Things to do in Brussels

Things to do in  Brussels

Politics with a side of waffles

Brussels, the official capital of Belgium and unofficial capital of Europe, stands out as the meeting point of Germanic and Romance cultures, boasting cross-cultural and modern charm. The duel official languages of French and Dutch give every street and place two names, and English is also widely spoken, thanks to the European Parliament and other organizations stationed here that make it an international political center. The ornate guildhalls lining the classic Grand Place stand as city centerpiece and showcase, but the Atomium also warrants a visit, a bizarre building of steel spheres created for the 1958 World's Fair that now functions as a museum featuring a prize view over the city. With Belgium seemingly locked in a confectionery competition with the Swiss, a Brussels chocolate tour delivers insight into how the industry grew here and, of course, involves plenty of samples. Visitors can continue tasting their way through town well into the evening with a beer tour, where the rich monastic heritage of Belgian beer bubbles up from the glass. Beyond the capital, Ghent and Bruges make for easy day trips, both charming towns packed with medieval architecture within just over an hour’s drive. The city's central location also makes it easy to go further out for trips to the Flemish countryside and historic battlefields, or into neighboring Luxembourg or Amsterdam (each just over two hours away).

Top 15 attractions in Brussels

Grand-Place (Grote Markt)

Arguably Europe’s most beautiful square, Brussels’ Grand Place—in the heart of the historic and hip city—is surrounded by nearly 40 baroque and gothic guildhalls and the stunning Brussels Town Hall. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the large cobblestone square, also known as Grote Markt, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belgium.More

Manneken Pis

The Manneken Pis—sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy’s small bronze statue of a little boy urinating into a Brussels fountain—is one of Belgium’s most beloved landmarks. Built in 1619, the boy is hailed as the capital’s oldest resident and remains a favorite of both locals and tourists, with a host of myths and legends to his name.More


One of Brussels’ most iconic structures, the futuristic Atomium is a gargantuan structure designed to resemble an iron molecule magnified 165 billion times. It was created in 1958 for the Expo 58, and though it was originally slated for demolition, it was so popular with locals that it became a permanent feature of the city’s skyline.More

Cinquantenaire Park (Parc du Cinquantenaire)

Spanning around 74 acres (30 hectares), sprawling Cinquantenaire Park (Parc du Cinquantenaire) was named in honor of the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence, which was celebrated there with the 1880 National. Today, the park is home to three museums, along with the Great Mosque of Brussels and a triumphal arch dating to 1905.More

Brussels Royal Palace (Palais Royal de Bruxelles)

Dating back to the 18th century and fronted by the idyllic Parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Park), the Brussels Royal Palace (Palais Royal Bruxelles) might no longer be the official residence of Belgium’s royal family, but it remains one of the capital’s most magnificent landmarks and the site of various royal and state events.More

Royal Galleries of Saint Hubert (Les Galeries St-Hubert)

Inaugurated in 1847, the Royal Galleries of Saint Hubert in Brussels form one of Europe’s most beautiful and oldest glass-roofed shopping arcades. Composed of three elegant, Florentine-inspired arcades, the galleries are lined with upscale shops and restaurants and draw around 6 million visitors each year.More

European Parliament

Brussels is the administrative heart of the European Union and the headquarters of the European Parliament, where over 700 members convene to make important decisions about the EU on a regular basis. The only directly elected EU institution, this body is charged with EU legislation, along with the Council of the European Union.More

St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

Named for the patron saints of Brussels, the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is a cocathedral of the local Catholic archdiocese and one of the most beautiful churches in the city. It stands upon the ruins of an 11th-century Romanesque chapel, the remains of which can be viewed for a nominal fee.More

Grand Sablon Square (Place du Grand Sablon)

Located just a 10-minute walk from Brussel’s bustling Grand Place, Grand Sablon Square (Place du Grand Sablon) is a historic square at the heart of the Sablon quarter. It feels a world away from the busy city center, with striking medieval townhouses, stylish restaurants, terrace cafés, and a lively antiques market.More


From Paris’ Eiffel Tower and London’s Big Ben to the canals of Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Acropolis of ancient Athens, the Mini-Europe theme park in Brussels presents all of the major sights and famous buildings of the European Union countries—in miniature.More

Sablon District

Just a short stroll from Brussels’ central sights, the Sablon district has long been one of the city’s most affluent and atmospheric neighborhoods. Renowned for its elegant architecture and lively antiques market, the area is crammed with terrace cafes, hip restaurants, contemporary art galleries, and fine chocolatiers.More

National Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Coeur)

The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Coeur) is one of Belgium’s most iconic buildings. Designed to celebrate Belgium’s independence, its first stone was laid by King Leopold II himself. Art fans worldwide visit this Roman Catholic cathedral to enjoy an authentic slice of Art Deco design.More

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Featuring six different galleries, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium house more than 20,000 works of art dating from the 15th to the 21st centuries. Individually and collectively, the Brussels museum complex provides a fascinating overview of the great movements and artists of Western art, from the medieval to the modern era.More


A petrolhead’s dream, Autoworld showcases the evolution of motor cars through a collection of more than 250 impeccably maintained and restored vehicles. Visitors can trace the history of automotive engineering and design, from horse-drawn carriages to Italian race cars and royal limousines.More

Magritte Museum (Musée Magritte)

One of Belgium's Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the Magritte Museum is devoted to the works of Belgian surrealist René Magritte, whose innovative creations are said to have influenced artists like Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns.More

Top activities in Brussels

Hungry Mary's Famous Beer and Chocolate Tour in Brussels
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Brussels Walking and Tasting Tour
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Brussels Walking and Tasting Tour

Bruges Day Trip from Brussels

Bruges Day Trip from Brussels

Ultimate Private Highlights&Hidden Gems With Locals Lots of Attractions Included
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Marc's Belgian Beer Tour in Brussels

Marc's Belgian Beer Tour in Brussels

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All about Brussels

When to visit

The weather in Brussels is notoriously rainy and cool. The summers tend to get less rainfall and a good amount of sunshine, particularly in the warmest, driest months of July and August. If you want easygoing weather and fewer crowds, visit in September or early October, when it’s still relatively pleasant out and a little less rainy than winter or spring.

Getting around

The best way to get around Brussels is by public transit, and there’s an extensive network of metros, trams, buses, and local trains connecting all areas of the city and its surrounding suburbs. There’s also a boat service—Waterbus—that travels up and down the river between Vilvoorde Centrum and Place Sainctelette. If you plan to stick to sightseeing, the local hop-on hop-off bus is a convenient option and you can reserve tickets in advance.

Traveler tips

If you like your beer served up with plenty of atmosphere, head over to Au Bon Vieux Temps, a tiny but beautiful pub set at the back of a narrow alley. This historic pub allegedly opened its doors back in 1695, and the interior decor does much to confirm this claim. Decor highlights include an elegantly carved wooden bar, beamed ceilings, and tons of stained glass.

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People Also Ask

What is Brussels best known for?

Brussels is known for its food and drink—particularly beer, chocolate, fries, and waffles—and for the large number of international organizations based there, including NATO and the European Commission. It’s also famous for its varied architecture, especially around the city’s central square, the Grand Place.

What are 4 famous attractions in Belgium?

Belgium has many famous attractions, from historic battle sites to stately old buildings. Four famous ones are the canals of the medieval city of Bruges, buildings of the Grand Place in Brussels, World War I battlefields of Flanders, and Jan Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece at St. Bavo's Cathedral.

What activities do people do in Belgium?

Belgium gets a lot of rain, so many of the more popular things to do in the country involve spending time indoors (think visiting museums and hanging out in cozy brewpubs). When the weather is pleasant, however, people head outdoors to spend time at local beaches and parks.

Is one day in Brussels enough?

Yes. While Brussels merits more than a day, it's compact enough that you can easily do a lot in just one day. If you want to hit up all the main sights in just one day, you're probably best off joining a sightseeing tour, either by bus or bicycle.

Do they speak English in Brussels?

Yes. Many people in Brussels speak fluent English, which can partially be attributed to the presence of large international organizations (notably the EU and NATO). While Brussels is in the Flemish part of Belgium, French is more commonly used than the Flemish Dutch language that dominates in the surrounding region.

What is special in Brussels?

Brussels has all sorts of special features, from beautiful old buildings to an abundance of chocolatiers. You'll also find plenty of alley bars—tiny pubs tucked away in old alleys. While beer and liquor are the main draw at most of these establishments, some also serve up fantastic food.

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