Brussels on a BudgetReading Time: 6 minutes
My friends and I embarked on a challenge to ‘travel to Brussels for under £100’ and see if it would negatively affect the experience if we travelled on the cheap. After a day’s work on Friday-backpack in one hand, laptop bag in another I headed over to Victoria Coach Station to catch the overnight coach from London to Brussels. It was quite difficult to comfortably sleep on the coach bus as the seats did not recline very much, but I guess paying only £30 return loses one the right to certain levels of comfort.
We arrived in Brussels before the break of dawn at the coach station by Rue de Progres. In no rush to get to the hotel, as check-in was not until 2pm, we wandered across the quiet and bare streets of Brussels dancing along like little children let out into the playground at recess. Eventually, we arrived at the hotel about a couple of hours later, shattered and feeling the effects of a night of coach travel. We tried our luck for an early check in but instead got a small toilet near the reception area where we were kindly allowed to freshen up.
While in search of a coffee place, we came across the Galerie de la Reine which was a passage, filled with cafes and qwerky stores selling confectionery, traditional hats, clocks and a few galleries hidden away from the elements. It looked like it had been retained in a time capsule from the 18th century (that’s a guess) and delicately maintained.
The passage led to the Grand Place, a square with beautifully designed buildings which later in the day filled with live music and flower stalls. One of the buildings in the square was being renovated at the time and they had placed a big painting of what the front of the building would look like and you only noticed that it was just a painting when you looked at it very attentively.
Generally this was not the cleanest city but the dirt lay in a landscape of history, interesting architecture, rundown buildings in places and lots of graffiti, which all added to the city’s character. There was a very strong hip vibe to the city-it seemed rich but not showy (somehow understated).
Hunger caught up with us as we wandered…and like a mirage in a desert, we came across…..’The Waffle Factory’. A meal deal cost just under 10 euros for a savoury waffle, a sweet waffle with a drink.
I was introduced to a sweet spread known as speculoo-this is made of spiced shortcrust biscuits caramelised with several dashes of delight. After eating my eyelids decided this was the opportune time to rest, unfortunately for them this rest was short lived.
According to Trip Advisor the ‘Mannequin Pis’ was a ‘must see’ in Brussels but when found it we were heavily disappointed. It was a statue of a little boy taking a leak, not only was it so small (about 45cm) but it was so far away and barricaded. (Apparently some legends say the statue is of a little boy that went missing and was later found having a pee).
Our self-designed walking tour brought us to a park opposite St Michael’s Cathedral that had metal beds and yes you guessed it…..we took advantage of these for about half an hour as we took in the surroundings. Ok fine there was little taking in of surroundings but it was taking of pictures and stealing a few moments to explore our eyelids. We came across another beautiful park (in Louise Square) with a wonderful fountain near the Royal Palace, passed the Parliament Buildings and eventually found ourselves on the other side of town at what we assumed was the heart of the European Union due to the different European Union Buildings everywhere.
My friend and I have developed a thing about going to the Sex Museum in every city we go to and this led us to the Museum of Erotics and Mythology. Hidden away in a small street round the corner from a line of restaurants, with aromas that just lingered in the air for the sole purpose of taunting us, the museum housed an interesting exhibition put together by Dr Guy Martens. Dr Martens started collecting pieces from the age of 13 and his collections are now displayed in several museums around the world. We were given a guided tour of the exhibition with a detailed explanation of the history and meaning of EACH piece. This was initially very interesting, however due to my lack of sleep by piece number 23 in a very polite way…I did not care about the history of each genitalia shaped kitchen utensil(or other random artefacts)-Lesson learnt: do not visit museums and galleries when tired or sleepy. I excused myself and returned to the hotel.
I slept for the rest of the afternoon and woke up in the evening and we roamed around the city in search of a restaurant based on the specific scientific measures of busyness, menu options and price. We settled for a Tapas restaurant in a vibrant part of town where we enjoyed Spanish tapas with Sangria for about 15 euro each. Naturally, after dinner we decided to explore the nightlife by checking out a few bars in town.
After a couple of okay bars we ended up in a South American themed bar with good music, offering ample dancing opportunities and drinks at roughly 4 euros a pop. Half our party retired just after midnight and the other half salsad, sambad, and strut their stuff before eventually rolling back to the hotel at 4am. As you can imagine, getting up the next morning was a struggle. We left the hotel and with both, limited time and money, we set off to pick up a few prezzies and some well needed breakfast. We then waited patiently for the coach that was to take us back to the land of rest and comfy beds. My friends and I generally had a good time and created some really interesting, briefly accumulated memories for our story boards all for under a £100. Challenge accomplished!!!
Our costs were significantly reduced because we walked everywhere, had cheap and cheerful meals and chose to engage in the free sites as oppose to paying entrance fees for different places. Also it helped that I was with a great bunch of crazy and creative girls!!!
Have you ever been on a budget holiday? Where did you go and how did you cut costs?