There are varieties of options is available to get to the airport and catch your flight on time but I think that easiest and cheap way to there is by train. You can get a ticket for around Euro 2.40 and you will at the airport from central station in 20 minutes.
The place that was closer to our B&B was Bruxelles Nord so we decided to take the airport express train. The ticket booth is on level -1 and the platform was on the level under the ticket booth. The trip itself takes between 10 and 15 minutes and it goes non-stop to Bruxelles Nord.
As of March 2010, the fare was 5.05 euros per person (adult), one way.
There's other ways to go to and from the airport, like the airport bus and taxis and you can go to several cities in Belgium as well, as for the link below.
I bought a "10 Voyages" ticket valid for travel on trains, trams and buses while I was in Brussels for 10 Euros. This allows me to make 10 journeys across a time period of 1 week.
Upon validation of the ticket all subsequent rides on the train, trams and buses are free within an hour of the validation. In my own experience, this means on arrival by train from the suburbs into the city itself, all my subsequent travels inside the city for the next 1 hour are free and thus I could hop on & off whenever I need to get to the places I want to go.
There are many other types of tickets available, so find one that suit your needs most.
If you are staying in the city and in Brussels for 3 days or more, then the 72 hours card may be more useful. (See previous tip)
For a closer inspection of Brussels transport system, please access:
Brussels Transport Systems Map
Traveling by train in Belgium is probably the easiest way (when you don't have a car).
When you arrive at the airport, you can take a train to go the central station (in the centre). You'll be there in about 15-20 minutes (2.5 euros).
If you want to travel in Belgium or in Europe from Belgium, the website of the Belgian railways is very useful.
-Traveling in Belgium - my personal tips -
If you are under 26 and want to do 10 trips in Belgium, the "GoPass" is a good option. You can travel to any Belgian city for 4 euros ! A GoPass is 40 euros for 10 trips and it's valid one year (if you don't use it all, you can try to resell it to a student).
If you are more than 26, you have the same system with the "Railpass". The only difference is the price : you pay 60 euros for 10 trips instead of 40. But it's still very cheap.
You also have one-day tickets, week-end tickets etc.... More information on the website below.
The Central Station in Brussels is not the most glamorous station but very practical as it is located very close to the Grand Place. You also can find Liege style waffles for sale at a good price inside the station. Exiting this station you have a very nice view.
From any station (there are three -- North, South, and Central) in Brussels you can connect to another station by the next train just by purchasing a "jump" card for about 1,40 Euros. Validate the card at the top of the stairs before you descend to the train platorms
This is the fastest and cheapest way to go around Belgium
You can buy a card called Go Pass, for 50 euros you can have 10 trips, so one trip can be to one point of Belgium to any other point in the country, so for 5 euros the trip you can't beat it with another type of transportation
Brussels can be confusing to arrive at by train for the first time. There are three train stations in the center of the city and your train could stop at any or all of them. They are appropriately named North (Gare du Nord, Noordstation, Brussel Noord), Central (Gare Centrale, Centraal Station, Brussel Centraal) and South (Gare du Midi, Zuidstation, Brussel Zuid). As you can see, naming the stations in French and Dutch can add to the confusion. If that weren’t enough, the train tracks go underground through the center of Brussels, and so the Central station is also underground. My advice to train travelers is to make sure you know which station you are arriving and departing from.
In general, trains seem to originate or terminate at either the North or South stations, passing through the Central station at which they may or may not stop. The South station is the largest and most recently renovated and seems to accommodate the high speed trains. The north station also houses the bus terminal.
The Thalys trains are a joint service of the Belgian, French, Dutch and German railways. They look like French TGV trains, which essentially is what they are.
These trains can reach speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour when the tracks permit. In practice, this means they are very fast between Brussels and Paris, but not on the rest of the system.
Update: As of 2013, the German railway system is no longer a shareholder in Thalys. This means that the Deutsche Bahn no longer sells Thalys tickets, except by snail mail, but the Thalys trains still run on German tracks from Belgium to Cologne and occasionally on to Düsseldorf, Duisburg and Essen.
Second photo: First class in the Thalys between Cologne and Brussels. First class passengers are greeted and get their tickets checked on the platform, and are given a free newspaper in French, Dutch, English or German.
Third photo: Second class in the Thalys. The main difference is that in second class there are four seats across, and in first class only three. Also the people in first class either have more money or they have fewer inhibitions about spending it.
Fourth photo: At the Thalys Bar you can get drinks and snacks. There isn't any real dining car, presumably because most journeys are too short to make it worth while. The Thalys Bar is open from Cologne to Paris except for a few minutes while the train is stopped at the Midi station in Brussels.
When coming by Thalys, you'll arrive in Brussels Midi (South) Station. From there you can have a connection to Brussels Central Station, which is the main station to visit the center of the city.
Only a 5 minutes walk from the Grand Place.
Brussels has a good train network , not only within Belgium but also to other European countries, such as France, the Netherlands, etc.
Trains are regular and fares are not expensive , and you can chose between several classes available, all of them with good standards. There are rail passes if you are planning to stay longer and want to travel to different places.
The nearest airport to Brussels is located in Zaventem; some 13 km. nort-east from the city center.
You can go from the airport to the city center by train. Trains between the airport and the train stations (North, Central and South) run around 15 minutes during the day.
The airport train station is located on basement at level 1.
Otherwise you can take a bus to the city. You can find the bus station at the airport on level 0; one floor below the arrivals hall.
As the name implies, this station is in the center of Brussels, but it is by no means the main station. On the contrary, only regional and commuter trains stop here. For international trains, go to the Midi (South) Station instead.
The Central Station was designed in the 1920s by Victor Horta, but wasn't actually built until 1952.
When I was there they were busy renovating the inside of the station, which is just as well because it had all gotten quite run down over the years.
Brussels is very easy accessible by train. There is a direct train from the airport into the city centre and Brussels is connected to the most important cities of Belgium.
However, Brussels has 3 different train stations, so which one should you have?
1. Brussel Zuid/ Bruxelles Midi
If you want to visit the Marolles, the Matonge district and the Palace of Justice. This is also the station from which the Thalys or Eurostar leave.
2. Brussel Centraal/Bruxelles Centrale
Get off at this station if you want to visit the most important tourist spots of Brussels: it's very close to the Grand'Place, Manneken Pis, St Gudule & St Michael Church, ...
3. Brussel Noord/Bruxelles Nord
If you would like to see the business district of Brussels or go shopping in the Nieuwstraat/Rue Neuve.
Going from Brussels Airport to town is easy as 1-2-3. A train links all 3 main Brussels station (Nord/Noord, Central/Centraal and Midi/Zuid) to the Airport station located at the -1 level of the aiport terminal. When you get off the plane, take the elevator or the escalator and you're there. And it's only a 20 minutes train ride!
The train starts running from at around 5:30 am until past midnight. From Brussles, the first train is at around 4:40 am until 11 pm (from Bruxelles-Midi) and it will cost you 2,50 € in second class.
If you're taking the train on the week-end, check the schedule as it might be different.
For train schedule, go to http://www.b-rail.be
There is also an Express Bus Line, Line 12 starting at the Brussels Luxemburg train station, it stops at the NATO headquarter on the way to the Airport. They run (from Brussels-Luxemburg) from 7:33 am to 7:34 pm and from the aiport, the buses run from 5:45 am until 11:10 pm Attention though, the buses from Brux-Lux don't run on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays BUT the one from the airport do run and stops at Schuman instead of Luxemburg.
Oh... and the ticket is 3 Euros.
Needless to say... the train seems the most efficient solution.
For more information (and alternatives) about to go or leave the airport, follow my link!
I love travelling and I quite often love the journey as much as the destination. I don't particularly like flying (who does?) but I do like airports, Amsterdam's Schiphol being a personal favourite. I love ferries, when I'm in no hurry, and great ferry journeys such as those around the Greek Islands are memories that have stuck and are future journeys to look forward to. But best of all I like a good train journey.
The only bugbear I have with the Eurostar trip between London and Brussels is that it is now TOO FAST! HA! I miss that extra 20 minutes that the new line from St Pancras has cut off.
But this is still the way to go, whether standard class or, if you can get a deal, 1st class. The journey, city centre to city centre, is now about 2 hours. No queues, minimal security hassles, comfortable seats, reliable trains.
Book well in advance (up to 120 days) for the best prices and enjoy!