As the capital of Belgium, you would expect Brussels to be a big, crowded, dirty, business city. Of course every city has their bad parts, but surprisingly Brussels has a beautiful historic downtown section open to pedestrians only that maintains all of its historic beauty and significance!
Downtown Brussels is open to walking pedestrians only so people can casually stroll the cobblestone streets and enjoy the shops and restaurants. There is a lovely square where the architecturally beautiful town hall stands, among other important government buildings. There are restaurants in the square with outside seating so you can enjoy the scenery while people watching. Even in the cold months, the heat lamps are on to enjoy this outside dining area.
On almost every corner, you can find a Belgian waffle or fry stand or a Belgian ice cream shop. However, not once did I get the opportunity to try Belgian waffles, fries, or ice cream because there are so many excellent restaurant choices as well! Belgian food is truly terrific, although being in the capital city it can get a bit expensive. You can get Belgian beer at every restaurant and with its worldwide fame, you must try a few different ones with each meal!
There are city tour buses that run throughout the city educating tourists on the history and significant monuments and buildings in Brussels. You can pick these tour buses up at any stop, but remember they stop running at 6pm so it’s best to hop on early. They cost €30 per person (€27 for students). Another point of interest that we visited on our trip was Delirium. This pub is world-famous for its 2500+ and a menu that looks like a dictionary. It’s crowded all the time! There’s another building that they must have added on that doesn’t have as many beers, doesn’t get as crowded, and serves snacks, but the place you really want to be is down the little alley that leads to Delirium to check out some amazing Belgian beers (some up to 15 percent alcohol!)
Because of where it’s located, half of Belgium speaks French as a national language, and the other half speaks German. Many people towards the north also speak Dutch, but it’s not considered a national language. In Brussels especially, everyone also speaks English (lucky for us), but I noticed in every town we went to, the people spoke English. Makes us unilingual people seem pretty uneducated when everyone in Belgium can speak 4-5 languages fluently!
Brussels is well located in the center of the country. It has many forms of transportation including buses, metro, rental cars, trams, and trains. Trains run at least once an hour and there are three train stations in Brussels. There are four metro lines and two trams that service Brussels city center.
Driving in Brussels can be tough; we preferred to park our car and leave it to avoid all the foot traffic, one-way streets, and fast drivers pushing us along. After all, it is a city and people have places to go and things to do. The red lights cause a lot of traffic at peak times as well. But be careful with a car; unfortunately, we parked our car in a garage with a big strong gate for 3 nights for a cost of €50, and our car still got broken into and robbed. Since we went home for a month at Christmas, we stopped for an eight-day trip in Northern Europe on our way back to Spain and thus had all of our luggage with us, which we left in the car as to not have to carry it up 3 flights of stairs. Sadly, all of our new Christmas clothes were stolen, 2 of my nice purses, my one of a kind handmade boots, a Google tv, and many other things were stolen. In addition, the rental car charged us €1000 over the cost we paid to rent the car. Overall, the rental car wasn’t worth it for us to visit Brussels since we took the train anyway, but a car is an option when visiting Belgium.
We took a 20 minute train from Brussels to Leuven, and no one even checked our tickets. The train system doesn’t seem to be well-organized, or just lenient on purchasing tickets. However, on the hour train ride to Bruges, our tickets were checked (good thing we bought them!) Moral of the story: free train travel in Belgium may be possible!