Belgium has a lot of competition when it comes to European destinations, but the capital city Brussels is an artistic, metropolitan city that should not be overlooked.
Its city streets sparkle (literally, in some cases) and its parks are flourishing.
The art scene runs wild, taking to the streets, and the breweries are there for you to recharge and refuel as you sip on unique and authentic Belgian beers.
If you think you’re lucky because you’re planning a trip to this vibrant city, well, you are… but you’re about to get even luckier because I have personally hand-selected the tip-top activities you simply must take advantage of during your visit.
So sit back, relax, and connect the dots of all the happenings that appeal to you.
Best 20 Things to Do in Brussels
1. Park yourself at a park and a bar!
If you’re lucky enough to get some rays of sunshine during your trip to Brussels, do as the locals do and head to Le Bois de la Chambre Park.
Part of the Forest of Soignes, the park stretches across 306 acres and is perfect for a day of relaxation, throwing around the Frisbee, and admiring the large lake with an island perched in the middle.
While the park is no big secret, it’s the Chalet Robinson, a wooden bar nestled within the grounds, that catches people off guard- in a good way!
Enjoy one of their specialty brews and kick back before heading back to the city center.More Info (click to show for all)
2. Head to the hippest of hoods
Whether or not you deliberately seek out Saint Gilles, when you enter the municipality you’ll immediately know it, due the thriving art scene.
Famous for its indie galleries, like the Horta Museum, the area will make you savvy to the coolest artists in the area.
If you need something to keep your hands busy and mind stimulated in between galleries, head to Brasserie Verschueren.
The brewery, whose décor still displays stylistic marking of 1935 (when the bar opened) was the headquarters of the Resistance during World War II, making it the perfect place to literally drink in the history of Brussels in a unique and delicious way.More Info (click to show all)
3. Discover a (52 And The) Secret Garden
The name alone paints such a splendid picture, you don’t need to know much more before making your reservation… but I’ll tell you anyway.
The restaurant not only has delicious, authentic Italian cuisine, but hidden inside its unassuming doors is (you guessed it) a stunning garden that is reminiscent of a fairytale.
If you want to take your experience beyond dining on the dishes, then sign up for a cooking lesson or workshop.
Make sure you book your experience in advance!More Info (click to show all)
4. Eat waffles Belgian style (or not)
I hate to be so cliché, but for the name of all things good, I will be.
You’re welcome. Because you really shouldn’t skip the clichés in Belgium- especially when it comes to the waffles.
Not that there’s any wrong way to eat a waffle in Belgium, but… there’s kind of a wrong way to eat waffles in Belgium.
For example, if you’re topping your waffles with a bunch of syrup, or ice cream, or all the other little temptresses, know that you won’t get kicked out, but you might be judged a little.
To avoid this mistake, head to Maison Dandoy because they will set you up with the right kind of waffles, which include a crisp exterior, fluffy interior, a sprinkle of power sugar, and maybe a dollop of some chocolate or whipped cream.
Okay, okay, okay, I should clarify; that is the LOCAL way to enjoy waffles in Brussels.
If you want to toss a bunch of ice cream and strawberries and chocolates, etc., I really don’t think you’ll regret that choice, either.
Better yet, try all the ways!More Info (click to show all)
5. Search for street art
One of the coolest things about hanging out in Brussels is that you don’t have to spend to see great art.
In fact, excellent street art is thriving throughout the city, if you know where to look.
Whether it’s a bench or a store front, up and coming artists ban together to create eclectic pieces for the pedestrian to admire.
If you’re into provocative art, Avenue Louis 53 will not let you down with a huge mural or a woman, legs spread, doing the “dirty” for all the world (or at least all of Brussels) to see.
If you’re into comic books, then there’s a route for you!
A collection of comic strips literally comes off the page in hidden locations throughout the city.
You can stumble upon them and enjoy the surprise, or more serious participants can discover the best route to see them all.More Info (click to show all)
6. Eaaattt Chocolates, chocolates anndddd chocolates
Unlike waffles, there’s no wrong way to eat chocolate in Brussels.
I was lucky enough to walk into one of the best chocolatiers in the city without even knowing it!
Then I took a sample, and I knew it.
“This can’t possibly be that much better than other chocolate,” I thought, naively, but when the smooth and crispy, sweet yet soft and subtle chocolate went into my mouth, I. Was. Hooked.
The place I’m referring to is called Maison Pierre Marcolini, but don’t fret if you stumble into a different joint. In Belgium, they’re all great.
Feel free to bring a second suitcase for chocolates.More Info (click to show all)
7. Stumble upon stunning Grand Place
After I landed in Brussels, but before I did any research on what to see, my computer charger busted, and I had to find a new one ASAP.
It was a rainy day and I had no umbrella or raincoat, but I was determined.
I took off and proceeded to get soaked.
Without knowing where I was, I turned a corner and suddenly my breath got caught in my chest as I realized I was gazing upon Grand Place.
The rain somehow illuminated the green lights and gold trim glittering on the buildings in the square, and that was the first moment on my trip where I thought “Brussels in beautiful, and I’m coming back.”
This famous central Square is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts a harsh history of beheadings and burnings of counts and martyrs.
Don’t worry, though… in more recent history the square hosts happier events, like displaying a flower carpet of begonias every two years in August! Now that is a site worth seeing.More Info (click to show all)
8. Go back in time at the Old English Building
Strolling up to the building near the city center can be quite jarring, as the structure is (very) true to its name.
The wrought iron detailing and arched windows of the old department store will transport you back in time when things were… cuter.
Now, the building is home to the MIM music museum, which, despite its pleasing aesthetics is more of an audio experience.More Info (click to show all)
9. Get delirious with Delirium
You may have heard of Delirium café, and it may be because the beer has been considered one of the best in world.
The café has a seemingly infinite number of beers on tap, matching the vast size of the buildings giant basement and three floors.
If you just can’t get enough of this incredible brew (no judgments- it’s freakin delish!) then take a day trip to Gent, a cool nearby city, and home to Delirium’s main brewery.
Be sure to stop by and find out just why the beer coins its “delirium” title.More Info (click to show all)
10. Make believe you’re a royal and visit a castle
Not many people know this but Belgium has the most castles per square kilometer in the world, so get ready to get your “fairy princess” on when you visit.
The Royal Palace of Brussels is probably the most frequently visited, as it resides in the center of the city, but if you want to get outside of the urban scene then check out the Belvedere Castle in the royal domain of Laeken, or the Royal Palace of Laeken.
Again, make sure you dig up your old tutu and tiara; you might get some looks, but you won’t get too many other opportunities to live out the fantasy. #worthitMore Info (click to show all)
11. Indulge at a traditional Belgian brewery
This gem of a brewery not only has the most delicious organic brews, but a long line of history to go with it.
Founded in 1900 by Paul Cantillon, the brewery produced Lambic beers, which are exclusive to Belgium, and still does to this day.
The brewing process differs from an average beer as vats are left open, exposing the beer to wild yeast (as opposed to carefully selected strains) that will then ferment and be transferred into barrels and aged.
The result is a cloudy, slightly sour brew that is quite different from your typical tasting experience.
Take a tour and take a taste of a true Belgium beer.More Info (click to show all)
12. Listen to music in an old garden
This part music venue and part museum will keep you (and your ears and eyes) happily stimulated on your visit.
Le Botanique hosts a vast number of art exhibits and concerts inside the former greenhouses, giving a unique and beautiful backdrop to the performances and pieces.
You can take a stroll of the grounds before and after your show and let your imagination go as you put together a picture of the orangery pre-culture complex.More Info (click to show all)
13. Check out the palace
The Palais Royal is a magnificent structure that was once the official residence of the King of Belgium.
It remains the place where the duties of the King are enacted, and otherwise houses special guests of the royals.
The palace is worth simply gazing upon, but if you visit during season (July-September) be sure to head inside and take a tour so you can marvel at the accommodations and rooms where royal business in conducted.More Info (click to show all)
14. Photograph a peeing statue
Translating to “Little Pissing Man,” I was happy to stumble upon Manneken Pis during my trip when I saw a crowd gathered on a street corner, giggling and taking photographs.
Although the original rests in the Brussels City Museum, the replica (a short walk from Grand Place) is a sufficient substitute.
The odd design from artist Jérôme Duquesnoy the Elder signifies the good humor and… erm… individualism of the city of Brussels.
Among the other, rich, historical sites that Brussels boasts, this little guy might remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.More Info (click to show all)
15. Have a coffee or a cocktail at Café Belga
This bustling café-bar hosts the hottest DJ’s that will have you shaking and socializing till late.
Or early… depending on how you look at it! In fact, after your night of partying, you can return the next morning to a transformed café and indulge in a delicious caffeinated beverage, or, you know, hair of the dog.
Regardless, the busy atmosphere will leave you feeling like you’re among your best Belgian buds.More Info (click to show all)
16. Take some time to reflect at a Portuguese Café
If you’re the kind of person who fantasizes about sitting in a quaint café/pub and watching locals filter by as you sip a cold brew (of the alcoholic or caffeinated type) while you journal or draw, then stop by Café Rague!
This Portuguese place is warm in spirit and in temperature, making it the perfect place to cozy up and contemplate.
In the heart of Saint Gilles, you’ll have no shortage of exciting people watching.More Info (click to show all)
17. Rock the night away at Madame Mustache
Probably the coolest bar in the city, Madame Mustache is truly one of a kind. The cabaret-like atmosphere will put you in the right mindset to party until dawn (or at least 4am.)
If the typical “club” scene isn’t your thing, fret not; Madame Mustache is not your average club, with its rock n roll and alternative vibe.
Make friends and memories as you dance the night away at the eclectic, aesthetically stimulating spot.More Info (click to show all)
18. See all the jazz at all the jazz spots!
If you’re like me and enjoy getting lost in a smooth jazz show, then buckle up because Brussels in full of them!
While there’s an abundance of amazing jazz venues throughout the city, one of the more unique options is Jazz Station, an old railway station turned jazz hub.
The go-to spot for jazz lovers offers concerts as well as lectures and exhibits.
Sounds is another gem, with a convenient location right near Grand Place.
Hop into the venue and check out jazz musicians from all over the world while you sip on your cocktail and eat Italian cuisine.More Info (click to show all)
19. Admire very large atoms
The Atomium is a large stainless steel structure that stands 335 feet tall and celebrates the scientific advancements of the 1950’s.
Designed to look like a unit cell of an iron crystal, it’s definitely something to marvel at.
The construction itself is a visual triumph, but the fact that the museum is inside the high-up spheres makes it extra cool.
The highest sphere has a restaurant with a view over looking the city, also making it… extra cool.More Info (click to show all)
20. Visit the greenest park of the green parks
Contributing to the greenery that makes Brussels one of the greenest capitals in Europe is Duden Park.
The park is nestled in the Forest of Brussels and expands to 59 acres.
One of the appeals of the plot is its high elevation peek at 90 meters, making it the perfect for picnics, viewpoints and to drinking in the fresh air.More Info (click to show all)
As you can see, going on a holiday in Brussels can be a lot of fun. But I also know that it can be a little overwhelming to narrow down your itinerary from all of the amazing things to do in the city. So I hope that this thorough guide was useful.
What are your thoughts about Brussels? Do you have any questions or anything cool still to add on? We love to discuss travel so go ahead and fire away, there are no wrong comments!
Related read: The 20+ Best Things to Do in Copenhagen
Also, please let us know how your trip went and what was the most exciting part about it.
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Shira Weitz is an adventure seeker who loves writing, wine, and watching sunsets. She enjoys weaving together personal experiences with thoughtful information to create compelling stories about the places she’s been. She can’t stop, won’t stop grabbing life by the… horns, because carpe diem, after all.