Looking for an affordable last-minute holiday? Want to explore a country but don´t have the time or money to spend? If you answered yes to both of these questions, Brussels is the destination for you.
I actually visited the beautiful Belgian capital on a studies related trip. During
the spring semester at University, in our History of the European Union subject, a few classmates had been given the task of trying to arrange a trip to the European Parliament for our whole class, which worked out pretty difficult and in the end we only got enough invites for 40 of us. This meant only those of us with the highest marks in our subject could go; Chantal, Marina, Paula, Irene and I were five of those.
So, at the beginning of May we started planning our 3 day trip to Brussels. The European Parliament actually funded our entire trip, the only issue was that we had to put the money forward in advance and then they refunded it, so as you can probably imagine, 5 students don´t have tonnes of money lying around. For this reason, I thought I would post about how we kept our trip as student budget friendly as possible.
FLIGHTS: 228€ return.
In my opinion, skyscanner is the best place to look for flights. After finding out which airlines are the cheapest for your destination and dates, you can then go to the Airlines official website to book the flights as Skyscanner usually bumps the price up a little. We booked our flights from Madrid – Brussels International Airport with AirEuropa.
There were cheaper flights but we chose the ones that best suited us and helped us make the most of our time in the city (i.e early on our first day and late on our last).
ACCOMODATION: 37€ for two nights.
One of the best ways to save on holidays is by staying in a hostel instead of a hotel. We found ours, Urban City Centre Hostel on Booking.com and it was absolutely perfect for us; affordable (37€ for two nights!), with friendly and helpful staff and most importantly, at least for me, clean. Our only issue in the 3 days we were there was that we were on the 5th floor with no lift (imagine dragging your suitcase and bags up 5 flights of stairs!).So I would suggest that if you ever decide to visit this hostel, that you request a room on one of the first floors.
The location of our hostel was a 5-10 minute walk or a couple of metro stops away from the Grand Place and the Central Station which was perfect for us. There was also a metro stop right outside, for as far as location goes, you can´t go wrong with this hostel.
Getting to the city centre: After arriving at Brussels International Airport, we made our only transportation mistake in the whole 3 days we were there, which was getting the bus (4,50€ one way) into the city centre. We had no clue where we had to get off, the stops were terribly sign posted and the driver didn´t speak much English. I would recommend either making sure you know the exact bus stop before you arrive or taking the train (8,80€) to and from the airport, as even though it´s a little more expensive, it drops you in the heart of the city at Central Station.
Getting around Brussels: The metro tickets cost 2,10€ which lasts an hour, so you can use it again within that time frame, but they also have special discounts if you buy various tickets at once.
Travelling to other cities: We debated whether to go to Brugge or Ghent as they were the cities we had been recommended the most. In the end we decided to visit both in the same day and I’m so glad we did. They were both soo beautiful.
Don’t be fooled by the ticket machines in Central Station where the tickets cost 14,70€ one way. Instead, cue up at the ticket office where you can actually buy a return ticket for 11,40€ to Brugge with a stop in Ghent for groups of 3 people or over. The train doesn´t drop you off right in the centre of Ghent so if you have time, you can walk, and if you are on a time limit like us, you can take the metro.
We ate breakfast at our hotel for 5€ each morning which was lovely and had quite a good variety of food for the price. For lunch, we bought sandwiches at the local supermarkets and had picnics in the park or ate fast food. Not the healthiest but definitely the cheapest and it’s only 3 days! Finally, for dinner, one night we shared pizza (8,60€ each) and another night we ate at a Greek restaurant (6,30€), both near the Grand Place.
Oh, and you can´t leave Belgium without trying a Belgian Waffle with chocolate sauce, this really should be considered a crime!
Another option if you are extremely low on cash is to find an apartment within your budget range on AirBnB which will mean you are able to cook and you can avoid having to buy food in restaurants etc.
As you most probably know, Belgium is famous for its beer which meant we couldn’t leave without trying all the flavours on offer! I’m actually not a huge fan of beer at all, in fact, I hate the taste of beer, but I must admit that the flavoured beers, especially the cherry flavour, were actually delicious! As we were 5, one night after dinner we went to a local pub, ordered the 5 flavours they had and we all got to have a little taste of each.
If you are a big fan of beer, then Delirium Café is a must! They have all the beers you can imagine, really cheap and there is a great atmosphere there. If I’m not mistaken, it’s open all day until 4am so you can go at any time of the day. It’s also a great place to meet people from all over the world. We visited the bar on our last night in Brussels planning on only staying for a few drinks and going home ready to do our last bit of sightseeing in the morning. We ended up having so much fun, meeting people from Venezuela to Bangladesh, that we ended up staying until we got kicked out at closing time. We had such a good time. We then went to visit the Mannikin Pis as there would be no queues.
We actually only took one tour in the whole time we were in Belgium and this was in Ghent where we went on a boat tour. I would recommend buying a second-hand guide-book to whichever city you decide to visit and skipping the tours if you are an a tight budget. Another option is to book a free tour with a local which you can find on quite a few different Facebook pages; just type in on google: ________ free tours and arrange the one that best suits you.
I would definitely recommend the European Parliament tour, especially considering the fact that it’s free. You learn some extremely interesting facts and everyone that works there is so helpful and caring.
So, these are a few tips on how you can visit Brussels on a budget. I could have even spent less if I was on a seriously tight budget but I had some money saved up from working as an English teacher whilst at uni.
We had a great time during our stay in the European Capital and can’t thank my friends enough for making the trip so enjoyable! Gracias Paula, Marina, Irene y Chantal 🙂
If you have any questions at all or any other tips you think people may find useful then please leave a comment down below!