Things to do in Brussels

Belgian waffles, fries, mussels and beer – Brussels is a city that tastes good! But there’s also much more than food to experience in the city that’s called "the heart of Europe".

For many, Belgium’s capital is perhaps best known for being the EU headquarters and the seat of the NATO Secretariat General. But did you know that Brussels is also Europe’s unofficial beer capital and is considered to have one of Europe’s best nightlife scene?

With a rich history, history buffs and architecture enthusiasts will also enjoy Brussels, and foodies can feast on everything from seafood to freshly-made waffles – both typical of Belgian cuisine. As one of Europe’s greenest cities, it’s also easy to find peace and quiet, and a walk or picnic in one of the city’s many gardens, parks or forests should definitely be on the list.

Thon Hotels has five hotels and three apartment buildings in Brussels. Thon Hotel Brussels Airport is located by the international airport, while the rest are in the city centre. See all accommodation options here.

Whether you’re going on a business trip or on holiday, and whether you have a couple of days, a long weekend or a week or two, Brussels has you covered for a great city experience. Here are some things to do when you visit to Brussels.

Attractions, festivals and places to see

Grand Place

A visit to the Grand Place, which is considered one of Europe’s most beautiful squares, is almost mandatory when you visit Brussels. The world-famous square, surrounded by opulent guild houses and the town hall built between 1402 and 1455, is the city’s biggest tourist attraction. The square has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1998 thanks to its successful blend of architectural and artistic styles, and it is said that strolling out onto the Grand Place is a bit like travelling back in time.

Tips! In mid-August every other year, the Grand Place is covered by a gigantic flower carpet with hundreds of thousands of colourful begonias. The tradition began in 1971, and still crowds of people flock to see the beautiful sea of flowers.

Manneken Pis

Oslo has the Spitfire, Copenhagen has the Mermaid and Brussels has Manneken Pis. The sculpture of the little boy urinating has become a hallmark of the Belgian capital, and the fountain he is by is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. The original, which today is in the Brussels City Museum, was made as early as 1619, but the replica can still be found on the corner between the streets Rue de l'Etuve and Rue des Grands Carmes, about a five-minute walk from the Grand Place. If you’re lucky, you’ll also find the sculpture dressed up in costume, which has been a tradition during special events in the city since the 18th century.

The green Brussels

If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Brussels’ most popular outdoor and recreational area – the Bois de la Cambre. The large park, located south of the city centre, offers excellent hiking opportunities, cycle paths and a large pond with both ducks and swans. Pack your picnic basket, rent a bike or head to the trendy cafe and bar Le Flore or the Le Chalet Robinson restaurant, which is out on a small island.

Tips! Other great options for park life and fresh air are Cinquantenaire, a beautiful park surrounded by several museums such as The Royal Military Museum and Autoworld, and the Soignes forest on the outskirts of Brussels, which has since 2017 been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Atomium

Heard of Brussels' Eiffel Tower? The 102-metre-tall Atomiumbuilding, which is located on the Heysel Plateau in the north of the city, consists of nine steel spheres that represent the unit cell of crystalline iron magnified 165 billion times. The monument, which was built for the 1958 World Exhibition in Brussels, is today one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions and one of Belgium’s most important landmarks. Over 600,000 make the trip each year to check out the majestic structure and enjoy the view from the panoramic platform, where on good days you should be able to see all the way to Antwerp. There is also a restaurant and Brussels’ own design museum.

Europe in miniature

You don't have to travel all over Europe to tick the bucket list – it’s enough to go to Brussels! At the amusement park Mini-Europe in Bruparck, you will find over 350 of Europe’s sights and monuments in a miniature version – from Nyhavn in Copenhagen to Big Ben, the Acropolis and the Eiffel Tower. You can also learn more about EU member states and the UK through interactive games and exhibitions.

Beer festival

If you really want to get a taste of the Belgian beer culture, don't miss one of the many beer festivals held in the city. During the beer festival Belgian Beer Weekend, which takes place at the Grand Place in September, you can sample over 400 different beers from some of Belgium’s best breweries. The festival kicks off with a celebration of the patron saint of brewers and a blessing of the beer in the cathedral, where both a procession of historic brewery carriages and various musical experiences are on the programme. Also check out the beer festival BXL Beer Fest, held in August.

Horta Museum

In the Saint-Gilles district, you can visit the museum dedicated to Belgian art nouveau architect Victor Horta and learn more about his life and work. The Horta Museum is located in his former home and studio, which was designed by Horta himself, and has a permanent exhibition of furniture, tools and art. The typical Art Nouveau building is considered one of the most ground-breaking in architecture of the late 19th century, and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2000.

In the world of comic strips

Tintin, the Smurfs, and the Silver Arrow – comic strips are almost as dear to the Belgians as the brown cheese is for us Norwegians, and at the Belgium Comic Strip Centre you can learn more about the country’s rich comic strip tradition. In the permanent exhibitions, you can learn more about the origins of the comic strip, go into the Smurf House and explore the library that houses thousands of different comic strip magazines and albums. You can also find comic strips everywhere else in the city, from the interiors of restaurants to street art. Did we mention that Belgians love comic strips?

Chocolate paradise

Brussels is also the city of sweets – Belgian chocolate is, after all, known for being among the best in the world. At the Choco-Story Brussels museum, you can learn more about how the exclusive treat is created, and its entire history from the start with the Mayan cocoa trees to the arrival of the cocoa bean in Europe. And, of course, tasting is part of the experience! The chocolate museum is located just three minutes' walk from the Grand Place.

Tips! You can also get a taste of chocolate heaven at the Belgium Chocolate Village.

Magritte Museum

Heard of the artist René Magritte? The Belgian, who lived from 1898 to 1967, is considered one of the greatest surrealist artists of all time, and became known for his sensational and witty works, which challenge our perception of reality. The Musée Magritte Museum, part of the museums of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, houses the world’s largest collection of his works, with over 200 paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings. The museum is a ten-minute walk from the Grand Place.

Brewers Museum

Most people will probably taste a Belgian beer or two during their visit to Brussels, but if you also want to learn more about Belgium’s rich beer brewing history, head to the small museum,Belgian Brewers Museum, which is located by the Grand Place. Here you can see a collection of old implements and brewing tubs, as well as antique beer mugs and carafes. If you’re thirsty for beer after your visit, head to the museum’s own café – or head to the nearest bar. There are many of them in Brussels, the beer capital. The museum is open on Friday and Saturday.

Tips! Brussels is bursting with exciting museums and galleries – also check outAutoworld,Train World, Huberty & Breyne Gallery, Brussels City Museum, Belfius Art Gallery, and Belgian Chocolate Village, or view the full list of the city’s museumshere.

Activities

City walk

Put on a pair of good shoes and explore Brussels on foot! The city is divided into different districts, so you can easily choose one – or more – to really go into depth. The historic centre with the Grand Place is a good starting point, and perhaps the most popular among tourists, while Saint Gilles, for example, is known for its galleries and art nouveau buildings. If you’re in the mood for shopping, head to the shopping streets of Avenue Louise and Rue Neuve, while the restaurant street Rue des Bouchers is a good stop if hunger strikes. It is also easy to get around the city by public transport, with both the underground and several tram and bus lines.

Tips! If you prefer to explore the city with a guide, there are many options. See Visit Brussels for an overview.

Discover the city on two wheels

Bikes are a great way to discover Brussels – especially if you want to get away from the touristy hustle and bustle and experience the hidden gems! A day pass for the city bike Villo! costs less than 2 euros, while the electric bikes from Billy Bike are easily unlocked with an app on your mobile and can be picked up and parked anywhere in the city. If you want to take in the city’s highlights on a guided bike tour, Groovy Brussels arranges a 3.5-hour tour that takes you to the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis, Atomium and Cinquantenaire Park, among others. Along the way, there will also be a stop for a refill of Belgian traditional food, namely fries and beer at the well-known Maison Antoine. Also check out Pro Velo for tours and bike rentals in Brussels.

Brussels Beer Bus

Want to see the city’s historical and cultural highlights from a Second World War ambulance? Or rent your private vintage bus with a guide to take you around the city – while you get to taste Belgium’s gold? Brussels Beer Bus offers several different tours suitable for groups from 1–100 people, including both guide and beer tasting. So fasten your seatbelt and get ready for fun on wheels!

Tips! Visit Brussels has a good overview of several beer and chocolate tours in Brussels.

On the trail of comic book heroes
It’s not just on the bookshelves and museums that you'll find comic book characters in Brussels, here they’re found almost everywhere – in the form of street art on the city’s walls and street corners. If you join Bravo Discovery on a private guided tour, which adapts the tour to your wishes, you’ll both see and learn more about some of the greatest heroes in the comic book world. Tours can be booked daily.

Make your own chocolate

If you can't get enough of Belgian chocolate and wish you could make it yourself, sign up for The Belgian Chocolate Makers chocolate course. They hold workshops daily, where you can learn why Belgian chocolate is so famous and taste the "new" chocolate Ruby. The pink chocolate is a challenger to the three varieties we already know – dark, milk and white – and was created by Barry Callebaut. You also get to make your own chocolate and truffles, and of course you get to take what you make home with you!

Tips! Want to learn how to make Belgian waffles instead? Check out Viatours, which has various options.

Food and drinks

Comme Chez Soi

If you want to push the boat out in Brussels and enjoy a dining experience worth the trip in its own right, Comme Chez Soi is the place to go. The restaurant opened in 1926, was awarded its first Michelin star in 1953 and can now boast two stars in the prestigious guide. On the menu you will find classic dishes mixed with innovative creations composed by chef Lionel Rigolet, and you can choose between an a la carte menu and 5–7 course menus. And if you go, there may well be a royal, celebrity or president at the next table.

Le Zinneke

Mussels are a must in Belgium! In fact, moules-frites are Belgiums’ national dish on par with our 'fårikål' mutton and cabbage stew. A great option to try the traditional dish is the authentic Le Zinneke restaurant, which serves mussels in over 70 different ways when they are at their best in season. Go for the classic prepared with white wine, shallots and parsley or why not try it with a Belgian wheat beer or curry and cream? The restaurant is located in Shaerbeek, about 20 minutes from the Grand Place by public transport. More good options for those who fancy mussels are Chez Leon, about a three-minute walk from the Grand Place, and the In't Spinnekopke bistro, about a 10-minute walk away.

Maison Dandoy

Anyone with a sweet tooth is guaranteed to enjoy Brussels – here you will find the well-known Belgian waffle on almost every street corner. At the popular Maison Dandoy, which has several outlets in the city, both the fluffy classic and the chewier variety called Liège waffle are served. As a topping, you can choose from options such as Belgian chocolate, fresh berries and cream. Yummy!  Also check out Gaufres and Waffles, especially known for their salty toppings such as tartare, salmon and duck, and The Sister Brussels Café with a focus on organic and vegan options.

Dinner at altitude

Looking for an airy and high-flying dining experience? Then maybe the "Dinner in the sky"concept is for you! If you book a table at this “restaurant” you will be lifted up to 50 metres into the air, securely strapped into a seat. At the top, a five-course menu prepared by top chefs from the city’s best restaurants is served – so you can enjoy both the food and views to the fullest. The platform can accommodate 32 people spread across eight tables and you need to book a table in advance. If you fancy more airy dining experiences, you can also check out the gourmet restaurant La Villa in the Sky, which is located up in a 120-metre-high building with fantastic views.

A (train) journey in the world of gastronomy

Hop on board the gourmet train and get ready for a tasty ride! Tram Experience is simply put a gourmet restaurant on rails, where you can travel around the streets of Brussels while being served a six- or seven-course meal. The menus are composed of chefs from several of the city’s best restaurants, headed by the head chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Comme chez Soi, so you are guaranteed a great dining experience a little out of the ordinary. The train departs every day except Mondays.

Ballekes

It’s not just the Swedes who love meatballs – the little brother of the meatball is also a staple in traditional Belgian cuisine. At Ballekes, the meatball is served piece by piece depending on how hungry you are, accompanied by different sauces based on the chef’s grandmother’s recipe. The menu also includes Belgian fries – another classic and a must eat if you visit Brussels. P.S. If you only want Belgian fries on the go, Maison Antoine and Frit Flagey are among the best options.

Delirium Café

No trip to Brussels is complete until you have tasted Belgian beer. And that’s when Delirium Café is a good starting point – here you’ll find over 2,000 different beers. There are so many that the bar holds the Guinness record for the number of beer varieties, so every beer fan will probably find their favourite here. Choose from Trappist beer, fruit beer or Belgian wheat beer, or go for a more robust variety such as chocolate beer, coconut beer or a flavoured gingerbread or banana. If you visit the bar on a Thursday, you get to listen to live music too. You will find the beer paradise three minutes’ walk from the Grand Place.

Bar Arthur Orlans

If beer isn't quite your thing, Brussels also offers cocktail bars of the best quality. Bar Arthur Orlans, located in the Dansaert Quarter, serves handcrafted drinks tailored to your wishes. Located in an old tailor’s shop, the cocktail bar gives a nostalgic look back to the Baroque era with patterned wallpaper, leather sofas and old-fashioned knick-knacks. P.S. To enter, you need to ring the doorbell.

MOK Specialty Coffee Roastery & Bar

If you’re in the mood for a drink cup of coffee, head to the MOKcoffee bar, which is said to have some of the best coffee in the city. In fact, the founder has been a Belgian barista champion twice and the cafe has been voted second best roastery in Europe and the Middle East in the specialty coffee category. The menu includes the cafeteria’s own hand-brewed coffee, filter coffee and espresso, all roasted with quality beans that come from farmers who ensure sustainable and organic production. The cafe also serves vegetarian breakfast and lunch, as well as freshly baked cakes and sweets.

Discover the city on two wheels

Bikes are a great way to discover Brussels – especially if you want to get away from the touristy hustle and bustle and experience the hidden gems! A day pass for the city bike Villo! costs less than 2 euros, while the electric bikes from Billy Bike are easily unlocked with an app on your mobile and can be picked up and parked anywhere in the city. If you want to take in the city’s highlights on a guided bike tour, Groovy Brussels arranges a 3.5-hour tour that takes you to the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis, Atomium and Cinquantenaire Park, among others. Along the way, there will also be a stop for a refill of Belgian traditional food, namely fries and beer at the well-known Maison Antoine. Also check out Pro Velo for tours and bike rentals in Brussels.

Brussels Beer Bus

Want to see the city’s historical and cultural highlights from a Second World War ambulance? Or rent your private vintage bus with a guide to take you around the city – while you get to taste Belgium’s gold? Brussels Beer Bus offers several different tours suitable for groups from 1–100 people, including both guide and beer tasting. So fasten your seatbelt and get ready for fun on wheels!

Tips! Visit Brussels has a good overview of several beer and chocolate tours in Brussels.

Make your own chocolate

If you can't get enough of Belgian chocolate and wish you could make it yourself, sign up for The Belgian Chocolate Makers chocolate course. They hold workshops daily, where you can learn why Belgian chocolate is so famous and taste the "new" chocolate Ruby. The pink chocolate is a challenger to the three varieties we already know – dark, milk and white – and was created by Barry Callebaut. You also get to make your own chocolate and truffles, and of course you get to take what you make home with you!

Tips! Want to learn how to make Belgian waffles instead? Check out Viatours, which has various options.

On the trail of comic book heroes

It’s not just on the bookshelves and museums that you’ll find comic book characters in Brussels, here they’re found almost everywhere – in the form of street art on the city’s walls and street corners. If you join Bravo Discovery on a private guided tour, which adapts the tour to your wishes, you’ll both see and learn more about some of the greatest heroes in the comic book world. Tours can be booked daily.

Beer festival

If you really want to get a taste of the Belgian beer culture, don't miss one of the many beer festivals held in the city. During the beer festival Belgian Beer Weekend, which takes place at the Grand Place in September, you can sample over 400 different beers from some of Belgium’s best breweries. The festival kicks off with a celebration of the patron saint of brewers and a blessing of the beer in the cathedral, where both a procession of historic brewery carriages and various musical experiences are on the programme. Also check out the beer festival BXL Beer Fest, held in August.

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