The capital of Belgium, Brussels, is a fascinating place with stunning architecture and fascinating history packed into every street and alleyway. The vibe of the city is hard to put your finger on. Sometimes it seems every business and bureaucracy-focused, it is after all the administerial center of the EU, but at other times it feels laid back and does not take itself too seriously: think Manneken Pis and The Comic Strip Centre.
It is this multi-layered atmosphere that makes Brussels such a great city to visit. It truly has something for everyone and offers European staples such as art and architecture alongside more unusual attractions. Don’t visit Brussels if you are on a diet as the fries, mussels, and beer will soon have you indulging. Spending just a couple of days in the city will allow you to see all of the major and most popular sights but if you are here for a week, you will be able to visit some more obscure, but equally fascinating attractions. Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Brussels.
Be Inspired by the Grand Place
One of the best things to do in Brussels is to visit the Grand Place. The Grand Place is hidden away in the center of the city but when you enter on foot, you are guaranteed to be left awestruck. At the center of the Grand Place is the beautiful 15th Century city hall but dotted around the square you will also be impressed by the six guild halls and their striking architecture. The square is worth visiting several times at different times of the day. On certain days there is a flower market in the square and visiting at night is recommended.
Visit Brussel’s Notre Dame Du Sablon
This spectacular Gothic cathedral began life in the 14th Century when it was used as a chapel by the Archer’s Guild. It was extensively expanded in the next century to the popularity and supposed healing powers of the Madonna statue located within. The statue was allegedly stolen by a husband and wife team of thieves in a rowing boat. The location of the statue is unknown but the story is commemorated by a lifesize model inside the building.
Admire Le Botanique
Le Botanique was historically the botanical garden of the city and still attracts a large number of guests in the modern-day. The greenhouse, which dates back to the 19th Century, now regularly plays host to a range of performing arts and makes the place feel like more of a cultural center than just a garden. However, if you are into greenery then the surrounding gardens are still intact and present in all their glory and make for a welcoming change of pace from the city itself. Visiting Le Botanique is also one of the best things to do in Brussels.
Place Royale (Koningsplein)
A favorite attraction for photo-ops, the most important building on this square is the Royal Palace (Palais Royal), which is used by the Belgian royal family as an official residence.
The Belgian flag, flown from the roof, signals the sovereign’s presence, and a ceremonial Changing of the Guard takes place every day at about 2:30 pm.
From late July to late August, free guided tours of the palace’s interior, taking in the grand reception rooms and halls, are available.
Surrounding the palace is an ensemble of cultural buildings boasting Neoclassical facades.
The Palais des Académies, home of the Royal Academy of Sciences and once the residence of the Crown Prince of Orange, and the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Paleis voor Schone Kunste) on the west side of the plaza, designed and built in the 1920s by Victor Horta, are two of the finest examples.
Mont des Arts
The Mont des Arts were created between 1956 and 1958, occupying the elevated site between the Place Royale and the Place de l’Albertine.
The architecturally imposing complex of large buildings includes the Bibliothèque Albert I and the strikingly modern Palais de la Dynastie and Palais de Congrès.
From the square between them is a fine view of the lower central city. The Bibliothèque Albert I was founded during the period of Burgundian rule and comprises more than three million volumes together with a valuable collection of manuscripts and several interesting museums. This is a must-see for the best things to do in Brussels.
Visit the Palace of Justice
This enormous building looming out over the Marolles area houses the main courthouse of Belgium. Although it’s been in scaffoldings forever, the Palace of Justice remains a very impressive construction. But don’t stay outside! Have a look inside and discover an exquisite sample of classical architecture. The entrance is free.
Above are the top 6 tourist attractions in Brussels that I feel are most impressive and interesting. However, in Brussels, there are many attractive tourist attractions that you should not miss. Hopefully, through this “Best things to do in Brussels” article, you can prepare yourself for the experience before having a trip to Brussels, Belgium.