Is Brussels Worth Visiting? | 20 Indisputable Reasons why it is.

by | Dec 23, 2022 | Europe, BELGIUM, BLOG, Uncategorized

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and one of the most important cities in Europe in terms of history, culture, and architecture.

Brussels, with a population of just under 200,000 people but hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, is a popular destination with something for every type of traveler.


Is Brussels worth visiting? These are the 20 most important reasons and the most crucial information you should know before you go.


  1. The Grand Place
  2. Notre Dame du Sablon
  3. Place du Petit Sablon
  4. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
  5. Royal Palace
  6. Belgian Chocolate
  7. Belgian National Orchestra
  8. Cinquantenaire Park
  9. Cathedral of St. Michel and St. Gudule
  10. Musée Magritte
  11. Horta Museum
  12. Belgian Beer
  13. Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art
  14. Manneken Pis
  15. The European Union
  16. Atomium
  17. Parlamentarium
  18. Belgian Food
  19. The Musical Instruments Museum
  20. Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

Visit Brussels – Photo: Danial Kalbasi

Brief History of Brussels

Brussels is a beautiful city at the heart of Europe and has been an important trade center since its foundation in 979. What was once an enclosed town with thick walls has become a modern yet historical city.

Brussels was part of the Spanish Empire in the late 1400s, and the region was part of the United Kingdom in the early 1800s.

French, Dutch, and German-speaking people have called Belgium home since before the current Kingdom of Belgium was created in 1830, and Brussels is at the center of it all.

This merger of cultures and complicated history has made the city heaven for visitors looking for a rich cultural heritage.

Visit Brussels – Photo: François Genon

Some Facts and Stats

  • Brussels is divided into quarters, and each neighborhood has a unique feel.
  • French, Dutch, and German are all official languages in Belgium, and many people in Brussels speak Flemish-Dutch. Most people speak English as well, especially the younger generations.
  • Brussels has warm summers averaging 65°F and cold but not freezing winters, with average temperatures of 39°F.
  • Brussels is famous for its food. There are 138 restaurants per square mile, for around 1,800 places to eat.

Where is Brussels?

Map
Europe Map – Belgium – Brussels

How to Get There?

Brussels is well-connected and centric, so you can arrive by train from almost any city in Western Europe. Still, Brussels Airport receives international flights daily, and the southern South Charleroi Airport caters to budget airlines and often receives shorter flights.

Getting to the city center is also easy, with efficient public transport in and around the city. Once downtown, moving around is not that easy, as many streets in the old part of town are pedestrian-only — renting a bicycle while in Brussels is a wonderful idea.


Where to Stay in Brussels?

Brussels is a relatively small city, so choosing where to stay makes no significant difference in sightseeing and exploring. Still, some areas are more popular than others and have benefits.

Having said that, the closer you are to downtown Brussels, the more immersive your experience will be. The best things to do in Brussels, Belgium, are all within the city’s first blocks. Here are the best areas to stay in the city of chocolate and beer.


Downtown, Brussels City Center

The Central Quarter is at the heart of Brussels. This area is home to famous landmarks, including the most famous fountains, the Cathedral of St. Michael, and the Grand Place. Thick walls were used to protect the city in the 13th century.

If you enjoy long walks or are into architecture, the Gothic and Baroque Central Quarter is perfect for you. You’ll also find the most traditional restaurants in the area. Downtown Brussels can get crowded, though, especially in summer.

Brussels – Downtown – Photo: Bibhash Banerjee

The European Quarter

The European Quarter and the Leopold Quarter are popular destinations for their young crowd. This is a relatively centric zone famous for its ex-pat community. This is also one of the liveliest areas after dark, so it’s a wonderful place to have a drink.

The European Quarter might be youthful and lively, but it is also home to interesting landmarks, including the Place du Luxemburg, the Espace Leopold Buildings, and the inspiring Europa Building. The food here is more international, and the architecture is modern.

Brussels – European Quarter – Photo: Euro Pictures via Creative Commons

Sablon

The Royal Quarter is where you’ll find the Royal Palace, the verdant Brussels Park, and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. This neighborhood has something for you if you’re into museums, art, music, and cinema.

Sablon is an obligatory visit for anyone traveling to Brussels, but it is also a lovely place to stay. Some of the fanciest hotels in Brussels are in Sablon, but there are budget-friendly alternatives, mainly short-stay rentals, and they’re all close to all major transport systems.

Brussels – Sablon – Photo: William Murphy via Creative Commons

21 Reasons why Brussels is Worth Visiting


Let’s now talk about the 21 reasons why you should visit Brussels.

From exploring palaces and museums to walking the city’s medieval pebbled streets, every day spent in Brussels is an adventure.

The best part is that everything worth seeing in Brussels is nearby, and a Brussels Card gives you access to museums and public transport at a discount, so you don’t even need to spend much.


1. Explore the Grand Place

The Grand Place in Brussels is the city’s central square and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by impressive Baroque architecture, including the Flamboyant Town Hall with a stunning Gothic style and the King’s House.

The Grand Place is a popular place for tourists from all over the world to visit. It is also where many events and festivals take place. Every two years, a flower carpet of more than 800,000 begonias is assembled in the square.

The Grand Place is a beautiful and historic place in Brussels that you should definitely check out. It is a lively place with something for everyone, from shopping and eating to cultural events and sightseeing.

Brussels – Grand Place – Photo: Zhu Yunxiao

2. Notre Dame du Sablon

This magnificent church is also called the Church of Our Lady of Victories on the Sablon, and it is one of the best-preserved examples of Brabant Gothic architecture in Belgium.

According to the legend, a girl in Antwerp had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who told her to transport her statue to Brussels. The girl sailed with the statue of the Virgin down the Senne River to Brussels and presented it in the Church of the Crossbowmen, which quickly became a place of pilgrimage.

Since the statue was destroyed in 1565, all that survives are two sculptures depicting a girl in a boat.

Brussels – Notre Dame du Sablon – Photo: Luu

3. Place du Petit Sablon

These beautiful formal gardens were designed around 1890 and are a lovely place to relax. Numerous bronze statuettes adorn the railings surrounding the gardens, each representing a different medieval guild from the city.

At the rear of the gardens, a fountain was created to honor Counts Egmont and Hornes, the martyrs who led a Dutch insurrection against the despotic rule of the Spanish under Philip II and were executed on the Grand Place in 1568.

Brussels – Petit Sablon – Photo: William Murphy via Creative Commons

4. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are not one but several museums in the Royal Quarter, including the Modern Museum and the famous Oldmasters Museum — they’re all worth visiting.

Napoleon founded the museums in the early 1800s, and the museum complex is now one of the most visited in Europe. Modern and classic pictorial art makes the most of the six museums’ collections, with over 20,000 pieces on display.

Brussels – Royal Museums – Photo: Michel Wal via Creative Commons

5. Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Brussels was once the royal residence for the king and his family, from where he ran the country. Today, the palace is a government building and a museum, home to the impressive Royal Collection made of furniture, porcelain, fine crystal, and other treasures.

Brussels – Royal Palace – Photo: Alex Guibord via Creative Commons

6. Belgian Chocolate

Belgium is known for its high-quality chocolate, and many chocolate shops in Brussels offer tastings and demonstrations.

Brussels – Chocolate – Photo: Jessica Loaiza

7. Belgian National Orchestra

The Belgian National Orchestra is a symphony orchestra known worldwide, and it’s based in Brussels, Belgium.

It has a long history of playing classical music for people worldwide since its inception in 1935.

The orchestra is made up of skilled musicians who play various instruments, such as strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

The Belgian National Orchestra is known for putting on great shows and has won many awards and praise over its history and ability to play a wide range of music from many different composers and time periods.

The National Orchestra is an essential part of Belgian culture and is still at the top of the classical music world.

Belgian National Orchestra

8. Cinquantenaire Park

The Park and the Palace of the Cinquantenaire, the best of Leopold II’s great undertakings, were created for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Belgian independence in 1880.

The park was built on the previously undeveloped wetlands of Brussels. The palace was supposed to include a triumphal arch and two huge display areas at its entrance, but by the time of the 1880 Exhibition of Art and Industry, only the two side display areas had been completed.

Eventually, more funds were obtained, and the project lasted 50 years.

The huge rooms on either side of the central arch were previously used for trade fairs, the last of which was in 1935. They have also been used to hold horse racing and racing pigeons.
During World War II, the park grounds were converted to vegetable crops to feed the inhabitants of Brussels.

Brussels – Cinquantenaire Park – Photo: Tom Parnell via Creative Commons

9. Cathedral of St. Michel and St. Gudule

The Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula in Brussels is the national church of Belgium, although it was only granted cathedral status in 1962. It is the best surviving example of Brabant Gothic architecture in Brussels.

Inside the cathedral, the Grenzig organ and the Baroque pulpit representing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise stand out.

Brussels – Cathedral of St. Michel and St. Gudule – Photo: Diego Delso via Creative Commons

10. Musée Magritte

The Musée Magritte is a museum about the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte and his life and work.

The museum has a collection of more than 200 paintings, sculptures, and drawings by Magritte.

The museum is inside a beautiful Art Nouveau building, which adds to the overall aesthetic experience when visiting.

Many educational and cultural events at the Musée Magritte, such as guided tours, workshops, and lectures, make it an excellent place for art enthusiasts of all ages.

Along with the permanent collection, the museum often has temporary shows of the work of other surrealist artists.

Anyone who likes surrealist art or René Magritte’s work should go to the Musée Magritte.

Musée Magritte – FrDr – via Creative Commons

11. Horta Museum

Architect Victor Horta (1861-1947) is considered by many to be the creator of Art Nouveau, and his influence on Brussels architecture is unparalleled by any other designer of his day.

His experience lay not only in his broad and global vision but also as an interior designer, mixing textures and materials in every detail.

The light-filled interior has the architect’s signature elements—iron, glass, and curves—in every detail while remaining utilitarian.

His renovated family home, built to his design between 1898 and 1901, now houses this museum dedicated to his distinctive style.

Brussels – Horta Museum – Photo: Romaine via Creative Commons

12. Belgian Beer

Belgium is home to over 1,500 beer types, and many breweries and beer museums in Brussels offer tours and tastings. Ensure you visit at least one Trappist brewery and learn more about one of the most historical beers in Europe. Some of the highest-rated beers worldwide are made in Brussels. Most beer tours are multi-lingual, and beer tasting is always included, so enjoy beer as you’ve never tasted before.

Brussels – Beer – Photo: Bence Bros

13. Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art

A unique and much-loved institution in Brussels, the Museum of Comic Art pays homage to the Belgian enthusiasm for comic strips, or “Bandes Dessinées,” as well as many world-famous cartoonists from Belgium and beyond.

The collection is located on three floors in an Art Nouveau building designed by Horta.

A tour of famous comic book heroes, from Tintin to the Smurfs, both by Belgian authors, is one of the most popular permanent exhibits.

The museum often has important exhibits that show off the work of famous cartoonists and studios. Also, it has around 8,000 original plates that are rotated, as well as a valuable collection of images and artifacts.

Brussels – Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art – Photo: LCDMC via Creative Commons

14. Manneken Pis

Very close to the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis is perhaps the oddest landmark in Europe, but it’s one of the most popular in Brussels. This is the famous fountain sculpture of a naked little boy urinating in the fountain. Although no one knows what the statue means, it’s been around since the early 1600s.

Legend says a young boy once lit a fire with his urine, while other versions say the boy defused a bomb during a city heist. You’ll find this picturesque fountain on the Rue du Chêne.

Brussels – Manneken Pis – Photo: Trougnouf via Creative Commons

15. The European Union

Brussels is the home of the European Union, and the EU institutions, like the European Parliament, are open to the public for visits.

The European Parliament, which is the elected government of the European Union, has one of its three homes in this huge, futuristic building made of steel and glass. It is right next to the Quartier Léopold train station.

Its permanent headquarters are in Strasbourg, France, where plenary meetings are held monthly. The administrative headquarters are in Luxembourg, and the committee sessions are in Brussels, Belgium.

This stunning, state-of-the-art structure has many admirers, including legislative staff and MEPs.

However, it is not without critics: the massive domed building that houses the chamber for more than 700 MEPs has been dubbed the “caprice des dieux,” referring to both the shape of the building – which is similar to a French cheese of the same name – and its ambitious “ambitions.”

Many people are also disappointed that a large part of Quartier Léopold has been sacrificed to make way for the new complex. However, there are still plenty of vibrant pubs and restaurants on Place Luxembourg, opposite the parliament.

When MEPs are absent, the facility is frequently used for EU committee meetings.

Brussels – European Parliament – Photo: Álvaro Millán via Creative Commons

16. Parlamentarium

The European Parliament’s tourist center in Brussels, the Parlamentarium, offers a surprisingly high-tech and interactive introduction to this sometimes misunderstood institution. It includes a space-age 360-degree digital surround display, a voice tunnel where visitors can hear a variety of languages, and a touchscreen feature where visitors can meet European law-making MEPs.

Because this is a major government facility, bringing a photo ID with you during your visit is best to secure entry. Visitors can also expect an airport-style security check upon arrival.

Brussels – Parlamentarium – Photo: Boston9 via Creative Commons

17. Atomium

The Atomium, built for the 1958 World’s Fair, is undoubtedly the most recognizable icon of Brussels.

As the world entered a new era of science and space exploration in the late 1950s, André Waterkeyn’s design reflected this with an iron crystal structure multiplied 165 billion times.

The ” Atomium ” nine spheres are 18 m in diameter each and are connected by escalators.

They contain exhibition spaces and a sophisticated restaurant at the structure’s apex.

Reasons to Visit Brussels – Atomium – Photo: Fisnik Murtezi

18. Belgian Food Classics

Now that you’ve found a place to stay, it’s time to talk about the food. Brussels is a foodie destination, and the food here is seriously good.


Waffles

Yes, Belgium is home to the crustiest and most tender waffles in the world, and they’re made to order. Even the humblest waffles from a street stand are life-changing. You’ll find two types of waffles in Brussels, the regular kind and the “Liege” waffles, which are crispier; try both! Waffles here are no breakfast but a snack to enjoy at all hours.

Reasons to Visit Brussels – Waffles – Photo: Robby McCullough

Mussels

Mussels are a typical appetizer and snack in Brussels, and they’re fantastic. Always local, this sea-scented delight comes to life when cooked with butter, white wine, and shallots. Several versions of mussels exist in the city, and many eateries specialize in them. The best part? In Belgium, people eat their mussels with fries.

Brussels – Mussles – Photo: Nikolay Smeh

Fries

If you think you know French fries, think again. People in Brussels have mastered the art of frying potatoes and have taken them to another level. Thick-cut fries are standard; people top them with mayo, but several toppings are always available. The secret behind these fries is that they’re fried in lard instead of oil.

Brussels – Fries – Photo: Kyle Wagaman via Creative Commons

19. The Musical Instruments Museum

The Old England Building, once a department store, is a magnificent example of Art Nouveau architecture near Place Royale.

When he created these commercial premises for the Old England firm in 1899, architect Paul Saintenoy let his imagination run wild.

The façade is entirely constructed of glass and intricately wrought iron. On the roof is a vaulted gazebo and a turret on one side.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the 1990s that Brussels implemented listed building legislation, which helped preserve gems like these.

The Musée des Instruments de Musique, or MIM, has moved from the Sablon to the building.

The Museum of Musical Instruments collection began in the 19th century when the state purchased 80 rare and unusual instruments. It quadrupled in 1876 when King Leopold II received a gift of 97 Indian musical instruments from a Maharaja.

In 1877, a museum was opened displaying all of these items, and by 1924, it had 3,300 pieces and was considered a leader in its field.

Today the collection has around 6,000 objects, many of which are magnificent examples of wind, string, and keyboard instruments from the Middle Ages to the present.

Main attractions include prototype instruments by Adolphe Sax, the Belgian inventor of the saxophone, small violins popular with buskers, and a violin maker’s studio.

The museum moved into its intended home in the refurbished Old England Building in 2000, with considerably more area (three levels) to display this world-class collection.

The museum’s innovative infrared headset technology, which deftly plays the tune of each instrument as visitors approach, is a popular feature.

Brussels – MIM – Photo: Fred Romero via Creative Commons

20. Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

Leopold I inaugurated these grand arcades in 1847, sixteen years after acceding to the throne as the first monarch of Belgium.

Saintt-Hubert has the distinction of being the first and most attractive shopping arcade in Europe.

The vaulted glass canopy, designed by Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer in the Neo-Renaissance style, covers its three sections, Galerie du Roi, Galerie de la Reine, and Galerie des Princes, which house a variety of luxury boutiques and cafes.

The elaborate decor and expensive items for sale quickly transformed the galleries into a fashionable gathering place for 19th-century society, including resident literati: Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas attending lectures here.

The arcades remain a popular destination, with shops, a cinema, a theatre, cafes, and restaurants.

Brussels – Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert – Photo: Zairon via Creative Commons

Final Thoughts

Brussels is a culturally diverse Central European experience with an excellent standard of living.

It is home to much of the EU’s infrastructure, which gives it a unique feel while attracting people from all over the world.

In a single day, you can go hiking in the forest, attend cultural events, and chat with people from all over.

Fantastic cafes, bustling pubs, and busy nightclubs show that Brussels residents live life to the fullest.

Brussels is a culinary paradise. Belgian cuisine coexists with delicious cuisine from the four corners of the world. The number of microbreweries in Brussels has reached an all-time high.

Chocolatiers continue to create delicious confections, and the most fabulous potato chips are made here.

Are you a fan of trendy little hangouts? Brussels has enough for you with its unique and eccentric boutiques, vintage, and concept stores.

There is also an old-fashioned flea market where you can discover some unexpected gems.

Brussels is the place for you if you appreciate having a good time.

Is Brussels worth visiting






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