Brussels is the capital of Belgium, and in many ways, the capital of Europe. With it’s melting pot past, fascinating cultural and artistic delights, and it’s an important place in historic and contemporary politics, Brussel is a European capital that sometimes slips under people’s radars but is full to the brim with exciting things to see and do.
Apart from its historic allure, it also has a modern attraction. With it’s distinct Art Nouveau architecture and impressive beer culture and delectable chocolate; there’s something everyone can enjoy when they visit Brussels.
The city has a lot to offer, which is why we’ve put together a helpful guide that will allow you to discover the city like a local. We’ve laid out all of the best attractions, from the most popular activities to the most unusual!
To fully immerse yourself in the exciting culture of this bustling Belgian capital, here are the top things to do in Brussels!
- Top Things to Do in Brussels
- Unusual Things to Do in Brussels
- Things to do in Brussels at Night
- Where to Stay in Brussels
- Romantic Things to Do in Brussels
- Best Free Things to Do in Brussels
- Brussels Packing List
- Things to Do with Kids in Brussels
- Other Things to Do in Brussels
- Day Trips from Brussels
- 3 Day Itinerary in Brussels
Top Things to Do in Brussels
Brussels is a hub of entertainment, historic attractions, and iconic sites. There’s a lot to see and you might not have a huge amount of time in which to see it. We’ve whittled down this list of things to do in Brussels to provide you with a great selection of activities and adventures to suit every budget and every mood. Let’s take a look!
The Brussels Atomium is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. It was specially built for the World Expo in 1958. The Atomium structure symbolizes an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times!
Step inside the Atomium and explore the different levels of the viewing decks. Learn how the structure was built and dive deeper into the history of the city. The location of the structure sits on a naturally elevated plateau on the outskirts of town. It offers amazing panoramic views of Brussels.
2. Wander the City’s Picturesque Main Square
The Grand Place is a central square in Brussels. It’s famous for its opulent aesthetic and historic significance. The square is bordered by the Town Hall, the Bread Hall, and many other guild houses of ancient orders. It’s widely regarded as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe making it one of the top places to visit in Brussels.
The Museum of the City of Brussels is located in the square and is dedicated to the history and the folklore of the city. Stop by if you have time; It’s a great place to get an introduction to the city!
3. Admire the Lavish Royal Palace of Brussels
The Royal Palace of Brussels was constructed in 1934. It is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians. Today it’s not their royal residence however, they live in another royal palace on the outskirts of the city. Instead, it’s the King and Queen’s administrative residence and main workplace.
The palace is only open to the public for a limited time during the summer months. If you happen to be visiting Brussels when it’s open, tours of the palace are free. Nevertheless, it’s one of the top things to see in Brussels. Admire its opulent beauty from the outside and stroll the palace gardens.
Brussels’ City Centre is a magnet for tourists, with dazzling architecture, interesting attractions, and a good choice of places to eat, drink, shop, and sleep.
- Admire the stunning building of the Brussels Stock Exchange
- Buy tickets to watch an opera at the high-class Royal Theatre of the Mint
- Get in touch with your inner child at the Belgian Comic Strip Center
For more Places to Stay, check out our full Brussels Neighborhood Guide!
It’s no secret Belgium produces some of the most decadent chocolate in the world. The city is filled with inviting chocolate shops offering a wide selection of melt in your mouth chocolate. From dark to milk to white to liquid chocolate, you’ll be overwhelmed (in a good way) with the abundant selection on offer.
Indulge in pralines, truffles, ganache and chocolate bars. Don’t forget to buy a little extra to take home with you – and even more to pass out as a gift anyone would be happy to receive! Checking out the chocolate scene when you visit Brussels is mandatory.
Mini-Europe is a miniature park located on the outskirts of the city, near the Brussels Atomium. It houses reproductions of 80 cities and 350 buildings from the European Union. These monuments are on display at a scale of 1:25.
Stroll around the most beautiful towns in Europe without ever leaving the city. Listen to the chimes of Big Ben, see the gondolas and mandolins of Venice and admire the Arc de Triomphe of Paris! Check out this attraction for a one-of-a-kind experience. This is one of the coolest things to do in Brussels, Belgium.
The Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert is a covered shopping complex in the heart of Brussels. It was one of the first shopping arcades to be built in Europe – it was built between 1846 and 1847.
This grand building houses many up-market specialty stores, from clothing boutiques to chocolate shops and cafes. Some of the oldest chocolate shops in the city are located inside the gallery. It’s an extremely aesthetic place to wander around and window shop. It’s especially delightful at night when the gallery is illuminated!
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Belgians are proud beer drinkers, and the beer culture in the city thrives. Stopping by the local pubs and breweries and sampling the best brews on tap is must do in Brussels.
Even if you’re not normally a beer drinker, you’ll find a wide variety that caters to all different pallets and preferences. Discover what makes Belgium beer unique to other countries as you taste the varied and unique flavors.
8. Wander Around a Scenic Park Steeped in History
Brussels Park is a large urban area in the center of the city, right across the street from the Royal Palace of Brussels. It spans 32 acres and is a beautiful getaway from the hustle and bustle of Brussels.
There are several statues inside the park, including Art Deco lamposts and a monument of Peter the Great. The Theater Royal du Parc is a theater built in 1782 that sits on the edge of the park.
Check out the Woodpecker Cafe when you visit. It’s situated in the middle of the park and offers scenic outdoor seating. Grab a delicious homemade lemonade or ice-cold Belgium beer!
9. Marvel at a Magnificent Gothic Church
The Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon (Notre Dame du Sablon) is an ornate Roman Catholic church located in the Sablon district of Brussels. It was reserved for the nobility and wealthy citizens of Brussels.
It dates back from the 15th century and was built in the late Gothic style. The interior is very attractive with a high vaulted ceiling and dramatic stained glass windows. There are nice platforms, an organ, and two attractive Baroque chapels. Entry is free and the church is free to explore every day.
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are a group of art galleries that feature a large variety of art in many categories. Admire paintings, sketches, furniture, statues, carvings, sculptures and much more. The collections date from the early 15th century to the present.
Learn the history of Belgium through art! This is a large area and you could easily spend all day exploring the galleries. Audio guides are available to purchase for a small fee and will help you navigate through the different areas of the gallery.
Unusual Things to Do in Brussels
Are you looking for a few unique attractions to add to your trip itinerary? We get it, cities can start to feel ubiquitous a lot of the time. Between the cathedrals and the art galleries, it’s good to spice things up with something a little more out there every now and again. Here are the most fun and unusual Brussels tourist attractions that should be high on every traveler’s bucket list!
Due to its accessible location, mix of cultures, liberal attitudes, and let’s be honest lax drugs laws, Brussels has become something of a mecca for Europe’s street art and graffiti communities. If you’re keen-eyed you’ll be able to find works by all of Europe’s biggest names and collectives.
Did you know that the Smurfs and Tintin are actually both Belgian creations? That’s right, both were created by Belgian cartoonists. Visit the Belgian Comic Strip Center (Rue des Sables 20) and see large paintings of both of these beloved comic book creations. Get to know the culture of Brussels in an interesting way, through its art scene!
12. See a Trio of Peeing Statues
Urinating statues are a thing in Brussels. They symbolize the humor of the Belgium people and are one of the most unique Brussels points of interest.
The most popular statue is of Manneken Pis, which is Dutch for “little pissing man.” It’s located in the center of Brussels and depicts a boy urinating into a fountain basin. This notable bronze statue has been attracting crowds since 1619!
There is also Jeanneke Pis, the peeing girl. This is the female version of the peeing boy. The statue was erected in 1987. It’s located in a quiet alley – fidelity alley. Lastly, there is Zinneke, the peeing dog statue, which was erected in 1998.
La Boutique Tintin is a comic book store that sells souvenirs related to the comic book character Tintin. The series first appeared in 1929 in a youth supplement to the Belgian newspaper. It went on to become one of the most popular European comics of all time.
It’s a small shop but you’ll find a great selection of Tintin merchandise, and a few items on display. The comic book store is open every day and is free to visit.
Safety in Brussels
Overall, Brussels is a safe city to visit. The main risk that the city poses is from petty crime and pickpocketing. Stay vigilant when out exploring Brussels attractions and when using public transportation. Keep your belongings close to you, never flash your valuables, and don’t travel with large sums of money – rather use your debit/credit card.
Terrorism is a threat the city has been met with in the past. Keep an extra eye out for suspicious activity and always trust your instincts. Follow the rules of common sense when you’re visiting Brussels and you should have nothing to worry about!
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Things to do in Brussels at Night
Brussels is a great city to enjoy a night out on the town! After dusk, you’ll find a whole new list of entertaining activities you can enjoy. Likewise, if you’re a fan of beer, you can spend countless hours over countless evening exploring the whole spectrum of complex and quality beers brewed in the region. Here are Brussels’ top attractions to visit after the sun sets!
Enjoy a night out in Brussels and experience the local life. The city is home to all sorts of bars and clubs that will fit with whatever nighttime vibe you’re going for. Dance and mingle with the locals and tourists also looking for a fun night out.
Sample tasty Belgium beer, or enjoy a specialty cocktail. You’ll find all sorts of venues, from casual to crazy and inexpensive to high-end. Step out for the night and experience the party scene in Brussels!
The La Monnaie is an opera house in Brussels that dates back to the 19th century. It is the country’s leading opera house and a wonderful place to see a show and experience the local performing arts culture. As with many European opera houses, the building is beautiful from the inside out.
Choose from opera, ballet or theater performances and enjoy a classic Belgian experience. The quality of the productions is wonderful. You can expect to see performers who have achieved the highest level of technical expertise!
16. Check Out the Live Music Scene
Live music in Brussels isn’t hard to come by and it’s the perfect setting for an upbeat and entertaining night out!
L’Archiduc is an intimate Art deco-style cocktail bar. It’s been open since 1937 and is the city’s quintessential jazz club. You’ll find live music playing every weekend. On Saturdays, there are evening concerts that are free! The bar stays open until 5:00 am every day.
Madame Moustache is one of the city’s most popular live music hotspots. The old-timey design, high ceilings, and wood decoration give the bar a quirky vibe. There’s also a dance floor so you can let loose alongside upbeat tunes. Stop in if you’re visiting Brussels on the weekend.
Where to Stay in Brussels
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Brussels.
Best Hostel in Brussels: Jacques Brel Youth Hostel
Close to cultural and historical sites, nightlife, and an array of restaurants, Jacques Brel Youth Hostel is ideally located to really make the most of your time in Brussels. The dorms are comfy and breakfast is free!
The onsite bar and games room are perfect for meeting other people, and there’s a kitchen where you can cook your favourite dishes. Other handy features include free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, luggage storage, bike parking, and a book exchange.
Best Airbnb in Brussels: Roof top 2 bedroom apartment in trendy St Gilles
This stylish two-bedroom apartment can sleep up to six guests. Bright and airy, the modern apartment has a well-equipped kitchen and family features, such as a travel crib and a high chair. Washing and drying facilities are available to live that bit more convenient, and the apartment has a TV and free Wi-Fi to enjoy in your downtime. If you want to stay in one of the best Airbnbs in Brussels, look no further!
Best Hotel in Brussels: Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo
Treat yourself to a stay at the five-star Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo and you’re sure to be pleased. Each elegant room has a private bathroom with luxurious touches, a sitting area with a flat-screen TV and minibar, and a desk.
Onsite facilities include a high-class restaurant, gym, and business centre. It sits right on the corner of the Grand Place.
Romantic Things to Do in Brussels
Vacation is the perfect time to rouse up some romance! If you’re planning a trip to Brussels with your significant other, these activities are perfect for couples.
Taking a chocolate workshop has got to be one of the most fun things to do in Brussels, and it’s perfect for couples! With the guidance of a master chocolatier, you’ll learn how to make delicious Belgian treats for yourself.
Dive deep into the history of cocoa and find out what makes Belgium chocolates so special. Of course, you’ll get to sample chocolate along the way and enjoy your treats after you’ve made them. This activity is a chocolate lovers dream!
Rue du Bailli is a chic neighborhood in Brussels. This area is especially known for its Art Nouveau architecture, which is a style of art that flourished throughout the world between 1890 and 1910. It is characterized by long asymmetrical lines and shapes inspired by natural forms.
Travel to this district and see several of the most important Art Nouveau buildings in the city. You’ll also find plenty of cozy cafes, an array of stylish restaurants and venues with live music. This is a great area to aimlessly stroll the streets with your significant other, or have a date night!
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Best Free Things to Do in Brussels
If you’re traveling to the city on a budget, here are the best things to do in Brussels that are free!
19. See Gothic Architecture at its Finest
The Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula is a beautiful Roman Catholic church. Construction of the church started around 1226 and was completed in 1519; it took nearly 300 years to build!
The church was built in the gothic style. It is very well preserved and filled with countless relics. It is an active church and is open to tourists and for church services. Step inside and view the mesmerizing architecture and beautiful stained glass windows. The church is free to visit, but donations are welcome.
20. Visit a Bustling Flea Market
The Marolles Flea Market is located on the Place du Jeu de Balle, in the historic Marolles district of Brussels. This popular flea market has more than 500 stalls offering a large selection of bric-a-brac. From vintage furniture to handbags and old records, you’ll find a wide and diverse offering.
Pick up a unique souvenir or simply wander around and experience the bustling atmosphere of the market. The market is open every day from 8:00 am – 2:00 pm.
21. Enjoy Some R&R at a Peaceful Park
The Parc du Cinquantenaire is a relaxing place to visit in Brussels, The park is clean and well-maintained and offers ample green space, beautiful gardens and fountains. This urban area is great for walking, running, picnics, sports, and all sorts of fun outside activities. Entrance to the park is free.
The centerpiece is a triumphal arch that was completed in 1905. It’s a prominent symbol of the area and an imposing structure. The park also contains a mosque and several museums: the Military Museum, Art and History Museum, and the AutoWorld Museum.
Brussels Packing List
1. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
2. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
3. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
4. Camera or Cell Phone Camera Accessories: One thing’s for sure – Brussels is a picturesque destination! Get perfect shots from your phone using clip-on-lenses with wide-angle, close-up and optical zoom. With the ability to turn travel pictures from basic to professional, this universal lens sits neatly over any phone camera and comes with a durable, travel-friendly case!
5. International Adapter: Brussels outlets accommodate typical US two-pronged plugs, but for electronics that have three prongs or if your plugs are of a different variety, you’ll need an adapter. Save yourself the hassle of trying to track down an adapter at your destination and paying twice as much than planning ahead by buying one online.
Things to Do with Kids in Brussels
If you’re trying to decide what to do in Brussels, Belgium with kids, here are two popular activities the whole family will enjoy!
The Choco-Story Brussels Museum is a small museum featuring everything related to Belgium’s most precious commodity. Learn the history of chocolate and discover how cocoa first arrived in Europe. There is even an interactive audio guide (available in several languages) suitable for both children and adults.
See the process used to make chocolate, from the cultivation of the cocoa bean to a tasty treat. Watch a live demonstration from a master chocolatier and enjoy a chocolate tasting at the end. This museum is fun for the whole family and perfect for all chocolate lovers!
Renting a bike and cruising around Brussels is a great way to see the city. With the aid of a bike, you’ll cover far more ground than you would by walking. Take your Brussels sightseeing to a whole new level and admire the views from a different perspective, easily passing from one iconic site to the next.
There are plenty of large open parks around the city with paths for cycling. Enjoy the fresh open air as you enjoy this family-friendly activity!
Other Things to Do in Brussels
Still looking for more activities to enjoy when you visit? Here are a few more bonus places to see in Brussels!
The Train World Museum is a recent addition to the Brussels museum scene, having only opened in September of 2015. Discover how trains have evolved over the years and learn about the railway pioneers days. See steam engines and authentic railway cottages.
Explore the museum independently or with the aid of an audio guide. There’s also a free downloadable Train World app. Visiting the museum is a great experience for both children and adults. There are plenty of interactive exhibits, including a train simulator kids can play with!
Brussels has a lot more to offer on the food scene than just chocolate. The city has a mouth-watering culinary culture that all tourists should indulge in when visiting.
Sample the best of Brussels local street food. Enjoy a pistolet sandwich filled with ham and cheese, fries with mayo, a delicious bloempanch sausage, and of course, Belgium waffles! Food is an integral part of any vacation. Treat your taste buds and sample the best of Brussels’ local flavors!
Brussels Town Hall is a historic building in the middle of the city. The oldest part of the building is the east wing, which was built in 1420. The architecture is incredibly detailed; it’s easily one of the most beautiful buildings in the country.
The only way to enter the building is by booking a guided tour. Tours are offered every Wednesday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased only on the day of the guided tour, for USD $8.00. Tours last for 55 minutes.
The Autoworld Museum is a museum completely dedicated to cars! Discover a collection of over 250 European and American automobiles as well as themed temporary exhibitions. See vintage cars from the late 19th century up until the 1990s.
Not only will you be able to see and learn about automobiles, but you’ll also be able to explore the history of important technological advancements. Pick up an audio guide for even more information. All ages will enjoy this impressive museum.
Day Trips from Brussels
If you will be spending more than two days in Brussels, you should have enough time to explore the city as well as embark on a day trip. There are plenty of fun and interesting day trips from here that can make your Brussels itinerary really special! Here are some of our top picks!
Bruges is another spectacular destination in Belgium that is well worth a visit if you have time. Often referred to as “Venice of the North”, Bruges is a medieval town that boasts incredible canals, old buildings, cobbled streets, and plenty of charm!
This full-day trip from Brussels includes a 4-hour walking tour through Bruges. Guided by a knowledgeable local. You will get to see some of the top attractions and points of interest in Bruges and will gain a better understanding of this town through your expert guide.
The tour includes return train tickets to Bruges from Brussels!
When planning a trip to Brussels, you can even include visits to other countries during your itinerary! This is one of the best day trips from Brussels to experience more than just Belgium. This trip will take you to the best of western Germany, stopping at Cologne and Monschau!
You will get to explore the incredible landscapes of the Eifel mountain region, and stop in the picture-perfect small town of Monschau where you will get to explore some of its fantastic historic sites.
You will then head on to Cologne to experience some of the best attractions in this town. Cologne is a destination that has so much to offer, and your expert guide will take you through some of the most important and appealing areas all in one day!
This full-day excursion takes you from Brussels to Ypres to explore the fascinating battlefields of Flanders. This is where a famous battle was fought between the allied forces and the German army.
You will get to learn a great deal about WWI and the significance that the surrounding area played during the war. Your visit to the battlefield will be led by a really knowledgeable local guide, and you will get some great insight into the history of the area!
This tour also includes a visit to the interesting city of Diksmuide, where you will get to indulge in an amazing lunch. Your guide will take you through some important sites in this city through a short walk before you return back to Brussels!
3 Day Itinerary in Brussels
Day 1. Explore the Local Culture of Brussels
Spend your first day in Brussels with an early morning trip to The Royal Palace of Brussels. If you happen to be visiting during the summer months when the palace offers tours, make sure to take advantage of a free tour. If not, walk around the palace grounds and gardens. Getting there early has a huge advantage; you’ll be able to walk around without the hordes of tourists and get some epic photos without the swarming crowds.
When you’re done, head across the street to the Brussels Park. The park can be seen from the palace, making it an easy next stop. Walk around and enjoy the lush scenery and grab a coffee or tea from the Woodpecker cafe. Next, make your way to the Grand Place. You can walk there in about 15 minutes, or public transportation will get you there in ten.
Admire the beauty of this stunning historic square. Spend some time popping into the countless chocolate shops found nearby. Grab something to eat from a local restaurant, and enjoy a cold glass of Belgian beer. You’ll be about a five minutes walk from the jazz club L’Archiduc. End your day listening to live music at this lively venue.
Day 2. Discover the Chic and Creative Side of the City
Start your day at the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert. Grab a coffee and breakfast from one of the charming cafes found inside. Afterward, wander around this luxurious shopping center and window shop. You’ll see some of the best and oldest artisan chocolate shops in Brussels.
When you’re done, walk about five minutes to the Choco-Story Brussels Museum. Spend some time learning the history of chocolate! You’ll discover the origins of chocolate, see a live chocolate-making demonstration, and even be able to sample some! Afterward, visit the iconic Manneken Pis statue. This famous bronze statue is right around the corner from the museum.
Jump on Brussels public transportation for 20 minutes and end your night at the Rue du Bailli District. Grab dinner and drinks at a hip restaurant and see where the night takes you!
Day 3. Enjoy a Full-day Experiencing the City’s Top Attractions
Start your morning at the Marolles Flea Market. See the unique and quirky items being sold and rub shoulders with the locals. You’ll be close to loads of cafes and breakfast spots. Grab some Belgian waffles for breakfast before carrying on to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. You can walk there in about 20 minutes, or use public transportation and get there in 10 minutes. Spend a few hours walking around and admiring the beautiful pieces of art on display.
Next, hop on public transportation for about 40 minutes and head to Mini-Europe. This miniature park is really interesting to see and makes for great photo opportunities. When you’re done, walk for five minutes and you’ll be right next to one of Brussel’s top sites, the Brussels Atomium. Walk around the different viewing platforms and end your day admiring the best views of Brussels!
We hope you enjoyed our guide of the top things to do in Belgium, Brussels. The city is teeming with popular and unique attractions that will make your trip one to remember. From modern museums to historic squares and unusual statues, there are plenty of interesting areas to explore.
Indulge in decadent chocolate and refreshing Belgian beer. Shop at extravagant shopping arcades and local flea markets. Stroll open parks and quiet streets. These activities will help you experience the true beauty of the city and help you make the most of your time in Brussels!
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