A budget weekend in beautiful Brussels is just a Eurostar ride away
A budget weekend in beautiful Brussels is just a Eurostar ride away.
The Belgian capital offers Europe’s finest frites, locally-brewed beer and delicious chocolate – here’s where to stay, what to do and where to dine once you arrive…
WHERE TO STAY
Meininger Hotel, Brussels City Centre
Don’t be put off by graffiti on the outer walls; inside this red brick former brewery is a modern, albeit somewhat Spartan, space with hostel dorms (avoid) and twin and double rooms.
Explore Brussels’ city centre (above) from the Meininger Hotel, a modern bolthole housed in a red brick former brewery
Each huge room’s furniture is brightly modish — and there’s a large community garden. Doubles from £89, room only (meininger-hotels.com).
Just off Avenue Louise, the main shopping street, the Zoom hotel is a whitewashed townhouse with camera-themed decor that extends to cinema lights in the rooms and photo exhibitions in the lobby. The bar stocks more than 50 Belgian beers. Doubles from £100, room only (zoomhotel.be).
The Scott Hotel
Stay in a ludicrously cheap room at the Roaring-Twenties-themed The Scott Hotel (above)
Rooms on Sunday nights are ludicrously cheap at this stylish bolthole. With a Roaring Twenties theme (the ‘Scott’ is Fitzgerald), the velvet armchairs, wood-panelled ceilings, gold, rose and green-accented rooms and amber-lit cocktail bar make this a steal — though expect to pay for more on other nights. Doubles, room only, from £81 (thescotthotel.be).
Sleep Well Hostel
With surely the cheapest single and double rooms in Brussels, Sleep Well does an admirable job for a basic night’s stay, though you can’t linger all day in the dorms — there’s a lockout for guests between 11am and 3pm for cleaning. Swerve this by booking a ‘Star’ or ‘Duplex’ room (in twin or family size), which feel more like a hotel, with a private roof terrace and mini-kitchen. Twin room only from £73 (sleepwell.be).
WHAT TO DO
Place du Jeu de Balle
Hunt for bargains at the Place du Jeu de Balle flea market (above), home to a chaotic array of second-hand goods
Enjoy a tour and tasting at the Cantillon Brewery (above), the city’s last remaining traditional brewery
Operating for more than a century, this daily flea market (open until 2pm, 364 days a year) is a chaotic array of second-hand goods. The vintage sofas may be too big to fit on Eurostar but the stalls teem with everything from vintage tobacco tins to toy crossbows (free entry, markets-brussels.be).
This is the city’s last remaining traditional brewery, family-owned since 1900. The tour and tasting is a great way to begin figuring out your gueuze from your faro-style beers. You can walk around without a guide and see the ancient mashing equipment that still makes the best beer in Brussels (tours and tastings from £6.90, cantillon.be)
Move over Magritte, there’s a new generation of Belgian artists equally adept at fusing the surreal with the sensational. The Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art is filled with street art, graffiti, graphic design and pop art, with the permanent highlight being Dutch artist Parra’s huge tomato with legs (mimamuseum.eu, £11.50).
Old Masters Museum
Ponder Bosch’s triptych The Temptation Of Saint Anthony — and many works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Bruegel (£8.60, fine‑arts-museum.be)
WHERE TO EAT
Spend an evening revelling in live piano music and drinking fine Belgian beers at Monk, pictured
Brussels is known to offer Europe’s finest frites
Almost everything in this old schoolhouse is some shade of brown, which gives it a cosy retro feel, accentuated by live piano music, fine Belgian beers and an Art Nouveau dining room at the back (monk.be).
A three-course lunch for under £20 is a unicorn find in Brussels, but this zero-waste venture delivers in an elegant, pared-back space. The main dishes recently included a knockout pumpkin lasagne and farmer’s chicken with arugula pesto (set lunch £19.50, lelocalbxl.be).
Try pistolet – a stuffed bread roll – filled with Belgian brie and walnuts at Pistolet Original (above)
Moules, frites and waffles may get all the attention but a lesser-known Brussels speciality is the pistolet, a hard-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bread roll, baked for 12 hours and stuffed to bursting at Original, from chicory meatloaf to shrimp croquettes to Belgian brie and walnuts. Bring napkins if you’re only getting a takeaway (mains from £4.40, pistolet-original.be).
HOW TO GET THERE
Eurostar runs seven trains a day from London St Pancras to Brussels. Return tickets from £34/€39 . More info at eurostar.com and visit.brussels.