48 Hours In Brussels: 5 Budget-Friendly Things Not To Miss

Anna Brones

Beyond beer and the European Parliament I wasn’t sure what Brussels had to offer. Oh wait, waffles, there had to be waffles.

Brussels often gets a bad rap. Maybe it’s because one of the iconic tourist symbols is a statue of a peeing boy, or maybe it’s because in having the headquarters of several major IGOs, it has a very business feel, but either way, if you choose to skip Brussels you’re missing out.

It may not have the quaint charm of Amsterdam or the romanticism of Paris, but spend a weekend in Brussels and there is plenty to do, even for those traveling on a budget.
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Only have 48 hours? Make sure these five budget-friendly activities get added to your to-do list.

1. A visit to Cantillon Brewery
As soon as you step into Cantillon, you know you’re in a brewery. Located off the beaten path near the South Train Station, it has been open since 1900, and barely anything has changed since then. The musty smell of yeast hangs in the air and the tasting room has barrels in the place of tables. If you’re into craft and specialty beer, this is the place for you. You can taste a variety of their lambic beers and it will cost you much less than a night out on the town. Buy a few bottles to take with you on your way out.

2. Eat fries at Maison Antoine
Whether it’s midday or late night, you can’t leave Brussels without stopping by the frituur Maison Antoine for a cornet of Belgian fries. Pick your sauces of choice and eat your fries on the go, or take your cornet to one of the nearby bars on Place Jourdan, which have no problem allowing you to sit down and enjoy your fries with a beer.

3. Explore the city’s comic murals
There are over 30 different comic murals around Brussels. Print off a map of all of them and start exploring; it’s an excellent way to check out the city and get a taste for the country’s comic tradition.

4. Get a rooftop view
There are a couple of places in Brussels where you can get pretty stunning views over the city. Start with the glass elevator at Place Poelaert. In the summer, the Beursschouwburg opens up its rooftop terrace for both movie nights and a picnic space everyday at lunchtime and if you’re a fan of urban gardening, you’ll want to check out the rooftop garden at the Royal Library. You can also hit up the Museum of Musical Instruments‘ rooftop restaurant for an afternoon coffee or beer.

5. Visit Parc de Bruxelles
Created in the late 18th century, Parc de Bruxelles has a classic European park feel to it and it’s right next to the Royal Palace. It’s perfect for a picnic or an afternoon stroll. If you’re visiting in July, with all of the official festivities, it’s a good place to be for Belgium’s National Day on July 21.

Eurostar Revamps Services In A Bid To Lure Fliers

Long-distance train travel is making a comeback with Eurostar announcing plans to expand its services. The high-speed train, which primarily serves London, Brussels and Paris, has its sights set on new destinations across the European continent.

Eurostar says its entire system is undergoing an overhaul – from the booking process, to the routes, to the trains themselves. The company’s website has been given a facelift in order to create a more user-friendly booking portal, and brand new uniforms have been designed for the crew. Updated trains are also in the pipeline and are expected to be up and running by 2015.As far as network expansion goes, Eurostar says it has its eye on a number of possible routes including London-Holland and London-Germany. Eurostar’s Chief Executive Nicolas Petrovic says he will be looking closely at routes that currently have a lot of air traffic. He told CNN he hopes travelers will eventually come to think of train travel the same way they think of flying.

Eurostar’s overhaul comes in the wake of stiff competition from German train line Deutsche Bahn, which has said it will offer trips across the Channel Tunnel starting in 2016.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Mike Knell]

Top ten things to do in Brussels, Belgium

BrusselsA couple of weeks ago I was chatting with some fellow travel writers and the conversation turned to Brussels. The general consensus seemed to be that Belgium’s capital isn’t worth visiting.

I disagree. While it can’t compete with London or Paris, it has its own charm and can easily fill up three or four days of a European tour. The mixture of Flemish and Walloon culture makes for a distinct city with an interesting history. A large immigrant population is livening things up too, with Ethiopian cafes, Asian restaurants, and a string of Congolese shops in the Matonge area.

Here are ten reasons not to skip Brussels.

Beer!
Belgian beer is justly famous for its variety and flavor. From the rich Trappist and Abbey beers to the more secular but equally tasty Lambics and Saisons, Belgium is a beer snob’s paradise. There are plenty of fine bars in Brussels serving up this lovely brew. A Gadling favorite is the centrally located Delerium Cafe, which sells more than 2000 varieties from around the world, and of course a huge selection of Belgian labels.

Chocolate!
Like Belgian beer, Belgian chocolate needs no introduction. Hey, it’s so good you can even snort it. Chocolate shops abound in Brussels and most cafes will serve you a piece along with your coffee.

Peeing statues!
Ah yes, the famous Manneken Pis. Has anyone gone to Brussels and not seen this? There are several stories about how this little guy came into being. The one I heard was that a sculptor’s son went missing back in the seventeenth century. A frantic search ensued and the sculptor swore he’d make a statue showing his son exactly as he found him. Take a look at this photo courtesy Jim Linwood to see what the kid was doing when he finally turned up. In the spirit of affirmative action, a female counterpart was erected in 1987 in Impasse de la Fidélité/Getrouwheidsgang (Fidelity Alley) showing a little girl squatting and doing her business. She’s called Jeanneke Pis.

Art Nouveau!
Brussels is justly famous for its many Art Nouveau buildings dating to the early part of the last century. The best way to savor the scene is to go to one of Brussels’ many Art Nouveau cafes where you can enjoy a coffee and a piece of Belgian chocolate while admiring the architecture. One of the greatest of Art Nouveau architects was Victor Horta whose house museum is a classic of the style.

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Classic Films!
Belgium was an early innovator of film back during cinema’s infancy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The best place to learn about this is the Musée du Cinéma/Filmmuseum, where you can see artifacts from the birth of motion pictures. The museum’s two cinemas show arthouse classics and silent films with live piano accompaniment.

Tanks and Swords!
The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History is one of the best war museums I’ve ever visited, and I’ve probably visited too many. The land that now comprises Belgium has been fought over for centuries and this museum’s collection reflects that bloody past. It has an excellent tank collection from both world wars as well as an extensive armory of medieval weapons to slice, dice, chop, hack, and crush your enemies. Why is this cool? It just is.

Fine Art!
Museums are the best way to stay dry when the Belgian weather gets wet, which it does frequently. Brussels has several art galleries and museums. The most prominent are the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. Together they boast some twenty thousand paintings, sculptures and drawings. They include the Ancient Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum, the Wiertz Museum, the Meunier Museum, and the Museé Magritte Museum.

The Historic Center!
Much of medieval Brussels was leveled to make way for new construction in the nineteenth century. Luckily, a classic core survives around La Grand Place/Grote Markt, where centuries-old mansions and churches still survive. This is the most photogenic part of Brussels and while it can get overrun with tourists, it’s still worth a look. A little further out, visit the Basilique du Sacré Coeur/Basiliek van het Heilig Hart, an Art Deco basilica that’s the fifth biggest church in the world, and La Cambre Abbey, a 12th century abbey.

Comics!
Besides film, beer, and chocolate, the Belgians have always been big into comics. At the Belgian Comic Strip Center you can learn all about this with a variety of comics on display and a big gift shop if you want to bring some home. Belgium’s most famous comic artist was Hergé, creator of Tintin, who of course has his own museum.

Day trips!
Belgium is a small country with a good rail system. This makes it a good base for day trips. The lovely countryside is dotted with several castles and rustic villages. Regular trains go to several historic cities such as Antwerp (one hour), Ghent (30 minutes), Bruges (one hour), and Liege (one hour). For more information on day trips, click here.

So head on over to Brussels. You won’t be sorry!

Airport Carbon Accreditation program grows in Europe

Airport Carbon AccreditationEurope’s Airport Carbon Accreditation program is now boasting fifty-five major European airports as members and making a significant dent in carbon emissions. The voluntary program has a four-level rating system that assesses and recognizes the efforts of airports to manage and reduce their carbon emissions to achieve carbon neutral operations for all emissions over which the airport has control.

“It is clearly helping to move European aviation onto a more sustainable footing,” European Union Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told the Associated Press. “Genuine progress on greening transport … can only occur when the regulator’s work is complemented by citizens and businesses taking action of their own.”

Airports are changing airport vehicles to electric or hybrid power, installing solar panels to generate the airport’s own electricity, and involving the entire airport operation. Airlines, air traffic control, ground handlers, baggage handlers, catering companies, refueling trucks, passenger shuttle transport, airport maintenance services, emergency services, police, border control and retailers are all held accountable and encouraged to make a positive impact.

Aircraft engines are probably what we think of as major contributors to the carbon emission tally. At participating airports, specific taxiing techniques are used to reduce fuel burn. Apparently, common taxiing routes are not always the most fuel efficient, especially if the aircraft has to overcome steep taxiway elevations, sits still waiting for cross traffic to clear and/or many sharp turns.

Like some cruise ships, ground power is provided to parked aircraft. Instead of having them leave their engines running, aircraft plug in to land power, further reducing emissions and possibly making for more breathable cabin air quality too.

The 55 major European airports participating in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program account for over half of all passenger traffic from Europe’s 400 plus aviation facilities. That’s up from 43 accredited airports last year who achieved a reduction of 729,689 tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to removing around 180,000 cars from the roads.

Participating airports include London’s Gatwick and Heathrow; Frankfurt; Munich; Amsterdam; Brussels; Zurich; Geneva; and others.



How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home



Flickr photo by Christoph Mendt

Video of the Day: Brussels to Bruges in two minutes

Road trips seem to be a very American activity. Driving cross-country, family vacations to national parks and the like. However, road trips are popular around the world. Caravanning (what we would call RVing) is quite popular in the UK. Also, because European countries are so much smaller than the United States, driving within a country or to neighboring nations is pretty simple. This video shows off the 96km drive from Brussels to Bruges. It’s oddly comforting to know that highway driving in Belgium is pretty similar to interstate driving in the United States.