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Brussels in Belgium is considered the capital of the European Union, but when families plan their travels to Europe, it is often overlooked.
The city of Brussels has plenty to offer families, it has a vibrant blend of rich history, stunning art nouveau architecture, delicious cuisine, and a thriving cultural scene.
There are so many things to do in Brussels that it can be hard to decide what to add to your list. In this guide, we’ve shared what to do in Brussels and what attractions should not be skipped.
- Things to Do in Brussels
- 1. Try Brussels Frites
- 2. Get Some Moules-Frites
- 3. Visit Chocolate a Chocolatier
- 4. Admire The Royal Palace of Brussels
- 5. Visit Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History
- 6. Marvel at Notre Dame du Sablon
- 7. Be Amazed at Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
- 8. Shop 'Till You Drop At Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and Rue des Bouchers
- 9. Check Out the Christmas Markets
- 10. LOL at Manneken Pis
- 11. Take a Day Trip to Bruges
- 12. See The Old England Building & Musical Instruments Museum
- 13. Learn at the Brussels City Museum
- 14. Admire the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
- 15. Visit Atomium
- 16. Go to the Comics Art Museum
- 17. Visit Mini-Europe
- 18. Try Belgian Waffles
- 19. Visit Poechenellekelder, A Puppet Theatre Bar
- Where to stay in Brussels
- Final Thoughts
Things to Do in Brussels
Below are some of the most unmissable and amazing attractions in Brussels for any type of traveler, whether you’re a family like us or a couple or solo traveler!
1. Try Brussels Frites
Frites, commonly known as ‘french fries” are a Belgian creation. In Brussels, the whole experience in having these delectable fried potatoes is taken up to another level.
First, they are prepared crispier than any you will probably have. Second, and here is where the fun comes for the kids, they have endless toppings ranging from simple mayonnaise to all sorts of curries. The combinations are endless.
One of our favorite evenings spent in the city was stopping at Fritland, a popular destination near the Grand Place and we purchased fries and strolled through the cobbled stone streets at night when most of the tourists have gone, and were able to get a clear photo in front of the famous Manneken-Pis.
2. Get Some Moules-Frites
Moules Frites is probably the most famous dining option in Brussels if not all of Belgium. It would be the equivalent of getting a steak in Texas.
Mussels, for many, take more of an acquired taste than the paralleling dish I mentioned, but once acquired, few meals are as satisfying. If you or your children have never had them before, this is the place to start.
Prepared very simply, usually “Au Vin Blanc” style (steamed in a butter, leek, and wine broth) and served with fries, it’s the subtleness from the use of the best mussels and simple ingredients and usually served in a cast iron pot, makes the dish the perfect hybrid of poor man’s food and sophistication.
Our recommendation for the best place to have Moules Frites is a traditional Belgian Restaurant named, La Maree.
You may not find it on every “best of” list, but it is where our Airbnb host recommended. When we sat, we were definitely the only “non-locals’ there. It made for an unequalled authentic experience.
3. Visit Chocolate a Chocolatier
Chocolate plays an important role in the Belgian culture. The country is historically (since the 17th Century) one of the most important producers of the confection.
With over 2,000 chocolatiers both large and small, there is no shortage of excellent chocolate. The Belgian appreciation for chocolate is something unique.
Mind you, experiencing a chocolate shop and its services is not to be equalled to an M&M’s store. Nothing against the mega chocolate producer, the boutiques in Brussels are a different breed.
Bring the kids to a chocolatier named, Mary of Brussels, where they have been making the most luxurious, mouthwatering treats since 1919.
A family can spend quite a bit of time choosing from the large array offered. The best part, no matter what the price, or how much you purchase, you will be treated to the same white glove service.
4. Admire The Royal Palace of Brussels
Hidden amidst the heart of Brussels lies a majestic gem that attracts thousands of visitors to Brussels to see – The Royal Palace.
Steeped in history, this architectural marvel stands as a testament to Belgium’s royal heritage.
From its origins as a 12th-century fortress to its transformation into an opulent residence fit for kings and queens, the palace has witnessed centuries of political intrigue and cultural milestones.
Its iconic neoclassical facade, adorned with exquisite sculptures and ornate details, is just one of the many features of the palace to be admired. Step inside to see where true opulence and grandeur are showcased.
5. Visit Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History
The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels beckons with its captivating allure, offering a window into Belgium’s rich military heritage.
This museum stands as a testament to the nation’s resilience and the sacrifices made by its armed forces throughout the ages.
From its awe-inspiring collection of weapons, uniforms, and artifacts spanning centuries of conflict, visitors are transported on a journey through time.
Delve into the stories of brave soldiers, explore meticulously recreated battle scenes, and marvel at intricate displays of tanks and aircraft.
6. Marvel at Notre Dame du Sablon
The Notre Dame du Sablon dates back to the 15th century, and is a magnificent late Brabantine Gothic church that has long been patronized by the city’s nobility and affluent citizens.
Adorned with intricate detailing and captivating stained-glass windows, it exudes an air of timeless beauty and spirituality.
Beyond its architectural splendor, Notre Dame du Sablon holds deep significance as the origin of the historic ‘Ommegang’ procession, honoring the statue of the Virgin Mary.
A visit to this remarkable place allows you to delve into centuries of spiritual devotion and witness the enduring legacy of Brussels’ faith.
7. Be Amazed at Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Immerse yourself in the captivating world of art and culture at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.
With a history dating back over two centuries, this prestigious institution holds an extensive collection of over 20,000 drawings, sculptures, and paintings.
From the early 15th century to the present day, the museum showcases a diverse range of artistic expressions, tracing the evolution of visual arts through the ages.
Beyond its magnificent displays, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts play a significant role in preserving the cultural heritage of Belgium and celebrating the talents of both deceased and living Belgian artists.
8. Shop ‘Till You Drop At Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and Rue des Bouchers
Indulge in a shopping experience like no other at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and Rue des Bouchers in Brussels. These iconic shopping arcades have been a place to pick up boutique items for decades.
The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, dating back to the 19th century, is a collection of elegant glazed arcades that house a plethora of high-end boutiques and artisanal shops.
Meanwhile, Rue des Bouchers is a charming cobblestone street lined with bustling restaurants and quaint shops, offering a taste of Brussels’ culinary delights.
Beyond their retail offerings, both arcades hold immense cultural significance as they showcase the city’s architectural splendor and preserve the traditions of a bygone era.
It’s far more exciting than shopping at any old department store!
9. Check Out the Christmas Markets
The Christmas Markets are one of the top things to do in Brussels in the winter and are a cherished tradition that dates back over two decades.
These markets, known as Winter Wonders, transform the city into a magical wonderland during the holiday season.
Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere as you wander through the charming chalets adorned with twinkling lights.
Indulge in traditional Belgian delicacies, sip on mulled wine, and browse unique handmade crafts.
Beyond the joyous ambiance, the Christmas markets hold significant historical and cultural importance, showcasing the rich heritage of Brussels and providing a space for local artisans and vendors to show off their works.
You may also like these Christmas markets in Prague
10. LOL at Manneken Pis
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Brussels with kids, then embark on a whimsical journey through Brussels and discover the iconic Manneken Pis.
This bronze statue, dating back to the 17th century, holds immense historical significance as a symbol of Belgian resilience and humor.
Legend has it that the young boy depicted in the statue saved Brussels from disaster by extinguishing a fire with his urine.
Today, the statue is dressed in various costumes throughout the year, showcasing the city’s vibrant culture and celebrating special occasions.
11. Take a Day Trip to Bruges
One of the top day trips from Brussels is to Bruges. Steeped in rich history, Bruges transports you to medieval times with its well-preserved architecture and charming cobblestone streets.
Explore the picturesque city center, adorned with stunning landmarks like Saint Salvator Cathedral and the bustling Grote Markt.
Immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere as you stroll along the idyllic canals and indulge in delectable Belgian chocolate and waffles.
12. See The Old England Building & Musical Instruments Museum
The Old England Building is a remarkable testament to Art Nouveau architecture.
This historic building, designed by renowned architect Paul Saintenoy in 1899, was initially home to the esteemed Old England department store.
Today, it houses the fascinating Musical Instruments Museum (MIM). Step inside and be transported to a world of musical enchantment as you explore the extensive collection of instruments from around the globe.
13. Learn at the Brussels City Museum
Another one of the most popular tourist attractions in Brussels to learn about the history of the city is the Brussels City Museum.
Founded in 1887, this museum offers a fascinating exploration of Brussels’ rich history and culture.
Immerse yourself in the origins and development of the city, as well as the lives of its people.
Marvel at the extensive collection of fine and applied arts, including exquisite tapestries, silverware, and paintings.
14. Admire the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Another beautiful building in Brussels is the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels.
With its origins dating back to the 9th century, this magnificent cathedral holds centuries of history within its walls.
Originally a Romanesque church that was later replaced by a Gothic masterpiece, it stands as a testament to architectural brilliance and religious devotion.
As you wander down the pews, take in the serene atmosphere as you marvel at the stunning stained glass windows and intricate sculptures.
As the patron saints of Brussels, St. Michael and St. Gudula symbolize the city’s deep-rooted faith and serve as a reminder of its cultural heritage.
15. Visit Atomium
Originally built as a temporary monument for the 1958 Brussels World Fair, this architectural marvel quickly became an enduring symbol of European capital.
Its futuristic design, resembling an iron crystal, reflects the great faith people invested in scientific progress and human achievement.
You can explore the interior exhibition spaces, dedicated to showcasing diverse themes and cultural experiences, or head to the top for incredible views of the city.
16. Go to the Comics Art Museum
Step into a world where art and storytelling blend seamlessly at the Comics Art Museum. This extraordinary attraction pays homage to the creators and heroes of the 9th Art for over three decades.
With a stunning collection of comic strips, the museum celebrates the rich history and cultural significance of Belgian comics.
Explore the beautifully designed exhibits housed in a magnificent Art Nouveau building, showcasing the evolution of this unique art form, and see world famous favorite characters from The Smurfs to Tintin.
17. Visit Mini-Europe
If you’re looking for more unique things to do in Brussels, consider immersing yourself in European history and culture at Mini-Europe.
Nestled at the foot of the iconic Atomium, this enchanting miniature park invites you to discover over 350 meticulously crafted replicas of European landmarks. From the Eiffel Tower to Big Ben to the Colosseum in Rome, each monument was carefully selected for its architectural significance and European symbolism.
Opened in 1989, Mini-Europe has become a beloved landmark in Brussels, offering visitors a chance to explore the EU’s diverse heritage in a single location.
18. Try Belgian Waffles
Belgian Waffles are probably an item we have all had at some point. The one’s made in Brussels are the best we ever had, they simply have been making them for so long that they have that expert hand that only comes from experience.
There are many waffle stands in Brussels, and most of them offer an excellent plain waffle with some powdered sugar for just 1 euro. A little more if you want whipped cream, Belgian chocolate, or ice cream.
If your kids are just like mine, you’ll definitely be paying more than 1 euro, but according to my kid, it was worth the extra.
You may like these food experiences in Brussels
19. Visit Poechenellekelder, A Puppet Theatre Bar
Now that the kids have had their share of sweets, treat yourself to a Belgian Beer. The Belgian monks have made some of the best beers through the centuries.
One of the best places to enjoy a drink with the family in tow is, Poechenellekelder.
It’s a wonderful puppet theater bar. Our daughter explored the place, filled with vintage marionettes, while my wife and I sipped away on some excellent raspberry lambic ale.
Where to stay in Brussels
- The luxury Radisson Collection Grand Place Brussels has an enviable location near La Grand Place.
- The Warwick Brussels is a short walk away from the Grand Place and other attractions in Brussels. They have a rooftop bar!
- Jam Hotel Brussels: Pet-friendly hotel with full-service spa, connected to a shopping center, near La Grand Place
You can use the map below to help you find a hotel or apartment rental in Brussels.
Next time you and your family are planning a trip to Europe, try to carve out some time for Brussels.
This lovely little city is a treat for the eyes and the stomach for all families to enjoy.
We hope this guide gave you some inspiration for what to do in Brussels and helped you plan a few attractions to add to your list!
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Have you visited Brussels? What were some of your favourite things to do in Brussels? Any other tips? Let us know in the comments.