Visiting Brussels is an exciting adventure filled with stunning architecture, rich history, and some of the world’s best beer. With countless museums, city squares, and striking buildings, enjoying a stay in Brussels is the easiest thing in the world. On the other end of the spectrum is the gastronomic scene of Belgian’s capital, known for fries, chocolates, and delicious waffles. Whether your idea of a good time is a historic tour or partaking in some delicious Belgian food, Brussels won’t disappoint.
The city attractions range from a stunning royal palace to some of the best art museums in Europe. Walking through the city’s cobblestone alleys allows discovery of its Gothic facades, Art Nouveau buildings, and the weirdest statues imaginable. Start the day with a tour of Brussels’s historic center. Then, jump on the tram and head to a theme park with miniatures of the most famous landmarks in Europe, followed by Belgian beers in the evening. If that sounds fun, you’re in for a treat with this guide to the best things to do in Brussels!
Brussels isn’t usually the first city that comes to mind when planning a trip to a European capital. It’s often overshadowed by the likes of Paris, Rome, and Barcelona, but that just means fewer crowds.
The city has loads of tourist attractions that cater to everyone, and it’s a joy to roam around its streets. And it’s very close to several other famous cities in Belgium, allowing for easy and affordable day trips.
Best of Brussels Quick Guide
Must See: Grand Place, Mont des Arts, Manneken Pis, Parc du Cinquantenaire Where to Stay: Ibis Hotel City Center, 9Hotel Sablon, Brussels Marriott Hotel Grand Place Fun To Do: Autoworld Brussels, Mini Europe, Chocolate Tasting, Atomium Day Trips: Leuven, Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent Must-Try Foods: Belgian waffles, fries, chocolate
Best Things To Do in Brussels
The great thing about Brussels is that it has something to offer to everyone, whether they’re into art, history, or just having a good time. The city’s many restaurants and bars stay open late into the night, and its museums are surprisingly affordable to tour.
You can have a good time in Brussels no matter what you enjoy. But it helps to enjoy Gothic buildings and street art because they’re everywhere in central Brussels!
1. Walking Tour of Grand Place & Brussels Old Town
A first-time visit to Brussels should start with a walking tour of the city’s historic center. Begin at the Grand Place central square to discover the Gothic architecture of the old city, dominated by the Brussels Town Hall.
Brussels’ Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed for its political and cultural importance and the starting point of most walking tours. Other top sights in Brussels Old Town include the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Mont des Arts, Church of Saint Catherine, and Passage du Nord. All are within walking distance from Grand Place.
While you’re walking around the streets of Brussels, you’ll come across various sculptures. Manneken Pis, Jeanneke-Pis, and Zenneke Pis, all of which depict the act of urinating. It’s incredibly weird, but kind of iconic in Brussels.
Practical Information: Guided walking tours normally take up to two hours, and that is plenty of time to explore the top sights in the historic center of Brussels.
2. Tour the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is a complex of six museums. All are situated on the square in front of the Brussels Royal Palace and are separate establishments. The six museums in this complex are the Fin-de-Siècle Museum, the OldMasters Museum, the Modern Museum, the Magritte Museum, the Wiertz Museum, and the Meunier Museum.
Magritte Museum is by far the most popular of all the royal museums. It is the most visited museum in all of Belgium, with more than 230 pieces of art by the famous Belgian artist.
The Old Masters Museum is also fascinating, with a collection that features Reubens, Bosch, Ribera, Van Dyck, and many others. Art lovers will struggle to choose just one museum, and to them I say, stay in Brussels long enough so you have time to visit them all.
Insider Tip: Access to the museum’s permanent collections is free every first Wednesday of the month after 1 PM.
Practical Information: The various Fine Arts Museums are open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM until 5 PM. The Wiertz and Meunier museums are free, and combi tickets are available for other museums for 10-15 Euros.
3. Take a Break At Brussels Park
Set on the former hunting grounds of the Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels Park is the largest public park in the Belgian capital. It’s also the first public park that opened in the city back in the 18th century.
The royal park features a fountain, manicured hedges, and some interesting park architecture. Many statues can be seen throughout Brussels Park, as well as some interesting buildings. Muziekkiosk, the gazebo that hosts live concerts, is perhaps the most charming of all.
Royal Park Theatre is a spectacular building worth seeing from the inside. Go in and inquire about tickets just to get a glimpse at the ornate interior. And if you hear any music, head to the adjacent Vaux Hall to see what’s going on.
Practical Information: Brussels Park is free to enter and open at all times. It’s serviced by metro, tram, and bus stops.
4. Tour The European Parliament
Book a tour of the European Parliament to experience the contrast between old and new Brussels. While the city’s historic center might be famous for Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture, the European Parliament building is as modern as it gets.
The glass and concrete building is massive, entirely different from the medieval buildings of the inner city center. You can’t walk around the actual Parliament building, but you can go to Parliamentarium.
It’s a state-of-the-art visitor’s center with multimedia exhibits on how the parliament operates. If you’re not very familiar with the workings of the European Union, this short tour will be fascinating and very informative.
Insider Tip: Head to park on the (left) side of the building to see a piece of the Berlin Wall.
Practical Information: Parlamentarium is open daily from 9 AM or 1 PM (Mondays) until 6 PM. Tours are free of charge and take approximately 90 minutes.
5. Indulge in Belgian Chocolate
Belgian chocolate is world-famous as some of the best in the world, and no trip to Brussels is complete if you don’t consume half a pound of chocolate. At least! The city’s historic center is home to the best chocolate shops, where you can taste everything from pralines to handmade chocolate bars.
Exercising restraint is the most difficult thing about chocolate shops in Brussels. It’s exceptionally hard to walk into one of these shops and not get everything on the menu, although the high prices will help with self-control.
Some of the best chocolate shops in the city center are La Belgique Gourmande, Leonidas, and Godiva Grand Place. If you fancy it, we do recommend this chocolate tour. But only if you love chocolate 🙂
Practical Information: Most chocolate shops in central Brussels are open from 9 AM to around 11 PM, with similar prices. Specialty chocolate bars start at approximately 10 Euros, and boxes of assorted chocolates at 25 Euros.
6. Mini Europe Theme Park
Jump on line six of the metro and head to the Heysel station to visit Mini Europe, a fabulous theme park in the northwestern part of Brussels. The miniature park features 25:1 scale replicas of the most famous landmarks in Europe, from the Eiffel Tower to the Acropolis.
What is even more fun about this open-air theme park is that many of the exhibits are interactive. You can vandalize a section of the Berlin Wall and witness a Vesuvius eruption. There are even miniature replicas of famous battles throughout history.
The theme park even gets current-event updates, and in 2022, several exhibits related to Ukraine were added. European Union candidates are not represented at Mini Europe, so this was a ground-breaking moment for the theme park.
Practical Information: Mini Europe is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Full-priced tickets are €19, and there’s an option to buy combo tickets for the Atomium, Planetarium, Kinepolis, or Tootbus.
7. Visit the Autoworld Museum
Set in Parc du Cinquantenaire, Autoworld is one of the most interesting museums in Brussels. Car lovers and motorsport fans must add this museum to their Brussels itinerary because it will be the highlight of the entire trip.
From presidential limousines to old Formula 1 cars, the exhibit features more than 250 vehicles that illustrate the last century of automotive history. Many oldtimers are included in the museum exhibit, and there’s everything from a 1969 Citroen to a prototype Lamborghini Countach.
You can also see racing suits, engines, and miniature toy models. It’s worth noting that all the vehicles exhibited at the Autoworld are either from Europe or the United States, so sadly, no Toyotas or Hondas are part of the collection.
Practical Information: Autoworld Brussels is open daily from 10 AM until 5 PM. Tickets start at €13, but entrance is free with the Brussels Museum Pass.
8. Discover the Stately Rooms of the Royal Palace of Brussels
The Royal Palace of Brussels is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. It’s also one of the most important buildings in the country since it serves as the administrative residence of the King of Belgium.
Traditionally, the Palace opens its doors to the public from late July until September. If you happen to be in Brussels at that time, don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity.
Singling out just a few of the palace rooms is a daunting task, but I’ll try. The Goya Room features stunning tapestries, while the Throne Room dazzles with its chandeliers and oak floors. And then there’s the Mirror Room, with a ceiling covered with more than a million jewel beetles.
Practical Information: The Royal Palace of Brussels is open to the public from July 21st until September. Entrance is free, but visitors must book a spot in advance.
9. See the Quirky Manneken Pis Fountain
Manneken Pis is the most famous fountain in Brussels. The original fountain was from the 17th century, but it was stolen several times and the current fountain is from the 1960s. It is, in essence, a 22” statue of a boy peeing into the basin below. The original statue is displayed at the Brussels City Museum.
Some people get it, others don’t, but there’s no denying the fact that this is one of the most iconic landmarks in the entire city. Crowds of tourists are often found standing in front of Manekken Pis, trying to get a good photo of the small boy behind bars.
The statue is often dressed up in costumes, and there’s even a museum around the corner from the fountain with an exhibit on all of Manneken Pis’ different costumes.
Practical Information: Manneken Pis is a free attraction in Brussels Old Town. The GardeRobe MannekenPis museum has an entrance fee of 5€.
10. Day Trip To Antwerp
Antwerp is 40-50 minutes by train from Brussels, so the city is a great day trip destination even for short trips to Belgium. It is known for its art museum, city parks, and striking medieval architecture. Oh, and diamonds.
This Belgian city is the diamond capital of the world. More than 80% of all rough diamonds pass through Antwerp and about half of all the cut ones. If you want to spend some hard-earned money on precious stones, the stores in Antwerp’s Diamond District are the place to be.
A walk through the historic city center allows you to discover some Antwerp landmarks. Stand at the center of Groenplaats for a spectacular view of the Cathedral of Our Lady. Head to the Grote Markt plaza for striking statues, gorgeous architecture, and delicious beers.
Practical Information: Antwerp is 40-50 minutes by train from Brussels Central Station. Return tickets are €16.80 for adults, and various discounts are available for youth and seniors.
11. Visit the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History
The Brussels Museum of Military History is a must-see attraction for history buffs. With 10 different galleries covering everything from the Middle Ages to aviation, you could easily spend 4-5 hours at this museum and not even feel the time go by.
I’m not big on military history and wars, but even I was blown away by the Aviation Hall. It is without a doubt the highlight of the museum, with more than 130 aircraft on exhibit. It features warplanes, aircraft engines, and even hot air balloons.
There’s an entire gallery on World War I, another gallery on the history of the Navy in Belgium, and a gallery with armor from the Middle Ages. And I haven’t even covered half of the exhibits at this museum.
Practical Information: The Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History is situated in Cinquantenaire Park. Tickets are just 11 Euros, and entry is free with the Brussels Museum Pass.
12. Belgian Beer Tasting Adventure
Belgium is world famous for its beers, and a trip to Brussels is the perfect excuse to have one too many beers. The most famous are Trappist beers brewed by monks in monasteries, but you don’t necessarily need to go to a monastery for beer tastings.
Brussel’s Old Town is home to countless pubs that have so many beers on the menu you’ll get a headache trying to decide on just one or two. Many offer beer-tasting menus, which include small servings of up to ten different beers.
Beer Capital Brussels is one of the best bars in the city for beer tastings. Just keep in mind that all these craft beers usually have a high alcohol content. Order some food, and you won’t get drunk from two beers.
Practical Information: Beer Capital Brussels is open every day from 12 PM to 5 AM. Other pubs in the city center observe similar working hours.
13. Head to Leuven for the Day
Leuven is a historic city close to Brussels, known for 15th-century architecture, breweries, and the world’s largest Dutch-speaking university. It’s a small but charming town with a lot of character, and some truly striking buildings.
Even if you’ve never heard of Leuven, I bet you’ve heard of Stella Artois beer. It originated in the city’s Den Hoorn brewery, which has operated in Leuven for more than six centuries. The famous beer was first introduced in 1926 as a Christmas beer.
Half a day in Leuven is enough time to tour the city’s old town and see all its striking buildings. The Leuven Town Hall stands tall at the central city square, overlooking the slightly less imposing Saint Peter’s Church.
Practical Information: Leuven is just a 25-minute train ride from the Brussels Central Station. Second-class return tickets are €12.20, and it’s possible to buy them online or at the train station.
14. Explore The Comics Art Museum
Set inside the former Art Nouveau warehouse of Victor Horta, the Comics Art Museum is a must-see attraction for all comic book lovers. The modern museum is also great for kids, so don’t miss out if you’re on a family trip to Brussels.
Comics Art Museum has a permanent exhibit with some of the most famous characters from cartoons and comic books. It also hosts temporary exhibits, which promote up-and-coming artists from all over Europe.
An extensive exhibit on the Smurfs is the highlight of this museum. There’s also a statue of Lucky Luke and an adorable sculpture of Garfield. Entrance to this museum is free with the Brussels Museum Pass.
Practical Information: The Belgian Comic Strip Center has an entrance fee of 13 Euros. It’s open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM.
15. Day Trip To Bruges
Bruges is the largest city in the West Flanders province and a stunning place to visit. Its historic center is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved medieval buildings.
See the Belfry of Bruges, the Church of Our Lady, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, all within walking distance of one another in the old town. Marvel at the canals that earned Bruges the nickname “Venice of the North”.
Bruges has several museums dedicated to Belgian culture and tradition. The Choco-Story and the Bruges Beer Experience are the two most popular museums in town, and they’re well worth a visit if you’ve got an hour to spare.
Practical Information: Bruges is an hour and 10 minutes from Brussels by train from the central station. The full price of a return ticket is €32.
16. Viewing Platform At The Atomium
Head to the Atomium on the northwestern edge of the city for the best panoramic views of Brussels’ rooftops. The huge stainless steel structure was originally built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, and it was supposed to be demolished after.
Here we are more than six decades later, and the structure is still standing tall. It has become a must-visit destination for tourists in Brussels, both for its historic significance and the sprawling views.
The Atomium was renovated in the early aughts, which is how it manages to look so pristine despite being half a century old. It features two viewing platforms in its spheres as well as a panoramic restaurant serving Belgian specialties.
Insider Tip: Visit the Atomium on the same day as Mini Europe to get combo tickets and save money.
Practical Information: The Atomium is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM. Tickets are €16.95 and include entrance to the Design Museum Brussels.
17. Parc du Cinquantenaire
Situated in the northeastern part of Brussels, Parc du Cinquantenaire is home to several of the city’s most famous museums. But there’s merit to visiting the park even if you have zero interest in the museums it houses.
The landscaped 19th-century park features walking paths, busts, memorials, and bars. And several museums, two of which are already covered in this guide. The Triumphal Arch is the centerpiece of the park, and it’s an astonishing sight with its sculptures and all the details.
Parc du Cinquantenaire is best experienced in spring and winter. In the spring, because of all the stunning flowers that are in bloom over its perfectly manicured lawns. And in the winter, because of the fairy lights and Christmas decorations that make the place feel like a winter wonderland.
Practical Information: Parc du Cinquantenaire is always open and is free to visit. The Merode metro station is near the eastern entrance to the park.
The Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert is a covered arcade lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. With high-end stores selling everything from designer jewelry to custom chocolates, it’s the best place in Brussels for some serious (window) shopping.
On a rainy day, the arcade provides some much-needed shelter from the wet, while allowing you to continue exploring the best of Brussels. The entrance to the arcade is marked with columns and intricate statues on either side, so it’s impossible to miss.
In addition to many stores and restaurants, the 19th-century shopping arcade also features art galleries and even a cinema. Rue des Bouchers cuts through the arcade at the halfway point and serves as an exit point at its center.
Practical Information: The Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert is open 24/7, but the shops and restaurants inside have varying operating hours. Entrance to the arcade is free.
19. St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
The Gothic Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is the most important church in Belgium. It’s the national cathedral which hosts both royal weddings and funerals, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most important landmarks in Brussels.
Anyone can visit the cathedral for free, to admire the spectacular architectural elements inside. See the organ, the altarpiece, and stained glass windows, and marvel at all the gorgeous statues.
Tours of the crypt, archaeological site, and treasury are also available for a small fee. From March to October, it’s also possible to tour the tower of Brussels Cathedral. But tours are available only in French and Dutch, so they’re not worth it if you don’t speak the languages.
Practical Information: St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is open daily from 7 AM until 6 PM. Entrance to the church is free, and entrances to the archaeological site, crypt, and treasure have respective fees of 1€, 2€, and 3€.
20. Spend Some Time in Ghent
Ghent is a port city in northwestern Belgium, just 40 minutes from Brussels by train. In the Middle Ages, Ghent was a city-state and one of the richest cities on the European continent. Ghent’s historical importance is evident in its landmarks, the best of which is a moated castle in the city center.
Gravensteen is by and large the most famous landmark in Ghent, dating back to the 10th century. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral is another architectural gem, famous for the Ghent Altarpiece created by Van Eyck.
Other famous landmarks in Ghent include the Belfry of Ghent, the City Hall, and Saint Nicholas’ Church. Walk through the old town to catch a glimpse of all these iconic buildings, and don’t miss out on the street art in Graffiti Street.
Practical Information: Ghent is a 40-minute train ride from Brussels. Full-priced return tickets are €20.40.
21. Admire the View at Mont des Arts
Situated on the southeastern edge of Brussels’ historic center, Mont des Arts is a planned urban area with a square, gardens, and museums. Boasting beautiful architecture and perfectly manicured lawns, it reminded me of the Tuileries Garden in Paris.
The place was meant to evoke a French vibe, and it does it perfectly with its statues, fountains, and striking city views. Even the crowds here are reminiscent of French cities, but that’s to be expected considering that Mont des Arts is right next to Brussels Central Station.
The Royal Library of Belgium is also situated here, and you must visit it if you consider yourself an avid reader. With exhibits on the history of writing and millions of books from all ages, it’s a place where you could stay for hours without feeling the time go by.
Practical Information: Mont des Arts is accessible at all times, and it is a free attraction. The Royal Library of Belgium also has free access.
22. Stroll Around Sablon
Sablon is a Brussels neighborhood that many people, myself included, stumble upon by accident. It’s a short stroll from the Magritte Museum and a must if you’re already in the area.
Grand Sablon Plaza lies at the center of this neighborhood, and it is thoroughly dominated by the Church of Our Lady of Victories at the Sablon. The Gothic church is stunning inside and out, and a worthy stop on any tour of Brussels.
Other notable landmarks in Sablon include the Square of Petit Sablon, Brussels Courthouse, Egmont Park, and the Brussels Ferris wheel. A ride on the Ferris wheel is just 10 Euros, and it’s worth every cent for the stunning view of Brussels’ rooftops.
Practical Information: Sablon or Zavel neighborhood is easily accessible by metro, tram, and bus. It’s also a 10-minute walk from the Royal Palace.
23. Sainte-Catherine Plaza
Sainte-Catherine Plaza is a city square lined with cafes and restaurants in beautiful buildings. At the center of the square is the Church of Saint Catherine, with a Gothic exterior and a neo-Renaissance interior.
This city square is the place to be in Brussels during Christmas when you can see light shows on the church’s facade. Many wooden stalls are set up throughout the plaza for the city’s Advent, offering delicious Belgian delicacies from waffles to fries.
Behind the church is the Black Tower, a popular Brussels attraction from the 13th century. It’s tucked away in an alley, so not the easiest attraction to spot if you’re not looking for it.
Practical Information: Sainte-Catherine Plaza is serviced by a metro station for easy access. The church is free to enter and open from 9:30 AM until 8 PM, or 6:30 PM on the weekend.
24. History Lesson at Brussels City Museum
Situated at the Grand Place Squaresquare, the Brussels City Museum is a must for anyone who wants to learn more about the city’s history. Or those who want to see the original Manneken Pis statue, which was stolen so many times even the replica had to be locked up behind bars.
The museum exhibit does an excellent job of recounting the tale of Brussels’ history, from its founding to the modern era. And many different objects are displayed at the museum, including sculptures, paintings, clothing, and miniature models.
For those genuinely interested in learning about Brussels through the ages, it is the best destination in the city. Otherwise, seeing the building’s ornate facade from the Grand Place should suffice as an introduction.
Practical Information: The Brussels City Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM to 5 PM. Museum tickets are 10€.
FAQ For Things To Do In Brussels
What Is Brussels Best Known For?
Brussels is best known for its food and architecture. Gothic churches, Art Nouveau buildings, Belgian waffles, and beer are staples of the Belgian capital.
How Many Days Are Enough For Brussels?
Three days are enough for a trip to Brussels. It is enough time to see all the best landmarks and attractions in the city and include a quick day trip to one of the nearby towns.
What Food Is Brussels Known For?
Brussels is known for Belgian waffles, chocolates, Belgian fries, and meatballs. The gastronomic scene of the city includes a lot of variety.
Is Brussels Good For Tourists?
Yes, Brussels is a great destination for tourists. With a rich history, stunning architecture, and an excellent gastro scene, the capital of Belgium is an excellent tourist destination in Europe.
Tips and Information For Visiting Brussels
Best Time to Visit Brussels
Any time between March and October is a good time to be in Brussels. The shoulder seasons of late spring and early autumn are generally the best time for avoiding crowds and getting the best deals on hotels.
Avoid a visit in the winter if you can. Although it’s a good time for cheap hotels, it gets very cold in Brussels in the winter. Walking around the city is not enjoyable, and there’s a good chance you’ll deal with delays for both trains and flights because of the weather.
Brussels is serviced by the Brussels South Charleroi Airport, which is about an hour outside the city by train. It is best to fly to Brussels and then take a train into the city.
Taxi transfer is also available from the airport to central Brussels, but it is expensive (€50) and usually slower than the train because of traffic delays.
The Belgian capital has an excellent network of public transportation that allows for easy getting around the city. Trams, trains, buses, and metro connect the inner city circle with the suburbs, for quick travel between different parts of the city.
Metro and trams are the fastest modes of public transport in Brussels. A daily pass for public transport in Brussels is 8.4 Euros, and it includes unlimited rides on all available modes of public transport.
Discovery tickets for trains from Brussels to nearby cities are available to anyone who purchases tickets for one of the partnering exhibits. A full list of partners is available here.
How Much Time Do You Need
Three days is the perfect amount of time for Brussels. It’s enough time to see all the top landmarks in the city, but also for a half-day excursion to a nearby town, ideally Antwerp or Bruges.
A longer stay in Brussels means more time to explore outside the city limits, and it’s an excellent idea if you want to visit medieval monasteries and Belgian beaches in addition to touring the sights in the capital.
Where to Stay in Brussels
With a myriad of hotels and walking access to all the top city attractions, the historic center of Brussels is the best neighborhood to stay in. Sablon is also worth considering for better hotel deals and easy public transport access to the rest of the city. It’s a more serene part of the city, and ultimately less busy than the historic center.
Brussels is walkable with excellent public transport access, so no matter where you stay, getting around the city will be effortless. Here are some of the best hotels in Brussels for all budgets:
The capital of Belgium and the European Union is a spectacular place worth anyone’s time. With an incredibly rich history, excellent art scene, and delicious food, it promises an unforgettable adventure to anyone who visits it.
Where else in the world can you marvel at a royal residence and a statue of a peeing dog in the same afternoon? That’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to prioritize Brussels for your next trip to a stunning European capital.