At first glance, the CycloCity system of spontaneous short-term bicycle rentals looks just like the Vélo'v system in Lyon or the Velib' system in Paris. No wonder, because it was put up by the same company, JCDecaux, and in theory it works the same way: you insert a credit or bank card (with a chip on it) into the computer terminal to get yourself registered, take a bike, ride it and return it to any station in the system.
This system works beautifully in Lyon and Paris, but has thus far been a flop in Brussels. In four days I didn't see a single person in Brussels riding one of these bikes or even attempting to get one.
People in Brussels have various explanations for this (the weather, the Belgian mentality, the traffic, the topography, etc.), but in my opinion it's all a matter of scale. Brussels has only 250 bikes at 23 stations, all within the "Pentagon" or downtown area. Paris, with twice the population of Brussels, has eighty times as many bikes and fifty times as many stations located all over the city.
I attempted to register at several of the CycloCity terminals in Brussels, but none of them accepted my bank or credit cards, even though they have the proper chips on them. The folks at the Tourist Information at City Hall were no help at all on this point, claiming not to know anything about CycloCity even though there is a terminal right in the middle of their office.
Second photo: Bikes at night at De Brouckère in the center of Brussels.
Third photo: Bikes at Porte de Flandre / Vlaamse Poort
Fourth photo: Bikes at Porte de Namur / Naamse Poort. This station was not far from my hotel, so it would have been really useful if I had succeeded in accessing the system.
Fifth photo: Close-up of some CycloCity bikes. Like everything else they are bilingual, so they say "Ville de Bruxelles" in French on one side, and "Stad Brussel" in Dutch on the other.
Update 2014: The bike sharing system in Brussels is now called Villo!, not CycloCity. It is run by the same company, JCDecaux, but I have been told by fellow cyclists that it now works better than it did before. (I haven’t tried it myself, however.)
Brussels has good public transport and a shocking road system - I don't know why anyone would drive except at weekends and on car-free day (!). This tip is general rather than focusing on any travel method in particular.
Brussels is a very small place, so it's possible to get around a lot of the centre without using any vehicle. In common with most places, it's worth checking out a map even if something looks like it's a few stops away, particularly if you would have to change lines. On the other hand, some of the pavements are awful and the cobbles can be tough in the wrong shoes. When on foot, watch out for Brussels drivers at crossings, particularly buses. Also, watch out for dog excrement. There's meant to be a €50 fine for leaving your dog's waste on the street, but I can only assume it's not enforced, as the streets are covered in it!
The metro is reliable - I only remember a few bad delays, and it doesn't usually get as crowded as London. It costs €2.10 for an hour's journey during which you can transfer lines, including to bus or tram, or make your return journey (and there's a bit of leeway - I was allowed a 'transfer' after 66 minutes once, but not 70). Alternatively you can buy a 10 journey ticket for €14. This has gone up from €12 in the two years I've been here, but you can put more than one person through at a time. You can get an electronic ticket (similar to Oyster in London, for instance) which charges €2 per journey or 10 journeys for €12.50.
They have a slightly odd system for numbering the metro - or rather for how they describe the lines. They have a 'metro', which is mainly underground (lines 1, 2, 5 and 6), and a couple of semi-underground trams which they call the 'pre-metro' (lines 3 and 4). They're basically the same, so I use metro for both in my tips.
In common with a lot of metros, people will try to push through with you. It's very annoying, and I try not to allow it. That's part of the reason the price has gone up so much!
There are often musicians begging on the metro, or other beggars. Some of these appear to be part of organised groups, and sometimes they have children with them. I prefer to donate to Samusocial (http://www.samusocial.be/) rather than give to individuals, but it's your call.
One more point - some metro stations shut at night, and some have shutters which come down to seal the stations. The staff don't seem to check the stations are empty before this closure, so once I had to run and roll under the descending shutter, Indiana Jones-style!
Buses are numbered intermittently from 12 to 98 (12 and 21 go to the main airport at Zaventem). The journey prices are the same as above but it costs €2.50 if you buy tickets in advance from a machine. Again, they're very regular and run on time. There's a live update service online, and an app for smartphones etc. You can get these from STIB, the guys who run the metro, bus and tram service, at http://www.stib-mivb.be/index.htm?l=en
At about midnight, the Brussels transport system is delivered by the night buses (Noctis). These are numbered, again intermittently, from N04 to N018. They have a reasonably wide coverage, but I don't tend to use them.
Once more, intermittent numbering for the trams - this time from 7 to 97. Again, reliable and regular. Prices as above.
These seem expensive here. It'll cost about €15 for a 10-12 minute, 4km ride. Take down the cab number if you can, as otherwise if you leave anything in a taxi, it's gone forever. I've heard that you can't hail a free cab as it passes, but have to pre-book or go to a cab rank. That hasn't meant too much to me, as I tend to be in areas with ranks when I need one, but worth being aware of. Cabbies will usually only speak French in my experience, and have been known (as in a lot of places) to take a scenic route - when they do, if you remonstrate (in French!) and refuse to pay the full fare, they seem to accept it with a shrug. No guarantees, though.
I don't use trains within Brussels, but to travel outside the city they are very good. There are frequent trains to all of the major towns, and most of the minor ones. They're cheap and, although they look like they were built in the 60s, quite comfortable. At the weekend you can get a reduction in the standard return tariff. International rail travel is simple, although there's a €7 return surcharge for international tickets bought at the station.
One final point to note on trains is that I've never been on a train from Antwerp to Brussels which wasn't absolutely packed, and that's included travel at a wide variety of times and days. Part of that is down to the fact that a lot of connections are made through Antwerp.
I only drive in Brussels when I have to. Use a sat-nav (GPS) to help you make it through the awful one way system; that won't help you deal with the terrible Belgian driving and road surfaces. Make absolutely sure you don't park where you shouldn't as towing seems to be the first response, and once the tow van is there, they won't let you drive away (even if you were to offer to pay the fine of €200) and will take your car to the out-of-town recovery area. Don't park with even a foot of your car anywhere near a garage (carport): it'll be towed.
The one good thing about Brussels roads is the tunnels - not because they are that useful for getting places, as they make it very easy to miss your turn, but because they often come above ground to let you see landmarks (such as the arch at Parc Cinquantenaire, or the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur at Koekelberg), before taking you back down again.
how to move around
Most of the sites/landmarks are located in the center so you can walk around and see Grand Place for Hotel de Ville, Manneken Pis, St Catharina, the Cathedral, the Royal Palace, The Museum of Fine Arts etc
Many locals use bicycles so you may try that too, we saw lots of ramps with bicycles near some parks, squares etc
If you have more than one day in Brussels you will need to catch a local tram/bus or take the metro. We were there for 3 days so we used a 3day card that was very convenient and could move everywhere around the city fast and easy as there are 4 different metro lines. The metros stations are dirty but the main problem is that there are many pickpockets especially around the central stations.
Single Tickets cost €1,80 with the possibility to change between lines, on the STIB network (except for the NATO-Brussels Airport section of lines 12 and 21).
1 fare JUMP purchased outside vehicle cost €2,00 (if inside €2,50) same as above but also valid on the networks of DE LIJN and TEC and SNCB in Brussels.
We preferred to buy a 72hours -Discover Brussels- card for € 13, we used the metro 4 times per day so it was a bargain. Our ticket covered the entire public transport network of the STIB including the bus to the airport! Any ticket machine we saw accepts only coins so we were happy with the card.
There’s also a card for 24hours card (€6) and 48hours card(€10).
There are also 5 and 10 journey tickets.
There are also some nightbuses (ticket cost €3)
For lazy people there is also the typical hop on hop off bus that passes by all the main sites/landmarks.
how to go there
Brussels International Airport (BRU) is located 13 Km northeast of the city center that you can reach by:
1)train. One every 20’ that reach the center in about 20’ and passes by north, south and central train stations in Brussels. The ticket is 2e and the train runs 5.30am-12.20am (4.45am-23.10 from the city)
2)taxis are available 24 hours of course but pricey (about 50euros to the center)
3)bus #12(Brussels Airport - Brussels City) is an express line that reaches european district in 30’. Ticket costs 3,50e at the machine but must have coins with you, the machine doesn’t accept bills (6e if you pay inside). Have in mind that During the week after 8 PM, on Saturday, Sunday and holidays it lifts off with flight number 21(Brussels Airport–Ducale) and halts at every stop (#12 only at the most important ones).
Centrally located in Europe Brussels is well connected with many European cities by rail that’s why the locals just take the train to visit France, Netherlands etc
Train is also useful if you’re coming from any other Belgium city as Brussels is well connected with numerous train throughout the day with Gent(40’), Brugge(55’), Antwerp(35’), Liege (60’) etc
There are 3 different train stations but the names in French/dutch are a bit confusing:
Gare du Midi/Brussel Zuid(south), Gare Centrale/Brussel Centraal(Cetral) and Gare du Nord/Brussel Noord(North).
In the stations there are different windows for internation, locals (same day) and advance tickets. Sometimes they have weekend offers with 50% discount if you buy a return ticket.
Bicycle rentals at Pro Vélo
Fortunately for people like me who are unable to access the CycloCity system, there is a fine bicycle rental place called Pro Vélo in La Maison des Cyclistes a.k.a. Het Fietserhuis, meaning "The House of the Cyclists".
I rented a bike here for a day and paid 13 Euros, which is the second highest daily rate I have paid thus far (the highest being 14 Euros in Munich). But bike was really good and the service was competent and friendly. The guy at the desk even lent me his personal cycling map for the day, which was very helpful for finding pleasant bicycle routes away from the main thoroughfares.
The cyclists' organization GRACQ (meaning "Groupe de recherche et d'action des Cyclistes Quotidiens" = Group for research and action of the Everyday Cyclists) also has its headquarters in the same building.
15 rue de Londres/ Londenstraat, 1050 Brussels
50°50'17.08" North; 4°22'3.66" East
Second photo: Bicycles at Pro Vélo.Related to:
Use your feet to see the city
I always think that where possible it is best to use your feet to explore a city if that is possible.
We did a fair bit of walking whilst we were in Brussels and I will say that some sights you do need to use public transport to get too but in the main we saw many wonderful sights and buildings that we would probably have missed had we used the metro.
The walking is also good to burn off all the calories from the frites, beer, waffles and chocolates!
Many parts of the city are pedestrianised and it is a very safe city to walk around even at night we thought.Related to:
- Beer Tasting
- Food and Dining
Strange that I'd not thought to write a tip about the airport. A case of missing the obvious.
It is one of my favourites, and one of my most used. Not so much recently, but in the 90s my business took me to Brussels every couple of months. Plus at that time Sabena was promoting its hub by offering great discounts on its UK regional flights connecting with another SN flight.
I remember well the old 1960s (or whatever) vintage terminal. The new "wings" are a huge improvement, but no soul...
I was at the airport for a few hours yesterday, and with it being 26-12 and me still in holiday mode, I took a few photos to remind me to write this.
It is a place where you can eat very well if you want to pay the price.Related to:
- Luxury Travel
- Business Travel
Villo Bike Hire - The 1st Half Hour Is Free!
This looks like an excellent system if you are confident enough to cycle around a strange city, hills and all. Villo was launched early in 2009 and aims to provide affordable short-term cycle hire for use within the city, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for locals and visitors alike.
There are 2,500 bikes located at 180 "stations" throughout the city, with stations being only about 450 metres apart and therefore close to pretty much anywhere you could wish to be: transit centres, shopping areas, the EC district and all the main tourist spots.
The way it works is that you register in advance with a credit card (this can be done online or by phone) and choose a subscription term - 1 day, 7 days or annual. You are then charged for the chosen period and then further charges apply depending on how long you use the bike for. Noting that for short journeys the first half hour is always free, no matter how many short journeys you take. The maximum single hire period is 24 hours but if you need a bike for a couple of days then you just use the stations for parking it and then when you come to take out another one the 24 hour max period restarts.
This looks like a pretty good way to get around and if you are crafty you can plan your cycle tour around the downhill parts of town and use the bus or metro to do the uphill bits! The website has all the details as well as maps of the city's cycle lanes.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Try it on bike
Try it on bike
Villo! is a new service for hiring bikes. It is available since Saturday, May 16th, 2009 in 4 Brussels municipalities, including the City of Brussels. Eventually, it will have 180 stations and 2.500 cycles on the whole territory of the Region.
The City of Brussels is thus going to be a pioneer by proposing this self-service system of bikes on its territory. 43 stations are distributed.
The ticket, valid 1 or 7 days, aims at occasional users.
* Price: a day ticket is exchanged against 1,5 euro. That of 7 days against 7 euro.
* Payment: by bank card at the central terminal of every station. Every ticket receives a code which allows to release the cycle.
* Delay: the first 1/2 hour is free. The second 1/2 hour costs 0,50 euro. Beyond: 2 euro by 1/2 hour of overtime. These expenses are directly deducted from the bank card.
Annual subscription: this subscription is valid for a complete year. It aims at regular users.
* Price: 30 euro. To obtain the subscription, it is necessary to go to the website of Villo!: www.villo.be.
Villo!, le nouveau concept de vélos disponibles en libre-service est opérationnel depuis le samedi 16 mai 2009 dans 4 communes bruxelloises, dont la Ville de Bruxelles. A terme, ce sont 180 stations et 2.500 vélos qui seront disponibles sur l'ensemble du territoire de la Région.
La Ville de Bruxelles va donc jouer les pionniers en proposant ce système de vélos libre-service sur son territoire. 43 stations sont réparties aux 4 coins du Pentagone.
le ticket, valable 1 ou 7 jours, vise les utilisateurs occasionnels.
* Prix : le ticket d'un jour s'échange contre 1,5 euros. Celui de 7 jours contre 7 euros.
* Paiement : par carte bancaire à la borne centrale de chaque station "Villo!". Chaque ticket reçoit un code qui permet de libérer le vélo.
* Retard : la première 1/2 heure est gratuite. La deuxième 1/2 heure coûte 0,50 euro. Au-delà : 2 euros par 1/2 heure supplémentaire. Ces frais sont déduits directement de la carte bancaire.
Abonnement annuel : cet abonnement est valable une année complète. Il vise les utilisateurs réguliers.
* Prix : 30 euros. Pour obtenir l'abonnement, il faut se rendre sur le site web de Villo! : www.villo.be.
- Budget Travel
Save The Legs - Take The Elevator!
Central Brussels is eminently walkable and indeed wandering is the best way to discover the city. However it is also a city built on a set of seven hills and the hill leading up to the Place Poeleart, the Galgenberg (Gallows Hill), and its Palais de Justice is quite a climb.
To save the legs there is now a public elevator between the Marollen district and Poeleart which is free to use. The views from the top are pretty spectacular - see "Things To Do".Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Budget Travel
Brussels to Middelburg NL
Bruxelles Airport - Middelburg NL
To find details go on www.b-rail.be
Take English, then INTERNATIONAL and enter FROM Bruxelles-Nat-Airport TO Middelburg. Date & Time. SEARCH CONNECTION. DETAILS FOR ALL.
Middelburg is reached via Bruxelles Nord, Essen (B) is North of Antwerp, Roosendaal (NL) by bus, Kruiningen-Yerseke by bus, Middelburg by train. Total time 3hr37. Trains every hour.
Shuttles Brussels - Charleroi Airport
MONDAY TO FRIDAY
Airport to -Brussels
Then every 45 mins until 20.45
Airport to -Brussels
Buses from 8.30 am then every 45 mins until 23.30Related to:
- Road Trip
Rent a bicycle: CicloCity
I encountered this automated bicycle rental location at Place Rogier.
It's called CycloCity and there are 23 location throughout Brussels where you can pick up or return the rental bicycle.
The first 30 minutes : 0,5 €
Each extra hour : 0,5 €
renter must be at least 14 years old
renter must be in a suitably fit condition
renter must possess a Cyclocity card
renter must possess a third party insurance policyRelated to:
- Budget Travel
- Arts and Culture
Brussels Public Transport Network Map
You'll find a Brussels Public Transport Network Map to download here
Brussels Public Transport Network Map
with all transport facilities : train stations, subways (metro), bus, etc.Related to:
- Study Abroad
- Budget Travel
Some local residents (non-cyclists) insist that Brussels is one of the worst bicycle cities in Europe. (But non-cyclists tend to say that about lots of places.)
Having spent a day riding around on a rental bike, I would say that Brussels has made considerable progress in recent years, though admittedly it is nowhere near being an outstanding bicycle city like Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Paris.
Second photo: Bicycle route # 1 is a fine way to get back to the center of Brussels from the south, while avoiding the truly awful main automobile streets.
Third photo: Like most European cities, Brussels has started painting bicycle markings on the streets, especially to make clear that cyclists are allowed to ride both ways on a lot of one-way streets.Related to:
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