Although 24 hours isn’t near enough time to get to know a city, I only had a limited amount of time (and money) to visit Brussels, the capital of Belgium. My express tour left me wanting to return, and I most definitely will… once I’ve crossed a few more places off my list.
Brussels is a beautiful city with charming street cafés, beautiful buildings, the best beer and chocolate in the WORLD (no exaggeration), and a lot of history. Of course, when I decided to visit, I had no idea how much I would fall in love with the Belgian lifestyle.
I had a weekend off from Au Pair duties and decided to visit a city nearby Cologne (Germany), so I began researching where I could go that wouldn’t break the bank.
With a budget of exactly 50 euros (62 dollars), I managed to pay for transportation to and from Cologne, stay in Brussels for one night, and not die of starvation. Want to know how I did it?
I began my journey in Cologne by getting a ride through BlaBlaCar (8 euros one-way) at 12 pm. Two short hours later, upon arrival to Brussels, I went directly to the Grand Place (the main square). I ate a quick lunch nearby (Gyro wrap = 4 euros) and joined a free walking tour that went from 3 pm to 5:30 pm.
During the walking tour, I saw some main attractions such as the Mannequin Pis. It’s a little statue of a boy peeing, and they dress him up in a costume depending on the occasion. Nothing spectacular, but hey, it’s a Brussels tradition!
We saw the Royal Square but didn’t have time to see the Royal Palace. We were later told that to enter to the Palace we had to get there really early, so I made a mental note to myself to go the next morning.
Later, we stopped by Monts de Arts to get a spectacular view of the city and gardens and walked past a famous chocolate shop, Pierre Marcolini. The decor on the facade was interesting, the chocolate… expensive!!
PRO TIP: Do NOT buy chocolate from Pierre Marcolini or Godiva or any “big brand” store! All Belgian chocolate is perfectly delicious, and you don’t need to hand out 30 euros for 10 truffles, that’s just not budget friendly! I bought some scrumptious chocolates from La Belgique Gourmande – 200 grams of assorted truffles for 10 euros is a bargain!
The walking tour was really comprehensive, and after 2 and a half hours of walking, I felt ready for a beer. I met up with some Couchsurfers by the Bourse de Bruxelles (Stock Exchange Building) and sat on the stairs drinking (for the first time) in a public area. PRO TIP: There’s free Wifi at the Bourse!
One Belgian beer (Triple Karmeliet 8,4% alcohol = 3 euros) is really all I needed to get a little buzz going. Afterwards, I grabbed a quick bite at a Falafel stand (5 euros) and then headed to my Couchsurfer Host’s place to get a good night’s rest. (1-night stay in Brussels = ZERO euros)
Early the next morning I grabbed a quick (and typical) Belgian breakfast – a croissant and coffee (3 euros) – then made my way to the Royal Palace. I was at the door at 9:30 am, and there was already a queue! The palace is full of ornate furniture and chandeliers, and one, in particular, caught my attention. There is a chandelier (and complete ceiling) covered with green beetle shells!! Since I didn’t have much time left, I didn’t stop to read the meaning of the green beetles, but I’m sure it has an interesting story…
PRO TIP: The Palace is not open year-round, check to make sure it is open to the public when you visit!
After my visit to the palace, I met up with an old friend from my school in Thailand for a coffee (2 euros) and my second Belgian beer (3 euros). We caught up on old times and he showed me around the Old Port area (where the Fish Market used to run through in ye olden days). It was an absolutely spectacular day!
Before I knew it, I had to return to reality and I hopped on a FlixBus (12 euros) back to Cologne, savoring the beer I had finished before running to the bus station.
So there you have it, Brussels in 24 hours and with 50 euros… it’s definitely possible to travel on a budget and enjoy it.
Have you ever traveled to Brussels? How did you find my express tour? If you have been, please give me recommendations on what to do or see the next time I’m in town!
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