A country famous for beer and waffles, you’ll find plenty to satisfy your tastebuds in Brussels. Take a look beyond some of the slightly shabby streets and you’ll find a feast for the eyes too. With Europe’s most beautiful square and giant molecule structures, there’s so many things to do here than just parliament buildings.
Belgium’s capital city is famous for its beautiful architecture and fascinating history. The European Union also has its headquarters here, giving Brussels an important position within Europe. It may be a government city, but there’s so much more than just politics and bureaucrats here.
With cheap regular cheap flights and a great central location to visit other picteresque cities, Brussel is perfect place for a long weekend.
Cheap European airlines fly often to Brussels. We had a good deal from the cheap and cheerful Ryanair into Brussels-Charleroi Airport which is a lot further out than the main International Airport. A return bus ticket from Charleroi to the city costs around €30 per person and takes around one hour.
Things To Do In Brussels
The Grand Palace
The attractive Grand Palace is the heart of the city. This is where all the tourists gather and it’s not hard to see why. Surrounded by other buildings such as Brussels Town Hall and the Breadhouse, it’s a great place to grab a coffee and just soak in the atmosphere. Just be careful of the expensive restaurants!
Considered to be one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, The Grand Palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. If you can only see one place in Brussels, make it this one!
Brussels’ other famous landmark is not so Grand, and you’ll unlikely spend as much time here as you did at The Palace! ‘The Little Pisser’ was designed by Jerôme Duquesnoy, and placed in 1618 or 1619, and has since become a symbol of the rebellious spirit of Brussels. He even has his own personal dresser! Unfortunately, he was completely nude during our visit.
In the 1980’s, Mannekin Pis had a little sister, Jeanneke Pis. She is located down a cobbled street and is actually behind bars due to vandalism. Make a wish and throw some coins into the fountain – the money collected is actually donated to cancer research!
The final member of the family is a cute little dog named Zinneke, although he isn’t Zinneke Pis. This is because he is not a fountain like the others. A little way out of the centre, we thought it was worth tracking him down for a quick play.
Drink Belgian Beer
Belgian beer may have one of the best reputations of any beer in the world. Brewing before Belgium even became an independent country, Belgian beer is rich in history and tradition. So having a beer in Belgium is both enjoyable and educational. Why not take a beer tour and learn about how beer was first brewed in the monasteries? You will, of course, have to get involved with some tasting!
France, Belgium and The Netherlands all claim to have invented French fries, but according to one source, the term was first used during World War I. The British, American and Canadian soldiers were served deep-fried pieces of potato due to the Brit’s love of ‘chips’. The term ‘French’ was associated with the food since it was the national language in Belgium.
Whether that’s how French fries were invented or not, it doesn’t take away the fact that the fries in Brussels are delicious. Eat them with mussels (moules frites) or on their own. I found some of the best fries at Fritland where the fries are cooked fresh, not frozen. Best eaten after several beers!
You’ve had your beer and some frites, now time for more culture in the form of a light batter treat! Enjoy them with ice-cream, strawberries, chocolate or what you feel like. I don’t really have much of sweet-tooth so I had a waffle with bacon and cheese! Delicious!
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
One of the oldest shopping arcades in Europe, this two-hundred metre long complex is a window-shoppers paradise. Offering high-end boutiques, there are also restaurants and cafes here. The Royal Galleries also houses some of the best Belgian chocolatiers, including Neuhaus.
One of the best ways to see the city is by taking a walking tour. You can choose free walking tours, chocolate tours, comic book tours and more. Normally meeting by the grand palace, this is a great way learn about those beautiful historic Belgian buildings as well as meeting other travellers. I took a free walking tour with SANDEMANs, who’s excellent guides work on tips (so give generously!)
This strange looking structure was built for the 1958 World’s Fair Expo in Brussels – the same World’s Fair that brought the Eiffel Tower to Paris in 1889! The spheres are joined to represent a unit cell (anyone else fail science) of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times! The result is a 102-metre-tall building where there are now exhibitions dedicated to the Expo as well as design and architecture. The top sphere offers 360° panoramic views but the queues for the only lift can be lengthy unless you have a reservation at their rooftop restaurant! We waited 30-mins to go up and another 30 to go back down and that was just before closing time.
If you fancy visiting all the major sites in Europe at a fraction of the cost, then a visit to Mini Europe is a must. Located next to the Atomium, the ‘theme park’ is a popular family attraction and has over 350 scaled models from all the EU nations.
Tip* Save money by buying a combined Atomium and Mini-Europe ticket. Buy from Viator for the same price and you won’t have to have timed entry like on the official website.
Take a Day Trip
Take a day trip to Ghent, Bruges, Dinant or even Luxemburg! Brussels’ location makes it the perfect location to visit another Belgian gem. Take a train or join a tour – I took a SANDEMANs free walking tour of Bruges and our guide help us purchase train tickets before showing us the beautiful city.
Read More | Check out my post from our day-trip to Dinant.