Low Budget Brussels

Want to visit the trendy city of Brussels without spending a fortune? Here are Marco Polo’s top tips for exploring the city on a budget:

Marco Polo Brussels Pocket Guide

Sightseeing

A free lift will take you into the heart of the Marolles quarter, which was once a staunch working-class part of the city but is now slowly becoming gentrified. The panoramic view of the sunset from the Palais de Justice is spectacular. The huge domed hall is open to the public with no charge on weekdays but the view from the glass lift over the Marolles quarter is always free.

There is no admission charge for the Musée Royale de l’Armée et d’Histoire Militaire (The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History) in the Parc du Cinquantenaire. The Triumphal Arch is only a few yards from here too; it costs nothing to go up and there’s a great view from the top. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am – 4.30pm.

Step inside the Royal Palace as soon as the king goes away at the end of July; you can be a fly on the wall in his palace without having to pay an admission charge. Make sure that you include the Mirror Room in your tour of the palace! End July–early Sept (subject to when the king is in residence) daily 9.30am – 4pm | Admission free | Place des Palais | Metro 2, 6: Trône

Food and Drink

The cool and stylish Café National in the Théâtre National serves an oriental buffet at lunchtime for 10 euros. Open Mon to Fri, noon – 2pm | Boulevard Jacqmain 111–115

Cheap and cheerful options in Brussels are the soup bars such as the Bio Lounge, which also serve sandwiches. A bowl of soup costs between 3 and 6 euros. Open Mon to Fri, noon – 4pm | Rue de l’Enseignement 116–120

Le Petit Canon is a fashionable wine bar, which also serves beer, cocktails and spirits. It has tasty nibbles and hearty daily specials on offer too. Closed Sun | Rue Lesbroussart 91 | Tel. 0 26 40 38 34 | Tram 81: Dautzenberg

Shopping

In May/June and September/October Brussels is gripped by clearance fever. People are keen to sell off their odds and ends for bargain prices at the atmospheric braderies (markets). See the MAD supplement of the daily newspaper for full listings.

Buy cheap branded clothing from the previous season at DOD. Look out for special deals in the sales in July and January as well. DOD Homme | Rue du Bailli 81–85 | DOD Femme | Rue du Bailli 64 | DOD Kids | Rue du Bailli 8

Entertainment

The Grand Place − the finest theatre in the world − is regularly turned into an open-air arena for free chanson (any lyric-driven French song), jazz, rock and pop concerts and also sometimes for classical music concerts. You can even save yourself the price of a concert ticket as performances are occasionally broadcast simultaneously on large outdoor screens.

Arsène 50 sells tickets at half price for same-day performances in over 100 theatres and venues. Open Tue to Sat, 12.30pm–5.30pm | Cinéma Arenberg | Galerie de la Reine 26 and Flagey | Place Sainte-Croix

Every year during July and August, the canal in Bruxelles les Bains becomes a popular urban beach. You can sunbathe, play beach volleyball, join in pilates classes or dance to live bands playing everything from electro to soul. And the best thing about it − everything is free!

Accommodation 

Sleep Well: A modern hostel in the city centre with no upper age limit or curfew. There is a bar and regular live music. 42 twin rooms from 30 euros | Rue du Damier 23 | Tel. 0 22 18 50 50 | www.sleepwell.be/en | Metro: Rogier

Beverly Hills Hotel: A very comfortable, post-modern-style establishment in the elegant shopping area. It has a good fitness suite as well as a sauna and jacuzzi. 33 rooms | Rue du Prince Royal 71 | Tel. 0 25 13 22 22 |www.hotelbeverlyhills.be | Metro 2, 6: Louise

Hotel Derby: A nice hotel with simple rooms situated only a short distance from the Parc du Cinquantenaire. 27 rooms | Av. de Tervueren 24 | Tel. 0 27 33 08 19 | Metro 1, 5: Merode

» Read more about Brussels

Buy the Brussels Marco Polo Pocket Guide.

Brussels Marco Polo Guide

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What bloggers are saying about Marco Polo Guides

Our travel guides are often found in the hands of travel bloggers and who better to put them to the test! Here is what a few of them had to say about Marco Polo Guides:

Heels in My Backpack

Photo credit: heelsinmybackpack.com

Rome Spiral Guide: “It’s difficult when you’re visiting somewhere for the first time and only have a short amount of time to experience it. How are you meant to prioritise what to do? Should you just hit the big time high profile sights? Try to go off the beaten path?

Well this is the predicament I was in when I visited Rome last month. My Anchored cruise was departing on the Sunday and I decided to fly in on the Friday night so I could enjoy a full Saturday of Rome goodness. So essentially I needed to experience Rome in a day… I mean I know Rome wasn’t built in a day so presumably it would be difficult to see it all in a day, right?

Enter my brand new and shiny Marco Polo Spiral Guide to Rome.

To maximise my time, I thought I’d try out one of their ‘Perfect Day’ itineraries to make sure I was making the most of this glorious day.

And it really was glorious, it was 33 degrees celsius on this particular day. Not the ideal temp for walking around in the boiling sun all day, but hey, I went with it.
There are several day itineraries in the guide but I decided to go for the ‘Ancient City’ variation. Mainly because it included the Colosseum and I’m basic like that. But also because it looked like it had a good mix of the big sights I had heard of and under the radar gems.” See the full post here: heelsinmybackpack.com.

The Sunny Side of This

Photo credit: thesunnysideofthis.com

Brussels Pocket Guide: “My favorite parts of their guide were the Do’s and Dont’s of Belgium (particularly the driving laws of the city), the useful phrases section both in French and Dutch, and their Discovery Tours suggestions. For this review we did a little bit of a mix and match of their Discovery Tours section, given that we had the baby with us and we wanted to go around by public transportation.

We were also very relieved that the restaurant suggestions all come with the place’s schedules. Restaurants in Brussels are usually not open on Sundays, and only open during lunch time or dinner (ex. 12-2, and 6-9pm). Luckily, the park we visited had a festival that particular weekend and it was filled with food trucks!” Read more on thesunnysideofthis.com.

Sophie’s Suitcase

Photo credit: sophiessuitcase.com

London Spiral Guide: “I had a lovely 48 wandering London and used my trusty guide to keep me heading in the right direction and I came across so many lesser known shops, cafes and restaurants because of this. Marco Polo Travel Guide books trump other equivalent maps because each time the book mentions a place, whether it’s a cafe, bar or landmark, it also makes sure it references the map co-ordinates too so that you can find the place super easy. BINGO!” See the full post on sophiessuitcase.com.

Photo credit: sophiessuitcase.com

Paris Spiral Guide: “We also sat down with a cup of tea and planned the next 48 hours of our lives, in beautiful Paris! I don’t know why but I hadn’t really asked for tips and tricks from the internet and instead was relying solely on my new Marco Polo Travel Guide to get us from one spot to another.

As we were only going to be in Paris for 48 hours we circled the places we really wanted to visit, and then crossed a few others off the list that we would save for another trip. We mapped out our route for the days and used the book to find out opening times, entry prices and how we would get there.” Read more on sophiessuitcase.com.

Tara Povey – Where is Tara

Photo credit: whereistara.com

Dublin Spiral Guide: “If it’s your first time in Dublin, especially if you’re just visiting for a weekend, you might feel a bit overwhelmed about where to begin and how to really make the most of your time to experience the best that the city has in store. Never fear. Marco Polo and I are here to help you out. Marco Polo, you ask? The famous explorer? Well, kind of – The Marco Polo Dublin guide, stuffed to the gills with useful information. It’s a real gem when it comes to maximizing your time and planning your trip. Each part of the city is handily dealt with in separate sections. It’s easy to see at a glance which attractions are close to each other, how to get to them, and where to find great food without going out of your way. Navigating and finding your way around has never been easier.” Find out more on whereistara.com.

Alice – Teacake Travels

Photo credit: teacaketravels.com

London Spiral Guide: “There’s just so much to see and do around London! You could spend months and months here without barely scratching the surface. Yet, when time is so short, we need to get to the point!

What if you want to do something different, like that time I set out to discover the street art scene in Shoreditch? What if you want to see a different side of London, hangout in places that you won’t find in most guidebooks, see the city’s charmingly British eccentricity and hit up some of the most weird London attractions?

You could spend hours searching for tidbits online or alternatively arm yourself with my advice and a copy of the Marco Polo London spiral guide.

Divided into sections for different parts of the city, each chapter has a handy map and suggestions on how to maximize your time, leaving you able to discover the different parts of London with ease. There’s also terrific digestible recommendations for places to eat and drink in here, to stop you feeling overwhelmed from all the wonderful dining options in London!” See the full post on teacaketravels.com.

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Top 10 Family Beaches

Off on holiday with the kids? Here are Marco Polo’s Top 10 Family Beaches from all around the world! From Brussels to Crete, and from Italy to the USA – we’ve done the hard work for you – so you don’t have to! 

Caribbean

1. Dominican Republic, Samana, Las Terrenas

The water is like a bath, the sand perfect for playing in and, where the waves gently lap the shore, squeals of delight can be heard each time a wave comes in. The Caribbean is a paradise under palms for families. When the children are a bit bigger, whale-watching is an unforgettable experience – the best time to visit is in February.

Caribbean Marco Polo Map

 

2.  Greece, Crete, Bálos Beach

Turquoise, more turquoise, Bálos. The lagoon in the northwest of Greece’s largest island gives you that South Seas’ feeling – but without the palms. The beach of white shell and coral sand around the lagoon and the shallow water – up to a child-friendly depth of 50cm (less than 2ft) – are ideal for a relaxing family trip.

Crete Marco Polo Guide

 

3. USA, Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach

Buttercup Lucine, Florida Cone… the sandcastles on Sanibel Island are richly decorated, the island an eldorado for shell collectors. Gentle waves and no sudden drops are an open invitation for small children to paddle safely. For souvenirs head for ‘She Sells Sea Shells’.

Florida Marco Polo Spiral Guide

 

4. Italy, Caorle, Spiaggia di Levante

Spiaggia di Levante, with its sunbeds and shades, stretches out beyond the old fishermen’s church. Kids love the climbing frame on the sandy beach. Don’t forget a walk along the promenade with the children who can clamber around the artistic stone sculptures to their heart’s content.

Italy Marco Polo Guide

 

5. Western Australia, Monkey Mia

Anyone who has experienced this will dream about it for the rest of their lives. Swimming with dolphins is just pure bliss. On Monkey Mia beach Flipper’s relatives in the wild come right up to the beach. What does a dolphin’s skin feel like? Like a shelled hard-boiled egg under water!

Australia Marco Polo Guide

 

6. Belgium, Blankenberge

Building sand castles on the beach here has moved to a completely new level! Every year, children and adults can marvel at the work of professionals during the sand sculpture festival when the most incredible creations imaginable are conjured up in Blankenberge. For the rest of the year the little ones can try to make a work of art of their own, or simply enjoy paddling in the water.

Belgium / Luxembourg Marco Polo Map

 

7. France, Cabourg, La Plage des Romantiques

Villas along the promenade conjure up pictures of the elegant spas of old. The beach has been given the ‘Famille Plus – Mer’ seal of approval by the Ministry of Tourism and is considered particularly family friendly with lots of activities for young visitors available throughout the year.

France Marco Polo Atlas

 

8. France, Île de Ré, Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré

The beaches slope gently into the sea and the temperature of the water is perfect thanks to the Gulf Stream – the beaches in the south of the Île de Ré, off the French Atlantic coast, are ideal for the whole family. And don’t forget to buy a packet of the finest salt – known as fleur de del – from the salt pans here to take back home with you.

French Atlantic Coast Marco Polo Guide

 

9. USA, New Jersey, Cape May

This brightly-coloured resort with its oversized ‘dolls’ houses on the southern tip of the Garden State looks as if it is made of icing. There’s plenty of room on the long beach on the Atlantic for building sand castles and the waves are perfect for boogie boarding too. Cape May is perfect for all ages.

USA Marco Polo Map

 

10. Norway, Stavanger, Solastranden

A long, fine sandy beach, blue skies with a few cotton-wool clouds just here and there… Who doesn’t think of Norway’s beaches straight away? Solastranden near Stavanger is a popular place for families in the summer months.

Norway Marco Polo Guide

 

Content taken from the Marco Polo World Map with 100 Dream Beaches.

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