Brussels

The ultimate Brussels travel guide

From stunning architecture, quirky attractions that capture the Belgian spirit, and the irresistible scent of freshly baked waffles lingering in the air, there’s something about Brussels that makes it truly one-of-a-kind. The capital of Belgium is a true gem waiting to be discovered! This ultimate Brussels travel guide is your gateway to the city’s finest attractions, our handpicked selection of top-notch restaurants, and an incredible hotel recommendation. Get ready to discover the best of Brussels and plan an unforgettable trip.

🇧🇪 Language: French/Dutch, English widely spoken
💰 Currency: Euro
⏳ Best time to visit: May to September

The best things to do in Brussels

Admire the iconic Atomium

The ultimate Brussels travel guide: Atomium

The Atomium stands as a true icon of Brussels and a must-see attraction for anyone visiting this vibrant city. This immense monument was designed and created for Expo 58, the world fair that was held in Brussels in 1958. The nine spheres not only symbolize an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times, but they also stand for the (at the time) 9 provinces that made up Belgium. It’s an impressive piece of architecture, even more so if you remember that it was built over 60 years ago! Each sphere has a diameter of 18m, when you see it in real life it will blow you away! Bonus points if you’re visiting the Atomium by night, absolutely amazing. 😍

You can either choose to admire the views of the Atomium from the “Atomium Square” in front of it, or buy tickets to enter the Atomium itself. The things you can do inside the Atomium vary greatly. You can visit multiple spheres, learn more about the city and monuments at the exhibition, play games, admire panoramic views,… On top of that, there even is a restaurant located inside the Atomium, right in the highest sphere! You don’t have to buy a ticket to dine at the restaurant, but we recommend making a reservation. 😉

As of writing this blog post, tickets are € 16,95 for adults, € 9,25 for teenagers/students or € 0,35 for children under 1m15cm. You might score a good deal on GetYourGuide, too, especially if you buy a combined ticket with other attractions in the area like “Mini-Europe”.

Where: Avenue de l’Atomium, 1020 Brussels

Good to know
The Atomium is not located in the center of Brussels, but it is definitely worth the detour! You can get there by metro, bike/rental bike (Villo!), or car. There’s street parking available around the Atomium Square.

Visit the Meise Botanical Gardens

Meise Botanical Gardens

A 10-minute drive from the Atomium, just outside the city center of Brussels, you’ll find the Meise Botanical Gardens. It is one of Europe’s largest botanical gardens, exhibiting a wide variety of plants. You could easily spend an entire morning here, there is so much to see!

Our favorite place is the Plant Palace, where you can find different greenhouses. You’ll see plants from the desert, the savannah, the tropical rainforest, and so much more. Make sure to stop at the Tropical Wetlands glasshouse, the pond with giant water lilies will immediately catch your attention. This was such a beautiful spot, we could stare for hours at this idyllic scene! 🥹

Where: Nieuwelaan 38, 1860 Meise

Good to know
🕙 Open every day from 10 AM to 6 PM.
💸 Admission is € 11 per person.

Visit the Grand-Place

The ultimate Brussels travel guide: the Grand-Place

The Grand-Place, a historic jewel nestled in the heart of Brussels, has been a focal point of Belgian culture and heritage for centuries. Over time, it has evolved into a remarkable showcase of architectural greatness. The most notable presence on the square is without doubt the awe-inspiring Town Hall. It’s a masterpiece of civil Gothic architecture and has (rightfully so) been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. If you’re really interested in visiting the Town Hall, you can buy tickets for a guided tour that will set you back € 15 (€ 6 if you’re a student or if you’re 65 and over).

What we absolutely love about the Grand-Place and its surroundings, is that it transports you back in time. No modern or fancy buildings in sight, only beautiful, historic cafes and restaurants that don’t fit so well with the scenery. There’s plenty to do and see here, whether it’s architecture, food, people-watching or even the start of your “Brussels walking tour”! Don’t be surprised to see a lot of tour guides walking around with country flags or umbrellas. 😂

You can see the Grand-Place as the actual “central hub” of the city, your starting point to get to all the major attractions in the city. It’s only a 2 minute walk to the Royal Galleries, 4 minutes to Manneken-Pis, 10 minutes to do some shopping in Rue Neuve, and so much more. More on those later, but you get the gist!

When we visited Brussels, the Belgian Beer Weekend took place on the Grand-Place. There were more than 500 different beers from over 50 breweries. Incredible right? Next year’s edition (2024) will take place from September 6 through September 8.

Stroll through the Royal Galleries

Royal Galleries

The Royal Galleries, only 2 minutes away from the Grand-Place, are home to many shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. The possibilities here are endless. You can find jewelry shops, luxury boutiques, pastry and biscuit shops, Belgian chocolate shops, traditional shops, cafés and restaurants of all kinds,… We’re sure you will find something on the three shopping arcades (the Queen’s Gallery, the King’s Gallery, the Princes’ Gallery) that make up the Royal Galleries.

But the abundance of shops and things to do is not only what makes these galeries a must visit. You’ll notice it right away when you’re here, but don’t forget to look up! The whole place has a glass roof with a metal frame, and the attention to detail is just amazing. So if it’s not to do some shopping or having lunch, then make sure to visit the Royal Galleries for its stunning architecture!

Manneken-Pis

Manneken-Pis

Probably the most famous “inhabitant” of Brussels is Manneken-Pis. This quirky bronze statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain has been living in Brussels since 1619! This fountain used to be super important for water supply. Now its mere use is luring tourists to Brussels. 😉 It’s only around 50cm tall, but has millions of visitors each year. Not bad for a little guy, right? It’s only 5 minutes away from the Grand-Place which makes it the ideal detour.

If for some reason you have trouble finding it, just follow the hordes of people all walking in the same direction. After about 5 minutes, you’ll notice they will all stop and stare, and that’s where you can find Manneken-Pis. If you need the exact location, Manneken-Pis can be found on the corner of the Rue de l’Etuve (Stoofstraat) and the Rue du Chêne (Eikstraat).

Fun fact
Don’t forget to check if the statue is dressed in one of its many costumes, which are changed periodically. The statue even has its own wardrobe!

Try some local specialties like waffles, fries, and beer

The ultimate Brussels travel guide: local specialties

In our comprehensive Brussels food guide, we take you on an amazing journey through Brussels’ culinary wonders. From discovering the crispiest, golden fries served with an array of delicious sauces to having warm waffles with amazing toppings as dessert, we’ve left no gastronomic stone unturned. Hungry yet? 😉

In addition to the great food Brussels has to offer, be sure to try some local beers! As we mentioned earlier, we visited Brussels during the Belgian Beer Weekend. We just had to taste some beers here. Looking for some recommendations?

Strong: Tripel Karmeliet (8,4%), Westvleteren (10,2%)
Sweet: Lindemans Pecheresse (2,5%), Liefmans Fruitesse (3,8%)

Do some shopping at Rue Neuve

A visit to Brussels is not complete without going on a shopping spree! You have countless places in Brussels where you can shop, ranging from luxury (Avenue Louise) to boutiques (Dansaert), and even flea markets (Place du Jeu de Balle Flea Market). If you’re interested in the “mainstream” stores and chains, however, we suggest you visit Rue Neuve (Nieuwstraat). It has all the things you need (and want), and will provide you with hours of shopping fun! Other than clothing stores, you can find countless cafes, restaurants and taverns around here as well. The ideal way to let your legs rest for a while before continuing your shopping. You’ll find chains and stores like Zara, Primark, Nike, H&M, Foot Locker,…

Fun fact
This shopping street is the most famous street in Brussels (maybe even Belgium). It is even featured on the Belgian version of Monopoly! And yes indeed, it is the most expensive street you can obtain in the game. 😂

Where to eat in Brussels

We published an entire food guide for Brussels, but below you’ll find a recap of the best places to eat in Brussels:

🥞 Mondday: lovely brunch spot with delicious fluffy pancakes and savory dishes
🥟 Foocha: tasty and affordable lunch spot with Asian dishes
🍜 Old Boy: Asian fusion restaurant with a fixed 6-course dinner menu
🌮 Gare Maritime: cozy food market with several stands of street food
🍣 Wolf: food market with different street food stalls from all over the world
🌯 Fox: trendy food market with 12 different food stalls
🍟 Friterie du Café Georgette: best fries in town, served in a paper cone
🧇 Maison Dandoy: delicious Brussels waffles

Where to stay in Brussels

The Hotel Brussels

Brussels is quite large, so it is important to pick a well-located hotel. We stayed at The Hotel (what’s in a name 😉), a 4-star hotel right next to Avenue Louise and a 15-minute walk from the Grand-Place. The location was just perfect! Everything was within walking distance, and right next to your hotel you have all kinds of stores and restaurants. If there wasn’t so much to do in Brussels, you wouldn’t even have to leave the hotel!

Read all about The Hotel: a romantic 4-star hotel in Brussels.

In addition to its ideal location, the interior of this luxury hotel is truly stunning. The rooms are very spacious and beautiful, some with breathtaking views of the gorgeous Brussels skyline. The hotel features a spa, fitness, bar, and a restaurant. Our room was just perfect, and the view could not have been better. The Hotel is the perfect place to stay if you want to spend a weekend in Brussels! We paid € 160 for one night, which we certainly find affordable for a gorgeous 4-star hotel in the heart of Brussels. Below are some hotel recommendations for every budget:

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