Stop 5: Brussels
Our next stop took us to the center of European culture; Brussels where we met an old friend and ate enough waffles to last us …. a few months (though cravings are building bad as I write this!)
A straightforward and almost 2 hour train trip dropped us to Brussels-Midi.
We stayed at the Midi Station Hotel, located a few minutes walk from Brussels-Midi station. The rooms here are small but comfortable and so, so clean! We had a front facing room which is okay if you like car chases, police sirens and screaming most of the night but this was one of the only negatives of our stay here. I have huge praise for the lovely staff who were so helpful and polite and having access to a kitchen meant a reduction in food costs for us all. This hostel is about a 15/20 minute walk from “town” so if you’re not up for a little trek through local neighborhoods, stay clear.
Food and Drink
Starving when we first arrived, we ate at a “touristy” restaurant where my vegetarian option was a toasted sandwich or …. a toasted sandwich so I worked with what they gave me. Our other dinner comprised of veggie chili that I made in the hostel to keep costs down. The greatest threat in Brussels, however, is the waffles and we ate quite a few from the shop nearest the Manneken Pis (the name eludes me but it has a giant ice-cream outside and is on the right-hand side of the street). Another must do if in Brussels on a budget is visit the many chocolate shops dotted about the city; most offer samples and you can spend your day testing some of the finest chocolate in the world!
Things to See and Do
Clearly the coolest piece of architecture I’ve ever seen, the fact you can actually go up inside the Atomium made my childlike brain go into overdrive. We hopped on the train, took the almost 30-minute journey to outer Brussels and paid the fee to see both the Atomium and Mini Europe (See below) This set us back about €30 for the trip in total but it was an entire day of excitement and fun. Each of the “atoms” of the Atomium has a different space to visit and when we arrived, the exhibit was regarding Air Travel. An elevator ride to top brings you to some of the greatest views around. Certainly worth the trek, especially if you’re a sci-fy lover like me and want to pretend like your inside a starship.
The second part of the day was spent touring Europe….. without ever leaving the small confines of Mini Europe. Apprehensive that this was going to be an entirely child-based visit, I actually had a lot of fun seeing some of the greatest European architecture sites in miniature (and the interactive ones were my favorite; always a kid as ever)
Stroll the Streets
Like most of Mainland Europe, some of the best Brussels finds are to be found by merely getting lost. Grab a map and just go!
Stop 6: Bruges
“Plenty of alcoves in Bruges.” – In Bruges
As redundant as this is getting for a blog series on train travel, we hopped on a train and in less than an hour arrived in Bruges!
We stayed in the Youth Hostel Europa which is about a 20/25 minute walk away from anything substantial (unless you count the Aldi that was shut and the laundromat we flooded…. sorry!) Our accommodation here was scarily sterile and 100% felt like we were staying in a hospital ward rather than a youth hostel but this was one of the only places we got to meet fellow interrailers and spend our nights playing pool and drinking Belgian beer in the lobby (challenge me to a game of Dart-Rules, I dare you!)
Food and Drink
Venture past Leonidas (sacrilegious, I know) and you will find a whole host of bespoke chocolate houses in Bruges to snack the day away. We stuck to some cheap burger joints in and around the city which were cheap and thankfully offered a vegetarian option but mostly ate at the local supermarket to keep our costs down as we neared the end of our trip.
What to See and Do
See the Site of In Bruges
I’m a huge movie buff so to be walking around the literal “film set” of one of my favorite films was a dream.
The Vismark, Jan Van Eyckplein, the Belfry and the Basically of the Holy Blood are all within walking distance of one another and make for an excellent film experience in real life. WonderWanderings has a super location guide that shows off the best sites as featured in In Bruges.
Relax in the Markt
There is so much beauty in Bruges, it’s sometimes difficult to take it all in. The best way? Taking some time to relax in the center of the historical beauty. Grab a beer, a burger or a good bar of chocolate and soak it all in.
Take a Chocolate Tour
Fellow sweet-toothed people rejoice, Bruges is a Mecca for beautiful, handcrafted chocolate. As you walk along the beautiful streets, don’t neglect your stomach and be sure to visit a chocolatier or two (and try the many free samples available!) We loved Mary’s Chocolatier on Katelijnestraat 21, where the chocolate is incredible and the service is just as great!
Other Things to See in Brussels and Bruges
- Sample the local beer (I love the fruity stuff!)
- The Manneken Pis and his incredible fashion sense in Brussels
- Brussels street art – straight out of a comic book