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:
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
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
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!
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
Buy the Brussels Marco Polo Pocket Guide.