Brussels is the capital city of Belgium. It’s also sometimes referred to as the unofficial capital of the EU because of the number of institutions that have their headquarters in the city. While it may not be the first place on many travel wish lists, tourism is steadily growing in Brussels. There are many cool things to do in Brussels, from visiting interesting museums and seeing attractive landmarks, to sampling local specialties and spending lively evenings in the city’s many pubs and bars.
This handy guide will take you through the top things to do in Brussels Belgium—the European country. (Not to be confused with things to do in Brussels Ontario, things to do in Brussels WI, or things to do in Brussels Il!) We’ll also give you some top tips for a fabulous getaway and answer common travel questions about Brussels.
What is Brussels Best Known For?
As already mentioned, Brussels is famous for being home to several European institutions. They include the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of the European Union.
The city is known for its architecture and historical landmarks, some of which are UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites, interspersed with leafy parks and open green spaces. One of the most well-known (and bizarre!) landmarks is the fountain of Manneken Pis. People also typically associate traditional Belgian cuisine and delicacies, such as mussels, waffles, and chocolate, with the capital.
Is Brussels Expensive to Visit?
Compared with other western European capitals, Brussels is pretty affordable for a visit. There are many accommodations to suit different budgets, including a wealth of quality hostels. Many attractions are in a fairly compact area, meaning that you can explore the highlights on foot. For places farther afield, there are excellent and reasonably priced public transportation options. Alternatively, do as the locals do and rent a bicycle! There are cheap rentals throughout the city.
Food and drink are generally reasonably priced. Of course, if you want to dine in high-end gourmet restaurants each night your budget will however skyrocket! Embrace the local way of life when it comes to mealtimes, though, and you’ll find that Belgium is pretty affordable. Local Belgian beer is also quite pocket-friendly.
Free Things to Do in Brussels
Another way to keep costs down when exploring Brussels is to take full advantage of free attractions and activities.
Strolling through Brussel’s historic streets won’t cost a single cent. Gaze in awe at the majestic guildhall buildings that surround the Grand Place, snap pictures of the unusual fountains of Manneken Pis and Jeanekke Pis, admire the Gothic gem of Notre Dame du Sablon, and see the gleaming sculpture of Atomium.
Free museums in Brussels include the House of European History, the art-themed Meunier Museum, and the Parlamentarium. There’s also no charge to visit the Palace of Justice or the Royal Palace (only open in summer).
And, there are even more great free things to do in Brussels Belgium! Admire the sweeping views from atop the MIM building, relax in a pretty park, meet the animals at Ferme du Parc Maximilien (an especially great thing to do in Brussels with kids), and see the abundant artwork in the underground stations.
Things to Do in Brussels Belgium for a Day
With just a day in Brussels, a ride on a hop-on hop-off bus can be a terrific way to get an overview of the highlights and see several major attractions. Plus, you’ll hear tons of interesting commentary as you travel around the city. Pick a couple of places to explore in more depth and enjoy a traditional meal, washed down with a glass of Belgian beer. You’ll likely be surprised by how many things to do in Brussels in a day you can enjoy.
What to Do in Brussels in Two Days?
With two days to spend in Brussels, you can uncover even more of the Belgian capital. A bus tour is still a great way to hit the highlights, though you can also choose to explore by foot to soak up more of the city’s vibe.
You’ll be able to check off many of the city’s top landmarks and enjoy the best things to see in Brussels. If you use your time wisely you should also be able to visit a couple of museums and even try a fun activity or two. How about joining a waffle-making workshop? Travelers with a sweet tooth are sure to love a chocolate-tasting tour. In the evening, why not join a pub crawl to experience some of Brussels' best nightlife?
Top Ten Things to Do in Brussels
We’ve already mentioned lots of the excellent free things to do in Brussels. There’s still even more, though! Whether you have a day in Brussels or plan to stay longer, these are some of the top things to do in Brussels that you might want to consider adding to your itinerary:
1. Admire the Collections in Musee Royaux Beaux Arts
Home to fine and modern arts, the Musee Royaux Beaux-Arts (or Royal Museum of Fine Arts) is a must for any art lover when visiting Brussels. There are works by famous artists, both from Belgium and from around the world.
2. Learn More about Brussels’ Past at the Broodhuis
The Broodhuis is an elegant and extravagant building that contains an interesting museum dedicated to Brussels’ history. Travel back in time to the Middle Ages and see how the Belgian capital has developed and changed over the years.
3. Explore a Continent at Mini Europe
For families, one of the best things to do in Brussels Belgium is exploring Mini Europe. See models of many iconic landmarks from around the continent, including the Eiffel Tower, London’s Houses of Parliament, and the Brandenburg Gate.
4. Time Travel at the Natural Sciences Museum
The Natural Sciences Museum is another awesome family-friendly attraction in Brussels. The huge dinosaur collection often proves popular with younger visitors, and there are plenty more exhibits relating to creatures of the past and from today.
5. Book a Tour of the European Parliament
Find out more about the inner workings of the EU with a parliament tour. See where decisions are made and debates are held and learn about the history of the institution.
6. Visit Cantillon Brewery
Visiting Cantillon Brewery is right up there when it comes to fun things to do in Brussels. Learn about traditional brewing techniques (some of which are no longer used in any other place) and sample locally brewed beverages.
7. Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride
One of the most romantic things to do in Brussels Belgium is to take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the Lower Town. Relax in the carriage with your love and watch the sights unfold as you trot through the streets.
8. Dive Deep at Nemo 33
Nemo 33 holds the claim to fame of being the deepest indoor swimming pool on the planet. Reaching as deep down as 113 feet, the pool has several platforms and artificial caves. A fun place to dive, it’s definitely one of the more unusual things to do in Brussels!
9. Join a Culinary Workshop
Wouldn’t it be great to know how to replicate Belgian specialties at home? You can! Chocoholics can create their own fine confectionary, and waffle aficionados can bake delicious goodies. Sessions take around two hours.
10. Go Bar Hopping in Saint Gilles
Enjoy a classy night out in Saint Gilles, with elegant bars and café-bars in beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings. The ambiance is relaxed and you’ll certainly feel chilled out as you sip on your cocktail, beer, or glass of wine. It’s among the best things to do in Brussels at night.
Planning Your Break in Brussels
If you were wondering what does Brussels has to offer, the answer is a lot! It’s time to get planning your fun-filled city break!