The perfect Brussels layover- everything you need to know
So you’ve found yourself stranded in Belgium’s capital with a lot of time to kill? This guide will help you get the max out of the experience, whether you’re in or out of the airport during your Brussels layover. First check the length of your stopover and then plan some excitement to pass the hours. If you’re wondering what to do in Brussels Airport (BRU), this post has you covered, or if you’re free to go exploring, scroll down for an itinerary packed with big hitters and a few hidden gems.
Can you leave Brussels Airport?
- If you’re travelling from within the Schengen area, are an EU citizen or have a Schengen visa- yes!
- If you’re travelling from the US/Canada/Australia, yes you can stay for 90 days without a visa, but you must have at least 6 months left on your passport.
- If your layover is 3 hours or less, I wouldn’t recommend you leave the terminal.
- If your case is not covered above, leave me a comment below and I’ll reply with the relevant information.
The painless guide to STAYING IN THE AIRPORT for a Brussels layover
Internet before all else
First and foremost you’ll need Wi-Fi (how else will you read this guide?) and there’s free unlimited internet throughout the terminals. If you’re having trouble connecting, navigate to 192.168.1.1 in your browser, I can’t tell you how many times that has saved me!
We all now have phones that run flat within an hour so grab a drink at Quick (Pier A), they have powerpoints on the tables there, and charge that battery.
Ditch your bags, if they’re not checked in already
There’s a left luggage on Level 0 of the airport, or if you can, get your bags ready for your next flight ahead of you.
Tasty airport treats
Most of the restaurants in Brussels Airport are open 4am till 9pm, so good news for those who can’t miss brekkie! But dinner will require some forward planning.
Seek out Blend in Brussels in Pier A if you’re in need of trying something truly patriotic, EXki is the stop for the health conscious, or, not to play devil’s advocate, there’s Quick which is the francophone world’s answer to fast food.
To save money, bring a small bottle under 100ml and fill it up before your onward flight- both piers have free drinking fountains.
Send a memento
There’s a PostPunt (post office) on the arrivals floor open everyday except Sunday for letters, parcels, stamps and more. I love the idea of sending at least one postcard from a destination and collecting beautiful stamps. If in doubt, scrawl a letter to yourself on a bit of paper and send it to your home address, you’ll smile and remember your trip when you get it.
By now I know you’re already feeling the boredom of a long layover, so here are some ways to kill time. Now is a great moment to get some new underwear, and the Happy Socks pop up sock and underwear corner is value in entertainment. Find it in Pier A and grab yourself some instagramable socks!
It’s a no-brainer, get rid of all the change in your pocket favour of something useful for your trip. There’s a Travelex inside the arrivals hall.
Get work done
There are PCs available for those without technology on both piers and in Zone T close to the departure gates, so settle down, pop in some headphones and slay some serious work.
If all else fails, nap
Belgium is a diverse place, and offers a dizzying range of prayer rooms- up the escalators from Pier A near gate 42, or in Pier B close to passport control.
Whatever your beliefs are, though, my best tip would be, to visit the meditation room! It’s a fantastic place to lie back and shut out the world, dotted with some of the only comfy cushions in the airport. I’d love it even more if it had beanbags!
The fabulous guide to LEAVING THE AIRPORT during your Brussels stopover
What to do in Brussels
Getting your feet in Belgium is first undersranding that absolutely everything will be in at least 2 languages – take note of the length of their billboards! Whether you have a 4 hour layover, 5 hours, 8 hours or even an overnight stay in Belgium, there’s time to get a flavour of the heart of Europe. Brussels’ allure lies in its melting pot of cultures, gourmet food and quirky comic book culture.
Start at the top of the itinerary and return to the aiport as soon as you run low on time.
How to transfer from the airport to the city
To start the adventure, take a train from below the airport into Brussels central station (Bruxelles-Central/Brussel-Centraal), which takes about 20 minutes and will cost €17.60. They have 48 and 72 hour tickets too and be sure to buy the disposable kind, there is a permanent one for residents that includes a pic- the MOBIB.
The hive of Belgium
Take a five minute walk into the Grand Place and Belgium offers itself to you on a plate. The square is a medieval hive of activity and every exit leads somewhere. Watch the flags wave above you and take some shots of the heart of Belgium.
Take the exit onto Rue Charles Buls – next to a restaurant called La Maison du Cygne- so you can visit Belgium’s cheerful Mannekin Pis, or peeing boy fountain, who is quite literally urinating on the city like a mischievous cherub. At the time I was there, they were celebrating the statue’s anniversary, so he was dolled up with a sailor hat and champagne. Apparently he is often dressed for special occasions.
What most people don’t know is that he’s part of a triplet, accompanied by a peeing dog – Het Zinneke – in the west of the city on Rue des Chartreux 35. There’s also his twin – Jeanneke Pis – just round the corner from her brother on Impasse de la Fidélité 10-12. For the full effect, and bragging rights among your friends, see all three. If you’re short of time, stick to the Mannekin Pis.
There is a beer café right next to it called Poechenellekelder and it’s popular with the locals, so you know it’s genuinely good. Try a cold one and say you want it ‘au fût’, or ‘from the barrel’.
On the same street is a fresh wafflemaker that draws crowds with the tantalising smells that waft into the street. Queue up for a 2 euro waffle doused in nutella and fruit. That is the definition of a bargain.
The tastiest morsels I found were at Mary the Chocolatier, just a short walk from Grand Place at Lombardstraat 28B, 1000 Brussels. Inside there are intricate boxes of tasty nibbles, or loose chocolates that you can buy by the gram – or kilo, in my case. We all know that Belgian chocolate is the very finest!
Comic book art
If your legs need a stretch, there’s the iconic and kitsch comic strip art tour around the centre of Brussels, where every wall hides a new scene. You can speed it up by taking the metro between several of the points, but it took me three hours of slow strolling to complete. No need to finish if it’s too much, but at least see a sprinkling of the legacy of Belgium’s artists. Pin one of the images at the bottom of the post for some inspiration of what you’ll see!
On the way you’ll pass the eclectic and breezy gay district, the Saint Jacques neighbourhood, where even the doors are fascinating. The cafes are colourful and packed with dog collars and bright hair. Sit down and receive a warm welcome, the perfect place to soak up the vibe.
There’s a timeless arcade called the Galerie Bortier just offer the central station when you’re ready to return. Stop on you’re way back for a piece of nineteenth cetury nostalgia, designed by an iconic local architect. Here you can step back in time to rifle the racks of old French paperbacks and soak up the melancholy atmosphere. Find it at the Rue de la Madeleine 55, 1000 Bruxelles.
Returning to the airport
Already seen Belgium? A train ride will take you straight to the teeny nation of Luxembourg only three hours from Brussels Central.
Although there is so much more to see outside the city, these truly are my favourite places to see in Brussels. I wish you a fabulous Brussels layover!
PS: Take a peek at a fabulous Bangkok layover at no extra cost on your next cross-Asia flight!