DISCOVER THE 8 BEST THINGS TO DO IN BRUSSELS

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by

Brussels is a thrilling city in the heart of Europe, making it a must-visit destination in Belgium. Brussels, with around 1.2 million people, is known for mixing old charm with modern energy. The city has a long and interesting history, kind of like Warsaw. Come along with me as we explore the best things to do in Brussels with this travel guide from My Pretty Travels Blog!

european union brussels

BRUSSELS AT A GLANCE

Before you start your Brussels adventure, it’s important to get to know what the city has to offer. This will help you make the most of your visit. Let’s take a closer look at some key things about Brussels:

  • European Union Headquarters: Brussels is like the unofficial capital of the European Union. It’s where important EU institutions, like the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, are located.
  • Chocolate, Waffles, and Beer: Brussels is a foodie’s dream! The city is famous for its delicious chocolate, for its waffles and its traditional Belgian beers.
  • Art, Museums, and Comic Strip Capital: Brussels is a lively place for culture. There are cool museums like the Autoworld, Train World and René Magritte museum. And, did you know Brussels is called the “Comic Strip Capital”? It’s true! The city loves comic book art, and you can find it in shops, museums, and on colourful murals featuring characters like Tintin and the Smurfs.

Now that you have a quick peek into Brussels, let’s check out the 8 best things to do in the city, the best things to do in Brussels that you shouldn’t miss!

8 BEST THINGS TO DO IN BRUSSELS

#1. EXPLORE THE GRAND-PLACE

grande place things to do in brussels

When in Brussels, one of the best things to do is to explore the GrandPlace, also known as Grote Markt in Dutch. It’s the beating heart of Europe and a beautiful square you must see. This UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases well-preserved historical architecture dating back to the 17th century.

Take a stroll through the charming streets, soak in the lively market square, and enjoy in the enchanting atmosphere that surrounds you. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee at one of the many cozy cafes, drink a traditional Belgian drink and eat in one of the numerous bars and restaurants.

The Grand Place is a beautiful place with great buildings. It also has fun events, like the Christmas markets, which make the city even more charming. During Christmas, the area sparkles with decorations and a big Christmas tree, making it a magical and enchanting place. If you visit during Christmas do not miss the Sound and Light Show at Grand-Place!

grand place brussels

 

💎 My Pretty Travels Tip – When it comes to the best things to do in Brussels, exploring the Grand Place during the holiday season is unbeatable.

#2. ADMIRE THE PANORAMIC VIEW FROM ATOMIUM

***It is recommended to buy tickets a few days in advance from here*** 

To get a unique view of Brussels, visit the Atomium. It is a famous building that stands 102 meters tall. The Atomium was built specifically for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

The Atomium is the emblemof Brussels and is definitely not to be missed, especially the light show! I highly recommend purchasing the entry ticket for the Atomium in advance from here, as it’s likely to sell out—buy it a few days in advance, especially if you are visiting during high seasons like Christmas and summer.

Take the elevator to the top floor for an amazing view of the city. It’s a must-see if you’re in Belgium. The Atomium symbolizes Brussels, and you must not miss the mini Europe attraction next to it!

#3. INDULGE IN EVERYTHING! WAFFLES, MUSSELS, FRIES AND SIP ON SOME BEER

Explore the tasty side of Brussels and enjoy the local food! The top things to do in Brussels definitely include treating yourself and eating without holding back. Brussels is a great place for food lovers, so forget about your diet and savor all the delicious offerings.

  • the delightful sweetness of Belgian waffles
  • eat some delicious chocolate from Neuhaus
  • savor the deliciousness of mussels
  • the crispiness of fries
  • and take a sip of some great beer.

Every bite and sip reveals a story of fantastic food, inviting you to dive into the delicious world of Brussels. Personally, I love brunch, and I’ve explored many charming brunch places in Brussels like Le Pain Quotidien, Woodpecker, and Frank.

For excellent cocktails that attract a crowd aged 30 and above, I suggest checking out L’Archiduc.

Delirium is a spot for those who are on the younger side. Similarly, Le Corbeau is renowned for its table-dancing, attracting a lively and energetic crowd.

#4. VISIT THE MENNEKEN PIS AND JEANNEKE PIS STATUES

No visit to Brussels is complete without encountering the famous Manneken Pis statue of 1619. This iconic bronze sculpture of a little boy peeing, known also as “Brussels’ oldest citizen” is a symbol of Brussels’ irreverent and playful spirit.

My personal opinion is that is not something exceptional, just a very small statue (probably smaller than you imagine it) and you shouldn’t dedicate more than 10 minutes for a couple of quick photos. It is very close to the Grand-Place so why not? Keep in mind that usually they dress him up with different costumes!

In addition to Manneken Pis, seek out its lesser-known counterpart, Jeanneke Pis, located nearby. Both statues are quirky landmarks that have become beloved symbols of the city.

#5. TAKE A PHOTO OF THE LES GALERIES ROYALES SAINT-HUBERT 

galeries royales saint hubert christmas

Do you like shopping arcades? Have you visited the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan? If so, don’t skip the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in the center of Brussels!

This arcade is the first of its kind in Europe and is famous for luxury shopping, cafes, and photo opportunities. Take a moment to admire the glass roof, indulge in some window shopping at the plethora of high-end shops, and savor some chocolate. This passage is definitely one of the best things to do in Brussels.

#6. TAKE THE TRAIN AND VISIT GHENT OR BRUGGES

Another nice thing to do in Brussels is to get on a train and go to the beautiful cities of Ghent or Bruges. These Belgian cities have a lot of history and are not far away by train. Ghent has pretty canals and old buildings that make it look like a fairy tale. You should see the Gravensteen Castle and the famous Ghent Altarpiece.

On the other hand, Bruges is called the “Venice of the North” because of its small streets and canals. Walk around the Markt square, visit the Belfry of Bruges, and try some tasty Belgian chocolates. The train ride is also nice because you can see the Belgian countryside. So, take this fun trip from Brussels and enjoy the timeless beauty of Ghent or Bruges.

brugges
Main square in Brugges, Belgium

💎 My Pretty Travels Tip –  If you don’t have enough time or find planning a hassle, this trip, priced at less than 50 euros, enables you to visit both Ghent and Bruges. With a tour guide, you can explore these wonderful Belgian cities in just one day. The package includes free cancellation, but it is highly recommended to book in advance from here, as it tends to sell out quickly.

#7. DON’T SKIP THE ART NOUVEAU ARCHITECTURE 

Brussels is famous for its Art Nouveau buildings. You can see them by walking along the Art Nouveau Route. This designated route spans various neighborhoods, allowing you to admire the city’s unique and intricate architectural style.

As you stroll along, you’ll encounter iconic buildings, including the Horta Museum and other architectural gems that showcase the Art Nouveau movement’s influence on Brussels.

During my visit, I explored Villa Empain, which hosts numerous art exhibitions. The villa boasts an incredible pool, although, regrettably, the renowned furniture had been moved when I visited. The beautiful garden surrounding the villa allows you to appreciate its 1930s architecture.

#8. VISIT THE ROYAL PALACE OF BRUSSELS 

For a royal experience, head to the Royal Palace of Brussels in the Old Town. Dating back to the 18th century, this majestic palace once served as the residence of Belgian kings.

The palace was destroyed in the past but has been carefully fixed and is now a museum. With audio guides available, embark on a self-guided tour to admire the art, sculptures, and antiques that showcase Belgium’s rich history.

If you’re on a budget, plan your visit on Wednesdays when admission is free.

SHOPPING IN BRUSSELS: WHAT TO BUY

brussels center

Brussels has many different shops for all kinds of interests. If you like branded clothes, shoes, and accessories, check out the lively Arkadia shopping center.

Book lovers should visit Empik bookstore. Food enthusiasts can go to Hala Mirowska market for local produce and regional products. Brussels has something for everyone, whether you’re into fashion, books, or food.

WHERE TO STAY IN BRUSSELS

When it comes to finding a place to stay in Brussels, there are various options catering to different preferences. If you fancy a lively atmosphere, consider staying near the Grand Place, the heart of the city.

For a more relaxed vibe, areas like Saint-Gilles or Ixelles offer cozy accommodations away from the bustling crowds. If you’re on a budget, hostels around the European Quarter provide affordable stays.

Brussels has a diverse range of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses, so you’re sure to find a comfy spot that suits your needs.

Remember to book ahead, especially during busy tourist times, to get the best price. Check out these offers from booking.com below.


Booking.com

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