The size of Belgium's capital is ideal for a weekend, but you'll need to extend your trip to visit nearby cities such as mythical Bruges. Here's everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to Brussels.
1. Walk around the Grand Place
Walking around the Grand Place in Brussels will allow you to discover the historical and aesthetic heart of the city. This magnificent square is one of the most emblematic destinations in Europe and an architectural jewel reflecting the rich history and cultural influence of the Belgian capital. Surrounded by the City Hall, the Grand Place is an ideal setting for photographs and a showcase of Flemish art.
The buildings surrounding the Grand Place are a showcase of the Gothic and Baroque architecture that characterises the city. The ornate facades, ornate details and sculptures that decorate the structures bear witness to the wealth and splendour that Brussels experienced during its historical heyday. The Brussels City Hall, with its tower and Gothic architecture, stands out as a focal point, drawing attention to the square from every angle.
2. Discover the Manneken Pis statue
One of the most traditional experiences you can have in Brussels is to visit the Manneken Pis statue. One of the city's most iconic and beloved figures, it is a tiny sculpture of a boy urinating in a fountain. This recreation has captured the imagination of visitors for centuries and has become an iconic symbol of the Belgian capital.
Located on a picturesque corner near the Grand Place, the statue embodies a playful spirit and a sense of humour that reflects the welcoming and somewhat irreverent personality of the city. In addition, the story behind the Manneken Pis statue is enigmatic and full of legend. Although its exact origin is uncertain, the figure has been part of the cultural fabric of Brussels since the 17th century and is often included in the itineraries of the best Brussels tours.
3. Take a guided tour of the city centre
The most important thing, of course, is to see the historic centre of Brussels. However, if you tour the centre on your own, it is easy to stay there and this is only the surface of what the city has to offer the traveller.
With a guided tour of Brussels you will learn about the history of the city and discover its corners and monuments from a different perspective. These tours don't just stick to the historical facts you'll find in a guidebook, but are led by locals who will give you an insight into the city's customs and legends.
The most relevant stops
- The Grote Markt
- The Royal Palace
- The Stock Exchange
- The Mont des Arts
- St. Nicholas Church
- Saint Hubert Galleries
- The Manneken Pis statue
- The Royal Library of Belgium
4. Stroll through the Saint-Hubert galleries
You may think that shopping when you are travelling is an empty way to spend your time, but I can assure you that a visit to the Saint-Hubert galleries will change your mind. These shopping arcades are over 200 metres long and are one of the city's main attractions.
As well as marvelling at the architecture, you'll find luxury shops, jewellers, famous chocolatiers and terraces where you can enjoy a coffee. While it's true that most of these places are reserved for people with a lot of money in their pockets, you shouldn't miss out on the walking experience.
5. Visit the Brussels Palace of Justice
If during your trip in Brussels you want to discover one of the most beautiful buildings of the city, which usually does not make it into the most popular lists, I advise you to visit the Palace of Justice, an architectural work that is one of the best kept secrets of Belgium. Situated at the top of Marollen Hill, the palace offers panoramic views of the Belgian capital.
The palace's architecture is a blend of neoclassical and Renaissance styles, and its monumental design reflects the ambition and splendour of the 19th century. The central dome, which towers over the city, is one of the largest in the world and is a recognisable landmark from various points in Brussels. One of the best ways to get to the Palais de Justice, while enjoying the surroundings, is to take the city's tourist bus.
- Price: Admission is free.
- Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.
- Location: Pl. Poelaert 1, Brussels.
6. Discover the Sablon Quarter
Discovering the Sablon district in Brussels means entering an elegant and sophisticated corner which embodies the cultural and artistic richness of the city. Located between the Grand Place and the Palais de Justice, this historic district is known for its cobbled streets, its buildings of varied architectural style and its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Sablon is a melting pot of antique shops, designer boutiques, art galleries and exquisite chocolatiers.
One of the highlights of the Sablon Quarter is the Grand Place du Sablon, which becomes a lively space on weekends thanks to its popular antiques and curios market. This market attracts both avid collectors and the curious in search of unexpected treasures. The neighbourhood is also famous for being home to some of the best chocolate shops.
7. Tour Brussels from the sightseeing bus
There is so much more to the city of Brussels than what you can see on a stroll through the centre, but sometimes we don't quite know what to see or what to look out for. For that, the Brussels sightseeing buses have a route designed with audio commentary and panoramic views that runs throughout the city.
How it works
All you have to do is buy a pass (you can do it online) for one or two days and activate it during the first use. For 24 or 48 hours, depending on your choice, you will have unlimited access to the Brussels sightseeing buses and can hop on and off as many times and at as many stops as you like.
Even if you are going to use the sightseeing bus to get between monuments faster than you would walk or take the metro, my recommendation is to take the whole route at least once to listen to the audio commentary about the city and enjoy the sights.
10. Visit the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium
If you want to explore a treasure trove of art spanning centuries of creation and visual expression, a visit to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium is a must. This museum houses a collection of masterpieces of painting, sculpture and decorative arts. Divided into two sections, one dedicated to ancient art and the other to modern art, the exhibition will take you on a journey through time through various artistic currents and cultural movements.
The ancient art section of the museum presents a varied collection including masterpieces from the Flemish Renaissance and European art up to the 18th century. Paintings by Brueghel the Younger, Rubens and Van Dyck, as well as sculptures, decorative objects and applied arts complement the collection.
The modern art section presents a variety of works ranging from impressionism to contemporary art. Masterpieces by René Magritte and James Ensor shape this exhibition in one of Brussels' finest museums.
- Price: The entrance fee is approximately 13 euros per person. Free entry to the museum with the Brussels Card.
- Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
- Location: Rue de la Régence 3, Brussels.
11. and don't miss the Royal Museum of Art and History of Brussels either
Continuing with the museums of Brussels, the Royal Art Museum of the History of Brussels is another of the city's must-see museums. Housed in the majestic Parc du Cinquantenaire building, this museum is a priceless treasure trove of artefacts and masterpieces spanning from antiquity to more recent times.
Each museum in this unique complex is dedicated to a specific theme, offering visitors the opportunity to explore diverse artistic expressions and discover the rich cultural heritage of Belgium and the world. Tickets for the Cinquantenaire Museum, as it is also known, will give you access to areas ranging from Egyptian and Roman antiquities to Islamic and Asian art objects.
In addition, the Museum of Musical Instruments, another component of this museum complex, exhibits a wide range of historical musical instruments that resonate with the evolution of music through the ages.
12. Take a break in the Royal Park of Brussels
To walk through the Royal Park of Brussels is to step into an oasis of tranquillity and beauty amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. This park, located in the heart of Brussels, is an iconic green space that offers a serene haven for locals and visitors alike. With its extensive paths, majestic trees and elegant statues, the Royal Park is a testament to the rich history and natural harmony of the Belgian capital.
The park, also known as "Parc de Bruxelles" in French and "Warandepark" in Dutch, is a window into Brussels' aristocratic past. It is flanked by the Royal Palace of Brussels and the wide green spaces invite you to enjoy a relaxing walk, a picnic or just a quiet moment in the middle of nature.
13. Explore the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Named after two patron saints, the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula stands in the heart of the city, dazzling with its Gothic splendour and rich history. From its façade to its intricate stained glass windows, the cathedral is a testament to the religious art and cultural influence that has left its mark on Brussels since the 16th century.
The cathedral's architecture reflects the grandeur of the Gothic style. Its tall towers and main nave are a testament to the artistic skill and dedication required to build religious monuments of this magnitude. Inside, you will find stained glass windows, side chapels, ornate altars and sculptures that bring to life the rich tradition of religious iconography.
- Price: Admission is free.
- Opening hours: Every day from 7.30am to 6pm.
- Location: Pl. Sainte-Gudule, Brussels.
14. Follow the comic route
Why a comic strip trail in Brussels? If you read Tintin or Asterix and Obelix comics when you were young, you will already have the answer; Belgium is a country that has produced some great cartoonists. Nowadays, as well as being able to visit the Comic Museum in the capital every day from 10am to 6pm, you can also find different murals in the streets paying homage to different masters of comics. To do so, I recommend you book this comic book tour through the streets of Brussels, or if you're intrepid, have fun with this Land of Comics exploration game.
The most outstanding murals include The Smurfs, Tintin, Spirou, Lucky Luke, Asterix and Obelix, Titeuf and Marsupilami. You can look for information on the official route or let yourself be surprised on your walks through the city by the different graffiti you find along the way.
15. If you are a Tintin fan, go to the Hergé Museum.
A tour of the Hergé Museum in Brussels will take you into the exciting world of the creator of one of the most iconic characters in the history of comics: Tintin. This museum, located in Louvain-la-Neuve, pays tribute to the talent and creativity of Hergé, the pseudonym of Georges Remi, who brought to life the unforgettable adventures of the intrepid reporter and his friends.
The museum presents a diverse collection ranging from original sketches and scripts to Hergé's personal objects. Here you can explore the stages of the creative process behind the Tintin stories, from the first ideas to the final pages of the comics.
The exhibitions are innovatively designed, using multimedia technology to immerse visitors in the worlds of the characters and the settings of the hero's adventures. The Hergé Museum is usually included in Brussels comic book tours.
- Price: The entrance fee is approximately 15 euros per person.
- Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30am to 6pm.
- Location: Rue du Labrador 26, Brussels.
16. Visit the European Parliament
The European Parliament can be visited every day until 18:00 p.m. except on exceptional dates. Inside you can access the hemicycle, the plenary chamber and the visitors' centre with detailed information about each country.
It is located in the European quarter, a bit far from the centre but accessible by metro. If you are going to visit the Parliament during your visit to Brussels, don't forget to visit this quarter and some of its main points of interest such as the Belayrmont building, the Council of the European Union, Leopold Park and the Cinquantenaire Palace.
17. See the view of the city from the Atomium
You may have heard that when the Eiffel Tower was erected in Paris, the city's inhabitants were up in arms, even though today it has become a symbol of the city par excellence. The same is true of the Atomium in Brussels.
This stainless steel structure of more than 100 metres was built for the 1958 World's Fair, representing an atom. Today it is one of the symbols of the city and you can buy tickets for the Atomium to get a bird's eye view of Brussels or eat in the restaurant located in one of its spheres.
18. Immerse yourself in a miniature world at the Mini-Europe theme park
The Mini-Europe theme park in Brussels will offer you a miniature world full of charm and wonder. This park offers a unique experience by allowing visitors to tour detailed replicas of iconic monuments and landmarks from across the continent. Mini-Europe captures the essence and diversity of European destinations in one place, offering a visual and educational journey.
The miniatures, which respect a scale of 1:25, are meticulously crafted and capture the architectural details of the original monuments. From the Eiffel Tower to the Roman Colosseum, the Vienna Opera House to London's Tower Bridge, each reproduction is designed to provide an authentic and picturesque insight into the cultural and architectural richness of Europe.
Details of interest
- Price: The entrance fee is approximately 22 euros per person.
- Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am-6pm.
- Location: Av. du Football 1, Brussels.
19. Taste the exquisite Belgian chocolate
Belgian chocolate probably needs no introduction, or at least not among cocoa lovers. I can tell you first hand that in few European cities will you find a delicacy as exquisite as this one. You'll have dozens of opportunities to try it as you walk around the city, but you can also take one of the chocolate tours of Brussels.
This is a guided tour where you are first introduced to the making of chocolate (you can even taste the raw materials during the production phase and be surprised by how the flavour changes throughout the process) and then you can try the different types that exist.
This tour also takes you to some of the most typical cafés and shops in the Belgian capital where you can find chocolate and sweets to enjoy on the spot or to take home as a souvenir of your trip. Especially recommended if you are visiting Brussels with children. And of course, you can't leave Brussels without tasting the delicious waffles, by booking this waffle workshop you can learn the recipe and make your own. Irresistible!
20. Go beer tasting in Brussels
If chocolate is the quintessential Brussels delicacy, beer is undoubtedly its most famous drink. The Belgian capital is world famous for its craft beer and places like the Delirium Tremens Café have more than 2000 different brands. You can try them on your own, but if you go on one of the many beer tours that will take you to the best breweries in Brussels, the experience will be much more complete.
This type of tour is divided into several parts: the history of beer and its importance in the country, the brewing process and, of course, the tasting. Far from being a boring monologue by the guide, booking a beer tour is more of an opportunity to spend some relaxed time with a local and get to know the city from a less official perspective than when you are sightseeing.
21. Marvel at the Sacré Coeur Basilica
Situated on the Koekelberg hill in Brussels, this imposing church is an architectural testament to devotion and grandeur. Its dome and towers rise majestically over the city, creating a landmark visible from various points in the Belgian capital and providing a place of reflection and contemplation.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is notable for its Art Deco and neo-Byzantine design, which combines classical and modern elements in a unique fusion. The interior of the basilica is equally impressive, with its central nave and high dome creating a sense of spaciousness and solemnity. The stained glass windows and decorations display a rich palette of colours and a level of detail that reflects the attention devoted to every aspect of the building.
Details of interest
- Price: Admission is free.
- Opening hours: Every day from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.
- Location: Basiliekvoorplein 1, Brussels.
22. Stroll along the Rue des Bouchers and discover its bistrots
A stroll along the Rue des Bouchers is one of the best ways to get to know Brussels' culinary and cultural scene. This picturesque street, located in the historic city centre, is famous for its vibrant atmosphere, restaurants and outdoor terraces. Also known as La Rue des Bistrots, this cobbled street is a foodie's paradise.
La Rue des Bouchers is dotted with a variety of restaurants offering traditional Belgian dishes and international cuisine. Shop windows filled with culinary delights, from mussels to waffles and sweets, invite passers-by to explore the authentic flavours of the region.
23. Another must-see area of Brussels: the Saint Géry district.
The Saint Géry district in Brussels is one of the bohemian and lively corners of the city. In recent times, this district has undergone a revitalisation that combines history and modernity in a very interesting way, with its cobbled streets, historic buildings and eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and art galleries.
Among the architectural gems of the area, the former church of Saint Géry, which gives its name to the district, has been transformed into a cultural and event space, hosting exhibitions and artistic activities. Place Saint Géry, the epicentre of the neighbourhood, comes alive with its open-air terraces and festive atmosphere, especially during markets offering local produce and crafts.
24. Get to know the romantic city of Bruges
Rarely does the fame of a small city surpass even that of the country's capital, but in the case of Belgium this is true of Bruges. The city known as the "Venice of the North" is located about an hour from Brussels and is the most visited city in the whole country.
You can visit Bruges on an organised tour or you can get from Brussels to Bruges on your own, but before I give you the details, I'll tell you what makes it so famous. Bruges is a place criss-crossed by canals and full of medieval buildings and cobbled streets.
The whole city resembles a fairytale landscape and is also a cultural centre of reference with emblematic buildings such as the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Church of Our Lady, the Town Hall or the Monastery of the Vineyard.
What are the excursions to Bruges like?
Although Bruges is usually a day trip, there are also other options. On an organised day trip from Brussels, an expert guide will tell you the secrets of the city and show you around. This type of tour also includes transport to and from Brussels city centre, and sometimes you can book a tour to Bruges that includes Ghent on the tour.
The prices of the tours from Brussels to Bruges are quite affordable, and because what you will see in Bruges on this type of tour will give you a very complete idea of the city, my recommendation is to book the organised tour. If not, here are some recommendations for eating out in Bruges and some tips if you're taking a trip from Brussels to Bruges with children (whether organised or on your own).
25. See other places around Brussels
Bruges is not the only city near Brussels that you can visit during your trip. Belgium's train network is characterised by its excellent performance and abundant connections. This means that from Brussels you can also reach cities such as Antwerp, Ghent or Liège, either on your own or as part of organised excursions.
If you're up for it, you can also get from Brussels to Amsterdam in a day or go to Luxembourg from Brussels. My advice is to plan your own route with a map in front of you and then check which excursions cover the stops you've decided to make, as the price is often worth it and you'll get much more out of your time than you would on your own.
When to travel to Brussels
In addition to all there is to see in Brussels, the activities you can do if you visit Brussels in summer are very different from those you can do if you visit Brussels at Christmas. Every time of the year has its charm in Brussels, but since the Belgian capital does not reach extremely high temperatures, August in Brussels is usually one of the most popular months for tourists.
If you want to avoid the summer crowds and the high prices that can occur during the Christmas season in Brussels in December, I recommend going to Brussels in March as the temperatures won't be as cold as in the winter and it won't be as crowded as in the summer months.
Whatever time of year you go, I recommend you get the Brussels Card, the Brussels Card, to get the most out of your trip. You can buy a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass and personalise it with the attractions that interest you most. A great investment!
How many days to see Brussels
After the when, comes the how much. The city of Brussels is manageable for two days, or you can even see Brussels in one day if you book a transfer from the airport to the centre of Brussels and don't waste time on arrival. However, since it is well connected to nearby cities, you can also stay in Brussels for three days or even spend four days in the Belgian capital and take advantage of the opportunity to explore the surrounding area.