On Foot -- Brussels’s center city is small enough that walking is a viable option and in fact there’s no better way to explore the historical core, especially the myriad tiny streets around Grand-Place. It’s also a pleasant stroll uptown through the pedestrianized Mont des Arts to place Royale. Outside these areas, city traffic is both heavy and frantic, creating a smelly, wearisome experience for walkers. To see the best of the city, divide your time into walking tours and utilize the excellent public transportation to get to your destination. For example, take the Métro out to Merode to explore the museums of Parc du Cinquantenaire .
Be careful when crossing roads at black-and-white pedestrian crossings that do not have signals; pedestrians do not have legal priority over cars on these crossings. Likewise watch out for vehicles turning right or left at traffic lights, even when the green flashing lights indicates you are allowed to cross; this is quite legal and catches many a visitor off guard.
By Public Transport -- Brussels has an excellent, fully integrated transit network—Métro (subway), tram (streetcar), and bus—and the network operates daily 5am to midnight, after which a limited NOCTIS night-bus network takes over until 3am, heading out to the suburbs every 30 minutes. It is run by STIB (Rue Royale 76; tel 070/232-000; www.stib-mivb.be).
Maps of the transport system are available free from the city tourist office on Grand-Place , and transit maps are posted at all Métro stations as well as bus and tram stops. Timetables are also posted at all tram and bus stops.
Up to 4 children ages 5 and under can ride for free along with a fare-paying adult. Fares for a single-ride JUMP ticket on public transport are 2.10€ when purchased onboard and 2€ when purchased before boarding. Whatever ticket you need, you must purchase it before boarding Métro trains; you may purchase bus and tram tickets onboard. A JUMP booklet of 5 tickets costs 8€, or 14€ for 10 journeys. A 1-day JUMP ticket costs 7€, 2-day tickets are 13€, and 3-day tickets are 17€. These can be purchased from the GO vending machines in Métro stations. You can also buy transport tickets at KIOSK sales points, open Monday through Sunday 6:30am until 9:30 or 10:30pm in 14 major Métro stations including Gare Centrale, Gare du Midi, De Brouckère, Gare du Nord, Louise, and Schuman. Other sales outlets are the tourist office in Grand-Place and BIP, home of eB! in rue Royale, as well as numerous news agents.
Validate your ticket by inserting it into the orange electronic machines inside buses and trams and at the access to Métro platforms. Although the one-ride JUMP ticket must be revalidated on each leg of your journey, you’re allowed multiple transfers within a 1-hour period of the initial validation.
If possible, plan your journey to avoid the crush at morning and evening rush hours. And again, watch out for pickpockets, especially at busy times, and avoid walking alone in deserted access tunnels, particularly after dark—the risk of being mugged is small but not entirely absent.
By Tram & Bus -- An extensive network of tram lines provides the ideal way to get around the city. Both trams and urban buses are painted in gray-and-brown colors. Their stops are marked with red-and-white signs and often have a shelter. You stop a tram or bus by extending your arm as it approaches so the driver can see it; if you don’t signal, the bus or tram won’t stop.
By Metro -- The Métro is quick and efficient, and covers many important center-city locations, as well as the suburbs, the Bruparck recreation park , and the Heysel congress center. Stations are identified by signs with a white m on a blue background. A trip underground takes you into an art center: Métro stations are decorated with specially commissioned paintings, installations, and other artworks by contemporary Belgian artists .
Ride the Rails
Although not as fast as the Métro, trams are generally faster than buses and are a great way to get around, not least because you get to view the cityscape while you ride. Line nos. 92 and 94 pass by key sights along rue Royale and rue de la Régence as far as avenue Louise.
By Taxi -- Taxi fares start at 2.40€ between 6am and 10pm and at 4.40€ between 10pm and 6am, increasing by 1.80€ per kilometer inside the city (tariff 1) and 2.70€ per kilometer outside Brussels (tariff 2)—so make sure the meter is set to the correct tariff. Tip and taxes are included on the meter price, and you need not add an extra tip unless there has been extra service, such as help with heavy luggage (although drivers won’t refuse tips). All taxis are metered. They cannot be hailed on the street, but there are taxi stands on many principal streets, particularly in the center city, and at rail stations. To request a cab by phone, call Taxis Verts (tel 02/349-4949; www.taxisverts.be).
By Car -- Driving in Brussels is akin to life during the Stone Age: nasty and brutish. Normally polite citizens of Brussels turn into red-eyed demons once they get behind the steering wheel. Driving is fast, except at rush hour, and always aggressive. At rush hour (which lasts about 2 hr. either side of 9am and 5pm), it is almost impossible to move on main roads inside the city and on the notorious R0 outer ring road (beltway). Sundays and very early mornings are slightly better, and with the exception of Friday night, evenings after about 7pm are not too bad.
Park your car either at your hotel or in one of the many public parking garages—your hotel can furnish the address of the nearest one—and do not set foot in it again until you’re ready to leave the city. Parking charges are about 15€ per day; it’s worth it. A stout pair of shoes, good public transportation, and an occasional taxi ride will get you anywhere you want inexpensively and hassle-free. If you must drive in Brussels, watch out for the notorious priorité de droite (priority from the right) traffic system.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.