Belgium Advice on a small trip to Brussels?

Discussion in 'Europe' started by Laxadaisical, Nov 13, 2013.

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  1. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    Now, I know this sort of thread as a first post is typically frowned upon in most forums. I moderate a large forum myself, and I can't stand first posts of this sort. However, I'm in need of a bit of help, and I unfortunately don't have a lot of time to build up any experience/reputation on this site. I've lurked for a while, but just got around to making an account when I realized I might get some great help here.

    I'm an American college student studying in Greece and Italy for the fall. By studying, I really mean "trying all the beer I can." I'm currently in Rome, but in the middle of December, I will be traveling for a few weeks on my own, before heading back to the states. I plan on spending 3-5 days in Brussels, though my plans are a bit flexible.

    I've done my research, checked numerous threads on here, and tried to figure out places I'd like to hit. Unfortunately, most people asking for advice on their trips are a)in Belgium for a longer period of time and b)have significantly higher budgets than I do. Renting a car is out of the question for me; I'm fairly limited to trains (I have a Eurail pass) and cheap public transit. I also can't afford to drop any serious money on much of anything, even beer, sadly.


    I'd just like some advice on how to maximize my short time and short cash while in Brussels. I'm planning on visiting Cantillon (surprise, surprise), Moeder Lambic, maybe Delerium, Bier Circus... Any recommendations for someone on a limited schedule and limited budget would be greatly appreciated!

    I've met some pretty great people in the beer scene in Rome, and they've helped make my experience all the better, and have proven to point me in the direction of some awesome beer. I figured I'd see if the members of this forum can help in the same manner. Thanks!
  2. Hopbomber

    Hopbomber Initiate (0) Mar 4, 2013 United Kingdom (England)

    Brussels is very expensive. Even at Cantillon if you're broke still even on a limited budget I'd suggest the following.

    Buy a 72hr Brussels card for metro, trams, buses, museums, galleries and free tapas at moeder Lambic well worth it.
    Buy some Pierre Marcolini chocolates (not cheap)
    Drink coffee at Askum coffee house (cheap ish)
    Get some fish at Mer Du Nord (cheap)
    Visit the Horta Museum (not included in Brussels card)
    Buy Some cheese Chimay, Orval or St Bernadus, Cantillon cheese is 8.50E expensive but worth it.
    Buy beer from Delhaize very cheap
    Drink De La Senne every day! also cheap

    Don't buy Escargots from Chez Jef and Fils
    Avoid Delirium
    Avoid Beer Planet

    Close this thread, work done.
    #2 Hopbomber, Nov 13, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2013
    Tut, digita7693 and Jwale73 like this.
  3. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    I'm coming from 7 weeks in Rome, how would you say it compares? Beer at the good bars here is typically 5-6 euro for draught. According to the websites of some of the Brussels bars, beer seems to be on par or even cheaper, is that true?

    I'll definitely check into the Brussels card, that sounds great.
    I'll buy some chocolates to bring home to my mother.
    Not a huge coffee drinker.
    Cheap fish sounds good.
    I'll check it out.
    Gotta love some good cheese.
    Is that a bottle shop? I've looked up a few but not that one.
    Cheap Belgian beer sounds good to me!

    Escargot isn't really my thing.
    I'll try to avoid those two, I might just swing by to check them out.

    Any other bars besides Moeder Lambic you would recommend? Any breweries I might not have heard of? I've had some of the big ones: Cantillon, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westy, Struise... It's been great to get advice from locals in Italy, especially on little known brewers. Anything I should keep an eye out for?

    Thanks for all the advice!
  4. Brabander

    Brabander Initiate (0) Oct 10, 2009 Netherlands

    My advice......don't go! Brussels is not my town......
    digita7693 likes this.
  5. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    What would you recommend instead? I would really love to visit Belgium, and yes, trying some great beer would be a big part of that.

    I've talked a bit with a Roman friend who lived in Brussels and a professor of mine who is Belgian, and they seem to think it's not the best, but worth doing if you only have a few days in Belgium. Ideally I'd visit Antwerp and Brugge as well, but my schedule just won't really allow for it.
  6. Heretic42

    Heretic42 Devotee (411) Aug 31, 2011 Texas
    Beer Trader

    From what I remember, 4-6 euro seems about right for beer prices at Moeder. Cantillon's prices can't be beat if you want Cantillon.

    Delhaize is a grocery store chain. I remember buying Chimay and Rochefort for a bit over 1 euro a piece.

    Just outside of Brussels you have Oud Beersel and 3 Fonteinen in Beersel. If you're into lambics at all, I'd highly recommend a day trip out there to visit both breweries (and if you can budget it, the restaurant).

    As for general itinerary advice, if you have 5 days I'd spend 1-2 in Brussels, 1-2 in Antwerp (or Ghent if you're not going to Kulminator), and make day trips to Beersel and possibly Struise/St. Sixtus.
  7. papagobrewing

    papagobrewing Initiate (19) Sep 8, 2009 Arizona

    A. Eat and stay in hostels
    B. Don't think of it as buying beer but buying an experience. If it was just to try the beer go to a bottle shop, not a bar. Besides the 'experience' of places like Delirium/Moeder etc. if you want to drink in a bar get out of the tourist center.
    C. Go to Leuven, being that it is a university town you might find some better prices there.
    D. Email in advance a number of breweries in the easier towns to travel to by train and ask if they have any tours scheduled that you can join. I.E. Rodenbach, Stella Artrois, DeHalve Maan, De Konnick, Huyghe. These may not be all the best breweries to visit but they are fairly easy to get to by train and give you a decent chance at getting some free beer if they are having tours when you are there. In Brussels besides Cantillon, hit De La Senne. Another spot easy to get to by train is the Museum of beer in Lustin but it's only open Fridays and Saturday, the prices for beer in there is incredibly cheap and you can find some real gems there. Beer prices are set by ABV so low ABV beers like lambics are dirt cheap.
  8. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    I don't foresee beer prices being a terrible problem then. I think bars will be places to sit and experience the place while milking a few beers, and I'll check out Delhaize or bottle shops to find beers to just try. I would definitely love to visit Cantillon, I think it's one of my "must do" things.

    I think visiting both those places would be great, I'll check that out.

    You think Antwerp or Ghent would rate over Brugge? What about beer-wise? As for Struise and St. Sixtus, I would absolutely die to go, but getting there might be nearly impossible. I'd especially love to visit any of the Benedictine Trappist monasteries, as I go to a school with the largest Benedictine monastery in the US.

    A) Already in the plan, gonna check out hostels soon, but I've gotten used to that whole deal.
    B) I totally agree with that idea, I've made some good friends at a bar here in Rome, and I think of buying beer there as an experience as well as a great beer.
    C) Thanks, I'll check into that.
    D) Those are some great ideas! I especially like the idea of hitting De La Senne, I've heard good things. I'll check out the museum as well, I'm not totally sure if I'll be there on a Friday/Saturday but I'll check into it for sure.

    Thanks to all for the great info! I've got some more research to do, but I'm feeling more confident that I can get a worthwhile experience out of my short time/cash.
  9. digita7693

    digita7693 Disciple (394) Jan 19, 2010 Germany
    Beer Trader

    My advice is go to Bruges and Ghent instead, especially Ghent.

    azorie likes this.
  10. Hopbomber

    Hopbomber Initiate (0) Mar 4, 2013 United Kingdom (England)

    Moeder = cheapest Cantillon Faro cask 250ml 3.20E. The most expensive draft is around 4/5 euros for 250ml bottles can be in the 100's of Euros its a good bar but I prefer Cafe Central cheaper, better music, mixed crowd no beer geek tickers whalezbrodudebeercationsourheadz and friendlier staff.
  11. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    I was thinking of heading to Brugge, my professor who is Belgian recommended that. I do think I'd like to do Brussels for at least a day or two, however.

    I've heard great things about Moeder, but I'll definitely check out Cafe Central as well.

    Once again, thank you all for the great info! I'll definitely take it all into consideration, there's just so much to do and so little time.
  12. Heretic42

    Heretic42 Devotee (411) Aug 31, 2011 Texas
    Beer Trader

    For beer, Antwerp > Brugge > Ghent. For non-beer, I'd say Brugge > Ghent >= Antwerp if you haven't been to Brugge before and/or aren't bored of fairytale-looking cities.

    Getting to St Sixtus or Struise isn't too hard, but it can take a few hours (and Struise is only open on Saturdays). You can take a train to Poperinge and from there, take the Bellbus or rent a bike if the weather cooperates. This thread has some good advice and more details for that.
  13. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    Ok, taking that into account, as well as all of the other excellent advice, I've drafted up a very rough itinerary:

    Tues 17: Morning train Zurich to Brussels. Do a bar, since I'll arrive a little later, early evening. Maybe Moeder.
    Wed 18: Another day in Brussels, do Cantillon, whatever other stuff I could fit in.
    Thurs 19: Get up, go to Antwerp for a day. Spend the night there.
    Fri 20: Get up, go to Brugge for the day. Spend the night there.
    Sat 21: Morning train, visit St. Sixtus and Struise, then take a night train from Poperinge to Berlin.

    I've checked into the train schedules, they should fit into this schedule well. I have to look into hostels for Brussels, Antwerp and Brugge.

    I have quite a few friends on my Greco-Roman trip who travelled for 10 days before arriving in Athens, and they did a "see as many cities as we can" type of tour, and it sounds like hell to me. I prefer to walk around cities and have very little agenda to follow. I spent a week in Budapest and had no plans at all, it was paradise. I think this itinerary should be doable, but I don't want to pack too many things in any one day.
    #13 Laxadaisical, Nov 14, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
  14. ManforallSaisons

    ManforallSaisons Disciple (363) Mar 20, 2008 Belgium

    It's a fine post, don't worry about that. I would say that unless you are on a serious beer hunt or have a bucket list of must-haves, and are already well versed in the Belgian ales, don't feel compelled to go far out of your way and rack up round-trip train fares to get to the pilgrimage sites. Most any decent bar is going to have more unfamiliar and worthwhile stuff than you probably want in one sitting. Absolutely, if you can go to the best places in quiet times, you will get so much more out of being able to talk to staff and get ideas and stories. Otherwise, you can a decent bar in any interesting part of whatever town you're in, and it'll be a good experience.

    Budget matters: You'll need to go out of your way to find beers at more than 5 euros; the typical range is 3-5. For food, of course you'll need some good Belgian cooking, but even somewhere reasonably priced like the beer-specialist Nuetnigough will end up being 20 euros or so a pop, thinking of a main, a beer (tipping: only if you have a really nice experience, and for a normal restaurant, would max out at a euro or two per person). You can do cheaper at a creperie (not all over the place, but there are a few), a frites shack (opinions vary about the best -- but for Brussels, it's Fritland by the Bourse), a snack shop for a kebab or a Turkish 'pizza' place for pide/lahmacun (think of these as a cultural insight into the country's large immigration populations).

    About your itinerary... a morning train from Zurich will surely get you into Brussels in good time for a few beers, and Moeder Fontainas isn't far away. Or if you stay at the hostel in the Marolles/Sablon area, plenty around there -- start properly with a gueuze at La Brocante or La Fleur en Papier Doré, and move on to La Porte Noire. ... For St. Sixtus & Struise, you'll see plenty more specific stuff in this forum on how to get there, not always that simple.
  15. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    I managed to get my hands on a Westy 12 in Budapest a few weeks back, so that "bucket list" item is checked off. It wasn't something huge for me, but hey, I found it and don't have to worry about getting it again. I'd still love to visit the monastery. Not just for beer, but because my school has the largest Benedictine monastery in the US and I think it's pretty cool to visit Benedictine monasteries in other countries.

    I do have a Eurail pass, which I believe should get me to Poperinge, correct me if I'm wrong here. From there, it sounds like it isn't too terribly expensive to get to St. Sixtus and Struise.

    I definitely agree about getting to cool places during quieter times, I've done that in Rome with pretty solid success, and it is wholly more rewarding.

    That all sounds fantastic, good food on the cheap is definitely a highlight! I'll check some of those options out for sure.

    Sounds great, I will also check out those couple of bars. Yeah, I'll look into St. Sixtus and Struise as best as I can. Not sure about renting a bicycle considering it will be the middle of December. Not sure about Belgian winters, but I somehow think a bike won't be an option. I'll look into other modes of transportation to see if anything is viable. Who knows, maybe I'll befriend a few locals who would be up for a pilgrimage...

    Thank you so much for the info!
  16. ManforallSaisons

    ManforallSaisons Disciple (363) Mar 20, 2008 Belgium

    Poperinge is on the Belgian national train network (no idea what a Eurail pass covers). Onward transport I'm not sure about in case (not unlikely) the weather isn't bikeable, but someone on this site will have figured it out. There are posts in this forum on how to visit the monastery for prayers, as well.
  17. youbrewidrink

    youbrewidrink Initiate (0) Apr 9, 2009 Vermont
    Beer Trader

  18. byronic

    byronic Champion (872) Nov 8, 2013 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    For a quick tip on how to rate cities such as Brugge, Ghent and Antwerp. Personally I would recommend making your choice depending on the weather, should it be a rainy day I would skip Brugge. It's a very beautiful city but something that must be experienced on a nice day. If you do make it to Antwerp be sure to order a bolleke.
  19. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    Alright folks, I've got a bit more of a plan figured out now.

    December 17th: early morning train from Zurich to Brussels. Hit up Moeder Lambic, maybe Bier Circus and

    December 18th: Do the Brussels stuff. Walk around the city a while, visit Cantillon, do La Becasse and La Porte Noire maybe. Thinking of a day trip to DHvL later on?

    December 19th: Wake up early and take a train to Antwerp. Explore the city, do Kulminator, any other places I should hit while there? Stay the night in Antwerp.

    December 20th: Wake up early and take a train to Brugge. Once again, explore the city, hit up Struise Beer Shop, 't Brugs Beertje, anywhere else? Stay the night in Brugge.

    December 21st (Saturday): Wake up, take a train to Poperinge at 8:30. Arrive at 10:30. Store my large pack in a locker at the station. Walk to St. Sixtus, arrive at 11:30. Stay until 14:00 or so, maybe not quite that late. Walk another hour to Struise, and stay there until 18:00 when they close. The Belbus comes at 18:30, catch that back to Poperinge, arrive at 19:30. Train to Brussels at 20:30, get there and spend the night.

    December 22nd: Wake up and go to Berlin or Copenhagen, I don't know yet.

    Everyone think this sounds doable? Any other places I should make sure to hit? I just listed bars, I'll take everyone else's good recommendations for food and sights. As far as seeing stuff goes, I really like just walking around cities, so I think I'll enjoy that pretty thoroughly.
    azorie likes this.
  20. BILF

    BILF Initiate (0) Jan 9, 2010 Israel

    I just got back from 48 hours in Brussels.

    What I was not prepared for was the sheer volume of quality beer I was confronted with.

    My advise would be to get a plan for what you want try including room for experimentation and seek guidance from the bar tenders at Moeder Lambic and Delerium (go early) as they are a huge help in ensuring your experience meets your expectations. They also like to talk about beer and appreciate discerning customers.

    Brussels is a supper friendly place and the people are respectful, polite and accomodating. When you see Grandmas buying Rochefort in the supermarket it sinks home how much they understand about beer in Belgium.
    WhatANicePub likes this.
  21. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    Yeah, I'm a little bit worried I won't have "enough sobriety" to fully experience all the beer there is out there. Since I don't intend to get drunk, but still want to try everything I can, I'm in a bit of a conundrum!

    I definitely agree with taking the advice of the bartenders. It did me well in Rome, as did going to bars much earlier, so I think I'll try to do the same while in Belgium.

    As for grandmas buying Rochefort... damn, sounds like my kind of place!
  22. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    Hey guys, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who contributed to this thread. I'm leaving Belgium today, and I have to say, it was an absolutely amazing 5 days here. Thank you all for your wonderful advice and suggestions, and while I wasn't able to do everything you recommended, I was still able to do many wonderful beer related things! My sincerest thanks for helping to make my trip so awesome.
  23. rinhaak

    rinhaak Initiate (0) Jun 23, 2009 Massachusetts

    Can I ask what you found the be the best spots? I will be there for a 24 hour layover on Jan. 4; looks like Cantillon might be closed. Would love some tips for spots to hit if I'm only there one day. Cheers!
  24. Laxadaisical

    Laxadaisical Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2013 Minnesota

    Hmmmmm well in Brussels I did Cantillon, La Becasse, Moeder Lambic, and Delirium Monasterium. I'd recommend everything but the Monasterium, it was eh. I'd do a train to Antwerp and do Kulminator. One of a kind experience. So damn cool. Stayed there for 8 hours and absolutely loved it.
    Brabander likes this.
  25. azorie

    azorie Initiate (0) Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    Euro-rail unless something has changed works on All 2nd class travel on all trains Not requiring a reservation.

    depends on your funds, but I could spend all afternoon and part of the night in 1 bar. If your really broke, hit a bottle shop up and drink in the hostel or your room. hit the grocery stores up for beer and food. sandwiches get boring but it is cheap. if your young enough you can stay cheaper in hostels. but you already know that I bet.

    pack really light, and yea you could do it, sounds kind of rushed. If I had just 3 or 4 days in Belgium, I would stay in Ghent or Antwerp.
  26. wesbray

    wesbray Disciple (349) Feb 29, 2012 Alberta (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    Is the cheese only available from Cantillon?

    And is there much that can be found at Delhaize?
  27. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Disciple (351) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    Re: the Poperinge/Watou/Westvleteren area:

    When I was there last we stayed at the Brouwershuis at St Bernardus and took the Belbus to In de Vrede. Because of the way the day went, we did not make De Struise.

    My question, because I don't remember or wasn't paying attention: Does the Belbus have a bike rack so that, if you wanted, you could bike part/most of the day, to In de Vrede, de Struise, etc, but ride the bus back (after, say, a few too many beers)?
  28. barrybeerdog

    barrybeerdog Initiate (171) Aug 17, 2012 South Dakota

    Kulminator. One of a kind experience. So damn cool. Stayed there for 8 hours and absolutely loved it.[/QUOTE]
    I just read this thread, I wish I would have caught it before your trip, but it sounds like you hammered out what would have been my main recommendation: The Kulminator (see avatar). Great place, glad to hear you had a good time!!!
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