The capital of Belgium is often overlooked as a tourist destination. But why is that? It’s full of history, interesting architecture, it’s got a unique blend of French and Flemish culture, and the food is to die for. Sure the city isn’t known for being the most beautiful capital in Europe, but with everything in Belgium being around 2 hours by train from Brussels, it certainly makes for a great base to explore this interesting little European nation.
Getting to Brussels
Getting to Brussels is pretty straight forward. The city is serviced by two main airports. Brussels airport is located near to the city and a train runs straight into the city from the airport. Budget airline airport, Charleroi, is located a bit further away, but is also well connected to the capital by public transport.
If you are overlanding it, you will find Brussels well connected by both bus and rail networks in Europe. The fast Eurostar train links Brussels to London as well, and in two hours you can travel from London’s St Pancras station to the middle of Brussels.
What to see and do in Brussels
Grand Place-Grote Markt – The main square of Brussels is a large space always filled with people, activities, artists and other peddlers. It’s often the scene of small festivals within the city, and also hosts the annual Christmas tree. The square is lined by impressive civic buildings and guild buildings that are over 300 years old.
At times the buildings here are used as a canvas for an impressive light and multimedia show which is really not to be missed.
Manneken Pis – Manneken Pis is Belgium’s most famous little boy. He is very little, very cheeky, and made of metal… Manneken Pis is a statue of a small boy peeing. There are a lot of theories as to the origins of this famous little statue, but none have been proven. Today it one of the most popular tourist attractions in Brussels.
Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) – Belgium wanted to be like it’s powerful neighbours. This used to mean having colonies. Belgium’s colonies were in central Africa, and this museum houses a great collection of artifacts from various central African countries. The museum is located just outside Brussels, in Tervuren, a short bus ride from the city.
Musée Magritte Museum – This museum was newly opened when I lived in Belgium, and it was one of the most popular museums to visit in Brussels. The museum features the work of surrealist Renee Magritte. The signs in the museum are only in Dutch and French, so English speakers should seriously consider getting the audio guide.
European Parliament – Brussels is the home of the European Union. If you are interested in European politics, or simply want to see where some of the big decisions that affect Europe are made, then make sure to visit the European Parliament. Free tours are available.
Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique – Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van Belgie – This is Belgiums foremost fine art museum. The museum is home is the best of Belgian art from throughout the ages, from the 14th century all the way through to the modern age.
Brasserie Cantillon Brouwerij – This is both a working brewery and a museum all in one. This is the only brewery left in the world that makes beer using the traditional spontaneous fermentation method. This means that instead of adding yeast in the brewing process, they instead let the beer sit in open vats in the roof space. This allows the natural yeast which only lives in the air in Brussels to naturally ferment the beer. It produces an extremely unique beer called Gueze. You can sample the gueze here, and also buy some to take home.
What to eat and drink in Brussels
To read more about food in Belgium, check out our post here.
Want to explore the rest of Belgium?
The following guides may be helpful: