The 20 Coolest Things to Do in Brussels

The 20 Coolest Things to Do in Brussels – Hand Picked Local Experiences

by Shira Weitz - updated July 23, 2020

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!

Park yourself at a park
Spend your perfect for a day of relaxation in Sonian Forest

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.

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2. Head to the hippest of hoods

Head to the hippest of hoods
Explore former house and atelier of Victor Horta in Brussels, Belgium

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.

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3. Discover a (52 And The) Secret Garden

Discover a (52 And The) Secret Garden
Discover the stunning garden inside its unassuming doors

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!

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4. Eat waffles Belgian style (or not)

Eat waffles Belgian style
You shouldn’t skip to eat waffles the Belgian style

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!

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5. Search for street art

Search for street art
Explore graffiti in street of Brussels.

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.

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6. Eaaattt Chocolates, chocolates anndddd chocolates

Eat Chocolates in Brussels
Have a taste of all the chocolates that Brussels, Belgium offers.

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.

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7. Stumble upon stunning Grand Place

Explore around the Grand Place
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.

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8. Go back in time at the Old English Building

Go back in time at the Old English Building
Transport you back in time when things were cuter.

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.

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9. Get delirious with Delirium

Get delirious with Delirium
Enjoy the taste of alcohol inside the old bar Delirium with retro furniture and huge beer menu.

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.

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10. Make believe you’re a royal and visit a castle

Visit a castle
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. #worthit

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11. Indulge at a traditional Belgian brewery

Indulge at a traditional Belgian brewery
Try the traditional Belgian brewery by Cantillon.

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.

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12. Listen to music in an old garden

Listen to music in an old garden
Keep yourself happily stimulated with art exhibits and concerts inside the former greenhouses

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.

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13. Check out the palace

Check out the palace
Visit Royal Palace of Brussels Palais de BruxellesKoninklijk.

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.

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14. Photograph a peeing statue

Photograph a peeing statue
Take a photo of the famous Manneken Pis statue in Brussels

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.

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15. Have a coffee or a cocktail at Café Belga

Have a coffee or a cocktail in Brussels
Sit outside cafe terrace on a street corner in Brussels

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.

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16. Take some time to reflect at a Portuguese Café

Reflect at a Portuguese Café
Sip a cold brew in 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.

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17. Rock the night away at Madame Mustache

Rock the night away at Madame Mustache
Enjoy and raise up your hands on concert in Brussels.

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.

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18. See all the jazz at all the jazz spots!

Enjoy and Watch a Jazz Concert in Brussels
Have fun, dance and sing to a jazz music.

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.

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19. Admire very large atoms

Admire very large atoms
Admire the Atomium is a large stainless steel structure

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.

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20. Visit the greenest park of the green parks

Visit the greenest park of the green parks
Relaxing on a meadow in the park of Brussels.

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. 

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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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16 thoughts on “The 20 Coolest Things to Do in Brussels – Hand Picked Local Experiences

  1. Ahhh Definitely saving this list for our future trip! We are dying to visit Brussels! And I know it’s a cliche but I really do want to try the waffles! I mean, cliches are there for a reason- right?

  2. Eating chocolate and waffles near the Grande Palace is top pf my Brussels travel itinerary every time! I missed the Belvedere Castle, and would gladly have traded that experience for the Manneken Pis (my least favorite on the list).

  3. We had to postpone our planned trip to Brussels in March, and I was so disappointed to miss out. Thanks for giving me the chance to do a virtual tour instead. We were going to pair it with a visit to Bruges, and I was so looking forward to eating waffles, and buying some Belgium chocolate. … oh and eating chips and mayonnaise from a food truck. We’ll get there soon, hopefully.

    1. So sad to hear that! But things are starting to look a little better for travelers. Hopefully, you will still be able to do it soon.

  4. Hi Shira,

    yummy … Brussels is definitely a foodies hotspot. Chocolate, beer and french fries. I don’t like the Delirium beer but I remember the big cups of french fries I had when I was there. Next time I might try more chocolate … but just dark one without too much sugar. 😉

    Chris

    1. But be careful to measure yourself. I got a sort of chocolate high for eating so much of it. The same happened to me at a chocolate tasting tour in Guatemala. 😀

  5. I’m saving this article for next summer when I hopefully get to visit Belgium! I’ll be honest, the waffles and beer is what initially made me really want to go. I’m often met with, “yeah, but what is there to actually do in Belgium?” I never had an answer for that besides ‘waffles’, but not I have a ton more reasons to visit the city. Thank you!

  6. Since we have never visited Brussels, this list of things to do will provide the start for when we plan a visit. It looks like there are lots of great food options. I would look for the perfect waffles. But hubby would want nothing but the chocolate. Good to know all the shops are great! So many great spots to visit with parks, castles and architecture. Will definitely plan for a few days stay.

  7. I have been to Brussels only once for a very short period of time. The only thing I did was to eat waffles 😀 as I loved them that much. This list looks really great as I can follow that the next time I visit Brussels.

  8. Wow! I did not realize that there is so much to do and see in Brussels. Of course, I won’t miss eating waffles Belgian Style. It’s one of my favorites and your post just made me crave for one.

  9. What a great list! I know I will not miss the waffles and the chocolates. And this is the first time I heard about the Atomium. That place looks interesting. My husband and son will have a blast there. Thanks for sharing your suggestions!

    1. I’m so glad that we were able to show you something new. That’s exactly why I love exploring other’s blogs. I always see stuff that wasn’t on the touristic must-dos.

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