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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

9 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 you can 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.

You have just landed in the Belgian capital and you do not have a clear idea of what you want...do not worry, here I can tell you some places that you can not miss on your visit to get the most out of this city, a mixture of past and modernity in each of its corners. The first thing you need to know is that you have several options to move from the airport to the city center, so in terms of mobility you will be covered.

Once you are in your accommodation, you can enjoy Brussels, a city that is easily walkable and has a catalog of varied activities that will show you the history, culture and the friendly face of the Belgian capital. 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 city. It is an area where you can also enjoy a wide gastronomic and commercial offer that will bring us closer to discovering the great historical wealth of the capital.

Imposing, appears in the first place the City Hall building, considered an architectural jewel and the oldest of those you will find in the Plaza. The King's House, known as "Maison du Roi", was for many years the place of residence of the reigning monarchy and now houses the Museum of the city.

This is a place that by day or night offers a beautiful view and atmosphere. It is the perfect location for visiting some of Brussels' best breweries nearby and browsing the most famous stores for chocolates, pastries and other Belgian delicacies.

Don't forget to take advantage of the space and have your picture taken in the most beautiful square in the world.

Book a guided tour of Brussels

2. Walk through the Royal Park

Park of Brussels| ©Nico
Park of Brussels| ©Nico

Also known as the Parc de Bruxelles, this 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, one of the ideal places to include in your agenda if you visit Brussels in summer.

In its surroundings are located other interesting spaces such as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts or the curious Museum of Musical Instruments, undoubtedly some of the best museums you have to see in Brussels.

Located in one of the most famous Art Nouveau buildings and with an extensive collection of more than 7,000 musical instruments from all eras, it is one of the must-see museums. Upon entering, you will be given headphones that play the sound of each instrument automatically, which makes this activity an interactive and enjoyable experience.

3. Take the Comic Strip Route

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

It all started in the 1990s, when the Belgian Comic Strip Center sponsored about fifty illustrators of cartoons such as Tintin, Asterix, Billy the Cat, The Smurfs and other classic Franco-Belgian comics. This collection of giant frescoes adorning the walls of downtown Brussels makes it one of the most exciting living museums in the world.

On this tour you will also find an attraction that I highly recommend and that honors the ninth art: The Museum of Comics. This space, which has been in operation for more than 30 years, offers temporary and permanent exhibitions that lead visitors to discover the countless facets of comics.

In this museum you will find original sketches, unpublished documents, 3D reconstructions of the characters and interactive games that will make you spend a fantasy time, suitable for all ages, located in another of the architectural wonders of Art Nouveau Brussels.

By the way, you can find in the area specialized bookstores, restaurants and themed cafes, to admire true masterpieces of the history of world comics.

4. Discover the little man who urinates

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. At present, the closet of the funny little man has more than 800 costumes that are kept in the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles, located in the King's House.

You will also be pleased to know that this particular object of the Brussels geography also has a lesser-known female version. 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.

If you have time, visiting Jeanneke Pis and making a comparison with her male counterpart can be an interesting experience while still enjoying the city center.

5. 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 beers such as chocolate, banana and coconut.

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 artisanal cured meats of the city.

Oh, and don't get overwhelmed about which beer to choose! The cafe has friendly taps and waiters who can guide you in your decision. The space also often hosts live shows and other events for you to enjoy to the fullest this place that boasts a review in the Guinness Book of Records.

Although in Brussels you can find many craft beer bars, I want to tell you that several companies offer guided tours with visits to multiple breweries, especially for those who love the most traditional drink that humanity has.

Book a beer tasting in Brussels

6. The chocolate route for the soul

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.

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.

If chocolate is a temptation for you, I recommend the experience offered by certain tours in which you will learn how to prepare delicious Belgian chocolates. These options include in the price the ingredients and the experienced guidance of local chocolate masters.

Chocolate tastings in Brussels are definitely not to be missed. I almost forgot: the gastronomic tour offers are immense and if you happen to be a fan of waffles and waffles in all their presentations, the workshop dedicated to these delicacies is also available. A perfect activity to take a breath of fresh air and relax while baking delicious Brussels waffles.

Book a chocolate workshop in Brussels

7. Visit the flea market of Les Marolles

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

Located in one of the most popular neighborhoods of Brussels, which extends in the center towards the Place de Jeu de Balle, it is noted for being the scene of one of the most interesting flea markets in the city.

This old neighborhood of humble origins, with a bohemian and avant-garde character, is home to trendy techno clubs, pubs, fashion and independent music, record and antique stores, as well as art galleries exhibiting works by local and international artists.

Once in the most unique quartiere of this capital, we will be able to admire one of the most controversial works: The Palace of Justice. This imposing construction occupies 26,000 square meters with more than 104 meters high and one of the most superb domes in Europe.

Its construction began in 1883 and involved the eviction and demolition of 3,000 thousand homes in its entirety. Today, this immense building houses the headquarters of the Judiciary in Belgium and the city's courts.

Legend has it that in 1944, when the Nazis left Brussels, they decided to burn the sumptuous dome and dynamite the basement of the building. And here is the controversial detail, since 1948 the building has been undergoing a restoration process that is still unfinished today.

8. 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 go through the city centers is a quiet and quick way to get a good idea of a certain place and to define in a sensible way which are those places that you want to discover in more detail.

Brussels is no exception and the offer of tourist buses is wide. This plan allows you to tour the city in most of its extension and choose freely when to get on and off.

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

Book your seat on the Brussels tourist bus

9. Explore the diplomatic buildings of the capital of Europe

Outside the Parlamentarium| ©Werner Schröttner
Outside 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 learn what their deputies are doing to meet today's challenges.

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

Undoubtedly this is an attractive public and political facet of the city, framed by iconic places such as the Brussels Park, the Cinquantenaire Park and the imposing Espace Leopold.

Upon entering 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 just a 10-minute walk from the Parc de Bruxelles, and offer you more than 200 meters of walking distance for a shopping tour in a place with 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 will be able to see most of the city and following my recommendations you will be able to marvel at everything this city has to offer. Are you ready to embark on the adventure?

Finally, here are some tips that you may find useful:

  • Brussels has a wide range of plans and excursions to other flagship cities in Belgium such as Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp, for one or several 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 city tours.

Book a tour to Bruges from Brussels