Brussels is the home of the European Union and NATO Headquarters but above all is quickly becoming a trendy spot for weekend getaways and holidays. Apart from its famous chocolates and beers there are many Brussels attractions that most visitors cannot begin to imagine. If you are looking for things to do in Brussels, you will not be disappointed. It is a centre of European culture, officially nicknamed ‘the European Village’, with almost 90 museums, beautiful parks, fascinating walks, trendy restaurants and bar.
Brussels quick facts:
Population: Approx. 1 million
Time zone: GMT +1 (Summer: GMT +2)
Languages spoken: French (official bilingual: French and Dutch)
Brussels is the perfect city for holidays with family and friends, or even with colleagues as a team-building event. Not only is there plenty of Brussels attractions, there is a lot to learn about the history of the city, the architecture, the Belgian obsession with comic strips, and the art of chocolate and beer.
Getting to Brussels is quite easy; Brussels airport and Charleroi airport both welcome cheap flights; there are high-speed trains from London, Paris and Amsterdam, an intercity train network that can bring you from all over Europe; and you can even get here by ferry!
Brussels travel is cheap compared to London and Paris, with a touch of charm and elegance. In the city, public transport is easy to use. Click here for the Busssels Metro Map.
The best ways to discover Brussels attractions are the Hop-on hop-off buses and the Brussels card that offers, during 24, 48 or 72h, free entry to over 30 museums, free use of public transports and exclusive offers in designers boutiques, shops, exhibitions, restaurants and attractions.
Before travelling and enjoying all the things to do in Brussels, check the Brussels weather forecast; bring a fold up umbrella and a good pair of walking shoes!
9 things to do in Brussels:
1. Ascend the Atomium.
Built in 1958 when Brussels hosted the World’s Fair, the Atomium is a cross between sculpture and architecture. It’s modeled after a crystallized molecule of iron magnified 150 thousand million times. Escalators take visitors to expositions in the various spheres, and the upper sphere houses a restaurant, Chez Adrienne.
2. Experience Mini Europe.
At the foot of the Atomium is Mini Europe, the only place where touring the continent takes just a few hours. Roughly 80 cities and 350 buildings are represented.
Marvel at impressive reproductions of Europe’s most attractive monuments, watch Mount Vesuvius erupt, and see a Finnish girl dive into icy waters.
3. Discover Old Town.
The crown jewel of Brussels’ Old Town is the Grand Place, built as a merchants’ market in the 13th century. Tour the striking Gothic town hall or people watch from a café. Then, wander the surrounding cobblestone streets.
Stroll through the Galeries St. Hubert, a glass roofed arcade lined with cafes, theaters, and luxury shops. Also be sure to see the Manneken Pis, the famous bronze sculpture of a boy peeing in a fountain.
4. Sample world-famous chocolate.
Learn about Belgian chocolate at the Chocolate Museum, then visit some of the Brussels’ most celebrated chocolate shops.
Wittamer, in the heart of the city, is a family-owned chocolatier that’s been in business since 1910. It’s the official chocolate supplier to the Belgian Court.
Pierre Marcolini, whose flagship store is located near the Grand Place, is a newer but welcome addition to the Belgian chocolate scene. Marcolini opened his first store in 1995, the same year he was named the World Champion of Pastry.
5. Savor moules frites.
When Bruxellois devour this unofficial national dish, they eat the first mussel with their fingers and then scoop up the rest using the empty shell as a utensil.
And what about the fries? One dips those in mayonnaise.
6. A bit of culture by visiting the most popular museums, buildings of the Capital
- Magritte Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) – the Belgian artist’s richest multidisciplinary collection in the world.
- Belvue Museum –Next to the Royal Palace where all began….the only museum that reveals the particularly fascinating history of Belgium.
- Musical Instruments Museum – the biggest collection of instrument in the world.
- Bozar – Erected by the architect and master of Art Nouveau, Victor Horta, it is the centre of cultural and artistic life.
- The Cinquantenaire Park including the Art and History Museum divided into four sections: national archeology, antiquity, non-European civilisations and European decorative arts and the Royal Museum of Army and Military History where around hundred thousands items (weapons, uniforms, armour,…) can be discovered, making it one of the world’s largest military museums.
- Basilica of Koekelberg- The fifth largest church on the world and the largest Art Deco edifice ever built.
7. Revisit the comic strips of your youth.
Did you know that Tintin was created by a Belgian artist? You would if you visited Brussels’ Comic Strip Museum. See original pages of comic artwork, sketches and memorabilia.
Learn how the Smurfs, also of Belgian origin, got their start. (Hint: They’re a spin-off!)
8. Visit the EU.
As the European capital, Brussels is home to the European Union headquarters. Take an audio-guided tour of the European Parliament, the elected body of the EU.
During sessions, you can even attend a parliamentary sitting. Check for session dates here.
9. Okay, a little bit of beer…
It’s not a secret…in Belgium, beer is more than just a frothy beverage- it is a culture. With over 450 different varieties, Belgium is known as the beer country. Near the South train station, which connects Brussels to other cities in Europe, is one of the last traditional breweries, Cantillon. Almost nothing has changed since the brewery opened in 1900.