- When to book- September/October should be fine, with the variety of hotels and hostels in Brussels. Be prepared to travel to the outskirts if much later- see below for transport info.
- Minimum cost– assuming two adults Hostels cost approx €70 (2015), bottle of Cava €4 from CarreFour (probably more in local shops if you don’t have a car), fast food dinner €30, evening entertainment free, breakfast €30… total approx €135 plus travel for one night.
- Recommended place- Place de Brouckère for huge crowds, sing-along music and fireworks (see map in main article).
- Recommended arrival time- 7.30pm if you want to be at the front, 8pm for the beginning, crowds get big around 11pm
- Key info- Plenty of choice if you don’t get a chance to book restaurants, but expect hugely inflated prices.. Family friendly. Very busy, maybe too busy for small children. The metro and tram stay open until 2am, night buses run until 5am.
As Belgium’s capital city, New Year’s Eve is celebrated in style in Brussels, with the streets packed with both locals and tourists all looking for a good time. Traditionally the main celebrations took place in Mont the Arts, but in 2014 the show moved to Place de Brouckère.
With the wide variety of hotels on offer in Brussels, the need to get your hotel booked isn’t as urgent as in smaller Belgian cities such as Bruges. Having said that, if you’re on a budget it’s a good idea to start looking in September if you want somewhere central. If you do miss out, don’t worry about taking a hotel on the outskirts of Brussels, as transport links are good on New Year’s Eve, with night buses running every 30 minutes until 5am and trams until 2am.
Eurotunnel can be booked up to 9 months in advance, and usually the sooner the better. As always, I would *strongly* recommend crossing the channel on the Eurotunnel if you’re travelling from the UK as we do, especially in the winter as it’s less affected by the weather as the ferry can be. Read through my experience of New Year’s Eve in Bruges for a brief description of our disasterous winter ferry crossing our first time travelling to Belgium, when I insisted on using the ferry due to my romanticised memories of summer holidays in the South of France!
Restaurants charge hugely inflated prices. You don’t need to book necessarily, but it’s probably a good idea to do so. I would find somewhere with an advertised flat-price menu and book with that: at least then you know exactly what the damage will be at the end of the evening. An unusual idea I’ve come across is booking in at the Grand Casino, which claims to boast dinner, entertainment and a view of the fireworks, although its not something I’ve experienced personally.
The run up
Brussels hosts a typical Belgian Christmas market and ferris wheel throughout December.
Attractions, museums and theatres are generally open as normal every day after Christmas including New Year’s Eve, although they often close a couple of hours early.
New Year’s Eve
There’s a great atmosphere in Brussels all day, with celebrations starting fairly early from 8pm. Throughout the city buildings are lit up with different coloured lights, dancing to music played through loudspeakers.
As said, the main attraction takes place in Place de Brouckère, although loads of people also gather in the Grand Place. The latter is probably less family friendly, with huge crowds of loud drunken people and firecrackers everywhere.
Place de Brouckère is more recommended, with a schedule of events, typically featuring animations on big screens, street theatre, DJs and sound and light shows. If you have kids get there early, from 7pm even if you want a good view. Otherwise arrive whenever is convenient for you: the celebrations run right through to a countdown clock from 11pm, the countdown at 11.55, fireworks at midnight and then a light show with DJs until 1am.
For the afterparty, clubs are open til late: think 6 or 7am when they serve bacon butties for breakfast. In 2014 you could even get a party pass which lets you in to 8 different clubs in one night. This costs 45 euros at happybrussels.com, and if popular might become annual. Clubs do get very full and partygoers get messy so be prepared. Lots of popular clubs get sold out weeks before NYE so buy your tickets in advance. Entrance into a good club will cost up to 25 euros.
New Year’s day
Most big shops are closed on Nieuwjaarsdag, as well as 2nd January too. Museums are all shut; bars and restaurants depend on the owner. But after a big night out the night before, not many people are awake or willing to serve tourists so its worth planning a relaxing day in one of the local parks or just wandering the streets admiring the architecture.