When I decided that I wanted to explore more of Europe, I started searching all of the flight comparison sites, looking for ridiculous deals, and I don’t think I’ll find a deal more ridiculous than the flights I ended up with to Brussels. I paid £10 for return flights, no more, no less, just £10. £5 each way. These flights were with Ryanair from Manchester to Brussels Charleroi, which is about 45 minutes on a coach from the airport, to a train station in Brussels.
From the train station, it took me about 15 minutes to walk into the centre of Brussels. It’s a bit odd when you walk from the drop-off point, as it just doesn’t seem like what you would expect Brussels to be like. As they speak French mainly, I thought it’d be similar to a French city, and it was in a sense, but not the normal stereotypical French cities, it was more like the southern cities that have been heavily populated by northern Africans. It seemed like a very muslim-populated city, that was until I actually got into the city, then it seemed very much like what I expected. It appears the walk from the train station towards the city centre is where the northern African communities congregate, outside of shops, at cafés and so on. I didn’t feel any awkwardness really, there was no animosity, although I did feel a few people staring at me, but that happens in pretty much every city, but I never felt threatened at all.
I visited Brussels on my own, and I decided to book a hostel, although I’ve never stayed in one before. The main reason was because I thought that if I booked a nice hotel, with a private room, that I’d get to a point during the evening and just go back to bed and not experience the city at all. It turned out to be a great idea as I actively spoke to people and did things to make sure that I didn’t end up back in the room until well after midnight.
In the centre of Brussels, there’s a plaza, or a square where hundreds of people chill out, eat, drink and just enjoy being in the city. It’s such a multi-cultural city, there are so many different nationalities visiting the place. I just sat there with a drink and a waffle covered in Nutella listening to people talking, and walking past. I found it quite odd that the school kids who were running around doing some sort of scavenger hunt asked people if they spoke French (in French), before starting the conversation with them. They approached me and asked me if I spoke French, I said yes, so they asked me a question about Belgian history, but I didn’t know the answer unfortunately.
I wandered around the city for a few hours, just checking out what was going on, but it’s actually quite a small city centre. I found one of those ‘free’ tours that you join onto, and at the end, you decide how much the tour was worth and pay the guide that amount. The tour was great. I’ve been on another one of these tours in Edinburgh and it was great, so I decided that it’d be a good idea in Brussels, and it was just as good. I learnt quite a bit about the history of Brussels, and got taken around parts of the city that I’d not seen before.
I met a girl on the tour who was originally from Taiwan but lived in Finland, and she was also on her own, so we decided to spend the rest of the day together, which was nice. We ended up grabbing some dinner then going to Dilirium café and grabbing some really weird beers, a cactus beer and a rose beer. The cactus beer was actually really nice and refreshing, however, the rose beer just tasted like rosé wine mixed with beer. Dilirium café is a must-visit when you’re in Brussels. It’s famous for the amount of beers available in the place, and it’s absolutely buzzing with people, but not too busy that you can’t sit down. It’s really close to the plaza, but hidden down a side street, so ask somebody where it is. There’s another bar with Dilirium on the signage, but that’s not it, you’ll know when you’re there, as there are hundreds of beers in vats behind the bar.
The hostel I stayed in was called the 2GO4 Quality Hostel Grand Place and was literally on the side street of the Grand Place, seconds from the main square. It was very clean and had free wifi. The showers were clean, powerful, hot and there were two in a room of 10. When I stayed, the room wasn’t full, and was split into two sections. As I returned at about 3pm, I hadn’t yet chosen a bed, so I just climbed onto the first one I saw, which was right next to the bathroom.
I woke up quite early as usual, jumped in the shower, got dressed and went for breakfast, taking all of my stuff with me. I only took a small rucksack anyway so there wasn’t a lot of stuff to pack.
I’ve been asked if it’s worth visiting Brussels, and I’d say yes, definitely, however, if you’re going for more than one night, then think about using it as a hub to get to other parts of Belgium as it’s a small city with not a lot to do.
On the day I was leaving, the flight wasn’t until the evening, so I grabbed some food and drinks and went to sit in the park, which was really nice and it was about 30 degrees all day, at the start of May, so I used the day to relax before jumping back on the coach to the airport for a really short flight back to Manchester.
A quick breakdown of what I spent:
Return transfers from Brussels Charleroi to Brussels Midi Train Station = £25 (purchased at the airport, right outside the terminal)
2GO4 Quality Hostel Grand Place – 1 night = £20