11 Best Things to Do in Brussels, Belgium

Ideal for a long weekend, the city of Brussels is the most heavily populated and the most affluent region in Belgium. Brussels is said to have the poise and elegance of any well-heeled French city, combined with the unpredictable, bohemian sensibilities of most lo-fi neighborhood of Amsterdam.

An important European capital, Brussels is considered to be one of the top financial centers in Western Europe. In fact, Brussels is home to numerous international organizations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants, and has been delegated the capital of the European Union. Brussels is cultural, beautiful and interesting. Its medieval buildings, its comic book culture and its countless galleries and museums have made it one of our favorite destinations.

Located on the beautiful central square, also known as Grand Place or Grote Markt are a handful of the main tourist attractions in Brussels. You can find many of Brussels’ grand and iconic attractions, including the gothic and opulent City Hall, the Manneken Pis and the 19th-century Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert that houses luxury boutiques and antique chocolate shops.

The largest city in Belgium, Brussels is a place rich in history, and it’s not shy about showing it. A wander through the center of town will see you passing back through the centuries, with each building seemingly older than the last. The Influence of the French to the south and the Dutch to the north is obvious, but there are certain things that remain distinctly Belgian here – most notably the beer and chocolate!

Go to Brussels if you like beer, you like chocolate, you like your history to come alive.

1. Grand Place

Grand Place dates back almost 300 years and is home to centuries-old beer bars and delightful local restaurants along Rue des Bouchers. This central square is considered one of the most beautiful in the world and in 1998, it was even listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

2. Christmas Markets in Brussels

Popular festive and cultural events are often organized on the Grand Place, among the most important and well-known of which are the light and sound show organized every year during the Christmas period, the Ommegang, one of the greatest and best historical re-enactments in Europe and the Infiorata, the event in honor of the feast of the Assumption of Mary in which the Grand Place is covered by an immense carpet of flowers.

3. Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis is one of the main attractions. It's just a statue of a little boy peeing, but the challenge is not to laugh when you see it!

At times even the Manneken Pis, one of the city’s most peculiar and treasured attractions, gets dressed up in costumes in honor of the different events being celebrated at the Grand Place.

Not only does Brussels boast majestic landmarks that have now become European staples, iconic art and historic architecture, it is also filled with unusual, family-friendly attractions. Brussels' reputation as a main economic center is not the only reason people visit this charming city.

4. Tintin Comic Mural

Having earned its nickname as the capital of the comic strip, street art on several walls in the Pentagon (city center) and Laeken pay tribute to the characters and authors of Franco-Belgian comics. The city also boasts several museums that recount the history and long tradition of Belgian comics.

As you wander around Brussels, you will also come across many references to Tintin, from ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, a popular 20th century European strip of comic created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi.

5. Belgian Chocolate Workshop in Brussels

Aside from its standing as a power city, Brussels has also gained fame for its gastronomic sector, namely their sweet waffles, savory fries, dark chocolate and distinctive beers. You cannot wander the city of Brussels without encountering a shop or cafe in which to indulge in one or all four of these world-famous eats.

For some of the best chocolatiers in Brussels, head over to Maison Pierre Marcolini, or Wittamer. Alternatively, you can visit the home of Côte d’Or and Godiva, two historic producers of Belgian chocolate said to have been founded in 1870 and 1926, respectively.

6. Delight in a Belgian Waffle

Brussels waffle are crispy and light and they taste like hot air. They need toppings or else you’re going to be disappointed. They are generally served on a plate, in tearooms.

Liège waffles are a bit chewy, sugary, caramelized, heaven on your tongue. These are the ones who are mostly sold as street food. Don’t add any toppings! That will ruin the taste! Belgians eat them au naturel. Don’t be fooled by the touristy vendors, just remember: no toppings!

7. Beer Tasting Experience in Brussels

Other than their chocolate, Belgians are also very proud of their Belgian beer culture. There are countless bars and restaurants in the capital where beer plays a prominent role. There are several breweries, including the Cantillon brewery established in 1900, where you can learn about the history and the artisanal brewery process followed when traditional Belgian beer is made.

The number of breweries in Brussels is rising fast alongside the established, traditional breweries. The Schaerbeek Beer Museum is also a must-visit to learn interesting facts about beer brewing and discover the numerous types of Belgian beer available on the market.

8. Arcade du Cinquantenaire

If you’re looking for a little stroll outside of the cobbled streets of central Brussels, you can head to the Cinquantenaire and see the Triumphal Arch.

9. Atomium

Head over to the Atomium, a landmark building in Brussels, originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo. Though the Atomium is a little outside the city center, it is a great spot to see something a little different.

10. Law Courts of Brussels

For beautiful city views of Brussels, visit the biggest (and possibly, the grandest) courthouse in all of Europe – the Palais de Justice. No matter how many times you visit, you will find that the city will always have something interesting to offer. Spending just 2 days in Brussels will allow you to see all the major popular sites.

11. Marolles

For the Marolles alone it’s worth visiting Brussels. In Brussels, off the beaten paths and especially in the Marolles, you get a real feeling how living is. People are not afraid of being louder and proletarian, meaning direct, but also truly friendly. In Brussels, you go to a café, sit at the bar and talk to the bum at your left and the lawyer at your right. Three days later you are a regular and people know your name.

Hotels in Brussels

Though accommodation in Brussels is hard to come by, Gare du Midi and its surrounding areas are an ideal location to stay at. Not only is this location a 5-minute tram ride away from the city center but it is also a 20-minute train ride from the Brussels Airport (BRU).

The Park Inn by Radisson Brussels Midi Hotel provides guests with easy access to dining, shopping, and cultural attractions in Brussels and is located right across the street from Gare du Midi, the city's largest train station. Alternatively, located in one of the city’s most happening neighbors near the city center, the Radisson RED Brussels is a more artsy and cultural accommodation option true to the bohemian culture of Brussels.

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