A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
I have been to Brussels with my programme in the beginning of November to visit the European Union institutions, which was a great opportunity to see the ones who doesn’t accept walk-in visitors: Commission and the Council. (Quick note: European Parliament visitors center does accept and illustrate the history of the European Union nicely.)
However, as any class trip where your days are already scheduled and you basically follow the instructions, I didn’t really have the chance to see the city then.
Capital city of Europe is quite easy to get from Leiden. In addition to several bus options from Amsterdam or the Hague, it takes less than 3 hours to get there with NS International train. You can buy your ticket from Leiden so it will cover your ticket to Den Haag HS or Rotterdam, where you can change to NS International. The same train also stops at Antwerp, even closer to Leiden and maybe even more beautiful.
Even though this time wasn’t for pleasure fully either, we at least had couple of hours after my appointment in the embassy, with unexpectedly beautiful weather. Firstly, the Palace of Brussels and the Brussels Park just opposite of it are definitely worth to see. Iconic square where the town hall is and the streets surrounding is a must if this is your first time in the city. You can enjoy several examples of Belgium waffles, fries and chocolates as well as souvenir shops.
Note that the more you go into city, the more you see how different the landscape is from the Netherlands. You will see many stairs connecting streets. Although we rented bikes which definitely made it easier to go around the city, there were times we couldn’t really cycle all the way up.
Park du Cinquantenarie is gorgeous, especially with its architecture reminding me of the Vatican square. The beautiful building, built in 1880, now hosts several museums, including Royal Art and History Museum. We went to the Auto Museum with many classic cars from different decades. However, it is wise to not buy the ticket of 9 EUR but to just go to the cafe inside the museum that has all glass walls through which you can actually see the museum entirely and enjoy your beer.
On the way to park you will see many EU buildings, including the Commission and the Council. You will know when you are in the area with all the people dresses formally and wearing badges, it truly is a city of diplomacy. Language combination is a bit odd though, with many people speaking in French but posters, adds and bookshop for instance in Dutch.
The way back is as easy as the first journey. Again, you can opt for buses, as cheap as 11 EUR or get NS International that goes every hour.
Have you been to Brussels? What are your favorite parts of the city? Share in the comments!