Posts tagged ‘brussels’

April 30, 2010

perfect places {Brussels}

This week I had to go to Brussels on business.  Normally I am thrilled to have a trip paid on expenses; a few nights in a nice hotel; dinner on my boss and a chance to see a new place!  Yet this time I don´t know why but I really didn´t want to go.  Furthermore, I left booking a hotel until the last-minute due to the ash cloud (I think I was secretly hoping that my flights would be cancelled) and there was not ONE single hotel with a free room in the whole of Brussels, so I ended up in a hostel that supposedly had a “hostel” part and a “hotel” part: Sleepwell (I think the name speaks for itself)

About the accommodation – one thing is for certain in this hostel one does NOT “sleepwell”.  For the first two days I was supposedly in the “hotel” part of the hostel but all of the rooms were filled with school kids who were running around the corridors until about 1 am.  The curtains did not block out the light and the hotel room was so hot that I had to sleep with the window open and was subjected to the chatter of teenagers in the courtyard until 1 am and was then woken by the noises of the building site next door at 7am.  However the price is reasonable and the location is excellent – about 10 minutes walk from the Grande Place and all the must-see sights.  If you are looking for somewhere cheap and central Sleepwell is great, however if you’re looking to relax and be pampered this hostel is not for you (Top tip:  Have a look around Place Rogier for good hotels).

About the sights- as I was on business I did not get to explore much, however I saw the main things that one must see if you go to Brussels.

*Delirium café: A great spot for a pre/post dinner drink this funky bar set in an 18th Century Cave boasts over 2000 varieties of beer.  There is something for everyone even if you´re not that keen on beer – I tried a cherry one and it was delicious!  Check out the menu before on their website so you know what you´re ordering, or if your feeling risky simply pick one on the day and hope for the best.

*Mannekin Pis: This is a small statue of a boy weeing designed by Jerome Duquesnoy and put in place between 1618 and 1619.  There are several legends about what the statue represents.  They change his outfit several times a week… I caught him in some kind of army uniform…

…there is also now a girl version nearby so have a wander and see if you can spot her.

*La Grande Place:  This is the hub of all things touristy.  Surrounding the square you will find the Town Hall, the Breadhouse and numerous Guildhalls.  In the nearby streets there are innumerable bars, restaurants and chocolate shops.  Obviously the prices will be hiked up, but it is worth it to soak up that atmosphere and try the infamous “Mussels and Chips” (Moules et frites).

*Atomium: This is the final place on the must-see list.  I only saw it from as distance as the event that I was attending was based in the rather spectacular grounds of the Brussels Exhibition Centre but I did not enter.  Each sphere contains a different exhibition, some that are permanent and some that are changed regularly.  There is also a haute-cuisine restaurant at the top – so if you are looking to spoil that special someone, or you have saved money on accommodation by staying at Sleepwell and feel that you deserve to splash the cash – book a table here!

Of course there is much more to see in Brussels including the European Quarter where the European Parlement is based and also the surrounding villages.  Check out the Lonely Planet website for more ideas.

About the Transport:  Public transport in Brussels is fairly well-run.  The metro system is excellent and fairly cheap (make sure you carry some coins on you as the ticket machines don´t accept notes and they wouldn´t accept my card).  It works pretty much the same way as the Underground in London.  A one trip ticket will cost you 1euro 70cents and you can go as far as you like, however it may be worth buying a multi-jump ticket for several days sightseeing.  Taxis are also fairly reasonable, I ended up getting one to the airport for 25 euros rather than taking the train for 7 euros 50 and a taxi to the train station for 10 euros.  If there are several of you it is definitely worth chipping in and saving yourselves the hassle of public transport with all your luggage.

Warning:  beware of the taxi drivers trying to scam you.  Make sure you check with your hotel roughly how much a journey should cost and then agree the price with the taxi driver before you set off.

To sum up:  I enjoyed Brussels, it is an extremely vibrant, multicultural and cosmopolitan city that is worth seeing – however I think if I was paying for the trip as a weekend city break I would much rather see Rome or Prague.