Brussels insider tips

Chocolate ©  Belgian National Tourist Office

By Emma Thomson, your Brussels expert

I write for Bradt Travel Guides, .... Read more

How to save money plus other advice on Brussels

Eating and drinking

  • Many restaurants close in the middle of the day between 2.30pm and 6pm, and lots are closed entirely on Mondays and Sundays. Be sure to check the opening times in my Brussels cafés and restaurants listings.
  • Most restaurants offer a great value ‘business menu’ at lunchtime that tourists can benefit from: two courses cost around 12 euros; three courses about 16 euros.
  • Service (16 per cent) and VAT (12 per cent) are included in your restaurant bill, but it’s polite to tip an extra 10 per cent if you’re happy with the service.
  • Remember to use your Brussels Card for 25 per cent discount in affiliated bars and restaurants (see Sights and Attractions below for more details).
  • Smoking is now banned in restaurants serving food, but not in bars.
  • You’re required to pay around 35–50 cents for entry to public toilets and in some fast food restaurants (McDonalds) and at cinemas – keep some change handy.
  • St-Catherine is the best place for seafood; St-Géry is the best place for bars. 

Getting around

  • STIB/MIVB run a night-bus service for partygoers called Noctis (www.stib.be/noctis) on Fridays and Saturdays from 12am until 3am, with departures every 30 minutes. Bus stops offering this service will display the Noctis sign.

Sights and attractions

  • Several museums are closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly.
  • On the first Saturday of every month entry to the major museums is free.
  • The Brussels Card (available for 72, 48 or 24 hours and costing 40, 34 or 24 euros respectively; www.brusselscard.be) offers free entry to more than 30 of the city’s major museums, includes a public transport card, a map, and up to 25 per cent discount on entry to other sights like the Atomium and restaurants such as La Fleur en Papier Doré; others like Chez Léon offer a free drink instead.
  • The Must of Brussels booklet costs 18 euros and contains ten vouchers that can be used to gain free entry to Brussels top sights, such as the Atomium, Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, Océade, Cantillon Brewery and Musée des Instrument de Musique (MIM).
  • Arsène 50 (Galerie de la Reine 13–15; www.arsene50.be; open: 12.30pm–5.30pm Tuesday–Saturday) sells half-price tickets for shows up until 4.30pm on the day of the performance.

Other useful tips

  • During the week, businessmen make up the majority of a hotel’s clientele and room rates are high. Happily tourists can benefit from this set-up at the weekends, when the business crowd decamp to their country houses and hotels drop their rates significantly – bargain hard and you’re likely to get your way!
  • There’s late-night shopping until 8pm on Thursdays in the following quarters: Grand Place, St-Catherine, St-Jacques, St-Géry and Rue Dansaert.
  • Studio 44 nightclub offers girls free entry if you arrive before 1am; Fiesta Park host a ‘happy hour’ one or twice a month where you pay for the first drink and the next two are free.
  • Pick up a copy of the weekly English-language Brussels Unlimited (2 euros) from newsagents; it has full listings of what’s going on (cinema, theatre, concerts etc).
  • If you’ve forgotten a holiday read, head to Sterling Bookshop (38 Rue Fosse Aux Loups; open: 10am–7pm Monday–Saturday, 12pm–6.30pm Sunday) — its entire stock is English language.
  • For free panoramic view of Brussels, take the lift to the top floor of Parking 58 (corner of Rue de l’Evêque and Rue de la Vierge Noire); on the left is the spire of the Hôtel de Ville on the Grand Place and the Palais de Justice in the distance, and on the right Eglise St Catherine.
  • Public toilets can be found at most train stations; in the Midi, Louise, Rogier, De Brouckère metro stations; and in Galerie Agora, Halles St-Géry and City 2 shopping centre.
  • Keep an eye on your wallet/bag in Gare du Midi, Gare du Nord and at the Jeu de Balle flea market — pickpockets are in action!

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