Best Things To Do in Brussels
Discover your inner child at the Belgian Comic Strip Museum, take a whirlwind tour of the continent at Mini-Europe or tickle your taste buds at a chocolate shop (Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a good place to start). The Grand-Place is another must, but you'll want to time your visit for the morning to avoid the brunt of the crowds. And if you've got kids in tow, admire the fossils on display at the Museum of Natural Sciences and the ancient locomotives housed within Train World.
Updated August 19, 2016
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Whether you're just passing through Brussels or here for a week, you can't miss the Grand-Place. This square, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits in the heart of Brussels and is renowned for its many Gothic and Baroque-style buildings. The Grand-Place is close to many of the city's main attractions, including the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral and the beloved Manneken Pis. At Christmas, enjoy the Winter Wonders light show at night along with a massive Christmas tree, and every August, admire an enormous carpet made of flowers inside the Grand-Place.
Travelers love the Grand-Place for its stunning architecture. Recent reviewers suggested visiting during the day and night; during the day to see the details of the architecture, and at night to witness the vibrant life that takes over the square. However, a common complaint among tourists was the constant crowds (and higher prices), but that's to be expected at such a big attraction.
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Built in the Brabantine Gothic style and so named for its chapel dedicated to St. Michael and for housing the relics of St. Gudula, this cathedral's current structure dates back to the 11th century and took some 300 years to build. Inside, you will find stained-glass windows, statues, paintings, a new Grenzing organ and a crypt that may contain the remains of St. Gudula with ancient Roman graffiti on it. Below the current church are the remains of a 10th-century Romanesque church. Outside the cathedral is a square where you can sit on benches under the shade of honey locust trees.
Past visitors appreciated the architecture of the church, with some noting the beauty of the stained-glass windows in particular and described it as "amazing" and "stunning."
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A former Old England department store built in the 19th century, the Musical Instruments Museum, also known as the "MIM," is housed in an Art Nouveau building located about a half-mile from the Grand-Place. Inside you'll find more than 1,200 instruments from around the globe displayed across four galleries. The museum gives visitors the opportunity to hear what these instruments sound like, as well. Inside, a restaurant touts fantastic views of the city.
Recent visitors were impressed with the variety of instruments inside the museum, as well as with the building itself. Some advised that there are few signs in English, so it can be a bit confusing. Many suggested parting with a few more euros to take advantage of the audio guide. Travelers also recommend taking a trip to the cafe, which offers great views of Brussels.
- #4View all Photos#4 in BrusselsParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Meaning "50th anniversary," Cinquantenaire Park was built in 1880 in honor of the 50th anniversary celebration of the independence of Belgium. It is a large French-style park inside the city surrounded by museums and filled with gardens with a large triumphal arch. The park also hosts a variety of festivities throughout the year, including concerts, fireworks and sporting events.
Past visitors said the park is a relaxing and peaceful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Brussels. They also recommend checking out the car tunnel that runs underneath the park.
- #5View all Photos#5 in BrusselsShopping, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShopping, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Want to get in a little shopping while visiting Brussels? Make time for a visit to Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a Renaissance-style arcade built in the mid-1800s. With a glass roof once known as the "umbrella of Brussels," the building is worth seeing whether or not you want to indulge in any retail therapy. Around 6 million visitors come to the Galeries every year to enjoy stores selling everything from clothing to chocolate to diamonds. The Galeries Royales also house restaurants, art galleries, a cinema and theaters. Victor Hugo even once enjoyed hanging out here.
Past visitors said it makes a great place to see on a rainy day and described the building as stunning. Many also recommended checking out the extensive chocolate shops.
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Art lovers should not pass up the chance to see where Victor Horta – one of the founders of the art nouveau movement – lived and worked. The home, which was built between 1898 and 1901 features murals, stained glass and mosaics that are largely intact from its original construction. As you walk through, keep your eyes open for Horta's influences, from the wing-like skylights to the winding banisters to the overhead lights stemming down from the ceiling like vines.
Recent travelers said the museum is a must-see attraction for architecture aficionados, but warned that you cannot take photos inside the museum and that lines are sometimes long.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Brussels2.5 miles to city centerWineries/BreweriesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.5 miles to city centerWineries/BreweriesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
When it comes down to it, a trip to Brussels isn't complete unless you've sampled the beer. Cantillon has been brewing traditional Belgian beers, including lambic, gueuze, faro and kriek, since 1900. During your tour, you may learn about brewing, bottling or even how barrels are cleaned, and if you plan ahead, you can even attend a public brewing session to see the action first-hand.
Recent visitors said they enjoyed exploring the brewery and learning how the beer is made. Others enjoyed sampling the unique taste of lambic beer. Reviewers recommended signing up for a guided tour to make the most of your visit.
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This theme park north of central Brussels features scale models of more than 350 of Europe's most famous landmarks, from Athens' Acropolis and the canals of Venice to London's Big Ben and Paris' Eiffel Tower. Each replica comes complete with visual and sound effects. Be sure to bring your kids: Many of the park's miniature attractions are interactive, such as Naples' Mount Vesuvius and the Berlin Wall.
Many past visitors agreed that Mini-Europe is a great place to bring children. They described it as adorable, cute and informative and recommended adding it to your itinerary.
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The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, located in Brussels' historic center, is a group of six different art museums: the Oldmasters Museum, Modern Museum, Meunier Museum, Wiertz Museum, Magritte Museum and the Fin-de-Siècle Museum. Together, they offer a collection of 20,000 works, dating from the 15th century to modern day. Walking through the halls, travelers will be able to see works from Rubens, Rodin, Gauguin, Magritte and many more. There's also an impressive collection of works from the Flemish school, including Pieter Bruegel.
Past travelers were impressed with the museum's vast collection of art. Considering the size of the collection, many suggested allotting 2 1/2 or more hours to not just see the works, but to appreciate and enjoy them.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Brussels2.4 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.4 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For those interested in military history, this museum makes for a great afternoon. Located within Cinquantenaire Park, the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History traces the world's military history over the last 10 centuries, displaying weaponry, uniforms and airplanes from various points in time. Spend a fair amount of time in the airplane hangar, which features some 130 aircraft, including zeppelins, F-16s and more.
Recent visitors said this museum is well worth a visit and recommend seeking out the view of the city atop the terrace of the triumphal arch. Some warned that no cash is accepted and advised allotting several hours to spend in the museum.
- #11View all Photos#11 in BrusselsMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Set aside plenty of time to spend at this museum, which will delight the science and dinosaur lovers of all ages. With some 38 million specimens on hand (only a fraction of which are on display), this museum has the largest natural history collection in Europe behind those in Paris and London. Don't miss the dinosaur gallery, the largest room in Europe devoted to dinos, to see a replica of the largest and most complete male T. rex known today, along with 30 complete iguanodon skeletons that were discovered in Belgium 1878.
Past visitors said the museum is a great activity for kids, with many praising the dinosaur collection. Some reviewers advised visiting a weekday to avoid crowds.
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The most popular tourist attraction in Brussels, the Atomium is a depiction of an iron crystal magnified more than 100 billion times that was originally built for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. Today, it houses multiple exhibitions, a panoramic view over the city and a restaurant with excellent views, and is considered to be a symbol of both Brussels and Belgium.
If there's one reason to head to the Atomium, it's the spectacular views of the city, according to many recent visitors. Travelers advised that it is far from other attractions, however, and that there can be long lines.
- #13View all Photos#13 in BrusselsChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Just south of the Grand-Place, the impressive Église Notre-Dame du Sablon – which dates back to the 14th century – is worth a visit, according to recent travelers. The church's interior features two chapels dedicated to saints and decorated with marble statues. There are also statues of St. Paul and St. Augustine inside.
Past visitors said they were impressed by the statues and stained-glass windows in the church and used words like "stunning" and "magnificent" to describe the interior.
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Belgium is the birthplace of many legendary comic characters, including Tintin and the Smurfs, and is also home to more than 700 comic strip artists. So it's no wonder the city pays tribute to the comic art in the form of a museum. The Belgian Comic Strip Center tells the story of European comics from their beginnings to modern day through a variety of permanent and temporary collections and a Comic Strip Library boasting more than 60,000 works.
Recent visitors enjoyed their experience at the Belgian Comic Strip Center with many feeling nostalgic to learn about comics they recall growing up. Past travelers were also impressed with the beauty of the art nouveau building, which was designed by architect Victor Horta (you can learn more about him at the Horta Museum).
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This little boy has become a renowned Brussels landmark. The Manneken Pis (which translates to "little man pee" in Dutch) is a bronze statue of a child relieving himself that also serves as a public fountain. Though the original statue dates back to the 17th century, the statue on display is actually a replica. Located just south of the Grand-Place, the statue has been the recipient of about 800 different costumes, many of which you can see at the Museum of the City of Brussels. He's even been kidnapped and returned multiple times. The statue's origin story is a bit disputed, but wherever it came from, its allure has endured.
Recent travelers were torn over Manneken Pis. Most agreed they were surprised by the boy's small size, and some maintain it's a must-see, while others say to skip it. Past visitors also warned that it is crowded at most times of the day.
- #16View all Photos#16 in BrusselsMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Train enthusiasts will enjoy a stop at Train World, which sits about 3 miles north of the Grand-Place. Inside you can see restored train stations, dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s, learn about the history of Belgium's railway, see the oldest remaining steam engine in Europe, explore the reasons people use trains from travel to commuting and more.
Past visitors said they loved the interactive exhibits and that their kids did not want to leave. They also recommended a visit to the on-site restaurant.
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