Our 3 Night Trip to Brussels and Bruges
We took a little trip recently. We went on a 3 night trip to Brussels and Bruges in Belgium. Our method of transport was one of our favourite ways to travel – Ferry. Read all about our trip and top tips for saving money whilst travelling as a family.
We travelled on a minicruise with P & O Ferries (affiliate link) which sails between Hull, England and Zeebrugge, Belgium. At certain times of the year, including some school holiday periods, you can get 2 for 1 deals on their mini cruises. That is exactly what we took advantage of for this trip.
You can choose from a 2 night or 3 night trip. We did the 2 night trip to Bruges a couple of years ago and we have also done both the Amsterdam and Rotterdam mini cruises. This time we decided to book the 3 night trip so that we could also visit Brussels too.
The return ferry journey, including return coach transfer from the port to Bruges, cost just £185. This is for 4 of us in a 4 bed en-suite room (bunk beds).
Hotel and Other Costs
As we had booked the 3 night trip, we also needed to book a hotel in Bruges for one night. This was£160 for a quadruple room (4 beds), ensuite, free wifi (essential with two teenagers), swimming pool, gym and breakfast.
Add in the cost of parking at the ferry terminal at £7 per 24 hour period = £21
A total of £366 for travel, accommodation and parking for 4 people.
MiniCruise - Day One
We arrived at the ferry port in Hull for 4 pm. We parked the car in the adjacent car park and paid for parking. We were leaving the car in the UK and travelling as foot passengers. We needed parking for 3 x 24 hour periods, so this was a cost of £21.
The ferry doesn’t depart until 6.30 pm, so there is no early start required, much to the relief of the boys.
We checked in and made our way to the waiting area. This is nothing like the departure lounge of an airport. It is basically a large room with rows of plastic seats and a couple of vending machines. However, unlike the airport you can take your own food and drink with you, so that is exactly what we do to save money.
The departure lounge has a small playroom but, unfortunately, for the young children who were travelling, this was not open.
Once it was time to board the ship, we made our way up the escalators (there are lifts too for the less abled or luggage laden). We are travelling light – just a rucksack each.
On Board the Ferry
Once on board we make our way to our room. I like to get the beds set up (they are usually folded up against the wall and you need to pull them down, although the beds are all ready made. I then unpack anything that we will need for the evening. I am not good when I am tired, so I have to do this all now before we go exploring the ship.
The ship has an entertainment lounge with bar, two restaurants, a coffee shop, an arcade, a cinema and a number of duty free shops.
The thing I like about going on the ferry is that the actual travelling becomes part of your holiday. You can go and have a meal in the restaurant or have a drink in the bar, or even watch a film in the cinema, all whilst travelling to your destination.
Save Your Money
Another plus is that you can continue to save money whilst you are on the ferry. As I mentioned earlier, you can take your own food and drink on board. So to save money we always take a travel kettle, 3 in 1 coffee sachets, snacks, drinks, long-life milk and variety pack cereals with us, along with some disposable bowls.
Wifi On Board
We have a drink in the bar whilst listening to the entertainment and playing card games. There is wifi on board - £3 for 90 minutes or £12 for 12 hours, but the boys are happy to play cards with us and I’m glad as I don’t really want to pay that much for wifi.
Soon enough it is time for bed and whilst we sleep the ferry continues on its journey and we wake (thanks to the wake-up call from the Captain) just outside Zeebrugge.
MiniCruise - Day Two
Before the ship docks, we eat our cereal, drink our drinks and get ready for the day ahead. As we are leaving the ship and staying for a night in Bruges, we also have to pack all our things up and take them with us (hence just the four easy to carry rucksacks). If you book the 2 night cruise you can usually leave all your things in your room whilst you go off the ship and explore for the day.
Inclusive Coach to Bruges
We make our way through customs to the coaches waiting outside. We board the coach and it takes us towards Bruges, dropping us off near the train station.
From here it is about a 10 minute walk to the centre of Bruges and that is the direction the majority of the travellers go. We turn and make our way into the train station to buy tickets and find the train which will take us to Brussels.
Train to Brussels
We enquire about the cost of tickets for the four of us. The assistant looks up the prices and informs us that a 10 trip ticket is the cheapest way for us to travel. This costs us €77 for our return journey. The train journey takes one hour.
Upon arrival in Brussels we check the times of the return trains and exit the station and are immediately disorientated as to our exact location. We are armed with our trusty guide book and map but cannot really locate any particular focal points. We decided to wander off in search of a sign or something familiar.
Eventually we get our bearings and head off in the direction of The Grand Place.
The Grand Place
The Grand Place is the central square in Brussels. It is surrounded by beautiful buildings whose features are adorned in gold. As it is Christmas there is a large Christmas tree in the centre.
Being one of the main sites for tourists, The Grand Place is a hive of activity.
We are now feeling a bit peckish and find somewhere just off the beaten track to get a bite to eat. We end up eating lovely burgers in an independent burger bar.
Next on our list of sites to see is the Manneken Pis. It takes us about 10 minutes to walk from The Grand Place to the Manneken Pis and this time we are able to follow the street signs. On the way, however, we come across a lovely Christmas Market, so we have wander around and I buy a Christmas decoration. I love to buy Christmas decorations from places we travel to. I love to get them out each year as they invoke such great memories for us all.
We eventually reach the Manneken Pis and the boys (who have no idea what this actually is – other than it is a statue of a boy having a wee) are intrigued. However, once we reach the statue their faces are a picture. They are disappointed that it appears to be such an insignificant site and are amazed at the crowds of people clamouring to obtain a photograph.
Built as part of the city's network of water fountains, the Manneken Pis was an important part of the distribution of water within Brussels. Today, although not needed for his original purpose, he is still important to the people of Brussels and there are approximately 23 dates on which he is dressed up in different outfits to represent the day.
The European Parliament was the next site we wanted to see, particularly as it would still have the British flag flying.
The Royal Palace, Brussels
On the way we passed the Royal Palace. Although the Belgian monarchy do not use this as a residence, you can visit for free during the Summer months.
Opposite the palace is the lovely Brussels Park. We had a little walk through this and I was really surprised to see Parakeets flying through the trees. Although it was a nice sunny day it was freezing and I just imagined that they should be somewhere much warmer.
The European Parliament
The European Parliament was a 15 minute walk from the train station and it was quite easy to find as long as you use the street signs as well as your map!
There seemed very little security – other than a security guard stopping cars – so you were free to walk all the way around and take plenty of photos.
Back on the Train
Soon it was time for the return train journey to Bruges. We stayed in Brussels for around 4 hours. We saw all the sights we had set out to see. It would be nice to return in the future and spend a couple of nights here. I’d love to go out to the Atomium.
Arrival in Bruges
We arrive back in Bruges at around 5.30 pm and make our way to our hotel. We try to follow the map in our guide, but it only shows the major road names so I have to use my phone.
It turns out that the hotel is only a 10 minute walk away and we set off.
Hotel Floris, Bruges
We stayed in the Floris Hotel, Bruges and it was lovely.
Hotel Floris Swimming Pool
We check in, go to the room and unpack our overnight things. We then decide to go and have a swim in the pool. Eldest son decides he doesn’t want to. I secretly suspect this is because he had finally been reunited with wifi!
The Markt, Bruges
We shower and change and head out into Bruges. We make our way to The Markt, the central square in Bruges. The square is home to a Christmas market, an ice rink at this time of year, as well as museums, restaurants, cafes and the Belfort, a Belfry which is one of the main tourist attractions.
Famous Belgian Frites
It is decided that a snack is in order,. We decide to try some famous Belgian Frites. There are a range of sauces you can choose from to accompany them. We opt for a medium portion and it is huge. Too much for me to finish but everyone else seems to manage it.
Then we make our way back to the hotel for a good nights sleep before more sightseeing in the morning.
MiniCruise - Day Three
Breakfast - Hotel Floris
The next morning, we made our way down to breakfast. It was a typical continental style display. There was tea, coffee and fruit juice. A selection of cereals, meats, cheeses, yogurts. There was warm bacon and scrambled eggs. Bread which you could toast yourself and a selection of croissants and pain au chocolat.
Then it was back to the room to pack up our things and go an check out. At checkout we asked if the hotel would store our luggage for us, for which they had a special room.
Back in to the centre of Bruges
We ambled along the streets, stopping to have a look round some shops on the way. We were making our way back to The Markt to visit the Belfort, which was the first tourist spot we had on our list.
The Belfort, Bruges
It was around 10.30 am when we arrived. There was already a queue which we joined. We had to queue for just over an hour. Unfortunately it was spitting with rain! The queue was slow moving as they can only let so many people up at one time due to the rather limited space.
The Belfort stands over 80 metres high and has 366 steps. Entry was €10 per adult and €8 for under 18s. Once we were allowed to start our ascent, we made a steady walk up. The staircase is a spiral and a combination of stone steps and wooden steps. It was quite difficult to pass people who were walking down as we were walking up.
At various points during the climb there are areas that you can enter with display cabinets and viewing points.
We made it to the top quite easily. There is a lack of room at the top as it also houses a very large bell. We had a quick look out the windows and then decided to make our way back down.
As always, I found this the most difficult. I don’t know what it is but whenever I have to walk down wards for any length of time, I start to get cramp either side of my knees. By the time I reached the bottom I felt like my legs had done some major workout!
Once out of the Belfort we stopped for a cup of Gluhwein in the Christmas market.
It was now time for lunch, so we headed away from the main areas to some restaurants we had spotted on the walk to The Markt. We chose one called De Londres and had a lovely meal – spaghetti Bolognese, carbonara and Pepperoni Pizza. Followed by crepes, waffles and apple pie. Needless to say we were stuffed! This two course meal, for the four of us, along with 3 soft drinks and 1 beer, came to €90.
The Canals of Bruges
We still had some time left before we needed to collect our luggage from the hotel, so we decide to go for a walk around. We find the picturesque canals and some more shops selling gifts etc.
Time to Leave
Then it was back to the hotel, to pick up the luggage and make our way to the coach pick up point. There is more than one coach that takes passengers back to the ship each day and we were lucky to get on the first one that came.
Once back on the ship we dropped our bags in our room and headed to the entertainment lounge. As the ship was about to leave the Captain announced that there were Gale Force 8 winds out in the open sea. We got ourselves a drink and sat down to play cards again.
The ship was rolling quite a bit and walking around the ship was interesting – particularly when someone was coming the other way! No matter how much you tried to avoid each other, it was inevitable that you would both end up trying to pass on the same side.
Unfortunately, my youngest son started to feel a bit ill so we headed back to the room and gave his some travel sickness pills. He has never suffered from travel sickness until recently (he was sick on the school minibus on the way to a football match a few weeks ago) so we had packed the tablets as a precaution.
We showered and went to bed. In the end, he wasn’t sick and we all had a lovely night’s sleep. Soon it was time to wake up ready for docking back in Hull.
Have your Visited Belgium?
We really enjoyed our trip and are already talking about doing it again next year. Have you visited? If we did go again, do you have any recommendations for things we can do?
Why not pin this for later?