Emily, international student in 2018-2019, gives you the chance to discover the Ihecsperience through her eyes.
Each week, discover an article from her blog, and find new ideas and advices to live the best adventure ever!
What to Pack: Tech-wise
When buying a SIM card, the most popular phone companies are Orange and Proximus. I used Orange and had almost no problems!!
What to Pack: Clothing
Honestly, the weather is pretty rainy and gray here in Brussels (at least in the winter and most of spring). Or it’s pretty normal for the weather to be rainy one hour and sunny the next hour. Pack scarves, some sweaters, a raincoat and/or umbrella, and a winter jacket to stay stylish while also warm and dry.
However, the weather does cooperate some days and the city is absolutely beautiful when it’s sunny and warm!!
Get a MoBIB transportation card. It’s a one-time fee transportation card for the tram, bus, and metro which is SUPER useful and saves you a lot of money in the long run!!
When you go out at night, make sure to check when the last night bus will leave at. Public transportation is not 24/7, and typically ends anywhere between 12-2am. You do have the option to call an Uber or taxi to take you home if you’re out later than the last night bus.
Living in Brussels
It’s up to you where you want to live! Obviously it’s fun living in the city center, where you have easy access to walking around the city and exploring the city. But it’s sometimes cheaper to live in one of the neighborhoods just outside the city center! One of the safest and most popular neighborhoods to live in, especially for university students, is Ixelles.
One of the biggest and more popular tram/bus stops is Flagey, which is right in the heart of Ixelles. From Flagey, you can get to Gare du Midi (the train that goes to/from the airport), take a bus to be dropped off really close to the city center, etc. Near Flagey, there’s a grocery store, lots of bars, local shops, lots of coffee shops and restaurants, and a path around a cute fountain. Obviously, there are more tram/bus/metro stops in Ixelles than just Flagey, but it’s a really cool spot that I encourage you to check out!
A student price is offered at a lot of the museums including Mima, the Royal Museum of Fines Arts of Belgium, etc.
Some bars have a happy hour for students or a discount on drinks for students if you show your student ID. I wrote a whole blog post about my favorite bars in Brussels here.
Sightseeing in Brussels
Some of the main attractions of Brussels (aka what to check out if you’re just here for the weekend) are Grand Place, Manneken Pis/Jeanneke-Pis/Het Zinneke, the Royal Gallery of Saint Herbert, Saint Catherine Church, the Royal Palace of Brussels, the Atomium, Parc du Cinquantaire, etc. etc.
Honestly, part of the experience of visiting Brussels is simply walking around and experiencing the city vibe yourself! It’s hard to explain, but just wandering around the city is the absolute best.
Another big part of Brussels is the food culture. Brussels is most known for their beer, fries, waffles, and chocolate! I highly recommend you check out all four :)
And there’s more to Brussels than just the city center! Check out the surrounding neighborhoods too if you have the time (which is also sometimes cheaper to live in) — there’s Ixelles, Saint-Gilles, Etterbeck, etc.
Traveling Around Belgium
If there’s ever a weekend where you’re not traveling, I highly recommend taking a day-trip to another city in Belgium! There’s tons of beautiful cities to check out:
-Ghent, a 45-minute train ride from Brussels, and located in the Flemish part of the country. If you have a long stay in Brussels (like 3+ days), I recommend checking out Ghent one day because it’s beautiful and really close by!! You can read about my trip here and here.
-Brugge, about a 90-minute train ride from Brussels, and located in the Flemish part of the country. You can read about my trip here and here.
-Antwerp, about a 90-minute train ride from Brussels, and located in the Flemish part of the country. You can read about my trip here.
-Leuven, about a 40-minute train ride from Brussels, and located in the Flemish part of the country.
-Liege, an hour and 15-minute train ride from Brussels, and located in the French part of the country.
-Spa, a 2-hour train ride from Brussels, and part of the French part of the country.
If I could do anything differently, I wish I had checked out both Flemish and French cities (not just Flemish cities). I had friends who went to both, and loved comparing the two sides of the country!
There are hundreds and hundreds types of Belgium beer. With that many options, you really can’t say you don’t like beer :-) So try at least a few different ones!
Most bars/menus give you a percentage of how much alcohol is in each drink – I’ve quickly learned that the higher the percentage, the less drinks I need to buy. So use that info however you’d like.
If you’re really not a fan of beer, there’s also wine and cocktails usually served too (but they’re also usually more expensive than the beer).
On the first Sunday of every month, there’s a vintage market at Sainte Halles-Grey. There’s some really cool stuff to check out there – clothes, bags, jewelry, etc.
There’s a market at Gare de Midi every Sunday. The food there is super cheap, so definitely recommend going there to pick up some groceries.
Use Facebook to find out about events happening around the city! For the winter/spring, I found out about events like a Light Festival, a Tram Celebration, a Food Truck Festival, etc. all through Facebook!
Michael Collins bar has a “language emersion” night every Thursday, where you can grab a drink and join a group and practice speaking a language. Definitely recommend coming at least knowing some vocabulary before going, but it’s an awesome way to practice speaking French/German/Spanish/etc. and help you improve your skills.
Discover the entire blog of Emily Bean here