4 Hours in Brussels: How to Optimize a Short Layover for Maximum Fun

4 hour layover in Brussels: Grote Markt (Brussels Grand Place)
What is there to do on a short layover in Brussels? It turns out that you can very efficiently sample all of your favorite Belgian beers and food (e.g., waffles, chocolate, and frites) in just a short amount of time. You'll need to travel efficiently so skip the museums and tourist traps (all except one). Read on for how to make the most of a short layover in Brussels. 

Things to do on an Evening Brussels Layover

What's possible with 4 hours in Brussels? I aimed to find out on an evening layover in Brussels after my business trip to Mons. In the past, we'd spent a leisurely week on a city break in Brussels at Christmas. Now it was time to see how much ground I could cover with less than a day in Brussels. The clock was effectively ticking on this trip and precise timing was important since I had a plane to catch! 

Taste Craft Beer at the Brussels Beer Project

I emerged from Brussel Centraal (Brussels Central Station) after stashing my luggage in a locker (4-5 EUR for a medium-sized locker) and made a beeline for the Brussels Beer Project (a 17 minute walk from the station). The key to exploring efficiently is to plan your starting point in advance. My number one goal for my 4 hours in Brussels was to sample some Belgian craft beers with a more modern flair. Brussels Beer Project seemed like the perfect place to meet that need. I ordered a sampler of four beers served in elegant stemmed glasses. The Jungle Joy fruit beer had a subtle hint of mango and passionfruit and just a hint of sourness. The Delta IPA was a little smooth for my taste; not hoppy enough for an IPA. The World Gone Sour was a guest beer from Northern Monk and was sour but not overpowering. The De Molé, another guest beer, was my favorite; a super spicy double stout. Bam! 

The Brussels Beer Project has some tables in the back in the microbrewery. I sipped my beers and had a great time chatting to American brewmakers Kim and Katie from Guardian Brewing Company in Sagatuck Michigan who just happened to be in town to taste some beers and get inspiration for their own brews.
4 hours in Brussels: taste beer at Brussels Beer ProjectHow to spend a 4 hour layover in Brussels: eat frites at Friterie Tabora

Grab Some Belgian Frites at Brussels' Friterie Tabora

While I was drinking my beer at the Brussels Beer Project, I did some research on the best places nearby to get Belgian frites. Friterie Tabora was both highly rated and conveniently located close to the Brussels Grote Markt. Grab a cone of twice fried frites smothered in mayo to soak up the beer. Friterie Tabora is unique in that they use fresh hand-cut potatoes for their frites. Many friteries use frozen potatoes.
How to spend a 4 hour layover in Brussels: frites at Friterie TaboraWhat to do on a 4 hour layover in Brussels: Elisabeth chocolatier

Sample Belgian Chocolate at Elisabeth Chocolatier

What else was on my list for my 4 hour layover in Brussels? Chocolate, of course! Once again, I consulted Google Maps and discovered Elisabeth Chocolatier just up the street. I efficiently stopped into the chocolate shop, bought a box of chocolates to take home and was on my way again in 10 minutes. I did make sure to pick up a couple of individual chocolates to snack on during my short trip to Brussels.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you know that Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg are often grouped together and referred to as Benelux? This post covers a short trip to Brussels. Here are some ideas for other places to visit in Benelux:

    Have A Macabre Drink at Brussels' Bar Le Cercueil

    4 hour Layover in Brussels: Bar Le Cercueil
    Le Cercueil was recommended to me by the Michigan brewers whom I met at the Brussels Beer Project. If you are looking for a macabre place to grab a Belgian beer, this is it. Le Cercueil translates to "the coffin". I ordered a classic Tripel Karmeliet which tasted surprisingly sweet, like honey. I sipped my beer in the sepulchre and set my glass on a coaster on a glass topped coffin.
    4 hours in Brussels: Bar Le Cercueil4 hours in Brussels: the sepulchre at Bar Le Cercueil
    I've visited Brussels a number of times and this is by far the most unusual place where I've had a drink.

    Pore Over the Beer List at Delirium Cafe 

    With just four hours in Brussels, I was getting tight on time at this point but noticed that Delirium Cafe, one of Brussels premier Belgian beer cafes was just a short walk away. I stopped in for a quick Silly Sour and admired the eclectic decor while sipping my final Belgian beer of the day. Delirium Cafe is actually a huge establishment. I walked down to the cellar bar where there was great atmosphere and plenty of seating on a late Friday afternoon.
    Trays on the ceiling at Delirium Cafe on a 4 hour layover in BrusselsWhat to do in Brussels in 4 hours: drink Silly Sour beer at Delirium Cafe

    Shop for Belgian Beer to Bring Home at Brussels' De Biertempel

    4 hours in Brussels: Belgian beer glasses at De Biertempel

    If you plan to check a bag for your onward journey after your layover in Brussels, make time to browse De Biertempel. De Biertempel is a shop selling hundreds of Belgian beers by the bottle. I picked out three different Oude Krieks (less sweet cherry beer) to take home with me. De Biertempel packages the beers with care in stretchy foam sleeves.

    Buy a Waffle for the Road at Aux Gaufres De Bruxelles

    What to eat on a 4 hour layover in Brussels: Belgian waffle at Aux Gaufres de Bruxelles
    A four hour trip to Brussels by necessity requires a bit of efficiency. I decided to have a waffle for dinner and stopped at Aux Gaufres De Bruxelles for a plain Belgian waffle that I could eat on the train. Warm, comforting, and not too sweet, Aux Gaufres De Bruxelles was an ideal final stop on my 4 hour layover in Brussels.

    Head to the Airport from Brussel Centraal (Gare de Bruxelles-Central)

    What do do on a 4 hour layover in Brussels: Brussel Centraal train station
    Brussels Central Station (aka Brussel Centraal or Bruxelles Central) is just a short walk from Aux Gaufres De Bruxelles. I picked up my luggage from the locker in the Brussels train station and boarded my train for the Brussels Airport (a 17 minute ride) to catch my flight; content in the knowledge that I'd made the absolute most of my 4 hours in Brussels.

    SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other cool things to do on a trip to Belgium? Why not:

    Things to do on an Overnight Brussels Layover

    All roads to Belgium lead through Brussels, or at least that's the way it seems. If you're planning a weekend city break or an extended vacation in Belgium, why not plan an overnight Brussels layover. It's less risky to spend the night in Brussels than hoping your evening flight lands on time before the airport trains stop for the evening. In fact, our preparation paid off when we flew from Dublin to Brussels and our flight was delayed by more than 3 hours. We arrived in Brussels after midnight and well after the airport express train had stopped running for the night. Taxis from Brussels Airport to Brussels City Centre are expensive (expect to pay more than 50 EUR), but it was our only option given the time of day.

    Lobby of The Dominican Hotel on a Layover in Brussels

    Where to Stay in Brussels if Your Layover is Overnight

    We finally arrived at our hotel, The Dominican, at 2 am. The Dominican is a Medieval abbey turned into a boutique Marriott Bonvoy Signature hotel. We loved the charming lobby of The Dominican in Brussels. There is a Gregorian chant playing when you ride the lift! We were pleased to get an upgrade to an executive room at The Dominican thanks to my Platinum Marriott Bonvoy status.
    Executive Room at The Dominican on a Brussels Layover

    Coffee at My Little Cup

    I'll admit that we slept in a little after our late night arrival in Brussels. Our train to Ghent wasn't scheduled to leave until about 3 pm which once again left us with a good 4 hour layover in Brussels; plenty of time for some efficient exploration. We started our day with a lovingly prepared cappuccino with a pan au chocolat and a chili scone with lime at My Little Cup. My Little Cup is a super-cute place for a non-touristy breakfast/brunch in Brussels.
    Layover in Brussels: Collage of coffee and pastries at My Little Cup

    Parc de Bruxelles

    It was a beautiful day so we decided to walk through nearby Parc de Bruxelles. Look for signs throughout the park explaining the different features. This was a Vauxhall or pleasure gardens modeled after the one in London. The park dates back to the 18th century.
    Brussels Layover: Parc de Bruxelles Fountain

    Take an Architecture Walk

    Layover in Brussels: Shiny walkway connecting buildings of Parliament
    On your way to Parc de Bruxelles you'll pass by the Belgian Parliament. We were drawn in by a shiny circular walkway connecting the historic and modern buildings. Continuing on in the direction of Petite Sablon Square, we stopped to admire the Old England Department Store, a late 19th century Art Nouveau creation.
    Brussels Layover: The Old England Department Store

    Sit in Petite Sablon Square

    Petit Sablon Square is a marvelous park in Brussels. Statues commemorating dignitaries as far back as the 15th century surround a central fountain featuring Counts Egmond and Hoorn, 2 Flemish nobles beheaded for treason against the Spanish crown for resisting the Inquisition. I especially loved the bronze statues around the perimeter of Petit Sablon Square featuring various trades.
    Layover in Brussels: Bronze Statue on Petite Sablon Square

    Shop for Chocolates at Pierre Marcolini

    We couldn't resist picking up some Belgian chocolates at Pierre Marcolini on Grand Sablon. We were short on time, so we opted for a variety box featuring 17 different pralines for 21.00 EUR. The staff was super helpful in navigating the selection.
    Brussels Layover: Shop for Chocolate at Pierre Marcolini

    Lunch on the Grote Markt

    I never tire of those Grote Markt views! I love how the gold trim on the buildings on the square simply shine in the sun. We probably overpaid, but we couldn't resist sitting down to lunch at Brussels Brasserie on Grote Markt. A pint of Kriek beer and mussels with frites really hit the spot. The views are amazing so I regret nothing! We paid about 37 EUR for one order of moules frites and 2 beers.
    Brussels Layover: Buildings on the Grote Markt

    Manneken Pis and Jeanneke-Pis

    Brussels Layover: Manneken Pis in a graduation outfit
    I know I said to avoid the touristy parts of Brussels on a short layover, however, whenever I'm in Brussels I can't resist stopping by to see the Manneken Pis. This time he was all dressed up for graduation! Keep an eye out for chocolate Manneken Pis on display nearby. This time we also stopped to see Jeanneke-Pis in a little alleyway by Delirium in Brussels. She didn't have a nifty outfit though, but was equally un-shy about relieving herself.
    Brussels Layover: Jeanneke-Pis

    Shop for Chocolate at Galeries Royale Saint Hubert

    Galeries Royale Saint Hubert is a covered arcade close to Brussels Central Train Station. The historic arcade is home to many fine shops and cafes in Brussels. Délices du Roy offered well priced Belgian chocolate in an elegant setting. Oh, and they give out samples. We picked up some chocolates to take with us on our Ghent itinerary as we made our dash to the train station.
    Layover in Brussels: Delices du Roy

    Map to Guide Your Short Layover in Brussels 

    As you can see, it's possible to maximize the amount of fun to be had with just 4 hours in Brussels. The key is planning in advance where you want to go (I starred target destinations on Google Maps) and efficiently make your way between the stops. A short layover in Brussels is definitely better than no layover at all so make the most of your time here with this handy map. Click on the image to open up an interactive version in Google Maps.
    Layover in Brussels Map

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    Four Hours in Brussels on a Short Brussels Layover
     4 Hours in Brussels: Things to do on a short Brussels layover

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    Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 4 Hours in Brussels: How to Optimize a Short Layover for Maximum Fun
    4 Hours in Brussels: How to Optimize a Short Layover for Maximum Fun
    Learn how to spend 4 hours in Brussels. Make the most of a short layover in Brussels. Find out what to eat and drink and where to shop in Brussels Belgium if you are short on time.
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