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London to Brussels day trip

Plan to take the Eurostar for a day's outing to Brussels on a Monday arrive 10 am leave 8 pm - understanding that some museums may be closed ? We are browsers and love to just enjoy living in the moment and try not to get caught up in running from place to place. My husband wants great chocolate and waffles
Suggestions for highlights please - and can we fit a quick train ride to Brugge ?

Thanks Andrea

Posted by
4695 posts

There are a small number of museums open on Monday, but you're right that the most important ones are closed. Brussels is very "walkable" from the Centrale stop, so you'll use your Eurostar ticket (each way ... ) to take the included LOCAL, very frequent long-distance rail (NOT the Metro) from Brussels Midi to Brussels Centrale.

If we round everything DOWN, it's two hours to Brussels, and two hours to Bruges. That's two hours back, and two hours home to London. Do you really want to go to Bruges that much? Have you looked at Google Maps? I'd forget about Brussels if you go to Bruges. And the scenic part of Bruges is not around the train station, it's a short local bus ride away. So you have less than two hours in Bruges.

I personally would only do this trip as an overnight, even if it means you pay for two rooms that night, one in each city. Honestly, I've only had waffles in Antwerp, and the big chocolate companies have stores in all the Belgian cities. The question is where can you get chocolate that was made behind the display room where you buy it in Brussels? I don't know.

I'm not a big fan of Brussels (I prefer Antwerp), but Brussels has plenty of sights for a day or two. Some of the smaller churches are particularly sweet. What month is this trip? Walking around is less fun in the rain and wind. Remember that Eurostar is MUCH cheaper bought three months in advance, but then it's non-changeable, non-refundable. Remember to allow time (at least one hour, they'll tell you when they issue the tickets) for security and Immigration at EACH END of the Eurostar trip. That may increase after Brexit is complete, unknown today.

Read up on dishonest business practices on the otherwise lovely Rue de Bouchers restaurant strip. No personal experience, except that I turned back the agressive touts, as I walked. Perhaps this statement is a bit naive on MY PART, but I find Brussels "touristy-er" than Antwerp or even Bruges.

My favorite museum is the dual (Modern/Ancient) art museums (closed Mon). But the Bozar is quite nice, and I think it's open on Monday. The palace cellars (Coudenberg Museum) is unusual, and good in bad weather, but not very meaty. I liked BELview, but it's also closed Monday. It didn't pull any punches about Belgiums Colonial history.

Posted by
23748 posts

Yes, if you only use Brussels as a place to change trains.

The train takes right around an hour and there are several an hour to Brugge/Bruges. If you get in right at 10:00 (I haven't checked the schedules) I don't think you would make the 10:07, but you could certainly make the 10:29 which arrives Brugge/Bruges at 11:30.

You will need at least an hour in Brussels to check in to the return Eurostar journey. Like London St Pancras you will check in, then airport style security, then exit Border Control, then entry Border Control, then waiting room, and it may be slower after Brexit. So you need to be back no later than 7pm.

Plenty to do in Bruges/Brugge to keep you busy but I don't think you have time to combine it with any of Gent/Ghent (shame, excellent chocolate there and a fairly impressive altarpiece painting of a sheep) or Brussels/Brussel/Bruxelles.

Posted by
4656 posts

I think a lot of the negativity about Brussels from some people on this site comes from trying to do it in a day. I wouldn't recommend it as many of the most interesting sites are quite wide spread, and you really need more than a day.

Posted by
4695 posts

Well, I've spent over six weeks in Antwerp, and except for a short business trip, my visits to Brussels have been "Wallonia train daytrips", which is not what you mean by "trying to do it in one day." So my [not "dislike"] opinion placing Brussels behind several other cities to visit is well-informed. It's a well-established opinion here that you don't need to change hotels to visit anywhere between Ostend and Leuven.

I have made very short trips to London from Antwerp, using ABS Eurostar tickets. I always spent one night in London, and I had a particular evening modern dance performance in mind. Setting aside French strikes (since that train does technically go through France), I was eight hours late from London one time, because of a train-fatality on the French tracks. Fortunately, NMBS held the last local train from Brussels, so I got back to Antwerp around 1:00AM. I continue to see that a lot of travelers mistakenly believe that the UK, the Normandy Beaches, and Belgium are as close to each other as Disneyland is to Los Angeles.

Posted by
23748 posts

Mine wasn't negativity about Brussels - there are only so many hours in a day and you can only be in one place at a time unless you have a Time Turner.

You lose an hour crossing the Channel too.