Belgium’s capital city, Brussels holds an important position both within the country and within wider Europe, as it is the capital of the European Union’s government. Brussels is a nice city to explore for a few days and makes for a good stopover between Paris and Amsterdam. One thing is for sure, if you travel to Brussels, you won’t be short of food to help expand your waistline. Chocolate, waffles, frites, and beer are some of the most popular snacks here.
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Top Things to See and Do
- Manneken Pis - The bronze fountain sculpture designed by Jerome Duquesnoy depicts a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin. It is thought to have been put in place in 1618 or 1619 and can be located near the famous Grand Place square. It’s an odd attraction to be so popular.
- Grand Place – Brussels’ most popular tourist attraction is its Grand Place, a square surrounded by public and private buildings. This is the heart of the city and includes the Town Hall, the famous Breadhouse, and every two years, a huge carpet design made from flowers. Grand Palace was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998.
- The Horta Museum – The Horta Museum is the house that the famous art nouveau architect, Victor Horta, built for himself in the late 1890s. It is a true example of the architectural style that made Horta one of the most acclaimed architects in Belgium. The beautiful glass ceiling and the intricate wrought iron banisters give the house a unique style and feel.
- Musical Instrument Museum – This is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon. There are three levels of exhibits, instruments of all kinds, and you get a headset that plays the music and sounds of many of the instruments on display as you walk near the cases. The art nouveau building is also very impressive in itself, and the café has great views of the city.
- Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert – For those who like to take some expensive souvenirs home for their friends or just want to browse, head to the beautiful Royales Saint-Hubert which offers an unique shopping experience. It is the oldest shopping arcade in Europe and also houses cafés, restaurants and chocolate shops. Taverne du Passage restaurant offers a wide variety of seafood and Neuhaus might just be the best chocolate-maker in the country. They claim to have invented pralines in this shop.
- St Michael and Gudula Cathedral – Built in 1047 but renovated in the gothic style in the 13th century, this imposing cathedral incorporates a mix of architectural styles, much like Brussels itself. It is the official site of all royal Belgian weddings and funerals.
- Chinese Pavilion and Japanese Tower – Situated in the park at Laeken, these oriental style buildings were constructed on the orders of King Leopold II after his visit to the 1900 Exhibition in Paris. The Chinese Pavilion displays a collection of 17th and 18th century Chinese porcelain and furniture.
- Cantillon Brewery – For just $7 USD, you’ll get the chance to see Belgium’s famous beer making process in action. The beer is brewed between April and October, but you will still find it a rewarding experience all year round. The owners are passionate about their beer, and you get to taste the beer at the end of the tour.
- Outdoor food markets – If you are here on a Sunday morning, there is no better place to be than the the Gare du Midi market. Often said to be the best market in Europe, you can expect to find wares from North Africa, Mediterranean spices, and pretty much any other food you can think of. At Christmas, head to the Winter Wonders market for ice skating and other festive activities.
- Eat chocolate – Aside from beer, one of Belgium’s most famous exports is chocolate. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be in heaven here. The city is dotted with chocolatiers’ shops, each with their own unique recipes (and price tags). It’s a good idea to buy chocolate in supermarkets if you want to take a lot home with you to save some cost (although its not as high quality).
- Jeanneken Pis – This statue is the female equivalent of the Manneken Pis located at Impasse de la Fidelité. These statues are both really interesting and unlike anything you would find in most parts of the world.
- Waterloo – Just south of the city is Waterloo, the site of Napoleon’s final battle against Europe. The center of the battlefield has an artificial hill, which was designed to overlook the entire field—awesome for panoramic pictures.
- Basilique de Koekelberg – The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the 5th largest church in the world. In addition to its amazing architecture and impressive art deco, the height offers beautiful views of the city and the surrounding area. The church is very close to the center of town and inexpensive to see.
- The Grand Sablon – In the depths of the antique market district and surrounded by cafes, this area is an amazing place to walk around. The Church of Notre Dame du Sablon is also a beautiful piece of Gothic architecture that is housed here.