Regardless of your view of Brexit, you’ll love the delightful city of Brussels, the capital of Belgium! Renowned for its politics, architecture, beer drinking and chocolate making, this compact city bursting with culture is the heart of Europe, and will no doubt win your heart as well.
No sprout about it, Brussels is a beautiful city.
Brussels has a rich history, and there’s no way I could cover it all here, but I’ll give you a flavour. From the 12th Century, Brussels became an important trading town thanks to the local artisans and its location on the river Senne, particularly through its luxury textile trade sent off to fairs in Paris and Venice. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Brussels blossomed into a cultural centre, even hosting three World Fairs in the cosmopolitan city. Fast forward to the 21st Century, and Brussels emerged as a bilingual city bursting with culture and political importance as the capital of the European Union.
Here’s a Pro-tip: Visit the Grand Place before the morning rush (7am should suffice). The square is magical at this hour, and you’ll likely have it mostly to yourself!
I choc up my love of Brussels to its delicious food!
Here’s Another Pro-tip: If you’re under the age of 26 or over 60, you’ll enjoy discounted train tickets in Belgium. Make sure you mention it when buying tickets (or click the age box when purchasing from a machine). You might need to show your ID, but anything with your birthday on will suffice.
Brussels is the perfect city for a long weekend as it is compact enough to explore over three or four days. To help organise your time in the city, check out my must-see sights below:
Mini-Europe will please you mightily!
- Grand Place – The Grand Place is bound to be on the top of your must-see list! This majestic palace is over 300 years old and stands proudly in Brussels town square. Admire the architecture of neighbouring buildings, including the # and the Town Hall, while you’re here.
- Old England Building – For more spectacular architecture, check out the Old England building. The structure dates back to the 19th Century and features an ornate art nouveau facade. Inside you’ll find the ground-breaking MIM music museum with over 2,000 musical instruments on display!
- Comic Book Route – For lovers of comics and pop art, Brussels is the birthplace of Smurfs and Tintin and you’ll find murals all over the city. Start a self-guided walk at the Comic Book Centre and follow the comic book route to check out all the comic strip murals.
- Atomium – While not technically in central Brussels, the Atomium is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Head west to Heysel Park, and you’ll find this funky atom shaped structure (it’s hard to miss). From atop the atom, you can enjoy panoramic views over Brussels.
Ale agree, Brussels is certainly lager than life!
- Palais Royal – The Royal Palace is the former home of the rulers of Belgium. If you’re visiting in the summer months, I recommend taking a guided tour of the staterooms – one of which has a beetle wing mosaic on the ceiling!
- Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert –Take a stroll through this beautiful hall of luxury shops for the ultimate shopping experience. The Galleries are also home to a few of the very best chocolate shops.
- Le Botanique – This is a 19th Century greenhouse and botanical garden. Today the building is largely used as a cultural institution for local performing art groups. The gardens are glorious and well worth a stroll.
- Mini-Europe – Located in Brupark is a miniature park representing Europe. Mini-Europe is built to a scale of 1:25 and features over 80 cities, 350 buildings and several live-action models. It’s cool.
- Manneken-Pis – This little fountain statue is a symbol of Brussels and a testament to the quirky spirit of the city. During important events, the city dresses up the Makkenen-Pis in luxurious outfits gifted to him from around the world. What other statue in the world has its own wardrobe?
Waffles, waffles and more waffles! Brussels is well known for this fluffy treat, but there’s more to the city than delicious desserts. Brussels is home to over 25 Michelin starred restaurants and has been dubbed northern Europe’s food capital. Here are my favourite places to eat in the city:
I like Brussels a waffle lot!
- Restaurant Le Rabassier – If you enjoy white-tablecloth fine-dining, impeccable service and tasting menus as long as your arm, then reserve a table at Restaurant Le Rabassier. With two Michelin stars and a black truffle tasting menu, you’re in for a real treat!
- Le Bistro – Le Bistro is a neighbourhood restaurant serving hearty, homely food, focusing on traditional Belgian cuisine. The industrial decor and terrace dining area are both a big hit!
- Fin de Siecle – Fin de Siecle is a charming French brasserie and restaurant serving an array of traditional delights, including lamb knuckles, a rabbit stew and ‘stoemp saucisses’, a filling country sausage dish best served with a local beer!
Belgium’s capital comes alive at night when travellers and locals alike complete their evening meal and go to the bars for a good boogie! From jazz halls to wine bars, here are my favourite places to drink in Brussels:
- Botanique – Earlier I mentioned that Le Botanique doubles as a cultural institution, and I wasn’t joking. The venue puts on plenty of evening entertainment throughout the year covering everything from interpretive dance to art shows and live concerts from international musicians. Drinks can be purchased at the Botanique bar using funky tokens.
- Roskam – Roskam is a dimly lit bar where locals and tourists alike enjoy a refreshing beverage, huddled around an old wooden table. The bar is particularly busy on Sunday’s when local jazz bands take to the stage. Entrance on music night is free.
- Delirium Cafe – When a bar says it sells over 2,000 beers (and has won the Guinness World Record for number of beers available), then you can bet I’ll be a regular visitor. Chocolate, hot pepper and gingerbread beer are just some of the weird and wonderful beer flavours on the menu at Delirium Cafe.
When it comes to organising accommodation, I can never decide between luxury, boutique, or quirky hotels. Below I’ve provided my favourite properties in Brussels, covering all categories:
- Hotel Amigo – For a fancy stay in one of Brussel’s most talked-about hotels, reserve a room at Hotel Amigo. The hotel is within walking distance of Brussels’ historic city centre and usually hosts the likes of visiting A-listers, political leaders and anyone who enjoys exceptional service.
- Hotel des Galeries – Hotel des Galeries is a boutique accommodation option in central Brussels. While the building itself maintains its historical facade, the interior decor is contemporary and funky artwork can be found in all rooms.
- Hotel Metropole – Take yourself back to the 19th Century with a night at the Hotel Metropole. This grand hotel is full of old-world charm (think ornate chandeliers and impressive decorative ceilings), which makes your stay feel quite regal.
Belgium’s capital may have a reputation of being sleepy but that’s just a façade. This little city has plenty of attitude, and there’s fun around every corner, from enjoying cutting-edge art, sipping world-class beer and learning the art of chocolate making.