Free Things To Do in Brussels
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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."
- #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.
- #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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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.
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