We love Europe. You might have guessed that after, you know, reading our blog or visiting our website for longer than two seconds. We love the cobblestone streets, the romance languages, the art history, and, of course, the trains. We also love Britain, one of Europe’s favorite neighbors, because it has so many of the same charming qualities: the cobblestone streets, the art history, the trains – and even though the language is the same, an accent can make anything more romantic, right?
In this post, we’re going to tell you about two of the best things that Europe and Britain have to offer: London and Brussels. But we’re not just going to tell you how to travel from London to Brussels by train – although that’s a pretty crucial part and we’ll definitely give you the lowdown. But more than that, we’re going to tell you about London and Brussels. We’re going to give you a proper visual. We’re hoping that if you see all of the wonderful, magical, quirky things we love about these two cities, you’ll want to head straight over there and love them as much as we do.
Travel to London – Here’s a Few Reasons Why
It’s amazing that we aren’t tired of London yet, isn’t it? It’s all over the movies, it’s in the books we had to read in high school, it’s where William and Kate hang out. It seems like we should be thinking, “Ok, we get it, London is pretty cool, let’s move on,” but for some reason, we aren’t saying that. Something about this city keeps us hooked.
As the capital of the United Kingdom, London is home to some of the UK’s most significant attractions. The British Museum is located right in the heart of the city, and a quick visit to this museum is like a quick visit back in time – on display you’ll find works ranging from prehistoric times to the modern day. The best part? It’s free, as are most of the major museums in London.
After you’re done viewing the historical treasures of Britain, you’ll probably want a look at its architectural wonders – and the London Eye can help you out with that. Part ferris wheel, part observatory, the London Eye is the world’s highest observation wheel. This 30-minute ride will give you plenty of photo opportunities for London’s most famous landmarks. If you’ve ever wanted to conquer your fear of heights, this is a pretty memorable way to do it. A flight on the London Eye is included with our Total London Experience tour.
Another worthwhile stop is, of course, Buckingham Palace. It’s no surprise that palaces and castles rank fairly high on many Americans’ itineraries when they head abroad – we don’t have many of our own to admire back home. And with all of the buzz surrounding the royal family both this year and last year, this would be the perfect time to stop by. If you don’t catch a glimpse of any royal family members, you can at least find entertainment in the traditional changing of the guards.
All of this sightseeing is well and good, but at some point you’ll probably need to eat something, and you might also want to find a few souvenirs. London’s answer for both of these needs can be found in the various gardens and marketplaces. Covent Garden is probably the most well known, though it’s more of a shopping area now with more modern, casual food options. Borough Market is the place for foodies – it’s London’s most renowned food market and is a source for exceptional British and international produce. Brick Lane Market is a more artistic scene, located at the northern end of Brick Lane along Cheshire Street in east London. It’s open every Sunday from around 8am to 2pm.
Once you’ve had a nap and recovered from exploring the city all day, you might get the urge to head out for a night on the town. Should this urge arise, you could catch one of the incredible West End theater shows, or you could opt for a comedy show in the fantastic Jongleurs. If you’d rather hop from bar to restaurant and people-watch while you’re at it, the vibrant Soho district is probably more your speed. Choose between jazz bars, karaoke venues, and lively little restaurants.
JACKIE’S TRAVEL TIP: A lot of people forget about the city transportation cards or city tours that are available for some of Europe and Britain’s most popular destinations. If you’re planning to hop on the Tube, the Oyster Card will make your life so much easier. It’s a pay-as-you-go smart card that will save you from having to buy those little paper tickets for the Tube over and over again.
The London Pass is another good one – not only does it cover public transportation, but it also offers discounts at over 70 of London’s main attractions. You’ll even get what the information pamphlet calls “VIP entry” at many of these attractions, meaning no waiting in line. Fancy!
What Can You See & Do When You Travel to Brussels?
Brussels is smaller than London and its landmarks are slightly lesser known. While London is famous for any number of things – Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the Thames – Brussels is famous for smaller, quirkier delights: a fountain statue called “Manneken Pis,” all of the waffles you could ever dream of, and several of the world’s most beloved cartoons.
Let’s start with the fountain. Mannekin Pis is the sculpture of a boy urinating into the remainder of the fountain below him, and he’s located on the corner of rue de Chene and rue de l’Etuve. This sight will probably delight the kids and shock your grandma, but either way, everyone can probably agree that it’s an amusing break from the museums and historical sites. To check out the many outfits Mannekin Pis has modeled over the years, head over to La Maison du Roi (King’s House), where the collection is housed.
For a more traditional sightseeing excursion, head two blocks north of this statue to visit the Grand-Place, which is Brussels’ version of a main square. This site is fairly central within the city and is framed by four structures that represent the partially Gothic, partially classical architectural style that is found throughout the city. South of the park is the Royal Palace, the highlight of which is the Mirror Room. Adorned from floor to ceiling in mirrors and outfitted with eleven luminous chandeliers, this room might just give the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles a run for its money.
Of course, Brussels doesn’t really have a Versailles. Nor can it boast a Louvre or a British Royal Museum. It has, however, made a few significant contributions to the world of museums with its Royal Museum (containing the “Rubens Room,” which houses more than 20 works by classical artist Peter Paul Rubens), the Musical Instruments Museum (visitors are given infrared headphones to listen to some of the 8,000 instruments that are on display), the Magritte Museum (the world’s largest collection of the surrealist’s work), and the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate (the calories don’t count if consumed while in a museum, right?).
More quirky sites include the Belgian Comic Strip Museum, which was designed by artist Victor Horta and features the beloved cartoon character Tintin, among others; Mini-Europe, which showcases more than 300 tiny replicas of famous sites located throughout the European union; the Cantillon, which is the last surviving family-run brewery in Brussels and produces traditional Gueuze, a type of lambic Belgian beer; and the Place du Jeu de Balle, a flea market offering shoppers artifacts that are often strange, very retro, and always a bargain.
As for Brussels’ nightlife, it’s a much quieter scene than London for the most part. Since Belgium is generally recognized for its beer production, a good place to start might be a Belgium Beer Tour. If you’re traveling with kids or just feel like doing something playful, you could also catch a puppet show. There is also an English-language magazine called The Bulletin that can point you in the right direction once you’re there.
JACKIE’S TRAVEL TIP: Brussels is small enough that you can ride a bus around all the main areas in one leisurely afternoon. A good way to get acquainted with the city and to map out your route for the rest of your visit is to hop on one of those Brussels City Sightseeing Buses. If you’re wary of looking too much like a tourist, just keep this in mind: if you buy a ticket for this bus, you won’t have to buy tickets for the regular city buses, and you won’t have to worry if the bus is headed towards your desired location.
Taking Eurostar from London to Brussels
Why Eurostar? The best way to travel between the heart of London to Brussels, Eurostar trains carry more travelers between its destinations than all airlines traveling these routes combined. This isn’t surprising when you consider that the train takes you from the center of London to the center of Brussels (via the Chunnel) instead of an airport out in the middle of nowhere. Bonus: you will be able to say that you’ve ridden a train through an underwater tunnel.
Travel time: 1 hour, 51 minutes (the ride through the tunnel is only about 20 minutes long)
Travel Speed: Top speeds of up to 186mph, keeping journey times at about 2 hours. This means you could technically do a day trip between the cities if you’re short on time.
Classes of Service: Economy/Standard (second class); Comfort/Standard Premier (first class); Premier/Business Premier (business class).
Rail Passholder Rates: The Eurostar train is not covered by any rail pass, but travelers holding certain rail passes may be entitled to discounted ticket prices when purchasing tickets on our website. Make sure to enter the rail pass you’ve purchased when you’re searching for your London to Brussels ticket, and if there is a discount available, you will see those prices appear once you click ‘search.’ Even if you purchase one of these discounted tickets, you will not have to mark a day off your rail pass. Check for Eurostar passholder rates here.
JACKIE’S TRAVEL TIP: There’s a sale going on! Book by April 1, 2013 and get 20% off select Standard Premier (first class) tickets, plus a 10% discount on the London Pass. Click here for the full details and to book your tickets before they run out.
Millions of travelers each year enjoy visiting London, and with Eurostar, getting to Brussels by train is so easy, why would you not want to experience both? Start planning your next vacation today.