The representation of Brussels as the capital of the EU is made clear when you explore the city: it’s at once modern and classic, and truly a melting pot of ethnicities from around the world. You can easily spend a week exploring the different districts that make up Brussels and the stunning museums it has to offer. Below is a guide for your first two days of sightseeing the city, to get you started.
Parc de Bruxelles (Park of Brussels)
Start your day off at this beautiful park, lush with fountains, hosting the Royal Park Theatre.
Royal Palace of Brussels (Palais de Bruxelles)
Located right by the Park of Brussels, the Royal Palace of Brussels is the official residence of the King and Queen of Belgium. The palace is open for tours in the summer, where you can see the throne and other state rooms of interest.
Palais de Justice
Located in the historic upper town of Brussels, the Palace of Justice or the Law Courts of Brussels is the most important court building in Belgium. Built between 1866 and 1883, it’s worth wandering into this quarter of town to see the celebrated architecture of this building itself.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
This stunning Romanesque Roman Catholic cathedral is on your way from the Park of Brussels to the Grand Palace area of the city.
The Tintin Boutique (La Boutique Tintin)
A treasure for fans of Tintin (like Kula!) this boutique is located a few steps away from Grand Place. Note that most of the comics in the store are in French, but it is still interesting to see the original titles, translations into different languages like Chinese and Arabic, and other merchandise such as t-shirts and model figures. Note that souvenirs tend to run expensive here.
Visit Musée Hergé located 40 minutes by car from the city center if you’re looking for all things Hergé – not just to learn about the creation of Tintin but about Hergé as a graphic artist.
The UNESCO World Heritage website calls this area an “architectural jewel”, and you’re sure to see why when you get there. We’ve seen our fair share of architectural masterpieces around Europe but this took our breath away (literally) as we approached it. The Town Hall is a stunning emblem of Gothic architecture. The Museum of the City of Brussels is located within the Breadhouse (Maison du Rui). Other opulent buildings surrounding the Grand Place square include the Belgian Brewers Museum, and a host of restaurants and hotels such as Maison Grand Place and Hotel Résidence de Quinze.
One night at this hotel goes for around US$140, if you’re lucky.
The Grand Place is, truly, grand – one of the most touristy and yet memorable sights you’ll see in Brussels.
Where to eat
You can’t really go wrong with a Belgian waffle or beer in the city, but we’d recommend straying away from eating at Grand Palace if you’re looking for cheaper options. An excellent place to try is Pasta Divina on Rue de la Montagne by Place de L’Ágora just off of Grand Place which offers outdoor seating in the summer and delicious home-made pasta at very reasonable prices.
Try a Belgian Tripel Beer when you’re in the city.
Shopping: Passage du Nord, City 2
Brussels is home to some of the most famous shopping streets in Europe. Check out Passage du Nord and City 2 if you’re looking to burn some cash.
Mont des Arts, Bozar
A historic site in the center of Brussels, this picturesque hill hosts an array of museums and beautiful views over the city. The famed and eclectic Center for Fine Arts, or Bozar, Brussels (Palais des Beaux-Arts) is located on this hill.
Brussels is a city for walking: there are beautiful murals and graffiti on every corner, outdoor pools during the summer, and cafes where you can enjoy a famed Belgian waffle, some chocolates, ice cream, or a delicious Belgian beer. We recommend taking a walk to this hill even if you’re not interested in entering the museums.
Where to stay
Stay at the Courtyard by Marriot Brussels EU for a comfortable stay in the quieter, diplomatic district of the city – only a 10 minute walk from the beautiful Park of Brussels.
Once you’ve had an overview of the highlights in the middle of city, spend your second day exploring one or more venues slightly outside of the center:
Visit the famed Atomium and Mini-Europe, for panoramic views over Brussels from one of the five Atomium spheres, and a miniature park of the monuments of the EU respectively. The park takes time to explore, so allow at least 3 hours to explore Mini-Europe and the Atomium. There is even a restaurant in the Atomium. It is a 1.5 hour walk to the Atomium, or 40 minute tram ride, from Grand Place (we’d recommend the second option!)
Brussels has a good network of trams, metros, and buses to get to different parts of the city. Use Google Maps to map your route.
Royal Museum of Armed Forces and of Military History, Cinquantenaire
Located in the Cinquantenaire complex, the Royal Museum of Armed Forces and Military History is an intriguing visit, especially if you are interested in the subject of military history. You can also spend time exploring the Cinquantenaire complex, which houses the Cinquantenaire museum (with architectural finds from around the world), the Cinquantenaire tunnel and Triumphal Arch, and Horta-Lambeaux Pavilion. The complex is located about a 30-40 minute walk (or 20 minute metro ride + walk) from Grand Place.
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