The Belgian capital of Brussels is sometimes overlooked as one of Europe’s less exciting cities but we here at Europe a la Carte definitely think otherwise and Brussels is featured in our best European cities to visit post. Here are some of the great things to do in Brussels from the blogging team, whether your interests are museums, shopping, Art Nouveau architecture or (in my case) Belgian chocolate!
View over Brussels from The Square
Museums in Brussels
On her trip to Brussels, Karen was most impressed by the quality of the museums. She enjoyed the City Museum, located in on the main Grand Place square. As well as covering the history of the city of Brussels, this museum serves an important role – it’s the place where all the hundreds of costumes of the famous “Manneken Pis” are stored! (We’ll get to him soon!).
City Museum (on right) in Grand Place
Karen wasn’t sure whether to bother with the Magritte Museum, not being much of fan of surrealism but was glad she gave it a try.
Magritte Museum by ines saraiva
Another very popular museum is the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, which is actually a collection of several art galleries covering historical art, modern art and ancient art. Brueghel and Bosch are heavily featured and there are also artworks from van Gogh, Matisse and Dali, among many others.
For music fans, the Museum of Musical Instruments is well known internationally for its vast collection of instruments. There are four floors of instruments to explore from Belgium, Europe and beyond.
A gourd instrument by Photo Phiend
The Atomium is a structure that is recognisable to anyone who has passed through Brussels – it was built for the 1958 World Fair and of its nine spheres, several of them are open to the public, including museum-like exhibitions about the World Fair and rotating exhibitions on various scientific themes. However Arwa didn’t rate the Atomium very highly,
The Atomium by saturn
Sculpture and Statue Sightseeing in Brussels
Practically the tourist symbol of Brussels, the small statue of a boy known as the “Manneken Pis” is something you should see (it’s in the centre) but have low expectations – it’s like the Mona Lisa, a bit on the small side! However, he is dressed in different costumes each month so that adds some extra interest.
Mannekin Pis in football strip costume by Abi Skipp
There are plenty of other sculptures and statues around Brussels. One that might be more intriguing (and is less well known) than Manneken Pis is the “Jeanneke Pis” – yes, a peeing girl. And then there’s the “Zinneke Pis” statue – a dog, lifting its leg – the third member of this family of unusual sculptures which make Brussels unique. (Just why Brussels is full of such statues is a little of a mystery to me.)
Karen liked what she christened the “Happy Kids” sculpture in The Square.
Happy Kids Sculpture
Art Nouveau in Brussels
Brussels is renowned cities for its wealth of Art Nouveau architecture of which the Museum of Musical Instruments is a fine example.
Art Nouveau style Museum of Musical Instruments
Karen loved the Art Nouveau stained glass in the Gresham Building.
Art Nouveau stained glass
Best Shopping Trips in Brussels
The first thing that jumps into my mind when I think of going shopping in Brussels is of course to grab some Belgian chocolates to take home. However, there is a great warning in Arwa’s post suggesting you don’t buy chocolates in the tourist areas, as they are overpriced. Instead, try the markets and only buy them where they are happy to let you taste them first. (I think I’d have to keep tasting all day to decide where to buy!)
Brussels Chocolaterie by erodcust
Another typical Belgian souvenir to take home is Belgian lace, and in particular Brussels is famous for a style known as “needle lace”. The handmade laces are pretty pricey but the machine-made ones are usually affordable.
Lace in Brussels by arwa
If you plan your trip to coincide with Christmas, you’ll be able to explore the Christmas markets of Brussels. A couple of years ago Karen found some unique Christmas gifts in Brussels and there are many different stalls – and even an ice rink! – to enjoy.
Ice Rink at St Catherine’s Christmas Market
And finally, after a long day of sightseeing you might be in search of some famed Belgian beer. While you can certainly browse through specialist beer stores like Beer Mania, you are actually just as well off browsing the beer aisle at any supermarket you stumble across in Brussels, which all stock a variety of Belgian beers. Alternatively, try a brewery tour during the day, perhaps at the Cantillon Brewery which makes beers including Lambic, Guezue and Kriek.
Cantillon Brewery by toddross