The Belgian capital of Brussels is often overlooked as a destination for those visiting Europe, in favor of more well-known European cities like Paris, Amsterdam or Barcelona. Though the country and the city of Brussels is small, it offers plenty to do for travelers looking to experience European food, culture and history. There are so many places to go and sights to see in Brussels, but travelers looking to spend some time in the capital of Belgium should make sure to add these 11 to-do’s to their Belgium checklist.
1. Wander the great plaza of Grand Place
It’s impossible to take a trip to Brussels without experiencing Grand Place, an iconic public square that exemplifies European culture. The buildings of the Grand Place are made up of 15th-century European architecture, complete with baroque gables, gilded statues and elaborate guild symbols. The square is a place of high importance for Brussels, both as a tourist destination and landmark, but also as a place for people to go to make their voices heard. Along with being a place for public gathering, Grand Place has a large array of shops, delicious waffle stands, and is home to the Museum of the City of Brussels.
Address: Brussels, Belgium
Website: Grand Place
2. Take a tour of the European Parliament
As the capital of the European Union, Brussels is truly the crossroads of Europe, where many different European cultures come together – nowhere is this more evident than at the EU Headquarters in downtown Brussels, where visitors can enjoy an interactive tour of the past, present and future of the EU. This is the perfect place to go to learn about how the EU formed, what political parties are currently active in it, and its role as a world superpower.
Address: Rue Wiertz 60, 1047 Bruxelles, Belgium
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm (Monday - Friday), 10am - 6pm (Saturday & Sunday)
Website: Visiting The European Parliament
3. Have a beer at Delirium
With over 2,000 types of beer, Delirium is a great place to go and enjoy Belgian beer culture. Their bar is open from 10 am to 4 am, making Delirium a go-to place to sit back and spend a Saturday evening with friends, or a late night of dancing and live music on the weekends.
Address: Impasse de la Fidélité 4, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
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4. Try all of the different chocolates at Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier
Belgium is famous for their decadent chocolate, and there are literally hundreds of chocolate vendors in the city, making it nearly impossible to try them all. For a fully encompassing chocolate experience, travelers should visit Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier. This famous chocolatier has hundreds of mouthwatering chocolates to sample, and while you should definitely pick some up on your way out, the real reason to come to Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier is for their weekly Saturday chocolate workshop, where they teach you just how to make the perfect Belgian chocolate.
Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier
Address: Rue Ravenstein 2D, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Website: Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier
5. Have a traditional Belgian waffle at Maison Dandoy
Right by Grand Place is a great place to try another delectable Belgian delacy – Belgian waffles. Maison Dandoy has been making these delicious waffles since 1829, when the restaurant was merely a biscuit shop. Today, it has evolved into an attraction in and of itself, where visitors can indulge in delicious traditional Belgian baking.
Address: 4 locations in Brussels, check website for more information
Website: Maison Dandoy
6. Try mussels at Chez Leon
A little known fact to many tourists is that Belgium is famous for their mussels! When the country was undergoing a shortage of fish in the 1700s, the Belgians turned to the cheaper alternative of mussels, which could be conveniently imported via canals from nearby neighbor, the Netherlands. Since, mussels have become a Belgian specialty, and their take on mussels can be experienced at Chez Leon, a Belgian eatery close to Grand Place. To make the meal authentically Belgian, enjoy with a side of fries.
Address: Rue des Bouchers 18, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Website: Chez Leon
7. Have a picnic in Jubelpark
The perfect spot on a sunny day to people watch, enjoy European architecture, and spend your free-time in Brussels basking in the wide open space of greenery, is Jubelpark. The park was originally built in 1880 as a military exercise ground, but was renovated in 1930 and opened to the public for leisure. The park’s most redeeming feature is the magnificent Arc du Cinquantenaire, which forms the perfect centerpiece to this gorgeous open space. This is the perfect place to go on a lazy day in Brussels. Be sure to grab a blanket and picnic basket full of delicious Belgian bread!
Address: Brussels, Belgium
8. Try fries and mayonnaise at Frit-Flagey
You’ve heard of fries and ketchup, but what about fries and mayonnaise? This Belgian specialty, called “frites” can be enjoyed everywhere in Belgium, but Frit Flagey, a food stand in Ixelles, has a reputation among locals in Brussels for being the best place to go and enjoy Belgian frites with mayonnaise.
Address: Place Eugène Flagey, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium
9. Go shopping through the streets of Avenue Louise
Or window-shopping, as the high-end street of Avenue Louise is home to some of the biggest European fashion labels in the world. Avenue Louise is a runway for prestigious international brands like Versace and Chanel, and while few can afford much from the shops at Avenue Louise, looking through the windows of this beloved shopping district and marveling at the Art Nouveau buildings is worth taking a look at on your next trip to the city.
Address: Brussels, Belgium
The city of Ghent is undeniably one of the most beautiful parts of Belgium. As the country’s fourth largest city, Ghent is home to a quarter of a million people, and it has become well known for its flourishing flower export trade, its pedestrian friendly town-center, its gorgeous medieval architecture, and its young people, as the city is the home of Ghent University. Just an hour outside of Brussels and an easy commute from the train, Ghent is a popular day trip for visitors looking to explore more in Belgium than just its capital. From its charming canals, to its delicious chocolate shops and more, Ghent is well-loved by travelers and Belgian locals alike.
Day Trip to Ghent from Brussels
Price: from 41.11 USD
Duration: around 5.5 hours required
Just a short way south of Brussels is the town of Waterloo, where many of the families of the elite working in Brussels call home. Waterloo is lined with posh hotels, shops and restaurants, but amongst its elegant streets and renovated European homes, lies the Waterloo battleground and museum, a history lover’s dream. Though it’s been two centuries since the Battle of Waterloo, when French emperor Napoleon and his army faced off a coalition of British, Dutch and German forces in Waterloo, the site has been preserved as a European historic landmark. Visitors to the site can enter through the museum, to watch a quick informational video about the Battle of Waterloo. Afterwards, visitors are encouraged to climb Lion’s Mound – a hill leading to an observation deck, where the entire battleground of Waterloo can be viewed.
Brussels to Waterloo Private Battlegrounds Tour with Lion Hill
Duration: 4 hours
Thinking about skipping Brussels on your next trip to Europe? Think again – Brussels may not have the fame of London, Paris or Amsterdam, but this European City is full of diversity, culture, delicious food and plenty to see, and it is a must-do destination for backpackers and vacationers alike.
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