12 Top Attractions in Brussels, Belgium – A Complete Guide to the City
Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is one of the most popular and culture-rich vacation destinations in the entire Europe. In case you’re planning a visit there soon, scroll down to find my complete list of unmissable attractions in Brussels, as well as the top places to stay, what to eat (and where to eat it!) and information about public transportation in the city as well.
Brussels is well-known for its historical buildings, incredible gastronomy (think about chocolate, waffles and beer) and beautiful museums. It’s a capital city full of history, that caters for all types of visitors. Regardless if you’re interested in architecture, exploring the historic centre, going on day trips or you just want to spend some quality time relaxing and tasting some incredible dishes, get ready for one of your best vacations!
Okay, enough talking, let’s get down to business! Get ready to make some real travel plans!
12 Top things to do in Brussels, Belgium
There are so many interesting attractions in the city of Brussels that it was really hard to make a shortlist! Regardless if you want to visit the Grand Place or a UNESCO World Heritage site or simply indulge in traditional gastronomy, the list below has it all:
1 - Grand Place
The Grand Place (also known as Grote Markt) is the main square in Brussels’ historic centre. Famous for its jaw-dropping architecture (including a 15th-century town hall!), the stunning buildings that surround the cobbled plaza offer an insight into Brussels through the eras. Most of the buildings in the Grand Place are full of history, dating from the late 17th century, but the earliest date all the way back to the 12th century.
Their golden exteriors have been preserved to retain their original Gothic and Baroque style, but inside they are now filled with restaurants, cafes and shops. The Grand Place is pretty impressive, I promise!
2 - The Atomium
The Atomium is one of the most well-known landmarks in Belgium and a symbol of Brussels! It was initially built for the first post-war Brussels World Expo in 1957. Nowadays it holds a museum devoted to the historical exhibition inside its spheres along with a restaurant and viewing platform.
Atomium entrance fee: 16€/person. You can buy your tickets online here.
RELATED READ: Travel Guide: How To Visit the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium
3 - Mini Europe
If you want to travel around the world (okay, just Europe, but still!) while you’re in Brussels, this is THE place to go. With over 350 miniature buildings including all the major European landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Venice canals, Mini Europe is a great attraction for families to learn about European history in an interactive way. 100% a great place to go with little ones!
Mini Europe entrance fee: 12€/person. Children under 1.15m can enter free of charge! You can buy your tickets online here.
TIP: You can buy a combined ticket for the Atomium + Mini Europe + Brussels Design Museum for 18.40€ here.
4 - Eat Waffles
You can’t come to Belgium and miss out on waffles! Luckily, Brussels is the perfect place to sample the real deal. There are two different types to choose from; the Brussels waffle (rectangular and flaky, often coated in icing sugar) or the Liege waffle (sweeter, with rounded corners and a crystalized surgery coating). The most famous spot for this Belgian delicacy is Maison Dandoy, and I can confirm it is well worth a visit to get one there!
5 - Palais Royal / Royal Palace of Brussels
Although the palace is no longer home to the King and Queen of Belgium, the stunning building still acts as the monarchy’s headquarters in the centre of the capital. Aside from its stately importance, the building and its surrounding parks and grounds are beautiful and easy to explore during a trip to the city.
TIP: During summer (late July to late August), visitors can even go inside and see the rooms of the palace free of charge. You can check out more details about this event when the palace is open to the public here.
6 - Palais de Justice
The Law Courts of Brussels is a must-visit for anyone who enjoys European architecture. The Palais De Justice is an impressive building both inside and out and with visits being absolutely free of charge, it’s one of Brussels must-visits – especially if you’re into photography!
7 - Parc du Cinquantenaire
A park, really?! I know, but trust me, it’s worth a visit! Not only is this park super photogenic, but its surrounding buildings house museums on either side. By the way, Parc du Cinquantenaire hosts a beautiful Triumphal Arch as well – a must see!
TIP: I recommend visiting the Cinquantenaire Park during spring when the park is full of flowers and you can enjoy the sunshine.
8 - Manneken Pis
This little landmark is a bit of an odd one, but tourists crowd around the fountain to see the sculpture called “Manneken Pis” – a 61cm bronze statue of a… peeing little boy. Some may find it altogether unimpressive but it seems here in Brussels that size does not matter, haha! And as odd as it may sound, Manneken Pis is actually a symbol of Brussels. You’ll see replicas all over the city; painted on walls, stencilled onto your waffle in icing sugar, decorating the chocolate shops you visit – he seems to be everywhere! You can even take him home as a magnet, bottle opener or keychain – lucky you!
FUN FACT: Except for Manneken Pis, there are two other “members” of this odd family: Jeanneke Pis (a girl) and Zinneke Pis (a dog).
9 - Eat mussels and fries
Mussels in Brussels! It rhymes, so you know it’s good! This delicacy can be served in a variety of ways; steamed in white wine sauce, garlic and lemon or with some spicy tomato sauce – but they always come with fries on the side. Eating mussels in Brussels is a real art, so make sure you don’t miss this from your bucket list.
10 - The Tintin Street Art Trail
Take a self-guided walking tour of Brussels by following the Tin Tin Comic Strip Trail! Wear comfy shoes as it’s a 3-mile route that takes you on the hunt for 30 wall murals inspired by the comic strip throughout the city. Hergé, the cartoonist behind the Tin Tin comic was Belgian, so you’ll notice TinTin and snowy pop up a lot around the city.
11 - Taste some Belgian beer
Belgium is possibly the most celebrated beer brewing nation in the world today, so it makes sense to try some of the finest artisanal beer in the world while you are in Brussels. Join a beer tasting tour or visit a brewery to learn the latest wave of brewing innovation. Whether you’re into classic beer or modern brewing techniques, everyone loves to sample the goods!
RELATED READ: Travel Guide: How To Visit the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium
12 - Eat Belgian chocolate
Belgium is famous for its incredible chocolate, so you’ll find no shortage of amazing chocolatiers all over Brussels. There are so many treats to sample, from chocolate-covered strawberries to caramelised pralines to truffle liquors. The most famous and my personal favourite are the handmade Belgian chocolate bars. They are the yummiest but also the priciest!
BONUS: Extra Brussels attractions if you have more time
In case you still have some days left to explore Brussels or if you’re not visiting for the first time and you’ve already seen the Grand Place or Manneken Pis, I have a BONUS list of fun things to do for you!
MORE THINGS TO DO IN BRUSSELS:
- St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral – If you go on Treurenberg Hill, you’ll find the famous St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, plus probably the best place to see the city from above;
- Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert – I know, you might expect the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert to be some kind of a museum or art gallery in the city – in fact, this is the first covered shopping arcade in Europe, built in the 19th century!
- Mont des Arts – now we’re talking about museums! The “Mountain of Arts” (literal translation of Mont des Arts) is an area with many famous museums such as the Magritte Museum and MIM;
- Train World and Schaerbeek Station – in case you want to see the oldest European locomotive – it’s a thing! Entrance ticket to the Train World Museum is 12€.
- Musee Royaux Des Beaux Arts – for both ancient and modern art lovers;
- Broodhuis / The Bread House – a gorgeous building and former bread market;
- Old England Building – built in the 19th century, this building has a beautiful facade and it hosts the Musical Instruments Museum inside;
- Natural Sciences Museum – for all history lovers; make sure you don’t miss the Dinosaur Hall!
- Notre Dame Du Sablon – a superb Gothic cathedral dating from the 14th century;
- Le Botanique – a historical botanical garden/greenhouse;
- Fashion & Lace Museum – Brussels is one of the top cities when it comes to the lace industry and this museum hosts over 10.000 pieces of beautiful clothing!
- The Belgian Comic Strip Centre – if you want to understand just how important comic books are for Belgians;
- Jeu de Balle flea market – if you want to shop for some vintage furniture and art;
Best tours for visiting Brussels by type of traveller
I know, my list of recommended things to do in Brussels is long and complex. It might be a hassle trying to organise a complete itinerary to suit your needs. BUT! I have a solution. Guided tours! There are many options to choose from, depending on what you want to visit.
Here are the best ones I hand-picked:
- The Grand Brussels Experience – ultimate combo tour to see all the highlights of the city;
- Private 90-minute Brussels city tour with a local – for anyone that wants to experience the best places to visit in Brussels with lots of precious insights;
- Express Tour with Belgian Lunch, Chocolate, & Beer – for passionate foodies that also want to do some Brussels sightseeing;
- 2.5-hour Belgian chocolate workshop – for all chocolate lovers out there;
- Hop-On Hop-Off Bus – for travellers that want to see as much as possible with public transportation;
BONUS: Organised day trips from Brussels
If you’re up for a fun day trip from Brussels, I got you covered! Brussels has a great location that makes for an amazing starting point for day trips all over Europe. Here are some interesting choices:
Where to stay in Brussels, Belgium
When it comes to hotels in Brussels, the possibilities are endless. The city has tons of options for all types of travellers and budgets out there, from hostels and apartments to luxurious 5-star hotels.
RELATED READ: If you want to read everything there is to know about the best areas and accommodation options in Brussels, I recommend checking out this article: Where to Stay in Brussels, Belgium.
What to eat in Brussels & Best restaurants in the city
I mentioned at the beginning of this Brussels guide that the city is well-known for its gastronomy. Well, I wasn’t kidding at all, as there are SO many dishes to try here! And some people visit this capital just for the food. From pralines to artisan beers, here are some unmissable dishes to try while you’re here:
Decadent. Incredible. Unmissable. It’s a well-known fact that Belgian pralines are top-notch and, although you can pretty much find them everywhere around the city, I recommend joining a Chocolate Tasting that will take you to 5 renowned confectioneries in the city.
MUSSELS AND FRIES
A match made in heaven! And by heaven I mean Brussels, of course. They’re also called “moules frites” here and I recommend heading over to Chez Leon for big portions and incredible flavours.
Here’s some information that will blow your mind: French fries are not actually… French. Nope, they’re Belgian! Needless to say that you need to try some “Belgian fries” which are actually French fries which are actually Belgian while you’re in town! One of the best places to try them is at Fritland.
I guess waffles need no introductions, my friends. And if they’re served as a special breakfast in other parts of the world, they’re a staple sweet snack here and you can grab one at every corner of the street. But I recommend going to Maison Dandoy for some of the best waffles in town! By the way, you’ll encounter two types of waffles in this city: Liege Waffles (crispy) and Brussels Waffles (fluffy). Make sure you try both of them!
Yep, you know it – you cannot visit Brussels without tasting some national beer, my friends! And because there are endless bars in the city and you might get confused, the easiest way to do it is to join a beer tasting tour!
Getting around Brussels
Now that you have a complete list of things to do in Brussels, you might be wondering what are the best ways to get from point A to point B. Luckily for visitors, this capital has a very good public transportation system that makes things smooth and easy.
Here are the best ways of getting around the city:
WALK. If you’re staying in Brussels city centre, you’ll be pleased to see that this is a super walkable city. So if you’re an active tourist, you might want to experience the center by foot and admire all that stunning architecture.
TRAM. BUS. METRO. Now here’s some good news: all public transportation in the city is operated by the SAME company – how awesome is that? This means that you can get tickets easily and you can even change means of transport whenever you want. Moreover, you can get the Brussels Card – it’s basically a public transport pass available for 24, 48 or 72 hours that will make things even simpler. You can buy it here.
BIKE. This place is incredibly bike-friendly, which I find to be simply awesome. You can rent bikes using Villo!
RENTED CAR. Although it’s not convenient at all to rent a car in order to explore the city, it might be an excellent idea if you’re planning on going on some day trips – such as Ghent or Bruges!
RELATED READ: Complete Guide: 7 Unmissable Things to Do in Bruges, Belgium
Phew, I’m done now! This was my complete Brussels travel guide full of unforgettable things to do, hotels, unmissable dishes and more.
Regardless if you want to see some top sights such as the Atomium, the Grand Place or Parc du Cinquantenaire, or some lesser-known attractions such as the Mont des Arts, Cathedral of St. Michael and the Museum of Musical Instruments, the list above has EVERYTHING you might need to create the perfect itinerary for your trip.
Although Brussels is an incredible travel destination where you can spend quite some time without getting bored, it’s not the only worthy city in Belgium. To read more about my adventures in this wonderful country, I recommend heading over here.