As the capital of my home country, Brussels is a city that I love dearly. However, it took me a while to appreciate it, I have to say. Sometimes you just fall in love with a city. The first time I visited Bruges as a kid, for example, I absolutely loved it. I never cared much for Brussels.
That has change though. When I visited Bruges again two years ago, I saw what a huge tourist attraction the city had become. I’m not going to say that I hated it, but I certainly like it much less. Brussels on the other hand has definitely grown on me. I now really, really like the old meandering cobbled alleyways, the shops and, of course, the majestic town square. That seriously has to be one of the most beautiful town squares in the entire world.
I’ve been to Brussels several times in the past couple of years, each time exploring another corner of the capital of both Belgium and Europe.
Here is my personal top 10 things to do in Brussels.
Top 10 Things to Do in Brussels, Belgium
Although not really a massively important things in my opinion, Manneken Pis – the peeing boy – is something that you just have to see when in Brussels. A couple of minutes and a quick photo is enough though; there’s much more to see and do.
Home to the King of Belgium, the Neo-Classical Royal Palace is located at the border of Brussels Park, a large park in the heart of the city. The palace can be visited in summer.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilica of Koekelberg)
Located in the district of Koekelberg, this huge basilica is built in Art Déco style and is in fact the fifth-largest church on the planet. It is set on a hill and overlooks Elizabeth Park.
Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule
The construction of this impressive church was started in 1250 and finished sometime in the 15th century. Its style is Brabant Gothic and the church is dedicated to the male and female patron saints of Brussels. The interior is gorgeous and filled with historic treasures.
Saint Hubert Galleries
This is possibly one of my favorite places in Brussels. Built in 1847, these royal galleries make up an arcade in the city center. It was the very first shopping mall in Europe and is now still lined with cafés, chocolate shops and luxury boutiques. It’s spectacularly beautiful.
Rue des Bouchers
The Butcher’s Street is a historic street, dating from the 17th century and consisting of gabled houses, cobble stones and beautiful doorways. This pedestrian street is known for its atmosphere and is lined with numerous restaurants, taverns and cafés. Food is usually displayed on piles of ice along the street.
Royal Museums of Fine Art
These two museums are the Museum of Ancient Art (established by Napoleon and renowned for its collection of painting by the Flemish Masters) and the Museum of Modern Art (consisting of no less than eight floors). Together they display works of art from a 600-year time period. It’s fabulous.
This strange looking monument is easily one of the most interesting things to see in Brussels. It was built in for the World Fair in 1958 as an homage to the atomic age. It is in fact an iron atom enlarged 165 billion times. You can go up to the top of this large structure for pretty great views of the city.
Belgian Comic Strip Center
It’s not widely known that Belgium is in fact the world capital of comic books. World-famous examples are Spike and Suzy, the Smurfs and Tintin. There are dozens upon dozens of others. This museum is dedicated to cartoons. The building itself is worth seeing too, as it was designed by Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta.
In addition to this museum, you can also see half a dozen large comic murals in the city. You can pick up a map at the visitor center.
Grand-Place/Grote Markt and the Town Hall
By far the most important tourist attraction of Brussels, the gorgeous Grand-Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This cobbled town square is fringed with spectacular medieval guild houses. The Gothic Town Hall is located at the Grand-Place and a stunning piece of architecture. You can climb the tower for more amazing views over Brussels.
Although these are my personal favorite things to see in Brussels, there are so many more. I would strongly suggest booking yourself a hotel in Brussels and spend at least three or four days exploring.