Brussels is considered one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. The home of the European Union, there is a great deal to see and do for visitors of all ages. Visitors can take in one of the many museums, enjoy the Gothic architecture in the Grand-Place or enjoy a Belgian beer in one of the numerous cafes and bars. Whether you want to sightsee, enjoy fine art, or enjoy fine dining, Brussels has a little bit of everything.
Top Brussels Attractions
No matter how much time you have to spend in Brussels, a trip to the city is not complete without spending some time at the Grand-Place. Positioned right in the middle of the city, the Grand-Place is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe since the Middle Ages. Today, the Grand-Place's many terraces are perfect for enjoying a Belgian beer, catching up with friends, or watching concerts. If you are lucky, your trip will coincide with the unveiling of the Flower Carpet - a biannual tradition that covers the entire square in bright, bold flowers. The carpet takes up more than 19,000 square feet and is a must-see for any visitor to the city in August. The “Son et Lumiere" shows in July, August, and September each year are not to be missed. These take place at 10:30 pm and 11 pm each day, and different coloured lights are used to highlight the architecture of the buildings in the square, flicking on and off in time to the music.
Aside from the Grand-Place, there is another must-see in Brussels: the chocolate factories! Brussels is home to a chocolate museum, along with famous chocolatiers Wittamer and Pierre Marcolini.
Visitors should not miss the Mini-Europe theme park, with miniature versions of European attractions -- which are famous the world over -- such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Eiffel Tower. This is the ideal attraction to visit with children.
Alternatively, kids might prefer to visit Brussels Zoo. This is located just a short drive outside the city and is home to animals from all over the world. This is a great day out for all the family.
Visitors should not leave the city without seeing the Mannekin Pis. This is a small statue, but is one of the city's main attractions, and thousands flock to see it each year.
There are several districts of Brussels worth visiting. The Anderlecht area of the city is home to a brewery and a number of centuries-old churches. There are guided tours of the brewery for those who want to sample some of the produce. In the De Broukere area of the city there are many seafood restaurants and a fish market. The stock exchange is also located here.
In the Ixelles-Elsene district of the city there are plenty of restaurants and the Bois de la Cambre is ideal for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Abbaye de la Cambre is a popular tourist attraction in the area. Les Marolles is close to the heart of the city, and is home to a number of attractions including the Palais de Justice. On the weekend there is a large flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle which is popular with both the locals and tourists.
In addition to chocolate, you can also feast on waffles and French fries all over the city! Both foods can be purchases at countless street carts, street front windows, and small shops. These are not the only options available to the visitor for eating out. The city is home to a variety of restaurants, from informal cafes to fine dining. Café culture is very much a part of life in Brussels and the chance to sit on the pavement (in fine weather!) and enjoy a coffee and a snack while watching the world go by should not be missed.
Several areas of the city are ideal for those who want to try traditional Belgian restaurants, or even partake of cuisines from other parts of the world. The Place du Chatelain has a mix of European restaurants and there is usually a lively atmosphere there after the street market has taken place on a Wednesday. Alternatively, the roads that form a triangle around the St Boniface church in the Rue St Boniface are known for lively restaurants. This area is particularly busy on weekends. The famous Routard guide can be consulted about eateries in the city, but the Place Stephanie is home to a number that are recommended by the guide, and have a friendly and intimate atmosphere for those who want something off the beaten track.
Arts and Entertainment
Brussels has many cinemas, and film lovers will be able to find something that suits them, from the large multiplexes that show all the latest blockbusters to the smaller independent cinemas featuring art house movies. Alternatively, the city has a number of venues for concerts, from traditional jazz clubs to contemporary studio settings. The city also boasts several venues for opera buffs, such as La Monnaie.
Those who are fond of arts and culture can also pay a visit to one of the many museums in the area. These are not limited to traditional museums based on the history of the local area but there are also some unusual venues. The comic book museum is particularly popular and has a shop and library for those who want to browse a bit further. Brussels is also famous for lace and there is a museum devoted to costume and lace. This is ideal for those who are interested in textiles heritage and is very close to the Grand-Place.
Parks and The Great Outdoors
There are several parks in the city of Brussels where a visitor can unwind after spending time exploring. The Parc de Bruxelles once belonged to the nobility and it is located between the Royal Palace and the Parliament. It was originally designed as a garden, and although it is not the largest in the city, it offers great views and is home to concerts in the summer months that take place around the refurbished bandstand.
One of the largest public parks in the city is the Bois de la Cambre, which is located off the Avenue Louise, one of the most prestigious areas of the city. The park has a lake and is particularly popular on weekends. Walks are possible in the Foret de Soignes, which is just south of the Bois de la Cambre, and which stretches far beyond the city. Alternatively, there is the Parc du Cinquantenaire, which was established in 1830. The park features landscaped gardens and several museums for those interested in local culture.
As for the accommodations, hotels in Brussels are spread around the city. There are plenty of luxurious and cheap Brussels hotels right in the middle of the city. This is in addition to the luxury hotels, which can be found throughout the region. However, opting for a hotel that is not part of a luxury chain means that visitors can enjoy a family atmosphere, which is relaxed and ideal to return to at the end of a busy day's sightseeing. There are hotels that are welcoming for families, and have all the facilities needed to create a home-away-from-home atmosphere. Opting for city centre accommodation is ideal for those who want to see some of the major attractions, and most attractions will be within walking distance.