Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is a vibrant and fun city which you should include in your itinerary should you be doing a tour of Europe. A short stay of two to three days is enough to visit all main attractions of this city, so make it one of your stops in your trip. Getting there is also relatively simple as it is just a couple of hours away by train from nearby countries. We recommend getting an Airbnb accommodation within the city centre as most attractions in the area can be covered by foot, and this will save you time and money from taking transport.
Here is a list of what you need to cover during your holiday in Brussels!
1. Go crazy on the chocolates
You may be familiar with Belgian chocolate brands such as GuyLian, but there is so much more than that to explore here in Brussels! Belgium is known for producing the best chocolates in the world. There are so many chocolatiers around; you might want to do a research on the unique selling points of each brand online before making your choice on which ones to purchase.
If you are a chocolate-lover, do join a Brussels Chocolate Tour. In this 2-hour tour, you learn about how chocolate is made and get to sample lots of different types of chocolates from pralines to truffles from some of the chocolate shops. If you purchase your chocolates during the tour, you may also be entitled to a discount. Belgian chocolates make a great souvenir as they are affordable and great in quality so make sure you bring some home with you.
2. Visit the magnificent Grand Place
This UNESCO world heritage site is the main attraction of Brussels and is absolutely stunning. This square is considered one of the most beautiful ones in Europe as the buildings feature different styles of architecture from Gothic to Baroque. Be sure to visit during the day as well as night time as it offers a different sight. Be awed by the spectacular architecture which you can observe in daylight, and bask in the romantic vibe that it exudes at night when it lights up with illumination.
3. Be amused by the Manneken Pis
Make a short 3-minute stop here to snap a photo of this adorable yet famous statue of a little boy peeing. The Manneken Pis, which means “Little Pissing Man”, represents the rebellious yet humorous spirit of the city of Brussels. It is an iconic landmark of Brussels which is located only a few minutes’ walk away from the Grand Place. There are also various stories surrounding the origins of this statue on the internet.
You may be amazed to find out how much the statue has gone through – built-in 1619, it has survived the bombardment of Brussels back in 1965 as well as numerous thefts attempts. Therefore, the one you see here is a replica built in 1965 while the original is safely kept and displayed in the Brussels City Museum.
The Manneken Pis also plays a part in every occasion by dressing up; he has dressed up as Dracula the vampire and even donned a judo attire, for example. Inspired by the Manneken Pis, there are also several other statues that are similar and situated within the same area. The more well-known ones are Jeanneke Pis, which depicts a female toddler pissing in a squatting position, as well as Het Zinneke, a urinating dog.
4. Indulge in Belgium Waffles
The photo says it all! Belgium waffles are more like street food here; they come to you wrapped in a piece of paper or on a paper plate for you to devour as you continue your exploration of the city.
You are likely to pass by several stores that sell these waffles as you walk down the street on your way to see the Manneken Pis from the Grand Place. They can be quite sinful, loaded with fruits and whipped cream and drizzled with syrup, but you can also opt for the plain ones which come with fillings on the inside. They typically cost 2-3 euros each and make the perfect dessert after a meal. Remember to take a photo of this drool-worthy sweet treat for your Instagram feed before you devour it!
If you are unable to make up your mind on where you should have the waffles, we recommend Maison Dandoy’s classy tearoom located behind the Town hall at the Grand Place.
5. Explore the Comic Strip Route
Apart from the beautiful European architecture, you may also spot numerous mural paintings on the buildings when touring the streets of Brussels. Lots of comic strips were produced right in the city of Brussels – we are sure The Smurfs and The Adventures of Tintin sound familiar to you! You can explore the route by using a map to guide you along. The city centre has about 10 of such wall paintings but there are over 50 for you to explore within the whole capital. If you are a really big man of comic, you should also visit the Comic Book Museum and the Belgian Comic Strip Center.
6. Parc du Cinquantenaire
Take a romantic stroll with your partner at the Parc du Cinquantenaire. It is a grand garden and offers a picturesque view of the Triumphal Arch, which is the main reason we are recommending this place. You can also find the Museum of Art and History as well as Royal Millitary Museum in the area.
7. Savour the national dish of Belgium – Moules-Frites
Does this just sound so delicious already? Belgian Mussels and Fries – or Moules-Frites as they call it, is the national dish of Belgium and can be found easily at most places. You get to choose what kind of sauce your mussels will come in, with fries served at the side.
You may also appreciate Belgian-style fries if you are a fan of thick fries. They are cut into thick slices and double-fried to keep them crispy. You can find them being served as street food as well – they are contained in a paper cone for convenience and topped with a sauce of your choice – the classic one is Mayonnaise.
8. Have a glass of beer
Besides chocolate, another thing that Belgium does best is the beer. They have so many varieties, ranging from Trappist beers to Lambic beers. The bars in Brussels typically serve many of these beer types, but the Delirium Café stands out with more than 2000 beers available, gaining it a Guinness World Record for offering the highest number of beers. Therefore, it is easy to feel lost with that crazy amount of choices, but not to worry as their friendly staffs are there to help by giving you some recommendations based on your preferences.
Similarly, there are also beer tastings tours available where you will learn about the history of Brussels’ beer culture and be introduced to some of the local bars to have a taste of the different types of beer.
9. Shop your way through the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
This building is considered a landmark for its architecture as well as being one of the first shopping malls in Europe. Even if you are not out to buy anything, we still recommend taking a walk down the long aisle to admire its beauty. You will pass by several luxury shops, chocolate stores and cafes but be aware that prices here may be a little steeper compared to what is offered elsewhere.
10. Visit the Magritte Museum
What is a trip to a European city without paying a visit to one of its museums? The Maritte Museum is located beside the Royal Museums of Fine Arts showcases the works of René Magritte, a local surrealist artist who is famous for his imaginative paintings. His most well-known work is The Son of Man, which most of you might find familiar.
It is a pity that some of his most famous works are not exhibited in the museum, but otherwise most are still on display in a chronological order and gives you a better idea of how his style has developed over time.