Looking for things to do in Brussels? The Bumper Crew has it covered! Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is a city of contradictions. On the one hand, it’s a hub of international politics and diplomacy, home to the European Union headquarters and all sorts of other institutions. On the other hand, it’s a place where you can stuff your face with delicious waffles, chocolate, and beer until you feel like you’re going to burst. The city’s old town is a charming maze of narrow streets, medieval architecture, and more chocolate shops than you can shake a stick at.
And speaking of sticks, the Belgians have a thing for fries. Seriously, they eat them with everything. Want a burger? Get some fries with that. Pizza? Fries, please. It’s like they have a secret society devoted entirely to the worship of the potato. But don’t let all the food distract you from the fact that Brussels is also a city with a rich history and culture. From Grand Place to grand galleries, there are plenty of things to see and do.
We visited Brussels during our Belgium road trip, where we went to discover the best places to visit in Belgium. We only planned one day in the Belgian capital during our road trip. That was a wrong decision because it wasn’t enough time to explore. So, we decided to book a trip once we moved to London to celebrate our move. Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, or just looking for a good time, Brussels has something for everyone. So, read on to discover the best things to do in Brussels!
Things to Do in Brussels
1 | Visit Grand Place
Grand Place is one of Belgium’s finest squares and is also considered one of the finest squares in Europe. It’s pretty breathtaking, and its grandeur is remarkable. Located in the heart of the city, the Grand Place is surrounded by stunning architecture that spans several centuries, contributing to why it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you enter the square, you’ll be struck by the impressive guild halls that line its perimeter. These ornate buildings, each with their own unique style and history, are a testament to the wealth and power of Brussels during the Middle Ages.
In the centre of the square, you’ll find the iconic Brussels Town Hall. This magnificent Gothic structure is impressive, with its intricate spires and ornate facade. But it’s not just the buildings that make the Grand Place worth visiting. The square is also home to a vibrant atmosphere and cafes, adding to its lively ambience.
2 | Explore With the Brussels Card
There are tons of museums in Brussels. Not many of them are free, but many are worth visiting. Thankfully, the Brussels Card comes to the rescue to keep your Brussels trip budget-friendly. The Brussels Card can be bought for 24, 48 and 72-hour periods and gives you access to around 50 museums, discounts on other things, including tours, a free Brussels guide, a free city map, the option to add the hop-on hop-off bus, unlimited public transport and skip-the-line access to Atonium, plus there’s a free app. So, you get a lot of bang for your buck with the Brussels Card, even if you don’t get the add-ons. Some notable things to do in Brussels with the Brussel Card are:
- Comic Strip Museum
- Museum of Natural Sciences
- Museum of the City of Brussels
- GardeRobe MannekenPis
- Choco-Story Brussels
- War Heritage Institute
- Musical Instruments Museum
3 | Take a Free Walking Tour
We love a walking tour and jump on one whenever we can. They are a great way to explore the city with someone who knows more about the place than you do. They are often filled with fascinating facts, history, some humour and a local’s knowledge of places to eat and drink once. Thankfully, Brussels city centre isn’t overwhelmingly big, so the walking tour takes you to a lot of interesting places in not a lot of time. It’s a great way to explore Brussels without the effort of finding things for yourself! Ha! It’s worth noting the tours aren’t necessarily free – they are tip-based, and you give what you think the tour was worth.
4 | Find Manneken Pis
Our tour guide said Manneken Piss is Brussels’ most underwhelming tourist attraction, but we disagree. But what is Manneken Piss, we hear you ask? It’s a quirky little statue of a urinating boy that has become a beloved symbol of Brussels. Standing just 61 cm tall, this little fellow has been around since the 17th century and has quite a storied history. Legend has it that he was named after a young boy who, during a siege of the city, bravely urinated on a burning fuse that would have destroyed the city’s defences. Thus, the Manneken Pis was born – a symbol of defiance and bravery.
He also has thousands of outfits in which he gets dressed in, and there’s even a museum to visit to see some of them, called GardeRobe MannekenPis. Strangely enough, there are another couple of urinating statues to add to the weird collection of urinating statues around Brussels – Jeanneke Pis (a urinating girl) and Zinneke Pis (a urinating dog).
5 | Visit Parlamentarium
I (Joel) have been to the European Parliament countless times when I worked as the Prime Minister’s photographer. Like most trips, I never got to enjoy the places I visited with the PM, so it was nice to revisit the European Parliament as a tourist. Surprisingly, Parlementarium is interesting. It’s hugely interactive, inspiring and a great insight into European politics and how the EU is a force for good. Parlementarium is free to visit and should be booked online. You can turn up, but you won’t get in if it’s busy. You’ll also get given an audio guide to self-direct your way around the museum. Allow around 90 minutes for your visit.
6 | Eat at Wolf Food Market
In an old bank is a foodie’s paradise that goes by the name of Wolf, probably because of the Wolf of Wall Street. Wolf is not to be missed if you’re a foodie or love craft beer. It’s got the best atmosphere and food that takes you on a culinary world tour. On offer in Wolf, there is sushi, pizza, pasta, Lebanese bread, burgers, Thai, Greek, and some vegan options, plus loads of other choices, including a dessert bar. There’s also a microbrewery producing Wolf’s very own Flow beer. The food is excellent, as is the beer, and the place is relaxed. What’s not to love?
7 | Eat Frites at Café Georgette
Belgium is famous for frites, or chips, as we know them in the UK 🍟. And believe it or not, French fries are not French; they are Belgian. And you can’t visit Belgium and not eat some frites. They are often served in a cornet (or cone) with some delicious sauce, and the best place to get your fill is from Café Georgette. The frites are skin-on and, according to our tour guide, are cooked in beef dripping, which makes them not vegetarian or vegan-friendly, so be aware of that.
8 | Drink Belgian Beer at Delirium
Another thing the Belgians are famous for is beer 🍻 There are tons of places around the city to get a great beer. Delirium Village is one of those places. It has a great atmosphere and decor and claims to have thousands of bottled beers available. Delirium Village has around eight bars, but Delirium Taphouse is the coolest. Wolf is another place worth a visit. They have their own Flow beer from their microbrewery, located on-site.
9 | Visit Parc du Cinquantenaire & Triumphal Arch
When you’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle and busy streets of Brussels, it’s time to head out to Parc du Cinquantenaire for some fresh air. Located in the European Quarter of Brussels, Parc du Cinquantenaire is a breathtaking park filled with lush greenery, scenic paths, and awe-inspiring landmarks. The park is a tranquil oasis in the bustling city, perfect for picnics, strolls, and relaxation. Several museums are in the park, including the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History and Autoworld. If you’re looking for a beautiful and historically-rich destination in Brussels, Parc du Cinquantenaire and its Triumphal Arch is not to be missed.
The park’s centrepiece is the Triumphal Arch, a grand monument built in the early 1900s to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgian Independence. It was built just in time for the 75th anniversary of Belgian Independence! The arch is almost 50 meters high and features intricate carvings and sculptures representing different parts of Belgian history.
10 | Eat Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate
Much like frites and beer, a visit to Belgium wouldn’t be complete without getting a taste of some delicious chocolate, for which the Belgians are world-famous. And like frites and beer, there are plenty of places to get your fill, but one or two stand out. Neuhaus Chocolates is one of those places. The original shop opened in 1857 and is still in operation today, but more interestingly, it’s the home of the praline. What started with a pharmacist covering medicine in chocolate developed into the praline we know today. You will find Neuhaus Chocolates at the next place on our list of things to do in Brussels.
11 | Wander Through Galeries Royals St Hubert
The Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert is a little gem right in the heart of Brussels. The Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert is a stunning covered arcade filled with high-end shops, theatres, cafes and a couple of notable chocolate shops – Neuhaus Chocolates and Mary Chocolatier.
Built during the mid-1800s, the arcade is named after Saint Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, opticians and metalworkers. Walking through the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert is like stepping into a world of elegance and luxury, with the stunning glass ceiling and fancy ornate architecture. If you’re looking for a picturesque and elegant shopping destination in Brussels, the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert is a must-visit!
12 | Visit Cathédrale des Sts Michel et Gudule
Located in the heart of Brussels, just a short walk from Grand Place is St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral. It’s an impressive Gothic cathedral that dates back to the 11th century dedicated to the patron saints of Brussels, St. Michael and St. Gudula. As you approach the cathedral, you’ll be awestruck by the stunning facade, with its towering spires and intricate details.
The cathedral’s interior is just as impressive, with soaring ceilings, beautiful stained glass windows, and ornate altarpieces. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful place to reflect, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is not to be missed.
13 | Explore the Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens are a small but lovely bit of green space with winding cobbled paths, wildlife and, of course, plants. The Botanic Garden of Brussels, also known as the Jardin Botanique de Bruxelles, offers a little peace and nature in the city’s heart. Founded in 1826, the garden spans over 6 hectares and is home to thousands of plant species from all over the world.
As you enter the garden, you’ll be greeted by a lush green oasis filled with fragrant flowers and trees. The winding paths lead you through different themed sections of the garden, which are French, Italian and English, each with its own unique charm.
In addition to the many plant species, the garden is also home to a fantastic building known as Le Botanique. Le Botanique is a former glasshouse that was used for the botanical garden. Today, it hosts various events and exhibitions throughout the year, including concerts, performances, art exhibitions, film screenings, etc.
14 | Find the Street Art
If you love street art, Brussels has tons of it to admire. From colourful murals to intricate stencils to eye-catching graffiti, the city is home to some impressive art. You’ll find everything from whimsical characters to thought-provoking political messages, all beautifully executed in various styles and techniques.
One of the most famous street art pieces in Brussels is the iconic mural of Tintin, the beloved Belgian comic book character. You’ll find this colourful tribute on the side of a building in the Rue de l’Etuve, not far from the famous Manneken Pis statue. It’s a must-see for fans of Tintin and comic book lovers in general or if you appreciate a bit of artwork. But we encourage you to stroll through the city’s backstreets and alleyways because you’ll find loads of random bits all over the place, each worth a snap. There are even a couple of art trails to follow if you’d prefer a guide.
15 | Check Out the Royal Palace of Brussels
Did you know Belgium has a monarch? No? Well, they do! The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official residence of the King and Queen of Belgium and a magnificent piece of architecture located right next to the wonderful Parc de Bruxelles, just a short walk from Grand Place. The palace was built in the 19th century in the neoclassical style, and its grandeur and elegance are pretty impressive. The palace isn’t open all the time and is set to reopen its doors to the public in the summer of 2024.
But even if you can’t make it inside, the palace’s exterior is still well worth a visit. In addition to its role as the royal residence, the palace also plays an essential role in Belgian politics and diplomacy. It’s where the King receives foreign dignitaries and hosts state dinners and other official events.
Things to do in Brussels Map
Is Brussels worth visiting?
Absolutely! There are plenty of things to do in Brussels to occupy you for a few days, and it’s really accessible, which contributes to a great visit.
What is Brussels famous for?
As well as being home to numerous European Union institutions, such as NATO headquarters, Brussels is also known for its medieval Grand Place, Manneken Pis statue, and Atomium structure.
How many days do I need in Brussels?
This depends on what sort of trip you’re looking for, but we’d recommend at least three days so that you have enough time to explore all that Brussels has to offer. It’s not a massive city in relation to its tourist attractions, but there are a lot of them to visit.
Things to do in Brussels
- Visit Grand Place
- Explore With the Brussels Card
- Take a Free Walking Tour
- Find Manneken Pis
- Visit Parlamentarium
- Eat at Wolf Food Market
- Eat Frites at Café Georgette
- Drink Belgian Beer at Delirium
- Visit Parc du Cinquantenaire & Triumphal Arch
- Eat Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate
- Wander Through Galeries Royals St Hubert
- Visit Cathédrale des Sts Michel et Gudule
- Explore the Botanical Gardens
- Find the Street Art
- Check Out the Royal Palace of Brussels
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