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    Car hire in Brussels - For the Best of Belgium

    A thriving metropolis in every sense, Brussels is a dynamic city with a superb restaurant scene and a vibrant night-life. Despite being less cosmopolitan than Paris and less historic than Rome, in recent years it has emerged as the symbolic capital of Europe and a city of global prominence.

    Brussels is very much a tale of two cities, with the Upper Town and its lofty Royal Quarter looking imperiously down upon the maze of medieval streets and alleyways of the late-17th century Lower Town. Grand Place, the city's timeless cobbled square, is famed for its ornate stonework and gilt decoration set around a magnificent centre-piece, the 14th-century Town Hall, one of the most beautiful examples of civic architecture in the world.

    For the most part, driving around Brussels and its environs is a smooth experience compared with many other capital cities due to its excellent road network and modern transport infrastructure. There’s much to see and enjoy in Brussels; almost every corner of the Belgian capital offers an architectural treat of some sort and the city’s rich mix of Romanesque churches, Gothic towers, Baroque theatres and Art Nouveau houses provides a wealth of photo opportunities. And to best appreciate the narrow, cobbled streets of the older, more historic parts of town, our advice is to park your car hire in Brussels and explore the whole area on foot or hop on one of the trams regularly criss-crossing the inner city.

    Perfectly positioned in the centre of Belgium, Brussels is the ideal base from which to explore the hinterland and visit some of the country’s most interesting towns and cities. The lovely town of Brugge close to the North Sea coast is high on the agenda for most tourists on account of its splendid medieval buildings, enchanting historic centre and gorgeous squares lined with churches, extravagant buildings and fine mansions. Both thriving towns in the Middle Ages, Antwerp and Ghent are equally appealing for their excellent museums, bustling medieval squares and stately town halls, while the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg just over 100 miles away to the south-west makes for a very interesting day trip for people staying in Brussels.

    Since being established in 1954, Auto Europe has grown into a market-leading car hire broker with over 24,000 pick-up/drop-off locations in more than 180 destinations. By working with all the world’s leading and most trusted car rental suppliers, we are able to offer a comprehensive range of vehicles at the lowest prices in the market. With Auto Europe you can rent a car in Brussels in a few clicks through our booking engine just by select your dates, destination, supplier and car and we’ll find you the cheapest rates in a couple of seconds.

    For more useful advice and help with your travel itinerary if required, please feel free to get in touch with our rental specialists on +44 123 3225 114, who are available seven days a week. For general advice on getting around Brussels and the rest of the country by car, please consult our Belgium Driving Information section for information on road rules, speed limits, driving distances, etc.

    How is the traffic in Brussels?

    Despite its size and political importance, Brussels is a relatively well-organised city when it comes to navigating it by car, especially the inner city which is accessible via the Petit Ring, while the outer limits are contained within the busy Ring motorway. The maximum speed limit on motorways in and around Brussels and the rest of Belgium is 120kph (74mph), while in built-up areas the speed limits are 50kph (31mph) or 30kph (18mph) in the vicinity of schools. Always remember to drive on the right side of the road and at intersections the driver on the right always has priority unless otherwise indicated. Trams have the right of way over other vehicles, so be very careful because there are many of them in the busy Lower Town district. In the event of an accident, call the local police on 101, all of whom speaking very good English as well as French, German and Dutch. Be aware that Brussels now has a low emission zone which requires the vehicle to be registered before entering (check with your supplier at the time of pick-up), and fines are payable for any non-registered vehicles entering the zone.

    Where can I park my car hire in Brussels?

    Due to the city's rising popularity, street parking in Brussels (usually by meter) is becoming increasingly difficult in the centre of the city. Please note that there is no free street parking in any part of Brussels city centre during the day, but in some parts of the city parking is free of charge at night and on Sundays. The good news is that the Interparking Group, which has been a leader of the Brussels parking sector for more than 60 years, now operates around 25 car parks in the Belgian capital, offering a total of almost 15,000 spaces in prime locations all over the city. Some of the more conveniently located state-run car parks include Centrum (Rue du Damier 26), Royale (Rue Royale 128), City 2 Rue Des Cendres 8), Alhambra (Boulevard Emile Jacqmain 14) and Dansaert ( Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains 2). Low-cost park and ride (P&R) parking lots are located in the outskirts of Brussels to help diminish congestion in the city centre. From the Park and Ride car parks, visitors can quickly get to the city centre with direct access to public transport services such as metro, tram, bus or train, making it an ideal way to get around Brussels whilst avoiding traffic jams and high city parking costs.

    Brussels Airport

    Conveniently located just 7.5 miles north-east of the city, Brussels Airport's origins date back to World War II when it was built by the German Luftwaffe. Following the country's liberation, it was developed by the local authorities with a new terminal building to replace the existing wooden one and all the runways were lengthened as part of the airport's expansion. In 1958, a new airport was inaugurated adjacent to the original site, which was further improved in the 1960s and 70s during the boom years of commercial aviation. Consisting of several levels, Brussels Airport uses a one terminal concept, meaning that all the facilities are located under a single roof. The railway station is located on −1, buses and taxis arrive at 0, arrivals are located on level 2 and departures on level 3. Brussels Airport today is one of the largest airports in Europe, handling 26,4 million passengers and 667,220 tonnes of freight annually. It links the European capital with over 230 passenger and cargo destinations worldwide that are served by more than 70 different airlines. For passengers, there's an excellent choice of bars, cafés and restaurants for those with enough time on their hands to relax with a drink or meal before catching their flight. It's also possible to park very close to the terminal building with over 10,000 spaces available in P1, P2 and P3 which are located opposite the Departures Hall, with P4 a dedicated facility for longer stays.

    Brussels Airport (BRU)
    Telephone: +32 2 753 77 53
    Address: Leopoldlaan, 1930 Zaventem, Belgium
    Website: www.brusselsairport.be/en/passengers

    What to do in Brussels

    A large part of the pleasure of visiting Brussels is strolling around the city's many pedestrianised streets and spending time in the cafés and bistros in and around Grand Place, the city's famous main square. Most of the top sights in both the Lower and Upper Town are easily manageable on foot and there's much to see beyond the main museums and other more notable attractions. You'll need at least a couple of days to see the basics, but with one of the best public transport networks in Europe, getting from A to B is easily manageable with a choice of all-in-one travel passes cheaply available.

    • Grand Place: Established in the 10th century, the city's world-renowned Grand Place is one of the most uniformly elegant enclosed city squares on the planet. Offering a stunning 360-degree panorama of exquisite Gothic and baroque architecture, it is the core the Belgian capital and the beating heart of the city's sightseeing portfolio. With its ornate stonework and gilt decoration, the 14th-century Town Hall (known as the Hôtel de Ville) is a fine example of European civic architecture. Nearby, you'll also want to see the famous Mannekin-Pis, a modern depiction of the 15th-century bronze fountain sculpture situated a five-minute walk from Grand Place.

    • Brussels Cathedral: Located in the heart of the city centre, the magnificent cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula is a medieval church built between the 11th and 16th centuries. Recognisable for its two striking towers, its key features include some remarkable stained glass windows produced by Antwerp glassmaker Jean Haeck in the 16th century. Housed in the cathedral's Treasury, another major highlight for visitors is the remarkable and extremely rare Drahmal Cross (also known as the Brussels Cross), an Anglo-Saxon inscribed cross-reliquary of the early 11th century.

    • Atomium: Built for the Expo 58 World Exposition, the futuristic Atomium rises high above the city and is regarded as one of Europe's most iconic symbols. Comprising 9 stainless steel spheres, the whole structure depicts a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Accessible by elevator, six of the spheres are open to visitors for exhibitions and educational events, as well as a very popular 360-degree viewing gallery and restaurant affording extensive city vistas stretching as far as Antwerp on a clear day.

    • Mini Europe: Hopping from country to country in just a few steps is one of the joys of Mini Europe, a captivating portrayal of the continent as a whole with over 350 miniatures depicting 80 European cities in a prime location adjacent to the city's landmark Atomium monument, signifying that both of these top attractions can be seen in the same visit. The kids will love the visual and sound effects, particularly the chimes of Big Ben, one of Mini Europe's star attractions.

    • Parc du Cinquantenaire: Located in one of the more modern parts of the city, this large area of peripheral parkland contains many first-class tourist attractions, including several museums and a lavish triumphal arch. The centrepiece is the magnificent Musée du Cinquantenaire, a cultural treasure trove and one of the largest museums in Europe. Well-organised with a vast ethnographical collection, visitors can see many rare artefacts ranging from Native American to Indonesian, along with totem poles and genuine Balinese beds.

    • Botanical Garden: Often overlooked, the city's wonderful 6-hectare Botanical Garden provides plenty of peace and quiet on a warm summer's day. A pleasant mix of mostly French, Italian and English styles, it was first inaugurated in 1829 and still serves as a popular visitor attraction with twisting paths, two large greenhouses, plenty of secluded seating areas and a children's playground.

    Best day trips with my car rental in Brussels

    Belgium is a small country and Brussels is the perfect base from which to explore most, if not all, of the country's most popular attractions, such as the charming cities of Brugge, Ghent and Antwerp. With a car rental in Brussels you can also head for the delightful North Sea coast with its long sandy beaches or cross the border into France, Germany, Luxembourg or the Netherlands for an exciting two- or three-destination itinerary.

    Brugge

    A small picture postcard city with a very pretty medieval heart, Brugge (60 miles north-west of Brussels) has many must-see attractions, including the 15th-century Basilica of the Holy Blood and the ever-popular Chocolate Museum. Stroll around the city's old cobbled streets before visiting the Groeninge Museum, home to many top-class paintings by the renowned Flemish primitives.

    Ghent

    Notable for its exquisite ancient architecture, this lively university town a short drive north-east of Brussels is criss-crossed by a network of picutresque waterways. The city's pride and joy is without doubt the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, a polyptych altarpiece painted by the Van Eyck Brothers in the 15th century and one of the world's most famous paintings which can be seeen on display at St Bavo's Cathedral.

    Ardennes

    Situated in the south-east of the country, the Ardennes is a vast unspoilt region of rivers, steep-sided valleys, verdant forests, medieval villages and centuries-old castles. Arguably the most picturesque part of Belgium, visitors can enjoy pure air and natural beauty all around with lots of hidden surprises, such as Belgium's last steam-powered brewery and the chancd to spend the night in a windmill.

    Antwerp

    Famous for its diamonds, and once the centre of the European cloth trade, Antwerp is well worth visiting for its lovely old medieval district surrounding the beautiful Grote Markt town square. Don't miss the Cathedral of Our Lady with its paintings by locally-born Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) nor DIVA, a recently-opened museum dedicated to diamonds, jewellery and silverware.

    Belgian Coast

    The country's 40-mile-long stretch of sandy North Sea coastline provides plenty of day-trip possibilities for people booking a car hire in Brussels. The Belgian coast has around twenty lovely beach resorts, each with its own character and unique atmosphere, all of which are ideal for families with young children. Here you can rent a bike and cycle the length of the promenade before spending the night in one of the many upmarket beachfront hotels for a relaxing stay.

    Geographic Information & History

    Brussels boasts a prime location in the centre of Belgium, just 68 miles from the North Sea coast and about 100 miles from both the Luxembourg border and Belgium's southern tip. Its proximity to the coast and nearby wetlands affords the city a temperate climate with frequent rainfall to keep the surrounding regions lush and fertile. The city grew up on the banks of the Senne, a tributary of the Schelde, the original centre being marked by today's Grand Place and St Nicholas Church. Its location on the great inland trade route between neighbouring Bruges and Cologne greatly accelerated its growth and aided its prosperity. When Julius Caesar conquered Belgium in 59 BC, Brussels was a small settlement on the banks of the River Senne inhabited by Celtic and Germanic tribes. Brussels was first mentioned in 695 AD on the trade route between Flanders and Cologne. In 979 Charles, the Duke of Lorraine, moved to St Géry (central Brussels) and founded the city in the process. The following century, the city we know today began to take shape when Count Lambert II of Leuven built an impressive castle on Place Royale in 1047. In the 12th century, Brussels rose to prominence in the province of Brabant and in 1459 Philip the Good settled in the city after inheriting Flanders and Burgundy before bringing Brabant and Holland under his control. After two centuries of Spanish rule, the Austrian Hapsburgs gained control of the country after the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). Napoleon annexed it to France in 1794 but after his defeat in 1815, Belgium was awarded to The Netherlands. In 1830, the Belgian revolution began in Brussels and the city became the capital and seat of government of the new nation. In fact , the country has existed essentially in its present form from thenon after the uprising led to independence from The Netherlands. During the 19th century, the population of Brussels grew considerably; from about 80,000 to more than 625,000 people in the city and its surroundings. This continued into the 20th century and from the early 1960s, Brussels became the de facto capital of what would become the European Union, still a thriving institution today with almost 30 member states and several more applying for membership.

    How to get around Brussels

    Brussels has a very efficient, extensive and easy-to-use transport network consisting of buses, trams, metro and the more obscure premetro system of trams that go underground for a portion of their journey. As a tourist, you can expect to get to where you want to go from 5.30am right through until around midnight, including transfers to and from the airport. The Lower Town is well served by trams although many of the streets are pedestrianised, so for sightseeing it's probably easier to get around on foot. Visitors to the Upper Town will find that the best way to get around is by bus, some of which run through the heart of the district. The city's metro stations are well placed for visiting many of the main places of interest, plus its extensive network offers a fast and efficient way of reaching the suburbs.

    Bus

    The Brussels bus network is complementary to the rail network. It consists of 50 bus routes and 11 night routes covering well over 250 miles in distance. The popular night bus service known as Noctis operates extensively on Fridays and Saturdays with more than 10 routes running from midnight until 3am from the centre of Brussels to the outer reaches of the capital. There's also a regular bus link to the airport from Place Schuman in the city's European Quarter.

    Tram

    The Brussels tram system consists of several routes covering a total distance of around 90 miles, making it one of the largest tram networks in Europe. Some of the lines operate as premetro services, which means that some sections of the journey is underground. Two good tourist routes are tram 92 which runs from Schaerbeek to Fort-Jaco and tram 94 which runs from Avenue Louise to the Tram Museum. Both lines run through the Upper Town and stop at the Parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Park), Royal Palace of Brussels, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Église Notre Dame du Sablon, Le Palais de Justice and Avenue Louise. Line 51 stops at Brupark (Atomium and Mini Europe) and is a good alternative to metro line 6.

    Metro

    Brussels' long-established metro system has around 60 stations served by four lines. Line 1 connects the Brussels-West station to the east of the city and Line 2 runs in a loop around the city centre. Line 5 runs between the west to the south-east of the city via the centre and Line 6 connects the King Baudouin Stadium in the north-western part of the city, looping around the centre in the same way as line 2. Lines 3 and 4 are operated by the Brussels premetro tram system.

    Train

    The Greater Brussels region has three main railway stations: Brussels South, Central and North, which are the busiest in the country. Brussels-South is also served by direct high-speed Eurostar rail links to and from London via the Channel Tunnel, with a journey time of just under two hours. The railway tracks in Brussels go underground close to the centre through the North–South connection, with Brussels-Central station also being largely underground.

    Taxi

    Taxis are plentiful in Brussels, as you would expect in one of Europe's most important capital cities. Visitors should note that three elements make up the price of a taxi ride: the tariff per kilometer (depending on whether the journey is inside or outside the 19 districts of Brussels), a fixed charge (higher at night) and the amount of time the driver needs to wait, which can be substantial although some companies charge reduced fares for journeys to Brussels airport. Be aware that tips and service are included in the price of the journey as shown on the meter, but a small extra tip is always well-received. By law, the taxi driver must always start the meter at the start of the journey and give you a printed receipt when you arrive at your destination. Unless pre-booked, only taxis bearing the official Brussels taxi sign are licensed to take you.

    Waterbus

    The excellent Waterbus is a public transport service on the Zenne Canal between Brussels and Vilvoorde, offering visitors the chance to see a different part of the Belgian capital. Running from 1 May until 31 October, it connects with the city's bus, tram and metro stops, giving access to an alternative set of tourist attractions and shopping districts.

    Useful links

    Brussels Tourist Info