5 Hours in Brussels

While planning our recent trip to Switzerland we had two choices of return flights; direct to London, or an 8 hour layover in Brussels. Never ones to turn down an opportunity to explore a new city, the layover was a no brainer. Especially as it was the cheaper option which was key considering it was both Valentines week AND half term – our timing could do with some work!

In what appears to have become our typical way to travel, everything was very last minute. But we still pulled off a great peek into the land of moules frites, waffles and beer.

I’m guessing we’re not the only people that take advantage of layovers in Brussels as there are a ton of self-service luggage lockers at the train station. €5 to store all our bags for the day!

We pre-paid for train tickets into the city so just had to scan a QR to board. Bags were dropped off at Brussels Central Station within 30 minutes of leaving the airport. As a side note, the ticket purchasing experience was slightly odd and involved emails back and forth with someone to get the tickets. I’d be inclined to just purchase them at the airport in the future.

With only a few hours to experience the city, we focused our time in the Grand Place area so as not to spend too much time traveling away from the train station. We made a list of all the things we needed to try. Unsurprisingly they were as follows: moules, chocolate, waffles, beer, frites (in no particular order). I thought I’d share with you the best of each category that we discovered by visiting ourselves or through research. I’ve put a star next to the ones we visited, the rest were TripAdvisor finds that we didn’t have time to make it to. All spots mapped here!

Mussels in Brussels

It has to be done.

  • Le Marmiton* – we enjoyed steak tartar, baked mussels and some delicious Provence rose overlooking the street below. We’d definitely visit again!
  • Chez Leon – cash only family run restaurant with focus on regional cuisine 
  • Au Vieux Bruxelles – Belgain delights since 1882

I also stumbled across a few not so mussels focused restaurants during my research…

  • Le Cirio – beer bar/restaurant with full menu 
  • Belga Queen – 3 course set menu for €22 in a beautiful old bank 

A Chocolate Lover’s Paradise

Everywhere you turn there is a chocolate shop. You’re spoiled for choice, and probably can’t go wrong.

Waffles For Days

These are sold at places called Gaufreries, which you can find on almost every corner. However, not all waffles are made equal. So do yourself a favor and make sure you visit one of these two spots…

  • Vitalgaufre* – if you want to grab and go, this is the perfect place. We enjoyed a vanilla and a chocolate. We’re still talking about how good they were 3 weeks later. 
  • Maison Dandoy Tea Room – if you’d rather take a load off and enjoy your waffles with a cup of tea or coffee, this place has great reviews. 

Beer, Beer & More Beer 

The challenge with drinking Belgian beer on a layover is to not get so drunk that you miss your flight. That stuff can be BOOZY. To ensure we were allowed on our flight I decided to try a bunch of >5% sours, and Olive stuck to stouts. We’ll save the Dubbel’s and Tripel’s for next time!

  • Delirium Cafe* – this Belgian institution is less cafe and more entire alleyway dedicated to Delirium. You could loose a day sat downstairs in their beer cave.
  • Moeder Lambic* – great place to pull up a bar stool and taste your way through all their rotating taps. Beers served with a tiny dish of malt to chew on. The cheese and meat platters also looked delicious. 
  • A La Mort Subite* – table service, not a place to go if you’re in a rush. Grab a seat in the window if you can. If you’re into fruit beers, try the peach!

Chips, Fries, or Frites20180216_132154

Belgium is the place to eat fries, alas, we were too full of all the above to squeeze any in. We did have some with our lunch, but were hoping to check out a friktot stand so Olive could sample all the mayonnaises. We figured that they wouldn’t last very well on the journey home so decided to leave the frites for a future Belgium visit. But if we had room left, we’d have tried to check out one of the following…

Overall, we had a fantastic 5 hours gallivanting around Brussels and would highly recommend it as a layover stop for anyone traveling around Europe.

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