Saturday, June 27, 2015

Planning for a Brussels Layover

By the time most of you are reading this, we have likely departed Tel Aviv on our return flight home. To save some money, we decided to take a connection, stopping in Brussels, Belgium for the night before getting on our 10AM Sunday flight back to Newark.

Because of how the westbound flights are scheduled, we'll have to overnight in Belgium, so we booked the Sheraton Brussels Airport hotel for $104 Saturday night. Given the hotel was just "39 steps" from the airport and providing complimentary breakfast for being SPG Platinums (valued at about $30 USD), this hotel choice was a no-brainer.

It also meant that we might be able to sneak in a few hours visiting downtown Brussels, but a lot would depend on if our flight would arrive on time (7:45PM) and if we could clear customs and check our bags at the hotel quickly enough.

Fortunately, there's a train from the airport into central Brussels (Gare de Bruxelles-Central) that took less than 30 minutes and costs €8.50 ($9.50 USD) each way for adults. Kids under 12 years old are free. Cash and major credit cards are accepted.

TripAdvisor has some guidance for travelers:

"Make sure you have a ticket that includes the Diabolo supplement, that is required for all journeys to/from the airport. 

A train to all 3 main Brussels stations (Nord/Noord, Central/Centraal and Midi/Zuid) runs from the airport station located at the -1 level of the terminal. When you get out of the arrival hall, take the lift or escalator on your right to go down, and you’re there. 

 Tickets can be bought at the counter in the train station hall. In case they are closed, a ticket can be bought from vending machines (they only accept Maestro cards). If boarding a train without a ticket, it can be bought on board, but notify the attendant when getting on the train, to avoid paying a fine. You can also order tickets online (but if not a Belgian citizen, they must be printed out) at"

Assuming we're able to buy tickets from the counter (we don't have Maestro cards), we'll walk 5 minutes from Gare de Bruxelles-Central to the Grande Place (main square), which looks beautiful at night.

The challenge will be finding a nearby place to eat that with mussels (even though they're out of season) that isn't a complete tourist rip off - think annoying vendors flaunting plastic laminated menus available in multiple languages.

Based on some research, the best place to go is Chez Leon near the Grande Place, which is a well recommended restaurant on many of the travel websites. But if it's crowded on a Saturday night, we're not sure if we'll have time to wait for a table, given the trains back to the Airport stop running at 11:25PM.

A taxi to the airport will cost about €50 ($56 USD). So clearly getting that last train is the best option unless we're really enjoying our time in Brussels. We'll just play it by ear. [Update: It seems like UberPop is available in Brussels and will cost just €16-21 one way to the Airport. We love Uber outside of NYC.]

Worst case scenario, I'm sure we can find a place that sells late night Belgian fries or waffles.

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