Brussels is the global headquarters of arguably the two best things in the world – beer and chocolate. So you really can’t go wrong with a trip to Brussels. Beyond the beer and chocolate, the Belgian capital is vibrant and lively, with an interesting cultural scene. Exhibitions and pop-up events are held year-round all over the city, and the nightlife is equally intriguing. If you’re considering different locations for your next weekend getaway, we think these 11 things to do in Brussels will help sway your decision.
1. Go shopping in the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert
Start your weekend off with a bang. Step into a world of luxury at the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert, an ensemble of glazed shopping arcades in the centre of the city. It was one of the first shopping centres to be built in Europe. At 200 metres long, there’s plenty to see. Dip into one of the high-end specialized boutiques or chocolatiers to find a piece of Belgium to take home with you (or to eat right away!).
Inside the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert, you’ll find the first Neuhaus chocolate store – considered to sell some of the best chocolate in the world. Make sure to try some of the specialty praline chocolate if you go.
2. Visit the Grand-Place
Just a few minutes walk from the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert is the Grand-Place. This square is the heart of the city, and considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Have a walk around, grab a seat at one of the terraces and watch the people go by while you sip on a cold Belgian beer. This is what holidays are truly about!
3. Get nostalgic over Tintin
In Brussels, it is impossible not to come across one of the many references to the famous comic book hero, Tintin. Tintin was created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the name Hergé. All around the city you’ll see nods to the famous cartoon reporter and adventurer. At the Gare du Midi, there is a huge fresco of Tintin in the entrance hall, hanging on to a steam train. A mural on the busy Rue de l’Étuve depicts a scene of Tintin escaping down a fire escape. And, Stockel metro station has a mural of 122 Tintin characters, lining up behind the railway line!
4. Visit Mini-Europe
Squeeze a Eurotrip into a few hours. As Brussels is the European Union headquarters, it’s fitting that one of their main attractions is a Mini-Europe. A park featuring all the wonders of Europe, all at a small-scale. Walk around the 350 monuments and take in the main sights of 27 countries, all in a two hour walk! A highlight for us is the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which alone required 24,000 hours of work. All the buildings in the park are built to a scale of 1/25 compared to their original. You might be surprised to see that the Eiffel tower is still taller than a 3-storey building, even after being scaled down!
5. See what the Manneken-Pis is wearing today
One of the top things to do in Brussels is to go and see the Manneken-Pis. It’s a small fountain sculpture of a boy urinating into the base of the fountain. Strange as it might seem, this fountain is a symbol of Brussels’ rebellious spirit. Throughout the year, the statue is dressed up in different clothes, depending on the events of the city. During the coronavirus pandemic, he can be seen wearing a mask covering his nose and mouth to show solidarity with the population of Brussels.
6. Enjoy a beer in the Delirium Bar
If you’re looking for a place to try a range of beers that Belgium has to offer, look no further than the Delirium Bar. This bar is in the Guinness World Records for having a menu of over 2000 beers. All of them at a great price.
Whilst choosing a beer out of 2,000 options sounds incredibly difficult, the friendly staff of Delirium Café are always on hand to listen to your preferences and suggest a beer that you might like. Try some of the old classics like the famous Belgian Abbay or a strong brown beer, or go for something a little more unusual like a beer flavoured with chocolate, hot pepper or gingerbread!
7. Go diving at Nemo 33
Brussels is a landlocked city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some underwater fun! Nemo 33 diving centre holds the deepest swimming pool in the world (33 meters). If you’ve always wanted to learn how to dive, Nemo 33 is a great place to take a diving course. It’s a wonderfully unexpected activity to do and you get to go home having achieved something.
If diving is not your thing, or you’re travelling with people who don’t want to dive themselves, the restaurant at Nemo 33 is a fantastic place to hang out and watch the divers in action.
8. Feast on waffles
Belgians have been connoisseurs of waffles since 1874, when families would add a booth onto their house especially to make these delicious treats. Since then, gauferies (waffle houses) have popped up all around the country and become a national dish. You’ll have plenty of choice when you visit Brussels, as you’re bound to find a food truck or cafe selling waffles at every street corner. Whether you go for a traditional square Brussels waffle or a more indulgent Liège waffle, the choice is yours.
Some of our favourite waffles in the city can be found at Vitalgaufre, Mokafé Taverne and Le Funambule.
9. Dive into the comic book museum
Brussels has a special relationship with comics so it’s only natural that it is home to one of the most important museums in the world, entirely dedicated to Comics. Belgium has more comic strip artists per square kilometre than any other country in the world! The Comics Art Museum allows you to dive head first into the ninth art and fully immerse yourself into the world of comic heroes such as Tintin, the Smurfs, Lucky Luke, and Blake and Mortimer.
Located on Rue des Sables 20, the Comics Art Museum is open everyday from 10AM to 6PM. The entrance fee is between 3.50€ and 10€.
10. Visit the Musical Instrument Museum
We warned you, in Brussels, there is something for all tastes and all passions! Awake the musician in you, and spend a harmonious day at the Musical Instrument Museum. Housed inside a beautiful building on Rue Montagne de la Cour, the museum holds a collection of over 8,000 musical instruments. You may even be lucky enough to visit on a day when the artists are at work, and be able to watch a violin being carved! Climb to the top of the building to discover incredible panoramas over the city. There’s also a fantastic restaurant on site to re-fuel after walking around.
11. Relax in the Bois de la Cambre park
And finally, relax. After a weekend running around the city of Brussels, you’re probably looking for a place to unwind and just enjoy the city peacefully. The Bois de la Cambre Park is the ideal place to do so. It’s a breath of fresh air in the middle of the Belgian capital. Any local will tell you that a visit to Brussels is not complete without taking a nap by a lake!
If you’re planning a trip to Brussels, don’t forget to visit Leuven too, just 16 miles to the east of Brussels. Read our guide on what to do in 24 Hours in Leuven!
So, have we tempted you enough?