Brussels and Back for £30
In week’s time I’ll be heading off to Brussels for a weekend, mainly to catch up with some old friends, but I’m also looking forward to visiting somewhere new, particularly as I’ll hopefully squeeze in a day in beautiful Bruges too. One of the main points of this whole blog is to share tips, tricks and ideas for realistic getaways, and as I was pleased as punch to find super cheap return flights on a weekend (£30 for Friday night to Sunday night – perfect!) I wanted to spread the word. I’m lucky enough to be staying with a friend while I’m there, but I’ve also scouted out some of the best accommodation options in Brussels and Bruges that I’d be considering otherwise.
Like most, my go-to flight gadget is Google Flights, which is essentially powered by the slightly less aesthetically pleasing ITA’s Matrix Airfare Search. At present I haven’t found anything which beats Google Flights, both in terms of flexibility (searching by duration; multiple points of departure; month; region etc) and accuracy (I’ve generally found that the price it gives you is the same as the one quoted by the actual airline, unlike Skyscanner or Kayak). There are lots of websites which give helpful overviews of how to get the most out of Google Flights, so I won’t go into any detail here, but it’s well worth spending a bit of time tinkering with it to find the best prices.
The sweet spot for booking weekend breaks in Belgium seems to be a couple of months in advance. When I booked my October trip to Brussels it was July, and now the price for return flights on the same dates are a staggering £163! There are still deals to be had later on this year however; Christmas in Bruges, anyone?
It’s well worth searching for flights from multiple airports at once, particularly if you’re lucky enough to have a couple within reasonable reach. I usually search for the three or four closest airports to me as – in the interests of time and budget – there is a limit to how far I would travel (I’m all about the cheap vs speedy trade-off!). Cheaper flights can often be found from the London airports, but if it takes you several hours and a thick wad of cash to get a train or park your car there, then there’s probably little point.
Going with the festive trip to Belgium theme – let’s take Friday 2nd – Monday 5th Dec as example flights, which are a snip at £31 return with Ryanair. (And as you’re only going for a couple of nights, you can avoid Ryanair’s pesky checked baggage fees!). For an even cheaper option, swap to the later flight on the Friday (7.35pm) for a round trip that costs a mere £20. These flights are from Manchester to Brussels South Charleroi airport, so a transfer will be needed at the other end (use the City Shuttle website to book online, cost from €10 return). However, the early morning Friday flight will maximise your time there, as well as getting you to the city centre in time for a luxurious bruxellois brunch, not to mention the possibility of Belgian chocolate and waffles…
Hold on to your hand luggage travel fans, as this is a corker of a deal. Made in Louise is a beautiful boutique hotel in the centre of Brussels – and currently the No.1 ranked hotel in the city on Tripadvisor, no less – yet rooms are available for our chosen dates for as little as £56 per night. Booking with the hotel directly gives you prices for single or double occupancy (£56 is for single occupancy of their smallest room), and gives you the option of an advance purchase discount of 15%. Their cheapest double room for two is £70 per night, again taking advantage of the 15% discount. If you coupled this with the cheaper £20 flights, that’s a festive weekend in Belgium at Brussels’ top hotel for just over £130 per person, including flights and transfers!
If you fancy something a little different, and even cheaper, try Un Jardin en Ville, a small but luxurious B&B in the picturesque area of Brussels called Saint Gilles. Many of the old Art Nouveau and Art Deco houses in the district have been preserved, and the B&B itself has been listed in Brussels’ architectural heritage register. Book directly with Un Jardin en Ville for rooms from £65 per night. Substituting Un Jardin en Ville for Made in Louise with our super cheap flights and transfers brings the cost down per person to £125.
If you’re looking for somewhere characterful but also close to the central train station (Gare du Midi) for quick transfers from the airport and easy onwards travel to Bruges, L’Art de la Fugue is a strong choice. This converted nineteenth-century mansion has rooms themed along the lines of the house’s fascinating collection of furniture, art and antiques (ranging from Baroque to Indochina) as well as a beautiful lounge and breakfast room, the latter with floor-to-ceiling windows. Booking directly with the hotel offers the best prices: £82 per night for two, or £73 for one person, including breakfast.
Bargain hotel finds in Bruges are harder to come by, but combined with the deals above in Brussels, you could easily spend one or two nights in Bruges and still pay less than £200 per person for the weekend. Here are a couple of suggestions for Bruges hotels and B&Bs which won’t break the bank.
Ranked No.3 on Tripadvisor for B&Bs in Bruges, De Goede 13 is a stylishly renovated mansion. Located in the Kristus Koning district of Bruges, which is jam-packed with beautiful houses and mansions from the early 1900s, it is a short walk to Bruges’ central marketplace. De Goede 13 offers either double or single occupancy prices (£108 and £95 respectively); book with them directly through their website.
Hotel Academie offers more traditional hotel accommodation, but on a quaint cobblestone street within walking distance of many of Bruges’ attractions, as well as the central train station. Their non-refundable three-night special (including breakfast) is currently £110 per night if you book direct through their website.
Disclaimer: Travel Realist accepts no responsibility or liability in relation to the above travel and accommodation suggestions, and no payment has been received for these recommendations. All prices and information correct at time of writing.