The inception of Brussels goes back to a small 10th-century fortress town which later developed into a market square. Today, Brussels has transformed into a multilingual, multicultural city which is the capital of Belgium and the entire European Union and boasts a plethora of attraction, museums and galleries, breweries, numerous tours, outstanding cinematic experiences and some of the most exciting events and festivals. The best way to make the most of your time in this beautiful vibrant city is to indulge in some of the best things to do in Brussels which include iconic sights like the Grand Place, Town Hall, House of the Dukes of Brabant, Manneken Pis, Royal Palace and the Atomium. Brussels is home to some stunning museums and art galleries including the Natural Sciences Museum of Belgium, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Museum of Fine Arts, City Museum and the Musical Instruments Museum. One can even witness the numerous entertainment and cultural performances which include orchestras, concerts and theatre or indulge in tours that range from chocolate tours, beer tours, bike tours, architectural tours to waffle workshops. Other top things to do in Brussels include attractions like the Royal Park, Palace of Justice, Train World, Sonian Forest, Autoworld, Belgian Comic Strip Center, Josaphat Park and the Coudenberg And Belvue Museum. The old-world charm and quintessentially European feel of Brussels, lists the city among the world’s most sought after travel destinations.
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#1 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 77934 times in trip plans
Family And Kids, Architecture , Heritage Building, Hall
1000 Brussels, Belgium
At first the site of various markets, the Grand Place gained political importance once the Brussels City Hall was built here. Still, seeing the ways it was almost destroyed, it’s almost surprising that the Grand Place exists today. The French Army flattened it in 1695 with cannon and mortar fire. It was rebuilt more harmoniously (but with clashing architecture like Baroque and Goth) before being ransacked again in the 18th century by French Revolutionaries. It was built back again in the 19th century and this time it persevered. Today it’s known as one of the most beautiful squares in the world. In 1998, it was named a UNESCO World heritage Site. As different parts of the square catered to different markets, the names of the streets leading off from the square still reflect the items once sold off their respective corners.
As a hangout, the place is sort of unbeatable, especially in the evening. The square and its pretty buildings are all enchantingly lit up. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a music and light show. Also, there’s a daily flower market there that always delights. You’ll find people lounging about quite readily in the square. It’s always lively. Do check out the City Hall which is 96 metres high and capped by the statue of St. Michael killing a demon. A symbol of municipal power. And also the Breadhouse which is also called the King’s House or the Maison du Roi. Built as a symbol of ducal power. Every two years, a flower carpet of a million begonias are set up to cover the whole square – an event very popular with the tourists.
#2 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 64006 times in trip plans
Religious Site, Family And Kids, Cathedral
Place Sainte-Gudule, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
07:00 am - 06:00 pm
Saint Michael and Saint Gugdule are patron saints of Brussels. On the site where the church now stands, there was in the 9th century a chapel dedicated to St. Michael, one that was replaced with a Romanesque church. St. Gudula’s relics were brought here in 1047. The final form of the church as seen today took over three centuries to finish, in 1519.
On a visit to the Church one must check out the French Gothic Western Façade, Brabantian Gothic Window, The gothic Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament of the Miracle, The Chapel of Our Lady of Deliverance with Romanesque altar, St. Mary Magdalene’s Baroque chapel, Statues of the 12 apostles, The nave with the Baroque pulpit depicting Adam and Eve expelled and Virgin and Child piercing the serpent.
Massive, regal and absolutely grand, the cathedral has another claim to fame: a nest of peregrine falcons on the cathedral’s northern tower that have become a favourite with everybody.
That said, the church has been pretty historically important too. In 1516, Charles was proclaimed King of Spain here; King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola (1960) as well as King Albert II (then Prince) and donna Paola (1959) were married here. A good number of the Royal Family is buried here.
It actually wasn’t until restoration work was happening in full swing in the 1990s in the cathedral that the Romanesque remains of the original church here and its crypt were discovered.
#3 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 47027 times in trip plans
Museum, Family And Kids, Specialty Museum
Rue Montagne de la Cour 2, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
09:30 am - 05:00 pm
Starting with a modest donation of a hundred Indian musical instruments by a Rajah in 1876 that was combined with the collection of Belgian musicologist Fetis, the museum over the last century has managed to accumulate 8000 instruments of the finest variety, covering practically every culture and age of the world. It’s the most comprehensive museum of its kind in the world, and one of Brussels’ foremost attractions. The layout of the museum is designed as Mechanical instruments in the basement, traditional instruments on the ground floor, orchestral instruments on the first floor and string and keyboard instruments on the second floor.
Upon visiting you’ll be given infrared earphones that’ll let you listen to the music of these instruments as you wander around the museum. Fascinating, deeply informative and a pure sensory delight, this museum is a must visit. If you need added motivation, there’s an excellent restaurant on top with panoramic views of Brussels.
#4 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 3991 times in trip plans
Museum, Park, Family And Kids
1000 Brussels, Belgium
This is a gorgeous enclave which houses quite a few museums and has seen and grown through the times and tides of time. It has seen many revolutions and grown through it to develop into a full fledged space, which has buildings that are miniature scoops of history like the Royal Military in the northern half of the campus. The southern half of the campus consists of Cinquantenaire Museum and the AutoWorld Museum. The park also has the Temple of Human Passions in the north western corner of the park, which also houses the remains of the Great Mosque of Brussels.
#5 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 12885 times in trip plans
Family And Kids, Architecture , Hall
Grand Place, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
10:00 am - 04:00 pm
Completed in 1420, this city hall is one of Brussel's most beautiful buildings. The architecture is Gothic. Pay attention to the facade and all the allegorical sculpture that adorns it. The most eye-catching element is the tower, a 96 meter high Brabantine Gothic spire that starts out square but becomes octagonal as it rises.
Back in 1695, the Duke of Villeroi heavily bombed the tower and most of its interior caught fire and was razed. The tower was built even larger than before and all the art and decorations inside were replaced. Today it has some of the city's finest fine arts and decorative arts collections, sculptures, paintings, and tapestries.
The only way to view the town hall is by guided tour, which are provided in multiple languages, including English.
#6 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 2348 times in trip plans
Garden, Botanical Garden, Family And Kids, Architecture
Avenue du Parc Royal, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
09:30 am - 09:30 pm
These stunning gardens are only open to the public for three weeks in spring every year when the flowers are blooming. As you might expect, demand to visit them is quite high. Built in the 19th century, these are probably one of the largest complex of climate controlled greenhouses in the world, about 2.5 hectares. Inside is the royal Botanic Collection. The architecture is Art Noveau. Tours of the garden also include access to the workshop of Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Stables, Notre Dame de Laeken en fleurs and the Royal Crypt.
#7 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 13251 times in trip plans
Outdoors, Forest, Family And Kids, Nature
Sonian Forest Belgium
12:01 am - 12:00 am
The 4000 hectares of this forest are known as Brussell's Lung. It's a part of the ancient Charcoal Forest, full of old beeches and oaks. It used to be much larger, but Napoleon's wars and later industrialisation seriously cut down its size. It's got a lovely mystic atmosphere that makes for lots of contemplative walking. That, jogging, cycling and even horse-riding its trails are the most common activities, but the forest does have a lot else to offer. Check out the following highlights:
Try and catch sight of: toads, newts, fire salamanders; birds like nuthatch, short-toed treecreeper, great spotted woodpecker, Goldcrest, kingfisher, winter wren; deer, bats, red squirrels, wild boar; various mushrooms and fish
The map of the forest on the attraction website will give you detailed eating spots
Check the forest website for fishing spots and related permissions
Various lodgings are available
The Bosmuseum Jan Van Ruusbroec (Forest Museum Jan Van Ruusbroec)-old farmstead
The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA)-huge ethnographic colleciton from central africa
Rouge-Cloître Abbey-currently an exhibition space
The Castle of La Hulpe Parks
The Folon Foundation-nice artwork-watercolours, sculptures.
#8 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 7285 times in trip plans
Family And Kids, Specialty Museum
Place Princesse Elisabeth 5, 1030 Bruxelles, Belgium
10:00 am - 05:00 pm
The official museum of the National Railway Company of Belgium opened only in 2015. In that short time tourists have warmed up to it a lot. The museum tells the story of trains in Europe, particularly Brussels. To do that it uses a collection of 22 sparkling locomotives from all across train history. The stars of their exhibit are the Pays de Waes, oldest preserved locomotive in Continental Europe (from 1842), a 19th century railway bridge, and the sceneries of Belgium and Europe recreated here by cartoonists. There are over 1200 items to be browsed and interacted with documents, films, historical artefacts. Check out the train driving simulator.
#9 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 27813 times in trip plans
Park, Walking Area, Leisure, Family And Kids
Bois de la Cambre,1000 Brussels, Belgium
The Bois de la Cambre is Belgium’s largest and most beautiful park – and it’s more prestigious for the access it grants to the ancient beech-wood Sonian forest. The park has a lake with a small island in the centre, called Robinson’s Island, and there’s also a lovely restaurant in the middle. The original, built in 1877, was destroyed in a fire. Walk around, and you’ll come to a place called the Englishman’s Lawn – a spot where in 1815, right before the battle of Waterloo, British soldiers amused themselves with cricket matches. Bike, run, walk, and chill. Take fantastic pictures of the natural beauty around you.
#10 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 60246 times in trip plans
Art And Culture, Shopping Center, Family And Kids, Architecture
Rue du Marché aux Herbes 90, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
This artistically done 19th century shopping gallery is probably what you are looking to quench your shop till you die thirst. The two stunning regular facades with glazing shop fronts standing under delicate cast-iron framework and the intentional bend makes the gallery appear long and distinctive. The in-house theatre- Theatre des Galeries Saint-Hubert and the number of cafes stick to the motto of the arcade: ‘everything for everybody’. The various luxury retailers flaunt international fashion brands and the well-lit cafes are an amazing way to spend your afternoons.
#11 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 42476 times in trip plans
Church, Religious Site, Family And Kids
Rue de la Régence 3, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
09:00 am - 06:00 pm
Set in the beautiful and historic Sablon district, this 15th century Catholic Church has a Brabantine Gothic exterior and a rich interior that includes two Baroque Chapels. The church is one of the best in its style. The church is especially noted for the contrast in its brightly colored stained glass windows in the four fold gallery make with the more demure grey white building. The sight is said to be especially striking at night. The best part is that it is usually quiet – not thronged much with tourists.
A curiosity in the church is the statue of Madonna that was once upon a time stolen from Brussels and taken to Antwerp but retuned in 1348. Apparently the theft was commissioned by a local Beatrijs Soetkens by the Virgin Mary in a dream; the statue was purported miraculous.
Features to note are the Pillars without capital, increasing verticality, the statues of the 12 apostles, the trforium and its motifs, a brilliant triptych by the Michel Coxie, the Baroque Pulpits and the reliquary of Saint Wivina.
#12 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 25968 times in trip plans
Family And Kids, Natural History Museum
Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
09:30 am - 05:00 pm
All you really need to know about the Museum of Natural Sciences is that it has the biggest dinosaur gallery in Europe. That’s not all though, a roomful of taxidermy exhibits (stuffed animals), another of whale skeletons, yet another of geology specimens, a mammoth – meaning if you’re bringing a kid here, you’ll literally become his or her favourite person ever. It has the largest Iguanodon fossil find in the country – over thirty near perfect specimens. The halls include Of Men and Mammoths which shows the evolution of man and about the last ice age, The Mammal Gallery that is about recent and extinct mammals, including a Thylacine, The North and South Pole which showcases a view of two different worlds in a Plexiglas tunnel, The Whale Hall where skeletons of whales, dolphins, walruses, sirenians and seals are displayed, The Shell Gallery with 9 million shells, The Insect Gallery: 15,000,000 specimens of which are 10,000 holotypes, The Mineral Gallery with crystals, cut gems, meteorites and precious bits of moon rock and The Ishango bone, a prehistoric bone counting tool.
#13 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 7529 times in trip plans
Rue Gheude 56, 1070 Anderlecht, Belgium
10:00 am - 05:00 pm
Founded in 1900, this family brewery has made a name for itself selling Gueuze beers. Other famous beers produced here include kriek, lambic, faro, framboise, Iris. Unlike microbreweries you'd usually find in other countries, this one doesn't feel flashy. It feels old and atmospheric, with old copper tubs and spider-webs. You'll get to check out barrel cleansing, fruit beer making, brewing and bottling. Naturally, there's a tasting at the end, though school groups may need their teacher's permission. What makes it even more precious is that this is the only brewery in Brussels actively offering tours to visitors.
#14 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 8245 times in trip plans
Family And Kids
Willy Brandt, Rue Wiertz 60, 1047 Bruxelles, Belgium
09:00 am - 06:00 pm
It's not often you get to see the seat of the governing body of an entire continent. At the visitor center you can get multimedia guides. These will take you through the immersive tour of the Parliament. The exhibits mostly focus on the impact of European integrations and it's role in the world today. The highlight of the visit is the 360 degree cinema. You also get to virtually explore the nations of the EU and a huge 3D map of Europe.
#15 of 170 Things to do in Brussels | Added 25544 times in trip plans
Art Museum, Family And Kids, Exhibition
Rue Esseghem 135, 1090 Jette, Belgium
10:00 am - 06:00 pm
The Musee Rene Magritte is a museum that is dedicated to the famous Belgian painter Rene Magritte and is located in the very house that he lived in for almost 24 years of his life. Various exhibitions, both temporary and permanent, fill up the floors of the buildings and display the genius works of the celebrated artist. The various illustrations on the first and second floors along with the documents, photographs, letters and paintings further help the visitors connect with the ideology and inspiration behind the artist.