10 Things to Do in the Brussels City Center

Capital of Belgium, one of the countries with the best quality of life index and famous for its tradition in terms of chocolates, beers and cured meats. Here's what you can do in the heart of the city.

Carolina Morales

Carolina Morales

8 min read

10 Things to Do in the Brussels City Center

Cinquantenaire Park, Brussels | ©Paul Deetman

Elegant buildings, majestic squares, palaces, parks, gardens and museums to visit are some of the things to see and do in Brussels. I invite you to explore the city that is also known as the capital of the European Union, since the headquarters of most of the EU institutions are concentrated here.

To get the most out of this city, I will mix in this list the past and modernity in each of its corners. Without further ado, let's start the tour of the most popular attractions in the heart of Brussels.

1. Visit the most beautiful square in the world

Grand Place by night| ©Dimitris Kamaras
Grand Place by night| ©Dimitris Kamaras

The Grand Place is famous for housing some of the most iconic palaces and monuments in the entire city, an area that will bring us closer to discovering the great historical richness of the capital. It is included in most guided tours of Brussels, which I recommend you join. It contains monuments such as:

  • The Town Hall, considered an architectural jewel and the oldest of those you will find in the Square.
  • The King's House, known as "Maison du Roi", was for many years the place of residence of the reigning monarchy.
  • The City Museum.

It is an area where you can also enjoy a wide gastronomic and commercial offer. For example, it has the perfect location to visit some of the best breweries in Brussels and visit the most famous stores selling chocolates, cakes and other Belgian delicacies.

Book a guided tour of Brussels

2. Walk through the Royal Park

Brussels Park| ©Nico
Brussels Park| ©Nico

Also known as the Park of Brussels, it is one of the favorite places for locals to spend lazy afternoons in the city center. It is famous for its activities open to the public in summer or winter, perfect to enjoy quiet walks adorned by fountains, monuments and gardens.

In my opinion it is one of the ideal places to include in your agenda if you visit Brussels in summer and in its surroundings are located other interesting places such as some of the best museums you have to see in Brussels.

  • The Royal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Or the curious Museum of Musical Instruments: in one of the most famous Art Nouveau buildings and keeps an extensive collection of over 1,000 musical instruments from all eras. Upon entering, you will be given headphones that automatically reproduce the sound of each instrument.

Book tickets to the Brussels Museum of Instruments

3. Take the comic route

Inside the Comic Strip Museum| ©Yann Gar
Inside the Comic Strip Museum| ©Yann Gar

In Belgium there is a great "comic book" tradition, being the country with the most comic book authors per square meter. Tintin, The Smurfs, Lucky Luke? They all have their origin in this country. So, if you are a lover of this art, you'll be in your element, being able to:

  • Visit the Comic Museum: it offers temporary and permanent exhibitions that lead visitors to discover the countless facets of comics. You will find original sketches, unpublished documents, 3D reconstructions of the characters and interactive games that will make you spend a fantasy time, no matter how old you are.
  • Take the comic book tour: you will learn all about the history of Franco-Belgian comics and all the murals, street art and boutiques dedicated to this art. In Brussels, there are truly gigantic murals on many of the most beloved characters by readers.
  • Join the Land of Comics Exploration Game: are you up for following the clues to discover how Belgium became the capital of comics? With this tour you can learn about the history in a more playful and entertaining way by doing different challenges throughout the city.

Book the comic book tour in Brussels

4. Discover the little man who pees

Statue of Manneken Pis| ©Myrabella
Statue of Manneken Pis| ©Myrabella

Since it was placed in the old part of the Belgian capital in 1388, between the streets L'Etuve and Chene, stands the Manneken Pis, one of the most beloved and representative symbols of the city.

The statuette of a naked boy urinating in the basin of a fountain has become famous for representing the liberal and independent spirit of its inhabitants. The original figure was built in stone and due to its originality was stolen on several occasions, until in 1619 it was replaced by a copper one that remains to this day.

On special occasions, and according to the country's important anniversaries, it is traditional to disguise the statue. Today, the closet of the cute little man has more than 800 costumes that are kept in the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles, located in the King's House.

Do you know his little friend?

You will also be pleased to know that this particular object of the Brussels geography, also has its female version, less known. In the opposite direction, near a small alley called Impasse de la Fidélité is Jeanneke Pis.

This statuette represents a squatting girl urinating with a mocking gesture that was created in 1987 by order of the owner of a restaurant in the area. Today it is a little better known, though less so than its companion, but both are included in most Brussels tours.

Book the private tour of Brussels

5. Experience the Delirium nights

At the Delirium brewery| ©Alex L
At the Delirium brewery| ©Alex L

An impossible plan to overlook is to visit some of the best breweries in Brussels. One of my recommendations in the city center is the Delirium Cafe, a place with worldwide fame for having 2004 varieties of beer from all over the world, including some peculiar ones like chocolate, banana and coconut beers, and for boasting a review in the Guinness Book of Records.

In addition to beer, this bar offers coffee, a special tasting of gins and other drinks such as whiskey, tequila or vodka, which you can accompany with a select collection of appetizers with the best cheeses and artisan cured meats of the city. The cafe has friendly waiters and waitresses who can guide you in your decision.

Although in Brussels you can find many craft beer bars, I want to tell you that you can go to beer tastings if you are a lover of the most traditional drink that humanity has. Something I highly recommend.

Book a beer tasting in Brussels

6. Take care of your soul on the chocolate route

Visiting chocolate shops like Godiva| ©Marina S
Visiting chocolate shops like Godiva| ©Marina S

All cities have peculiar smells and the smell of Brussels is the smell of chocolate. Round, square, in balls, filled, bitter, liquid, frozen... The Belgian tradition in the use of cocoa is quite old.

If chocolate is a temptation for you, I recommend the experience offered by certain tours where you can learn how to prepare delicious Belgian chocolate bars. These options include admission to the Choco Story Museum and the tasting of the preparations.

It is a perfect activity to take a break and relax while tasting delicious Belgian chocolates.

A little bit of history

A few years after the discovery of America, the cocoa bean began its way to conquer Europe. A delicacy of kings and rulers, the cocoa trade developed into a key industry in the Belgian economy.

But perhaps the most famous in this history is the pharmacist Jean Neuhaus, who in 1987 developed a novel technique to camouflage the unpleasant taste of medicines with nothing more and nothing less than chocolate. In an alchemy of this gift from the gods and by changing the medicines for different ingredients, he gave birth to one of the most famous chocolate houses in Europe.

Book a chocolate workshop in Brussels

7. A complete look at Brussels

Sightseeing bus through the streets of Brussels| ©Carl Campbell
Sightseeing bus through the streets of Brussels| ©Carl Campbell

I still think that the option of the tourist buses that tour the city centers are a quiet and quick way to get a good idea of a certain place and define in a sensible way which are those places that you want to discover in more detail.

Brussels is no exception and I also recommend you to book a ticket on a tourist bus through the city. This plan allows you to tour the city in most of its extension and freely choose when to get on and off.

These tours usually have prepared guides and audio guides are available in multiple languages, heating for the winter months and air conditioning in summer.

Book your seat on the Brussels sightseeing bus

8. Visit the Les Marolles Flea Market

Les Marolles Flea Market| ©Bic11
Les Marolles Flea Market| ©Bic11

Located in one of the most popular neighborhoods of Brussels, extending from the center towards the Place de Jeu de Balle, this neighborhood stands out for being the scene of one of the most interesting flea markets in the city, i.e. second-hand and vintage markets.

This old neighborhood of humble origins, with a bohemian and avant-garde character, hosts modern techno music clubs, pubs, fashion and independent music stores, records and antiques, as well as art galleries exhibiting works by local and international artists.

We can also admire one of the most controversial works: the Palace of Justice. This imposing construction occupies 26 thousand square meters with more than 104 meters high and with one of the most superb domes in Europe. Its construction began in 1883 and involved the eviction and demolition of 3000 thousand homes in its entirety.

9. Explore the diplomatic buildings of Europe's capital city

Exterior of the Parlamentarium| ©Werner Schröttner
Exterior of the Parlamentarium| ©Werner Schröttner

I recommend that, if you have the time and desire to learn more about the historical legacy of the European confederation, you explore the Parlamentarium building, a free museum that takes visitors on the long road of cooperation between nations and what their deputies are doing to meet the challenges of today.

As I mentioned before, Brussels is also famous for being the seat of several important institutions of the European community, such as the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and even NATO's military headquarters.

Upon entering the Parlamentarium you can request an audio guide available in any of the 24 official languages of the community. It is open seven days a week and is accessible to people with reduced mobility or disabilities.

10. Visit the Saint-Hubert galleries

Saint-Hubert Galleries| ©KoS
Saint-Hubert Galleries| ©KoS

The Saint-Hubert Galleries are located just 10 minutes walk from the Parc de Bruxelles, and offer you more than 200 meters to make a shopping tour in a place with a dazzling architecture.

Inside you will find not only luxury stores and jewelry stores, but also terraces and chocolate shops for a delicious coffee. Some stores may be too expensive to buy anything, but remember that walking and seeing is free.

Technically in two or three days you can see much of the city and following my recommendations you can marvel at everything this city has to offer. Are you ready to embark on the adventure?

Finally, here are some tips that may be useful to you

  • Brussels has a wide range of plans and excursions to other major cities in Belgium such as Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp, for one or more days. I recommend you to check the tourist offer of these places and treat yourself to even more memories of this beautiful country.
  • If your budget is limited, I also recommend you to consult the guides available for free tours of the city or consider the option of getting the Brussels Card, with which you can get discounts and free entry to public transport or the Atonium.

Book an excursion to Bruges and Ghent from Brussels