Brussels - Getting there and getting around
January blues are a real thing, so in order to avoid them, we had planned a nice city break to Brussels in the middle of the coldest month of the year. I always felt that winter trips to cold destinations are a Russian roulette, because you never know if you're going to get stranded or have an awful time due to the horrid weather, but on the upside there are way fewer tourists and better prices everywhere.
Getting there was easy and inexpensive - we snagged a bargain on a Ryanair flight in November, from Bucharest to Brussels Charleroi and back, for 19.98 EUR round trip. We did not get any checked luggage, but on our outbound trip they checked our mini-suitcases for free because the flight was full, and there were not many checked bags. This was great, as we were able to roam the duty free shops without our luggage in tow, setting us up to a carefree start.
Ryanair got us to Brussels Charleroi on time, without any turbulence, delays or drama. Charleroi Airport is 55 km away from Brussels and we traveled from it to Brussels Midi / Zuid train station by Flibco shuttle bus, which runs daily, every 20-30 minutes. We booked our tickets online for 28 EUR (round trip), but they can also be bought at the vending machines available in the airport or directly from the driver. The alternative would have been taking the train, but the tickets were slightly pricier and to get from the airport to the rail station we would have had to take another bus. So I really recommend using the shuttle if you get here, the trip isn't long, it's safe, punctual and comfortable.
The great thing is that from Brussels Charleroi there are Flibco shuttles to Lille (France), Brugge (Belgium) or Luxembourg, so if I find flight deals in the future, I will definitely visit these destinations as well.
We rented an Airbnb apartment, which was a great fit for us. Brussels hotels tend to be expensive and for the price of our centrally located Airbnb one bedroom apartment we weren't able to get anything else than sketchy 2* - 3* hotels. It was our first time using Airbnb, but more on that in another post! The apartment was in Saint-Gilles quarter, only 10 minutes away from Brussels Midi train station, within walking distance of most touristic attractions Brussels had to offer and one minute away from the Halleport subway station.
Brussels is served by a an extensive public transportation system, so you can easily navigate it by bus, tramway or subway, through an interticketing system that allows you to use multiple ways of transportation in a single journey. Our first day in Brussels was cold, rainy and windy, so we decided to take the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus, so we can see the European District, Parc Leopold, Cinquantennaire and Palais Royal without getting soaked and pickled. It was a good choice, because it allowed us to check off a lot of places from our list and still stay warm and dry.
Also, when the rain stopped, we were able to walk around and get lost on the quaint little streets and discover Brussels' most beautiful square, Grand Place / Grote Markt, take a quick photo with Manneken Pis & enjoy some chocolate drizzled waffles and cherry beer.
I will write more about my favorite attractions in Brussels and about the food scene, but overall I would recommend taking a trip to this cosmopolitan metropolis, the capital of Belgium, the heart of the European Union and the place where history is made. You will be awed by the architecture, heart warmed by the kindness of locals and at least a few pounds heavier from all the fries, beer and chocolate!