18 BEST Places to Visit in Brussels (August 2019)

As the capital of Belgium, Brussels is known for its chocolate, cheese, and for its history. This combination of qualities is what makes it such a popular destination for tourists from all walks of life. There’s nothing quite like munching on some high-class chocolate while you check out architectural wonders that hold the weight of a very long history. And this is definitely something you should do when you travel to Brussels.

Brussels is a relatively small city, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to navigate. When you travel to this city, you don’t want to miss out on some of its best, quirkiest, and tastiest sites. That’s why we’ve created this list of the best places to visit in Brussels. It includes some standards and some places that only the locals know so that you get the best of all worlds during your trips.

 

The Best Places to Stay in Brussels

When you’re planning a trip, it’s fun to look at all your accommodation options to try and pick the best. But this can be a difficult task as well. Even with today’s hotel booking sites, it can be difficult to tell if the hotel is as good as it looks, or if the pictures are a lie. But you don’t have to worry about that now, because we’ve done the work for you! No matter what your budget point is, we’ve found some of the best places to stay in while you’re visiting Brussels. So, all you have to do is book!

Base yourself in one of these amazing neighborhoods in Brussels so you can have the best possible time while visiting.

 

Best Hostel in Brussels: Meninger Brussel City Center

best hostel in brussels

If you’re looking for the best places to stay in Brussels so that you don’t break the bank, then the Meninger Brussel City Center is a great choice. This hostel has a comic book theme, which makes it one of the coolest you’ll ever see. It’s also right in the middle of the city, so you won’t have any trouble visiting the most popular neighborhoods in Brussels during your stay. It’s also completely CO2 neutral, which means that you’ll actually be helping the planet during your stay!

View on HostelWorld

 

Also, check out our reviews of the top hostels in Brussels!

 

Best Budget Hotel in Brussels: Hotel Retro

best budget hotel in brussels

The Hotel Retro is one of the best places to stay in Brussels because it’s centrally located and close to everything you’ll want to see during your trip. It’s within easy walking distance of several restaurants and transport options, so you’ll be able to get a meal after a long day and travel around the city without having to walk too far. The rooms are spacious and include all the amenities you’ll need for your stay. This combination of qualities is what makes it a great choice when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Brussels.

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Best Luxury Hotel in Brussels: Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo

best luxury hotel in brussels

When you stay at this five-star hotel, you’ll be located in one of the best neighborhoods in Brussels. This hotel offers a picturesque setting near the Grand Palace with modern features and large, elegant rooms. There is a restaurant and bar on site as well as a great fitness room so you can work off all the chocolate you eat! When you’re trying to decide where to stay in Brussels for a luxurious experience that includes a strong touch of history, this is the hotel to choose.

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Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Brussels:

Check Top HostelCheck Top Hotel

Saint Gilles
Our choice for the coolest place to stay in Brussels, Saint Gilles is a youthful, bohemian, trendy, multicultural, and lively part of the city.
Places to Visit:
  • Be inspired at the Art Nouveau Horta Museum.
  • Take a peek inside Horta pre-metro station to see architectural pieces signed by famous architects.
  • Enjoy fresh air and greenery at Parc de Forest.

 

These are the BEST Places to Visit in Brussels!

#1 – Grand Plaza

A great place to see in Brussels if you love architecture

Grand Plaza

Grand Plaza is the main historic spot in Brussels! | image source: Flickr

• The best place to start your travels in Brussels!
• A beautiful and historic spot with amazing architecture everywhere you look.

 

Why it’s so awesome: The Grand Plaza is right in the heart of Brussels and is one of the best-preserved areas in all of Europe. The architecture in this area is simply spectacular, mostly because of the Gildehuizen or guild houses, which have amazing stonework and gold decorations in Baroque style with Flemish influences. There are also several important Brussels must-see buildings in this area for you to check out as well.

What to do there: You’ll want to spend plenty of time looking at the buildings in this area, because they’re both historical and stunningly beautiful. Afterwards, make sure you take some pictures of the famous Hotel de Ville or Town Hall, which was built in 1402. When you’re tired of taking pictures, check out the cafes and restaurants in the area for a rest surrounded by incredible beauty.

 

#2 – The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

• You’ll get some amazing photos at this palace when you’re visiting Brussels.
• This is the official residence of the Belgian royal family and when they’re home you’ll see the Belgian flag flying from the roof.

 

Why it’s so awesome: This is the most important building in Brussels and probably in Belgium as a whole because it’s the official residence of the royal family. It’s an imposing building surrounded by lush green and looks great in photos.

What to do there: You probably won’t be able to enter the building because the royal family is there, but it’s still worth visiting to take photos. Try to go around 2.30 pm, as the ceremonial Changing of the Guard occurs then. There are also several neoclassical buildings around the palace that you should explore including the Palais des Academies and the Palais des Beaux-Arts.

 

#3 – Mannekin Pis

Mannekin Pis

Meet Brussels’ oldest citizen! | image source: Flickr

• A slightly naughty statue that’s one of the most popular points of interest in Brussels.
• This statue is usually besieged by tourists, so get there early if you want to see it properly.

 

Why it’s so awesome: Located along the Rue de l’Etuve, this small statue has been traced back to 1388, but little more is known about it. It’s often referred to as the oldest citizen in Brussels and is an image of a little boy urinating. There are lots of legends about this statue and taking a photo of it is a Brussels must do.

What to do there: Arrive early to beat the crowds and get that iconic photo of the little boy urinating. If you’re in Brussels during city celebrations, this statue is often dressed in costume, so make sure you have a look if you’re there at the right time.

 

#4 – Belgian Comic Strip Center

One of the more unique places to visit in Brussels!

Belgian Comic Strip Center

Go back in time at the Belgian Comic Strip Center! | image source: Flickr

• A great place to visit in Brussels if you remember the Smurf and TinTin.
• This comic display is held in a gorgeous building that was designed by Victor Horta.

 

Why it’s so awesome: This building is dedicated to cartoons and comics that were first created in Belgium. You might not know it, but the Smurfs and Tintin were born in Belgium, and the display celebrates this history as well as other works by Belgian and French comic artists over the years.

What to do there: The displays at this venue rotate constantly, so every time you go, you’ll get to see something different. There are 200 original comic strip drawings included in the exhibition, and you’ll also learn more about the rising popularity of comic books. So, make sure you check out the sketches, sets, and manuscripts that explore this history as well.

 

#5 – Coudenberg Palace Archaeological Site

A fascinating educational place to visit in Brussels

Coudenberg Palace Archaeological Site

Explore the Coudenberg Palace Archaeological Site! | image source: Brussels Museums

• An active archaeological site that was discovered in the 1980s and is now open to the public.
• This site was the former Palace of Brussels and excavations have uncovered cellars, tunnels and forgotten streets underneath the modern-day city.

 

Why it’s so awesome: It isn’t often that you get to explore an active archaeological site, but this is your chance to do just that. Since its discovery in the 1980s, researchers have found numerous tunnels and forgotten streets around the former castle, all of them buried by time and forgotten until very recently. So, if you’re interested in exploring a medieval palace with all its secrets, add this to your Brussels itinerary.

What to do there: Put aside a couple of hours to explore this site. The foundations of the palace have been cleared for tourists, and there are free audio guides available so you can more fully understand what you’re looking at and why it’s important. This is also one of the best hotspots in Brussels to take the kids, as the museum holds interactive programs to get them involved in the explorations.

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#6 – Saint Michel Cathedral

Saint Michel Cathedral

Visit Brussels’ gothic cathedral, Saint Michel Cathedral! | image source: Flickr

• A gothic style cathedral that was completed in the 15th century after centuries of work.
• This cathedral looks amazing in person and even better in pictures, so make sure you take your camera with you.

 

Why it’s so awesome: This gothic cathedral is dedicated to St. Michel and St. Gudula, the patron saint of Brussels. It was founded in 1225 but wasn’t completed until the 15th century and is an amazing example of Gothic architecture. It’s topped by 69 meter high towers and is lavishly furnished inside.

What to do there: The outside of the building is stunning but it’s the inside that will take your breath away. Make sure that you spend some time examining the stained-glass windows. The south transept depicts Charles V and Isabella of Portugal and the north transept shows Louis II and Mary. There’s also a chapel inside known as the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, and the stained glass in there depicts the Miracle of the Host, so make sure you see it.

 

#7 – The Atomium

One of the most incredible free places to go to in Brussels

The Atomium

• This strange looking construct is one of the most famous places in Brussels for tourists and locals alike.
• You’ll need to take the tram to reach this attraction, but it’s worth the trip.

 

Why it’s so awesome: The Atomium is a surreal looking construct created by architect Andre Waterkeyn for the 1958 Brussels World Exhibition. It’s a 102-meter-high aluminium and steel attraction that’s designed in the shape of a molecule of iron that’s been magnified 165 times. So, if you’re the type of person who’s always wanted to know what iron really looks like, this is your chance!

What to do there: It’s worth the tram journey to get to the location of this Brussels must see, mostly because it’s so odd looking. Make sure you take the chance to explore the interior as well, where four of the nine spheres present a show about human life called Biogenium. Otherwise, just take lots of pictures in front of this attraction, because it’s a great backdrop for selfies!

 

Quick Note – Staying Safe in Brussels

Like most of Europe, Brussels is a pretty safe place to travel in whether you’re traveling along or with a group. It’s safe for women to travel alone in this city as well as long as you use your common sense and stay alert.

One of the issues that Brussels has is with taxi drivers. Make sure you only use licensed taxis and be aware of the approximate cost of the trip before you get to your destination. This will help you avoid overcharging. Pickpockets are also a high risk in Brussels, particularly at train stations and subways, so stay alert and keep your belongings close at all times. Scams can also be a problem in crowded tourist areas, so pay attention to anyone acting strangely or trying to get your attention as you explore Brussels.

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

Grand Plaza

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#8 – Mont des Arts

Mont des Arts

• An architecturally striking collection of buildings that holds the Royal Library of Belgium, the Square – Brussels Meeting Center, the National Archives of Belgium, and a public garden.
• There are not only some amazing books in this building but great museums.

 

Why it’s so awesome: The Mont des Arts was built between 1956 and 1958, so it’s a modern building that somehow fits perfectly with the buildings around it. The site sits between the Royal Palace and the Place de l’Albertine and is a complex of modern buildings that hold the city’s library, national archives, and meeting center.

What to do there: If you’re looking for Brussels vacation ideas, this is a great place to start because it’s close to most of the best tourist attractions in Brussels. The complex also offers amazing views of Brussels. From the elevated buildings, you can see all the way from the Grand Palace to the Atomium and everything in between. And at the other end of the building, you can see the Royal Square and the done of Saint-Jacques on the Coudenberg.

 

#9 – Notre-Dame du Sablon

Notre-Dame du Sablon

Notre-Dame du Sablon is one of the most beautiful Belgian Gothic churches! | image source: Flickr

• Built around the 15th-16th century to replace an older chapel that was built around 1304.
• The inside of the church is incredible, with some of the most beautiful stained-glass scenes you’ll ever see.

 

Why it’s so awesome: This church is considered to be one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in all of Belgium. The inside and outside of the building are equally amazing and look just as good in photos as well. The church also contains the burial chapel of the Thurn und Taxis family and a figure of the Virgin which is a copy of the figurine that was supposedly bought to the chapel by a woman the Virgin appeared to back in 1348.

What to do there: This is a truly stunning church and you’ll be amazed at the architectural mastery and the artwork when you visit. The stained-glass images inside the church are particularly popular, so make sure you spend time examining the scenes they depict.

 

#10 – The Parlamentarium

Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Brussels

The Parlimentarium

The Parlimentarium is one of the most important place in Brussels! | image source: Fiveprime

• The best place to learn about Europe’s past and how to it came to be.
• A fascinating display, even if you aren’t interested in politics.

 

Why it’s so awesome: The Parlamentarium is just outside of the city center and it has a visitor’s center that will give you a deeper insight into the Brussels of the present by exploring Europe’s past. The center has multimedia exhibits that explore what the World Wars were really like and how they influenced politics in Europe today.

What to do there: If you’ve ever wanted to learn about why the European Union was developed and how it influenced how Europe grew, this is the place to do it. So, take the tour at the center to learn more about the world you live in now and the people and events that shaped it. This is also a great place to take the kids if you want them to understand the larger stage of the world.

 

#11 – Cinquantenaire Park

Cinquantenaire Park

• On a fine day, there’s no better place to visit in Brussels if you need to relax in nature.
• There is a museum in the park as well if you want to get a little culture in at the same time.

 

Why it’s so awesome: When it’s sunny in Brussels, all the locals head out to this park to enjoy the sunshine. In a busy modern city, it’s important to get out in nature sometimes and this is the easiest and the fastest way to do that. There is also a great museum in the park called the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History if you’re a war buff.

What to do there: This is the perfect place to have a picnic, hire a bike and do some cycling, or just enjoy the sights and sounds of nature right in the middle of the city. So, take a picnic and enjoy it on the grass, or just hang out near the fountain and be a part of everyday life in Brussels.

 

#12 – Mini-Europe

Mini-Europe

• A theme park with 1:25 scale models of the best monuments in the EU.
• This theme park is at the base of the Atomium, a huge model of an iron molecule, which makes this area a study of contrasts.

 

Why it’s so awesome: This park opened in 1989 and features 350 monuments from all around Europe. This includes Mount Vesuvius, Big Ben, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In fact, the theme park explores the most famous buildings from 80 cities in Europe and the attention to detail in each is simply astonishing.

What to do there: You have to admire the attention to tiny detail in this park. Each model is created using a silicone mould and resin or casts. They each took a long time to build, but some of them represent a level of dedication that most people just don’t have. For example, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela took 24,000 hours to build. Also, make sure you spend some at the new interactive exhibition at the park for an introduction to EU history through multimedia games.

 

#13 – The Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts

A great place to visit in Brussels if you are alone/traveling solo

The Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts

Visit The Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts to discover some ancient art! | image source: Wikipedia

• One of the biggest and best art galleries in the world.
• The museum has been open since about 1875, but the collection was first set up in 1797.

 

Why it’s so awesome: When you think of the best art in the world, you probably think of Paris and Italy. But when you travel to Brussels, you’ll discover a collection that rivals those famous places. In 1797, the art collection which is now in the museum was created in the former palace of Charles Lorraine. The collection is divided into two parts, the first focusing on Ancient art and holding pieces by Flemish and Dutch Masters from the distant past. The second part of the collection consists of modern art and mostly holds 19th and 20th-century works.

What to do there: Set aside some time to explore both the ancient and modern parts of this museum. These collections absolutely must be on your Brussels itinerary. Check out the artwork by Flemish and Dutch Masters; Petrus Christus, Dirk Bouts, Hans Memling and Gerard David. And afterwards, spend some time exploring more modern pieces and see how art in Belgium has changed and evolved over the years.

 

#14 – Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

An unknown (but awesome!) place to see in Brussels!

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Walk around the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, if you’re lucky! | image source: Flickr

• This location is only open to the public for 2 weeks in spring, but if you’re there at the right time of year then you’re in for a treat!

 

Why it’s so awesome: King Leopold II of Belgium created the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken between 1884 and 1886. They’re part of a huge complex, with thirty pavilions that are all connected to the Winter Gardens. From the outside, the greenhouses are massive glass domes that shine in the sun. And on the inside is a collection of exotic and tropical plants that are incredibly pleasing to the eyes and to the nose.

What to do there: These greenhouses are only open for 2 weeks in late April and early May, so if you want to see them then you’ll have to time your trip to coincide with the opening days. This is at the time when the flowers are blooming though, so it’s a beautiful time to appreciate the display. If you do manage to enter the greenhouses, make sure that you check out the geraniums and azaleas, which light up the corridors and catch the sunlight perfectly. The Greenhouse of Congo is also worth seeing for its collection of African plants and the dark history of colonialization this greenhouse represents.

 

#15 – The Musical Instrument Museum

Quite the quirky place in Brussels!

The Musical Instrument Museum

Discover the world of Brussels’ music at the Musical Instrument Museum! | image source: Flickr

• A great place to learn about a different side of Belgium’s history.
• This is one of the best places to visit in Brussels if you’re interested in music.

 

Why it’s so awesome: This museum is located in central Brussels and holds a collection of over 1,500 instruments. This includes both European and non-European instruments as well as a detailed exploration of how Brussels contributed to the making of recorders in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The museum also explores the history of instrument inventor and Belgium native Adolphe Sax, who lived in the nineteenth century.

What to do there: The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday, so check out the opening hours before you just show up. Once you’re there, check out the floors of different types of instruments including mechanical, traditional, and keyboard instruments. Also, make sure you listen to the instruments as well as look at them. The museum offers free headphones that allows you to listen to up to 200 musical pieces created by the instruments on display. There’s also a sound lab where you can experiment with the instrument and see what sounds you can make.

 

#16 – Delirium Café

Cool place to see in Brussels with friends!

Delirium Café

You’ll find the best beers in the world at the Delirium Café! | image source: Flickr

• One of the best places to visit in Brussels if you like beer.
• This café has over 2,000 beers on tap.

 

Why it’s so awesome: This café claims to have the best beer in the world and they might just be right! Located in one of Brussels’ cobblestone backstreet, the café has one of the biggest beer selections you’ll ever see, which is why it’s really popular amongst the locals! The bar itself is also quirky and welcoming, with neon signs and posts from years past.

What to do there: Grab a few friends and head to this café at the start of a great night out! Try some of the beers and see for yourself if they offer the best beer in the world. And if you have trouble choosing a beer from the textbook-sized menu, just ask the bartenders. They have a vast knowledge of beer and can steer you towards something delicious. The café also offers a range of cheeses and other snacks to soak up the alcohol.

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#17 – Le Musée du Jouet (Toy Museum)

Awesome place to visit in Brussels with kids!

Le Museé du Jouet (Toy Museum)

Reconnect with your inner chile at Le Musée du Jouet (Toy Museum) | image source: Flickr

• A great place to take the kids or even the young at heart!
• This museum is interactive, and the toys are meant to be played with, not just looked at.

 

Why it’s so awesome: This museum is housed in an old mansion and is 3 floors and 20 rooms of toys, most of them dating from the 1950s through to the 1980s. However, there are some older toys on display, some of them from the 1800s! Some of the toys were donated, others purchased, but all of them are there to be enjoyed and played with.

What to do there: There are a huge range of toys at this museum, including the incredibly rare and the everyday. And best of all is the fact that you can play with them. So, take the kids with you, or just leave your inhibitions behind, and follow in the steps of children from generations before. There’s also a theater and old tram inside the museum, so you could spend hours at play!

 

#18 – Maison Dandoy

A must-see for foodies!

Maison Dandoy

Treat yourself to some delicious waffles at Maison Dandoy | image source: Fiveprime

• You can’t visit Brussels and not eat waffles, and this is one of the best places to eat in Brussels!
• All the waffles here are made to order, which is why they’re better than the waffles you’ll get at most places.

 

Why it’s so awesome: You can’t visit Brussels without eating waffles. They’re available at a lot of places in the city, but Maison Dandoy has the tastiest range. This shop has been making baked goods since 1829, which is why they know how to make the best waffles in the city. There are a few locations in Brussels, so find one near where you’re staying and indulge your sweet tooth! And everything is made fresh, which is what makes all the difference.

What to do there: You’ll probably need to visit this shop a few times while you’re visiting Brussels because no one can eat all the tasty varieties they have in a single sitting. Try the sweet Liege waffle as well as the fluffier Brussels waffles to see which one you enjoy the most. And you can have almost every sweet treat you can imagine on top of your waffles, including hot chocolate sauce, caramel and ice cream!

Don’t forget to pack a good book!

Rick Steves Belgium: Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp & Ghent: This is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.

 

Get insured for your trip to Brussels!

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Final Thoughts on the Coolest Places to Visit in Brussels

When you travel to Brussels, you want to experience all that this amazing and historic city has to offer. And you can only do that if you combine organization and a travel plan with the confidence to wander and find amazing sites, cafes, and eateries on your own. Hopefully, this list will spur on your imagination. It will give you a starting point to find the Brussels that you’ve always dreamed of experiencing. And that’s the only way that you’ll be able to discover your own list of the best places to visit in Brussels.

 

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.


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