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. It’s very much a government city. A bit stuffy, a bit historic, and a bit full of people who love to have fun when the clock strikes five! is a classy city to explore for a few days and makes for a good stopover between Paris and Amsterdam. The architecture is beautiful, there’s a lot of green space, and the chocolate, waffles, frites, and beer will have you never wanting to leave!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Brussels
1. European Parliament
2. Grand Place
3. St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral
4. Manneken Pis
5. Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Explore 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. Admission is 10 EUR and the museum is open 2pm-5:30pm Tuesday to Sunday.
2. Visit the 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. Admission is 8 EUR and the museum is open 10am-5pm Tuesday – Sunday.
3. 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.
4. Learn at the Cantillon Brewery
For just 7 EUR, 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.
5. Gorge at outdoor food markets
If you are here on a Sunday morning, there is no better place to be than 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.
6. Indulge at Delirium Café
Belgium is famous for its great beer! After visiting the Grand Palace, take a short walk down an alley towards Delirium Café to imbibe with lots of locals and travelers. This bar is known for its long list of beers served (so long that it made the Guinness Book of World Records!) The enormity of the menu draws a fun-loving, talkative crowd. This is a quirky must-see while in Brussels, even if you don’t like beer!
7. 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 it’s not as high quality).
8. Visit 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.
9. 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.
10. The Grand Salon
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.
Like cars? AutoWorld is a vintage car museum that has 350 vintage European and American automobiles from the late 19th century until the seventies. Admission is 10 EUR and it’s open every day from 10am-5pm.