Brussels Neighborhoods & Towns
The Brussels-Capital region is divided into 19 communes: The first of which is the City of Brussels, which covers the historical center, where the Grand-Place and Manneken Pis are located, as well as the European District. Other communes surrounding the City of Brussels are easily accessible by public transportation. Note that many of the other neighborhoods outside of the City of Brussels are primarily residential.
City of Brussels - Historic Center
At the heart of the historic center is the Grand-Place, one of Europe's most ornate and theatrical squares. Surrounding the square are numerous popular attractions. The Rue de l'Etuve, a street branching off of the southwest corner of the Grand-Place, leads directly to the Manneken Pis, the city's most popular monument. Walk northeast of Grand-Place and you'll find St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Michel et Ste-Gudule), a towering gothic church that dates back to the 13th century.
Less than a mile east of St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is Parc de Bruxelles, Brussels' largest public park. Less than a mile long, the park has plenty of paths for strolling or jogging and is home to gardens, statues, fountains, as well as a theater. The Palais Royal sits along the southern border of the park and is close to the city's Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium) and the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR).
City of Brussels - European District
Accessible via Schuman subway station.
Sitting along the southeast border of the City of Brussels is the Schuman area, home to the European Union (EU). The towering steel and glass EU Institutions, including the European Union Parliament and the European Council, are located near the Schuman roundabout. Some of the institutions are open to the public and offer guided audio tours. This district caters mainly to business travelers, boasting numerous top-notch hotels and some Michelin-rated restaurants. This district also features notable museums, including the Royal Museum of the Army and Military History, which sits in the expansive Parc du Cinquantenaire, and the nearby Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
Accessible via Louise and Porte de Namur subway stations.
The Ixelles commune lies south of Schuman and sits along the southern border of the City of Brussels. Its main street, Avenue Louise, leads south to the Bois de la Cambre and Foret de Soignes, a large forest that spills into the southernmost edge of the city. Another notable nature attraction near Avenue Louise is the Ixelles Ponds. Known for being the last of a string of ponds that used to crowd Brussels' Maelbeek Valley, today the willow tree-clad Ixelles Ponds serve as a nice relaxation spot for locals. Don't get too close to the water, though, it is very polluted.
Along with connecting visitors to some of Brussels' greenest attractions, Avenue Louise is known for being a premier shopping destination in the city. Start at Louise metro stop and head south, and you'll find the Avenue quickly fills with designer boutiques, upscale restaurants and business-class hotels.
Accessible via Heysel subway station.
Because they are primarily residential, Brussels' northern suburbs are often ignored by visitors. However, Heysel features interesting family-friendly attractions. The most popular site in this area is the Atomium, a building modeled after an iron molecule, which features numerous exhibition spaces showcasing subject matter ranging from science to the arts. Nearby the Atomium is Mini-Europe, a 5-acre park featuring more than 300 models of famous European landmarks including London's Big Ben and Paris' Eiffel Tower. Neighboring Mini-Europe is Océade, a water park featuring slides, a wave pool and Jacuzzis.
Brussels is relatively safe, but you should watch out for pickpockets, who are known for being pretty aggressive. Oftentimes, these pickpockets work in groups in crowded tourist areas, and train and metro stations. Stay alert at all times and keep your hand on your bag. Don't go to any parks at night and be wary of your surroundings during the day as well.
You should also be particularly mindful in the Parc de Bruxelles, and some outer lying suburbs, such as Schaarbeek, Brussels North, Brussels Center, Molenbeek and Anderlecht, should be avoided.