Explore Brussels

Brussels Travel Guide

Home of the European Union, Brussels has become a bustling centre for bureaucrats and businessmen and is a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis. The buildings in the city are a fascinating mix of architectural styles, and there are numerous museums of interest throughout. Within the 14th-century city walls is the compact centre of the old city with the beautiful Grand Place at its heart. Visitors rarely stray beyond the walls of the 'petit ring' of the city centre, clearly defined from the newer glitzy quarters by its narrow maze of streets. This is where the key sights can be enjoyed, together with the best bars and restaurants.<br /><br /> Visitors can experience the beauty of the art and architecture, marvel at the bizarre sight of the Mannekin-Pis statue, and spend time shopping for traditional souvenirs such as Belgian chocolate and lace. The National Opera House and many other theatres host a variety of events and concerts for those wanting some high culture, and there are plenty of restaurants offering gastronomic delights. These outings can be rounded off by a drink or two in any one of the lively bars located near the Grand Place.<br /><br /> Vibrant and energetic, Brussels is a city of museums and architecture among Europe's finest, a shopper's fantasy and a diner's capital.<br /><br />

Grand Place (Central Square)

Address: 1000 Brussels Brussels

Admission: Free Daily 9am-8pm

The Grand Place is the heart of Brussels and has been since the Middle Ages. One of Europe's more beautiful squares, it lies in the centre of a confusion of small cobbled streets, and is surrounded by richly decorated 17th century Baroque Guildhouses, various Neo-Gothic buildings and museums.<br /><br /> It is, however, the town hall, a magnificent Gothic building that dominates the square. Markets, flower stalls and various events are held here and this is the place to get to grips with the essence of Brussels, perhaps over a local delicacy at a pavement café.<br /><br />

Manneken-Pis

Address: Rue de l’Etuve 31, located two blocks behind the Town Hall at Grand Place Brussels

Admission: Free

The distinctive statue has been described as the Eiffel Tower of Brussels and tourists throng the streets in search of the tiny urinating urchin. The bronze Manneken is thought to represent the 'irreverent spirit' of Brussels, but there are numerous tales about its beginnings.<br /><br /> Started by Louis XV of France many years ago, it has been the custom of foreign countries, companies, visiting dignitaries or charities to donate an outfit to the Manneken-Pis and the little boy is usually decked out in the latest costume; previous costumes are displayed in the City of Brussels Museum.<br /><br /> As the cheeky fountain is one of the most populat attractions in Brussels, visitors an expect large crowds at most times of day, especially in tourist season.<br /><br />

Hotel de Ville

Address: Grand Place, 1000 Bruxelles Brussels

Admission: Guided tours 5€ adults; 3€ seniors, students, and children 6–12. Free for children 5 and under. Tickets sold at tourist office in Grand-Place. Tuesday 10am-5pm, Wednesday 10am-12pm, Thursday 2pm-5pm

Brussels' city hall is rated as the most splendid civic building in Europe. The foundations were laid in 1402 and it survived the mercifully inaccurate bombing during World War II when most of the other buildings on the Grand Place were destroyed. The façade is embellished with gargoyles and images of nobility while the intricate 100 metre-high tower is resolved by a fine statue of St Michel, patron saint of Brussels. Guided tours are available for a small fee - well worth it to see the fine tapestries and miscellaneous works of art inside.<br /><br />

Galeries Royales Saint Hubert

Address: Galerie du Roi 5, 1000 Bruxelles Brussels

Admission: Free Varied times depending on stores. Check website for details.

Telephone: (02) 545 09 90

Mall lovers everywhere should make a pilgrimage to the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert, the very first shopping arcade in Europe. Opened in 1847, the arcade became a draw card for the cream of 19th century society and today continues to inspire shoppers and browsers alike. People from across the globe, young and old, enjoy perusing here and everyone will find something to their taste.<br /><br /> The building itself is an architectural marvel: arcaded shop fronts across two floors are separated by pilasters, conceived in a Cinquecento style. The roof above is made of arched glass panes connected by a delicate cast-iron framework - very photogenic! In between the various shops you'll find cafes, restaurants, a theatre and even a cinema; with so much to see and do here, this attraction is family friendly and one the kids will enjoy too.<br /><br />

Palais Royal

Address: Rue Brederode 16, B-1000 Bruxelles Brussels

Admission: Free Open Tuesday to Sunday, 22 July to 4 September

Belgium's magnificent Royal Palace was built in the 19th century as the official residence of the Belgian Royal family although today is used for official functions and other ceremonial purposes. The palace is positioned in front of Brussels Park, itself well worth exploring, and directly opposite the modern Parliament building as if symbolically representing the country's system of government, a constitutional monarchy. Tours are only possible in summer and commence after the National Holiday on 21 July. Inside are a multitude of historical artefacts and some impressive contemporary art, commissioned by the queen in 2002.<br /><br />

Royal Museums of Fine Arts

Address: Rue de la Régence 3 Brussels

Admission: €13 for all museums. Weekdays 10am-5pm, Weekends 11am-6pm

An unmissable attraction for art lovers: the Royal Museums of Fine art are Brussels' premier art museums. Consisting of the Musée Old Masters Museum, Musée Modern Museum, Musée Wiertz Museum, Musée Meunier Museum, Musée Magritte Museum and the new Musée Fin-de-Siècle Museum.<br /><br /> The largest is the Old Masters Museum, opened in 1887, featuring the best collection of Flemish art in the world; highlights include works by van Dyck and over 20 paintings by Rubens. The Museum of Modern Art was opened in 1984 and includes fine examples from Belgium's best artists over the past century, plus modern legends such as Francis Bacon.<br /><br /> The Magritte Museum is devoted to works of famous Belgian Surrealist René Magritte, and houses more than 200 of his works; while the new Musée Fin-de-Siècle Museum is dedicated to the 1900s, when Brussels was the capital of Art Nouveau.<br /><br />

Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art

Address: Rue des Sables 20 Brussels

Admission: €8 adults, €6 children 12-18. Other concessions available. Tuesday to Thursday 10am-5pm, Friday to Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm.

Telephone: (0)2 219 1980

Belgium's love of wacky humour and comic book art come together in this wonderful museum housed in a fabulous Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta. Permanent exhibitions detail the history of European comic strips, and ever-changing temporary exhibitions focus on specific artists, time periods, and political contexts.<br /><br /> Visitors can see plenty of its most famous subject, Hergé's Tintin, as well as the Smurfs, and art from over 670 cartoonists. This is a temple to cartooning, now considered an art form worthy of serious consideration, and so the museum aims to trace the history and development of the discipline rather than to entertain. Guided tours are available for larger groups.<br /><br />

Royal Museum of Central Africa

Address: Leuvensesteenweg 1302 Brussels

Admission: €4 (adults), €1.50 (youths). Other concessions are available Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm; Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm

Telephone: (0)2 769 5211

Under the direction of King Leopold, the Belgian Congo returned fantastic riches to Belgium in the 19th century, yet the people of that colony paid a terrible price. This museum was founded to explore the relationship between European colonial powers and the people they subjugated. Recent exhibits have broadened the museum's focus to include environmental issues and ethnography in Africa, Asia and South America. The museum is situated on beautiful grounds in the Flemish commune of Tervuren, just outside of Brussels.<br /><br />

Bruparck

Address: Eeuwfeestlaan 20Bd du Centenaire Brussels

Admission: Varied ticket prices. Check website for details. Vary depending on specific attractions

Telephone: 02 474 8383

This village was originally created for the 1958 World Exhibition and houses some of Brussels' most popular tourist attractions. The Oceadium water park, Mini Europe, a Kineopolis cinema and the world-renowned Atomium are all located here, making this a great day out for the whole family with plenty of eateries to stop and grab some refreshments and a bit of fuel for the next attraction.<br /><br /> Mini Europe is an interactive area that recreates all of Europe on a miniature scale, giving visitors a good perspective on the continent in a new, fun way. Built for the 1958 World Fair, the Atomium takes its shape and proportions from the internal lattice of an iron atom. There are nine spheres linked by escalators and each contains exhibition rooms hosting a rapidly changing series of exhibitions. There is a great view from the deck of the uppermost sphere.<br /><br />

Brussels Flower Show

Where: Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Koekelberg.,Brussels

When: 6 April to 6 May 2018.

The magnificent and unique Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the Brussels suburb of Koekelberg is the venue for the city's annual flower show. Each year in the grounds of this massive Art Deco edifice are transformed into an Eden, spread with flowers, water features and plants arranged by nearly 100 florists. Visitors can delight in the flower show in addition to marvelling at the Basilica itself, the largest neo-Gothic church in the world, its interior decorated in 1930s style. A climb to the dome is rewarded with a beautiful panorama across the city and surrounds. For more information contact the Basilica on +32 2 425 8822.<br /><br />

ArtBrussels

Where: Brussels Expo,Brussels

When: 19 - 22 April 2018

Tens of thousands of art experts and art lovers from all over the world eagerly await ArtBrussels, Belgium's premier art festival, renowned for its high standard. The Belgian Association of Contemporary Art Galleries instituted ArtBrussels in 1968 and today the work on view, selected by an international committee, represents more than 150 international galleries.<br /><br />

Brussels Beach

Where: Bassin Béco, Port de Bruxelles,Brussels

When: 30 June to 6 August 2017

Not just a beach, but a real seaside resort in the heart of Brussels on the edge of the canal, Brussels Beach, or Bruxelles Les Bains, offers half a mile (1km) of fine sand, coconut palms and waterfalls, and plenty of sport, relaxation and cultural activities. Sports like beach volleyball, pétanque and ultimate frisbee are available, or for the less actively inclined a Thai pagoda houses several professional masseurs for complete relaxation. Two stages provide entertainment in the form of live music, DJs and shows, and food stalls and beach bars afford the chance to savour flavours from around the world. Children are well catered for with activities and entertainment that includes sandcastles, clowns and water games.<br /><br />

Belgian F1 Grand Prix

Where: Spa-Francorchamps,Brussels

When: 25 - 27 Aug 2017

The Spa-Francorchamps track often makes for one of the most exciting races of the season as it has a reputation for rain on race-day. The track is two hours away from Brussels.<br /><br />

Bonsoir Clara

Address: 22 Rue Antoine Dansaert Brussels

Food Type: International

Located in the fashion district of Brussels, this trendy restaurant offers diners a selection of both traditional and international cuisine. The menu features a variety of Belgian, Italian and Asian dishes including cold pea soup, fish lasagne, roast lamb and cod carpaccio. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, and for dinner on weekends. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

La Maison du Cygne

Address: 2 Rue Charles Buls Brussels

Food Type: Local

Once frequented by the likes of Karl Marx and the Belgian Socialist Party, this 17th century house now offers diners a traditional ambience, enhanced by richly coloured décor and polished walnut walls. The menu features mainly Belgian and French cuisine including lobster salad with apples and a curry sauce, beef fillet with a three pepper sauce, and lemon-scented codfish. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, and for dinner on Saturday. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Aux Armes De Bruxelles

Address: 13 Rue des Bouchers Brussels

Food Type: Local

Founded in 1921, this is a true Brussels legend that serves the freshest of mussels and finest of French fries. Approach the Bruxelles-style by eating the first mussel with your fingers and then use the shell to eat the rest. The entire menu is excellent, especially the beef stewed in beer and the delicious The front room's vintage Art Nouveau interior is delightful. Open for lunch and dinner daily, reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Comme Chez Soi

Address: 23 Place Rouppe Brussels

Food Type: French

This gourmet pilgrimage site never fails to impress, with exceptional quality, refined flavours and an ambient Art Nouveau design. The restaurant boasts both a warmly welcoming atmosphere and truly memorable dishes, such as red mullet fillet with karides or beef fillet with black truffles. For dessert, try the chocolate cake with almonds and hazelnuts. Advanced booking is essential. Closed on Sunday and Monday, and on Wednesday for lunch.<br /><br />

La Truffe Noire

Address: 12 Boulevard de la Cambre Brussels

Food Type: French

For those with a passion for truffles, pay a visit to this shrine created by Italian chef Luigi Ciciriello. It is a friendly establishment renowned for serving superb truffle-focused dishes in its warm and relaxed environment. Don't miss the carpaccio truffles with olive oil and parmesan for starters and the roast duck with Canary Island bananas for mains. Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, only open Monday and Sunday for reservations of 30 or more guests.<br /><br />

La Quincaillerie

Address: 45 Rue du Page Brussels

Food Type: Gastropubs

Housed in a former hardware store, La Quincaillerie has all the raw materials for a fabulous dining experience. The staff are friendly if slightly frenetic; the interior's Horta-inspired industrial qualities are striking; and the food is quite simply fantastic, especially the impeccably fresh seafood. Open for dinner all week, and lunch Monday to Friday. Bookings essential well in advance.<br /><br />

Les Brassins

Address: 36 Rue Keyenveld Brussels

Food Type: Local

Belgian brasseries are scattered throughout Brussels so it's hard to tell which are truly outstanding and worth seeking out - we've heard consistently good reports about this local secret, tucked away at the end of a back street in Ixelles. Enjoy tasting some of the 50 local brews while tucking into hearty dishes like rabbit cooked in cherry beer, or the meatloaf with mustard sauce. Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Chez Leon

Address: 18 Rue des Bouchers Brussels

Food Type: Local

Don't be put off by the picture menu and touristy look, this is the real deal! For celebrated mussel dishes, as well as local fare such as rabbit stewed in kriek (cherry) beer or stoemp (bubble and squeak), the original Chez Leon (near the Grand Place - watch out for imitations!) is the perfect place to dine. Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations recommended.<br /><br />

La Porteuse d Eau

Address: 48a avenue Jean Volders Brussels

Food Type: Local

This beautiful art deco restaurant not only stuns with amazing decor, but keeps locals coming back for more with classic Belgian cuisine and selection of over 70 Belgian beers.<br /><br />

Like a jazz rhythm that defines so much of the city's music, Brussels' nightlife is impromptu, at times schizophrenic, alternately relaxing and cool or hot and fast. Although there are a host of choices for eclectic nightlife, the city after dark is often outshone by brighter and more vibrant European cities. Most Brussels locals anchor the afternoon to the night with a pint or two of their world famous beer. This is best done in one of the many Old World-style pubs or cafés littered about the city, such as in Place Brouckere. These are more after work meeting places, popular with all ages, than party destinations. A mellow evening can continue with jazz concerts in the many jazz clubs, or with theatre and dance shows. An edgier side of Brussels herds late night bar and club goers into eccentric themed venues. Rue du Marché au Charbon is a lively strip of bright bars. Upper-town clubs tend to be more trendy and expensive than lower-town, where a more casual clientèle dances the night away to electronic beats. Renowned DJ's frequent Brussels' clubs and a regular line-up of heavyweight bands play at the city's concert venues.<br /><br />
Shopping in Brussels can almost be termed a sport, as a lot of the wealthy residents spend an awful lot of their time and money competing with each other for the best buys and designer goods. Head down to the Boulevard de Waterloo area Avenue Louise where all the designer shops and boutiques can be found. Here one can expect to see names such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Versace, Chanel and Bvlgari, to name a few. Specialty shops can be found in Rue Haute and Rue Blaes. The Rue Neuve is the main pedestrian shopping street and is coincidentally the longest one in Brussels. Here shoppers can find mostly international chain stores while more original independent stores are located between the Grand Place and the Rue Lemonnier. The Westland Shopping Mall boasts over 140 shops and has all the usual big department stores and trendy stores, great for clothing, jewellery, books and much more. Most shops close at approximately 6pm every day and sales tax is 21 percent, which can be refunded to non-EU citizens by any of the shops affiliated to Global Refund Belgium. Shops that participate will issue a global refund cheque and this can be stamped at customs and cashed upon leaving the country.<br /><br />
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