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Brussels is many things, but mainly, it is a city of great contrasts. From its mixture of different cultures to the balance between ancient and supremely modern architecture, Brussels is certainly no one-trick pony. It doesn’t hurt that the city is located practically in the very centre of the country, making it the ideal place to be based for a great deal of exploring. Belgium’s roads are well-maintained, and several car rental agencies have fully stocked warehouses. All that’s left is for visitors to plan their next daytrip.
Who to Book With
Renting a car in Brussels is simple, with many international companies offering their services. Reputable companies include Hertz, Europcar and Avis. The offices of such major firms can be found at Bruxelles-Midi railway station and at the airport. Making an online booking prior to departure will ensure that travellers receive a vehicle on arrival without any hassle.
Best time to go
The climate in Brussels can best be described as temperate, boasting four distinctive seasons. The best time to be in the city is during spring, which is at its best during April. During this time, the weather is pleasant and the prices of flights and accommodation have not yet soared. Rainfall, heaviest in July and December, can impair driving conditions.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents will be required when picking up your rental car:
- An ID card or a valid passport
- A driving licence valid for at least one year or an International Driving Permit
- The credit card used when securing the booking.
As is characteristic of most large cities, driving in Brussels comes with a set of challenges. The CBD in particular is known for having many, often unexpected, one-way systems. Drivers who are intent on bringing a vehicle into the centre should be armed with a reliable map. Some parts of the Old Town have been pedestrianised and are now completely off limits to vehicles. Once navigation has been mastered, however, driving in Brussels is relatively easy. During the rush hours, drivers should expect to be on the roads for at least half an hour longer than usual.
Parking in the city is not too much of a problem. There are several parking centres located around the city, with most charging both hourly and daily fees. Popular car parks include Inno Parking, Parking 58 and the car park in the Novotel Hotel. Street parking, usually a bit more expensive than the car parks, is free on holidays and weekends.
While much of the centre of Brussels can be navigated by foot, the city does have an impressive integrated public transport network. The network, run by STIB, consists of the metro, buses and trams. There are also many taxi companies operating in all areas of the city. Getting to the outskirts of the city is still best done by car, as some of the local transport options are concentrated in the centre and its surrounds.
Tickets for the integrated network can be purchased at all metro stations, on buses and from official STIB branches. Tickets can be bought for a single journey (valid for one hour from purchasing), five-day journeys, 10 day journeys or a day pass. All tickets need to be validated before boarding. Validation machines can be found at the station entrances or on the vehicles themselves. Passengers who are found without a validated ticket could be fined €55.
Brussels’ metro service is efficient, reliable and explained range of languages, including English. The network of trains is extensive, with six different lines criss-crossing the city. Trains come into stations roughly every 10 minutes, with services operating from 06:00 to midnight.
Buses and Trams
The bus and tram services in the city operate in similar fashions. Neither service has a station or hub, so travellers will simply need to wait at a stop or flag them down from the road. Tickets can be bought and validated on the vehicles themselves. Day buses stop operating at midnight, but the city recently started offering night buses, which run until 03:00.
If public transport is not your cup of tea, there are several taxi companies that are willing to do the job. Taxis can be recognised as having an illuminated taxi sign and a yellow and blue plaque. While most can be caught from the pavement, others can be ordered in advance. Reliable taxi companies include Taxis Autolux and Taxis Verts. The basic starting day rate for all metred taxis is €2.40.
Not too far from Brussels’ city centre, travellers will find rolling hills bathed in luscious green vegetation; what a luxury to be able to experience the best of both worlds! While the city boasts an infectious modernity, an hour’s drive will have travellers sampling home brewed beer and visiting small town churches.
Ghent - A daytrip to the charming city of Ghent is definitely time well spent. Only one hour away from Brussels, through Belgium’s famous countryside, Ghent is a cultural hub in the country and home to many great sights. Travellers have the opportunity to admire the St Bavo Cathedral and Gravensteen, the Castle of the Counts of Flanders.
Bruges - A destination not to be missed! Well preserved in its original medieval style, Bruges seems like something out of a fairy tale. Whether walking through narrow streets or visiting such landmarks as the Lake of Love, travellers are bound to have a great time here. Bruges is located only 80kms outside of Brussels.
Oud Beersel brewery - Lovers of good beer should make a turn at the Oud Beersel brewery. Home to the famous Oude Geuze, the brewery is located in the village of Beersel, on the outskirts of Brussels. The village is filled with old-school charm, but is close enough to the city to offer its guests some new world comforts as well.