely red gate.
Arriving to and Departing from Brussels:
The majority of travelers entering and exiting Brussels do so by bus, train, or plane.
When I arrived into the city from on a flight from New York, I took the train directly from Brussels Airport into the city center (Brussels Central Station). When departing the city, I was scheduled to take a Megabus to Amsterdam, but it never arrived. Out of frustration of having waited in a parking lot for three hours, I decided to give up hope and went to Brussels Midi where I booked a train heading to Amsterdam.
Know Before You Go:
Buses: There are a few low-cost bus carriers that operate out of Brussels: Megabus, Eurolines, and iDBUS.
Trains: There are three train major stations in Brussels, so make sure you check which one your train is departing from.
- Brussels Central Station (also known as Gare Centrale;Located near the Carrefour de L’Europe)
- Brussels Midi Station (also known as Gare du Midi or Zuidstation;Located at 47B, Avenue Fonsny, 1060)
- Brussels Nord Station (also known as Gare du Nord or Noordstation; Located atRue Du Progrès/Vooruitgangstraat, 761030).
Planes: There are two airports operating out of Brussels: Brussels Airport (BRU) and Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL). Pay close attention to which airport you are flying out of when you are traveling through Europe.
Luggage Lockers in Brussels Train Stations & Brussels Airport
Brussels Airport, Brussels Central Station, and Brussels Midi all have luggage lockers to store your items if you only have a short stopover in the city. Depending on the location, they will either be self-managed or staffed. The prices will vary depending on the size of the locker and/or the amount of time that your luggage needs to be stored.
Where To Stay in Brussels
There are a number of places to stay in Brussels during your layover in the city center and by the airport.
During my trip to Amsterdam, I did not need accommodation. On my return journey back to America however, I passed through Brussels on an overnight layover and stayed at the Sheraton Hotels Brussels Airport