If you are looking for a city break or a weekend escape, then Brussels in Belgium might just be the place to visit. We were there for three days and were able to visit places such as the Grand Place, Brussels Town Hall, Manneken Pis, Royal Palace of Brussels, Atomium, Mini-Europe, Parlamentarium and many more.
Explore the city with us and find out our top recommendations for things to do and see in this European capital.
- Travel to and Around Brussels
- Where to Stay in Brussels
- Top Things to do in Brussels
- Food and Drinks Highlights
- Closing Remarks
The City of Brussels is the capital of Belgium and the largest municipality and historical centre of the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels, pronounced [bruh·slz], is also the administrative centre of the European Union. As the seat of the EU, Brussels is known as the “capital of Europe“.
They chose Belgium and respectively Brussels for this because in Belgium there have been 3 nations living in the same country – The French, Flemish and Germans. Whilst not always a cohesive group they’ve managed to stay united for better or worse. Much like a marriage.
In terms of weather, Brussels experiences all four seasons and rain is a possibility all year-round. The city has a mild climate, with summer daytime temperatures around 20-25 °C and winter temperatures rarely dipping below 0 °C.
Brussels is a great capital to visit all year around. If you prefer warmer weather, then visit between June and late August. We were there in August and whilst it was warm, we got rained as well. The standard time is Central European Time (UTC+01:00). The euro is the official currency of Belgium.
Travel to and Around Brussels
There are two airports in Brussels. The main airport is Brussels Airport (BRU) which is servicing premium airlines and is just outside of the city.
There is another airport – Brussels Charleroi Airport (CRL) which is used by many budget airlines. This airport is 55km away from Brussels and that’s where we landed.
Flying from London to Brussels Charleroi Airport (CRL) made us realise that buying cheap flight tickets is not always cheap. We had to spend extra money on the coach and it took us much longer to get to the city. If you are looking for suitable flight options, make sure to check out this article with top tips on how to find cheap flights.
Depending on how you are travelling to Brussels, you may be able to get the Eurostar train to Brussels-Midi/Zuid (Brussels South) station.
Where to Stay in Brussels
In terms of accommodation, we would recommend booking your travel through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. You can use the widget below to quickly get some accommodation options for your dates.
We stood in a hotel next to Brussel-North station. Although we read the reviews (as we always do), the photos didn’t really match the reality and we were rather disappointed. Not even worth mentioning the place but if you are interested to know where not to stay, leave a comment or drop us a line.
Top Things to do in Brussels
There are so many things to do in Brussels. This is one of the places where getting the city card made a lot of sense for us, so we purchased the Brussels Card and made the most out of it.
If you don’t have enough time, you might consider Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour to cover the main attractions.
If you are wondering what to do in Brussels or what to see in Brussels, then read our top recommendations below.
Grand Place (Grote Markt)
This place is amazing! The Grand Place or Grote Markt is Brussels’ central square. Once there, you are surrounded by Baroque guildhalls of the former Guilds of Brussels, the Town Hall, and the neo-Gothic Broodhuis (Bread House) where the Museum of the City of Brussels is located
There are lots of (perhaps overpriced) cafes and restaurants but nonetheless offering excellent views of the square. Take a moment an enjoy the vibes. The Grand Place is probably the most important tourist destination in Brussels and a memorable landmark of the city.
Every two years the Grand Place is covered with a flower carpet of begonias. It looks beautiful on the photos (also shown in Little-Europe), but we didn’t time our trip well enough to see it. Perhaps another reason to return to this beautiful capital city.
Brussels Town Hall
The Town Hall is a landmark building of the city and the only remaining medieval building of the Grand Place. The building was erected between 1401 and 1455 and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the square.
Brussels City Museum
The Museum of the City of Brussels is conveniently located at the main square. It is inside the beautiful Bread House building (Broodhuis) which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You won’t miss this building and it’s beautiful facade.
We would recommend visiting the museum as it gives a comprehensive overview of Brussels’ history and folklore and is a good way to start your trip. This is represented through paintings, sculptures, tapestries, photos and models.
The part we enjoyed the most was going through the “wardrobe” of Maneken Pis. The Garderobe Manneken Pis has a collection of over 1,000 outfits from around the world made for the city’s landmark statue.
We even managed to find one dressed in Bulgarian national clothing.
Manneken Pis is one of the best-known symbols of Brussels and Belgium. It depicts a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin. The bronze statuette is much smaller than expected, only 61cm. It very much reminded us of the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.
The sculpture is only 5 minutes away from the Grand Place. What you see on the photos above is a replica and the original one is kept in the Brussels City Museum.
Royal Palace of Brussels
The Royal Palace of Brussels (Palais Royal) is another place to visit whilst in the city. It is the official Palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians however, it is not used as a royal residence.
Every summer, the Royal Palace opens its doors to the public. If you are lucky enough to visit, you can see some of the splendid rooms of the palace.
Another landmark building of the city is the famous Atomium. This interesting construction was originally built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. It stands 102 metres tall and comprises of 9 stainless steel spheres.
Today, it serves as a museum, an art centre and a cultural place. The top sphere includes a restaurant with a panoramic view of Brussels. Although we didn’t visit the restaurant, the views from above must be really worth it.
Right next to the Atomium is Mini-Europe, a miniature park with reproductions of monuments and buildings in the European Union and other countries in Europe. This was a real highlight of our trip.
You know we love travelling, so it almost felt like we were on a real journey around Europe. Finally I was able to make a nice photo of the Grand Place in Brussels and we also “visited” key attractions in London, Paris, Berlin, Athens, Stockholm, Amsterdam and many more.
Comics Art Museum
This is another interesting place to visit. The Belgian Comic Strip Center is dedicated to Belgian comics. You can explore some cartoon characters like the Smurfs and Tintin which have been immortalized by Belgian cartoon artists.
The Parlamentarium in Brussels is the visitors’ centre of the European Parliament. As one would expect, all content in the Parlamentarium is available in all 24 official EU languages. That’s impressive!
It’s free to visit and is open every day of the week. You can visit the cinema and get a 360° view of Europe and the European Parliament.
Through an interactive floor map and engaging content, you will learn how the Parliament works, how laws are made and find our more about the importance of the EU. Definitely worth a visit!
Cinquantenaire Park (Parc du Cinquantenaire) is another place to visit, especially on a sunny day. The park offers a range of gardens with monuments and museums.
There you can see the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History, Art and History Museum and Autoworld.
The park is dominated by a triumphal arch with three arches, known as the Cinquantenaire Arch.
Throughout the year, the park hosts different activities including events, celebrations, firework displays, sporting events, concerts, etc. Depending on the time of the year you are visiting, you can check what is on. During our visit, we just chilled in the park after getting tired from sightseeing haha 🙂
If you are into cars, then you would like Autoworld, the Belgian National Automobile Museum. This museum is located in the southern hall of the Cinquantenaire Park, and displays a large and varied collection of vintage cars.
You can see a number of European and American automobiles from the late 19th century to the 1990s. There are over 300 vehicles on permanent display, ranging from cars and trucks to motorcycles. Although I am not that much into cars, I was really impressed of the collection on display and enjoyed the visit.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
If art is what you enjoy, make sure to pay a visit to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. They include six museums and contain 20,000+ drawings, sculptures, and paintings dating from the early 15th century to the present. We briefly visited this place as there were other places on our list.
St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is a beautiful medieval Roman Catholic cathedral worth visiting. It is dedicated to the patron saints of the City of Brussels – St. Michael and St. Gudula.
It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Brabantine Gothic architecture.
National Basilica of the Sacred Heart
The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic basilica and parish church, inspired by the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur in Paris. At almost 90 metres above ground, it dominates Brussels’ north-western skyline with its two towers and a green copper dome.
It offers a great view of Brussels once you reach the top of the hill and the interior of the basilica is very impressive as well.
Food and Drinks Highlights
When in Belgium one must try for sure Belgian beer – a must for many especially outside of Europe! Belgian beer is popular for its many flavours and kinds. You will find it is very hoppy in flavour.
You can enjoy a beer at any of the bars in Brussels, however, we wanted to be properly introduced so we went to the Beer Tasting Experience. Here are some beer tasting experiences you may like. They offer you samples of beers along with their explanations.
If you are wandering what to eat in Brussels, then you head over to one of the many restaurants the city has to offer. Typically they’d offer many French-like dishes such as cheeses with wine but also we found mussels to be quite popular with the locals.
I remember we went to a restaurant and seeing everyone eat mussels and fries – it seemed the logical option. It was amazing – so great that we came back home and started cooking and eating mussels since our trip.
Another popular thing is Belgian chocolate. This very soft and luscious, melt in the mouth chocolate is similar to Swiss chocolate (you can find more in the Zurich article).
You will find many confectionary shops, all with different prices. The main brand to look out for is Godiva however, the chocolates we bought weren’t bad either – actually quite good!
Brussels is a great capital city and definitely worth visiting. It’s a popular destination for young adults and families and offers a range of attractions and activities to suit any age group and personal preferences.
The city is perfect for a city break. You can easily visit and see the top attractions in a weekend but if you have the chance, spend a long weekend here.
It’s an easy city to fly to with hand luggage only or even go on the Eurostar. It’s well organised and very easy to get around.
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