What are your favorites things to do in the city center of Brussels ? You’ll find my answers in this blog post where I present what you can do and discover in the center of Brussels. Yes, there is the Grand Place and Manneken Pis, but many other things too. Beyond the visits, it’s quite an experience to live the Brussels life. And since the historic center of Brussels is the most visited and touristy area of the capital, I hope to give you an overview of what you can do there. If you come to Brussels, here is a list of 20 activities and places to discover in the center!
What to visit and do in Brussels center.
1. See the Grand Place in bloom or in the spotlight
The Grand Place in Brussels is beautiful! But even if you have already seen it, there are some events that are worth the detour. I’m talking about the “Grand Place in bloom” week that takes place every two years in August. It’s the occasion to go inside the city hall to admire the flower carpet from the balcony. See the Flower Carpet website for more information. The Christmas season is also magical when the Grand Place is beautifully illuminated.
2. Visit the Magritte Museum
Magritte is a Belgian artist known throughout the world. Master of surrealism, Magritte realized hundreds of works that we find today in this museum. I think that this museum is really a “must see” when you are in Brussels. You can visit the museum from top to bottom (you go down the floors, year by year), discovering the works of the artist that reflect his artistic evolution. Information and prices on the website of the Museum.
3. Walk through the secret dead ends
There are some nice surprises in the capital, such as the 28 “almost secret” dead ends that can be found in the city center. Some of them are used to go to a bar or a brasserie, others are residential dead ends. To find them: keep your eyes open.
4. Finding Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis and their dog
Manneken Pis, the little boy who has been peeing for almost 400 years, attracts crowds. But did you know that there is a female version of Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis, who can be found in the impasse de la Fidélité near the Rue des Bouchers and also Zinneke Pis, their dog, who can be found at the corner of the Rue des Chartreux and the Rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Grains. The beautiful family of the Pis.
5. Stroll through the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert
The Galeries Saint Hubert were built in 1847 and were the very first shopping malls in Europe. Incredible! They are beautiful, with a glazed ceiling of arches. You can walk around and enjoy shopping, going to the movies or having a drink.
6. Discover the history of Belgium at the Belvue Museum
This is really one of my favorite discoveries of the year. The Belvue Museum is a 100% Belgian museum that proposes to go through the history of Belgium since 1830 until today. It is specially dedicated to democracy and the history of Belgium. Everything is explained in a very educational and funny way, there are many archives (objects, photos and videos) and everything is very clear (even for children). The icing on the cake: the building is beautiful. It is indeed a former luxury hotel.
7. Visit the Museum of Musical Instruments and its terrace
Just above Mont des Arts, there is this Art Nouveau building that everyone looks at: Old England. It’s the Musical Instruments Museum which collects more than 7000 instruments from all eras. And if you don’t want to visit the Museum, you can at least go to the restaurant located on the top floor (yes, there is an elevator) since the view is quite impressive. Info and prices on the MIM website.
8. Greeting Tintin at the Comic Strip Museum
It’s impossible to come to Brussels without seeing all the comic book references hidden in the city. The Comic Strip Museum (Belgian Comic Strip Center) gives you an idea of the importance of the comic strip in Belgium by presenting more than 6,000 original comic strips and world-famous artists. Mainly, the museum pays tribute to Tintin, the famous reporter created by Hergé in 1929. PS: the building in which the museum is located was designed by Victor Horta. Info and prices on the website of the Belgian Comic Strip Center.
9. Find the Belgian comics on the facades of Brussels
Brussels can also be visited outdoors by following in the footsteps of the most famous Belgian comics. To pay homage to the great Belgian cartoonists, the city of Brussels has created gigantic murals (Tintin, Asterix, Smurfs, Spirou…) on several facades of the center. You can find a map “Parcours BD” at the Tourist Office in order to find them all and to discover both the center of Brussels and all these frescos. Or you can decide to discover them randomly during a walk in the city…
10. Taste one of the 2004 beers on offer at Delirium
If you like beer, you’ll love Brussels. Near the Grand Place, impasse de la Fidélité, there is the Delirium, a bar that is never empty. Its particularity is to offer a menu (which looks like a big book like a Bible) with more than 2000 beers to taste. The Delirium offers Belgian beers, but also beers from all over the world. There is something for everyone! It’s time to let yourself be tempted by a beer with speculoos, honey, chocolate or pepper for example. See their website.
11. Take a break at the Halles Saint-Géry
Between the Bourse and Place Saint-Catherine, you will find Les Halles Saint-Géry and various bars in the area. The atmosphere is quite festive and there is always an event or an exhibition to discover.
12. Walk around Place Sainte Catherine and have an aperitif
The Place Sainte Catherine is a very lively place. It is here that the Christmas Market and various events are held throughout the year. It’s a nice area to walk around but also to take a little break. There are several nice bars and cafés (like the Via Via, where you can use some board games) and the Café Béguin which organizes jazz or groove concerts several nights a week, a great atmosphere every time!
13. Discover the Kanal, the Belgian Pompidou Centre
The Kanal – Centre Pompidou – in Brussels will be the largest cultural institution in Brussels, with 35,000 m2 dedicated to artistic creation. The center reopens on September 24 for a first exhibition, and the final opening will take place in 2022. Information and prices on the KANAL website.
14. Take a FREE Walking Tour
This is something I’ve never done in Brussels before and yet I do it everywhere I travel: a Free Walking Tour. These are tours organized by locals or city enthusiasts who take us on foot to discover the little secrets and anecdotes of a city. A pleasant way to discover a city and its little secrets.
15. Admire the sunset on Place Polaert, in front of the Palace of Justice
Even if there is no incredible view in Brussels, I invite you to the Place Polaert, just in front of the Palace of Justice, at sunset. The wide view on the whole city is quite impressive.
16. Take some pictures at Mont des Arts
Mont des Arts is a bit of a place where everyone stops to take a nice picture of Brussels.
17. See the Royal Palace and walk in the Royal Park
The Royal Palace in Brussels is the seat of the Belgian constitutional monarchy. The Belgian royal family has not lived there for more than a century, but the building is worth seeing from the outside (it looks like an English Royal Palace) and also from the inside (you can visit it every year between the end of July and the end of August). Just across the street is the Royal Park which is a very nice park in the center of the city.
18. Visit the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudule
Beautiful from the outside as well as the inside, the Cathedral of Saints Michael is an emblematic monument of the city of Brussels. It was originally built with a Romanesque architecture, but was later transformed into a Gothic style church. The Cathedral is very important since it is here that the King and Queen of Belgium were married.
19. Eat at the Food Market “Wolf
WOLF is the newest trendy food market in Brussels. Located in the rue Fossé aux Loups, behind the Opera, WOLF is 16 restaurants from all over the world in one place. What I like is to eat on these big wooden tables with friends and let everyone choose the dish they want. For more info, see their website.
20. Having a drink on top of a roof top with a “view
One of my favorite things to do (especially in summer) is to enjoy the roof tops in town. The opportunity to have a drink, be with friends, and enjoy a beautiful view of Brussels. There are several rooftops, some open occasionally, others all year long. The entrance is often free. However, the rooftop at the top of the Viage casino (Place De Brouckère) is really hot.
I should probably add a few points about Brussels food: waffles, chocolates, fries, mussels, beer,… I think that will be for a future article 🙂 In the meantime, here is my little list of what you can do, only in the center.
Outside the center, there is the Marolles district (which I love) and the Parc du Cinquantenaire. More articles in preparation…
Did I forget something? Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment with your experiences!