Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is definitely a city in Europe that is worth a visit. There are so many sights to see, places to visit and stunning architecture to enjoy.
Brussels is a bustling city that is full of charm that’s just waiting to be explored. The great thing about Brussels is that it can be enjoyed all year around. From a one day trip, to a week long trip, there’s plenty of fun things to do in Brussels.
- 1 The Best Things To Do In Brussels
- 1.1 Visit The Grand Place
- 1.2 Marvel At The Atomium
- 1.3 Say Hello To Manneken Pis
- 1.4 Try Some Belgium Food
- 1.5 Visit A Museum
- 1.6 Take A Walking Tour
- 1.7 Experience Brussels Cafe Culture
- 1.8 Say Hello To Janneken Pis
- 1.9 Visit The Royal Palace of Brussels
- 1.10 Feel Like A Giant At Mini Europe
- 1.11 Visit Brussels Planetarium
- 1.12 Visit St. Michael & St. Gudula Cathedral
- 1.13 Enjoy Some Belgian Chocolate
- 1.14 Visit The European Quarter
- 1.15 Take A Stroll Around Cinquantenaire Park
- 1.16 Explore Mont des Arts
- 1.17 Wander Around Place Saint Catherine
- 1.18 Try And Spot The Black Tower
- 1.19 Exercise Your Brain At An Escape Room
- 1.20 Visit The Place de la Bourse
- 1.21 Sample Some Belgian Beers
- 1.22 Find The Cities Street Art
- 1.23 Say Hello To Het Zinneke
- 1.24 Take A Hop On Hop Off Bus
- 1.25 Give Axe Throwing A Go
- 1.26 Try Belgian Waffles
- 1.27 Visit The Porte de Hal
- 1.28 Marvel At The Palais de Justice
- 1.29 Visit A Christmas Market
- 1.30 Take A Day Trip
- 2 Plan Your European Adventure
The Best Things To Do In Brussels
Visit The Grand Place
The Grand Place or Grote Markt is one of the must visit sights in Brussels. This beautiful and historical square is home to the impressive Brussels Town Hall and gorgeous guild houses. Stepping into the square it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by its beauty. It’s such an impressive site, in 1998 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Marvel At The Atomium
Built in 1958, the Atomium has become a landmark of the Brussels skyline. It was originally not meant to last much past the 1958 World’s Fair but its popularity and success quickly made it a permanent landmark in Brussels. The Atomium is 102 metres tall (335ft) making it one of the tallest structures in Belgium. The top sphere is home to a restaurant with fantastic panoramic views of Brussels.
Say Hello To Manneken Pis
The Manneken Pis, or little boy peeing statue, is a must-see when in Brussels. While he is only 55 centimetres tall, he is easily one of the most popular attractions in Brussels. Perched on a fountain’s basin, Manneken Pis is a statue of a naked little boy pissing into the fountain. He is regularly dressed up in unusual costumes that are exhibited in a nearby museum. Since he has been repeatedly stolen or damaged, a replica has been on display since 1965, with the original kept safe in the Brussels City Museum.
Try Some Belgium Food
One thing you should not miss out on when you visit Brussels is sampling the delicious food Belgium is famous for. There are lots of great dishes to try in Brussels but the most popular ones are Belgium waffles, Belgium fries and mussels. You’ll find all three of these foods all over Brussels city. Plus there are plenty of food tours available where you can learn about Belgian food from city experts.
Visit A Museum
Brussels offers a wide variety of museums from art, to cars, to history and more! No matter what your interests are, there’s a museum in Brussels for you. Some museums are commonly known about like the Musical Instrument Museum, Choco-Story Brussels, City of Brussels Museum and Comics Art Museum. Others are a little less known like the Sewer Museum, Pixel Museum or the Fashion & Lace Museum.
Take A Walking Tour
A great way to explore a new city is to take one of the walking tours available and Brussels has many to offer. There is of course a free walking tour if you’re looking for a more budget friendly thing to do in Brussels. There are also specific style tours you can take although these will not be free. You can get historical tours, chocolate tours, food tours and of course beer tours.
Experience Brussels Cafe Culture
The cafe culture is something you’ll want to experience while in Brussels. You can’t go far before you see a cafe with its tables and chairs out, usually facing the street. No matter if you want a soft drink, beer or wine, these cafes are great places to sit and watch the world go by. It’s a perfect way to experience local life and let your poor legs rest after a busy morning of exploring the city.
Say Hello To Janneken Pis
Not too far from the original Manneken Pis, you’ll find Jeanneke Pis which is Dutch for ‘Little Pissing’ Jean. The 50 centimetre statue was commissioned in 1985 and erected in 1987 as a counterpoint to the famous Manneken Pis statue. This newer statue depicts a little girl with shorts and pigtails squatting and urinating onto a fountain base.
Visit The Royal Palace of Brussels
Situated at the front of Brussels Park, the Royal Palace of Brussels was once the royal residence of Belgium’s Royal Family. While they currently reside in the Royal Palace of Laeken in northern Brussels, the Royal Palace of Brussels is absolutely beautiful and worth a visit. While the inside is open to visitors, it is currently under restoration so make sure to check this before you visit.
Feel Like A Giant At Mini Europe
Right by the Atomium you’ll find Mini Europe, a park that features miniature versions of all of the wonders of Europe in one spot. The 350 monuments have been reproduced at a scale of 1/25 of their original size with impressive detail. With so many monuments on offer, you’ll want to give yourself time to walk around all of them. Tickets are cheaper to buy online in advance and you can also get joint tickets with the Atomium.
Visit Brussels Planetarium
Next door Mini Europe you’ll find the Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, one of the largest in Europe. With the dome, 23 metre in diameter, you can sit back in your armchair and enjoy a 360 degree representation of the starry sky. Open every day, there’s a discount available if you present your Atomium ticket. Or you can get a discount on your Atomium ticket by presenting your Planetarium ticket.
Visit St. Michael & St. Gudula Cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, sometimes shortened to Cathedral of St. Gulda, is a mediaeval Roman Catholic cathedral in the centre of Brussels. It is dedicated to Saint Michael and Saint Gudula who are the patron saints of the City of Brussels. Construction started in the 11th century but wasn’t completed in its current form until the 16th century. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Brabantine Gothic architecture. The cathedral is open daily and free to enter, however, you will have to pay to visit the Crypt and Treasury.
Enjoy Some Belgian Chocolate
Belgium is known for its delicious chocolates and of course Brussels has plenty to offer visitors. While you’ll see many shops offering chocolates around the city, there are definitely some that are better than others. I recommend Neuhaus Chocolates and Pierre Marcolini who both have multiple shops around the city. Plus there are also Chocolate Museums you can visit too.
Visit The European Quarter
Brussels is known as being the de facto capital of the European Union since it is home to a number of principal EU institutions within its European Quarter. If you want to learn more about the European Parliament there is the Parlamentarium. The multimedia exhibits show why the EU was started and how it takes care of the countries within it.
Take A Stroll Around Cinquantenaire Park
A little outside of the city centre, not far from the European Quarter, you’ll find the Parc du Cinquantenaire. French for the Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary, this urban park was built in 1880 to mark the 50th anniversary of Belgium’s independence. This beautiful park is worth taking a stroll through if you have time. The park is dominated by the impressive triumphal arch which offers stunning panoramic views of the city. Plus the park is home to the Art & History Museum, Autoworld Museum and The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History.
Explore Mont des Arts
The Mont des Arts, or Hill of Arts, is an urban complex and historical site that offers one of the best views of the city. Not only does the viewpoint make it a great reason to visit, but there’s actually lots of fun things to do in the area. These include the Royal Library of Belgium, the National Archives of Belgium, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and the Musical Instruments Museum.
Wander Around Place Saint Catherine
Concentrated around Saint Catherine’s Church or Eglise Sainte Catherine in French, a Roman Catholic church that was only built in 1874 to replace an older church dating back to the 15th century. The area is not far from Grand Place and is worth visiting so you can explore this lively neighbourhood. The town square is Marche aux Poissons (fish market) although there is no fish market here. However, the area has great seafood restaurants.
Try And Spot The Black Tower
Just behind Saint Catherine’s Church you’ll find the Tour Noire (Black Tower). This mediaeval tower is the best preserved remains of the first fortification of Brussels that were built at the start of the 13th century. While it became obsolete when the second fortification was built, the tower has amazingly survived. It is now surrounded by the Novotel Hotel making it a great contrast of old and new Brussels.
Exercise Your Brain At An Escape Room
Escape rooms have really been exploding in popularity across Europe and Brussels now has several locations you can visit if you’re looking for a fun brain teasing adventure. Grab a group of friends and see if you can solve the puzzles and escape from the room before the time runs out. Popular escape rooms in Brussels you can visit are Enygma, Escape Room Bruxelles and Get Out.
Visit The Place de la Bourse
Just off the Grand Place you’ll find the Bourse or the Place de la Bourse which is the old Stock Exchange Square. Here you’ll find the former Brussels Stock Exchange building which dates back from 1873. The building is currently closed due to renovation but will soon be opening as a museum to Belgium beer.
Sample Some Belgian Beers
Any beer lover knows that Belgium is known for its delicious beer so if you like beer, you’ll definitely want to check out some Belgium breweries, tap rooms and beer shops while in Brussels. You can find Belgian beer pretty much everywhere but some good places to visit are GIST, Beer Central, Poechenellekelder and Le Barboteur Biertheque.
Find The Cities Street Art
If you love street art you are in luck. Brussels is a great city in Europe for street art. You don’t even have to search it out. Just walk around and you will no doubt stumble across one of the masterpieces dotted around the city. There’s even loads in the Metro stations! Of course, if you did want to seek it out there is the Street Art Trail or the Comic Strip Trail you can follow.
Say Hello To Het Zinneke
Het Zinneke, sometimes referred to as Zinneke Pis, due to its similarities to Manneken Pis and Jeanette Pis. Created in 1998, it is the newest of the peeing statues in Brussels and usually has less of a crowd around it which means it’s easier to get a good photo of. Unlike the other two statues, this one has no water feature. Due to his location and lack of crowd, he can be harder to spot and has even been involved in a car accident.
Take A Hop On Hop Off Bus
Hop-on, hop-off buses are a great way to explore a new city if you want to avoid too much walking or if you want to enjoy great views while learning some historical facts. When you’re visiting Brussels, these buses are handy if you want to get to the attractions that are outside of the city centre like the Atomium and Mini Europe.
Give Axe Throwing A Go
Axe Throwing is becoming more and more popular throughout Europe and Brussels is no exception. Wood Cutter has a few sites in Europe, with several more due to open soon. With privatised lanes and an unlimited amount of throws over an hour time slot, this is the perfect spot for friends to have a good time together and maybe release some stress too. It’s definitely one of the quirkier things to do in Brussels. However, the Brussels venue is not open on Friday’s so make sure you check the opening times before you visit.
Try Belgian Waffles
If you have a sweet tooth, don’t forget to try a delicious Belgian waffle during your trip. Luckily you won’t have to go far before you bump into a waffle shop. They are all over the city and they come in a variety of chocolatey good flavours. You can even find waffle making workshops so you can make them when you get back home.
Visit The Porte de Hal
The Porte de Hal, or Halle Gate, is a former mediaeval city gate built between 1381 and 1383. It was then heavily restored in the 19th Century by architect Henri Beyaert, giving the gate its current neo-Gothic style. In 1976 the gate was in a dangerous state and closed. Thankfully, it was reopened in 1991 as a museum dedicated to the mediaeval city of Brussels.
Marvel At The Palais de Justice
The Palais de Justice, or Palace of Justice, is a courthouse in Brussels that is the country’s most important court building. The building was built between 1866 and 1863 and at the time was the largest building in the world! The interior is just as amazing and entrance is free, although you will have to go through security as it is still a functioning court house. The court has two floors and a basement that are all accessible to visitors.
Visit A Christmas Market
There are so many great Christmas markets around Europe and Brussels has to be the best Christmas market in Belgium. The capital goes all out over Christmas and the Brussels Winter Wonders attracts around 2 millions people. You’ll find a ferris wheel, ice skating rink, rides, a light show, gift stalls and of course, lots of food and drinks stalls.
Take A Day Trip
While there are some really great things to do and see in Brussels, the city also makes a great base if you want to explore more of Belgium and beyond. If you want to see more of Belgium there’s popular cities like Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. Plus visits to smaller, lesser known places like Knokke, Nieuwpoort and Mechelen. And of course it’s easier to visit nearby countries from Belgium too, like Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany and France.
There you have it, 30 cool and fun things to do in Brussels city. Which will you do first? Anything missing from this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Plan Your European Adventure
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