Welcome to Brussels, the heart and soul of Belgium, where rich history, mouthwatering cuisine, and architectural marvels collide. Embark on a journey through this cosmopolitan city and discover its unique charm as you check off the must-do experiences on your bucket list. Get ready to be captivated by the enchanting blend of old-world charm and modern allure that Brussels has to offer. This Brussels bucket list guide will ensure that you make the most of your visit, discovering the hidden gems and unforgettable experiences that define this remarkable European capital.
History of Brussels
Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, boasts a rich and intricate history that stretches back centuries. The origins of Brussels can be traced to the 10th century when a fortress was built on an island in the River Senne. Over time, the city grew in importance as a trade hub, strategically located between the regions of Flanders and Brabant. Brussels flourished during the Middle Ages as a center of commerce and craftsmanship, attracting merchants and artisans from across Europe.
In the 15th century, Brussels became the residence of the Dukes of Burgundy, who played a pivotal role in shaping the city’s architectural and cultural landscape. The construction of magnificent structures, such as the Town Hall and the Grand Place, began during this period. Brussels continued to thrive under the Habsburg rule, and in the 18th century, the city underwent a period of significant urban development, marked by the creation of elegant boulevards and public squares.
Brussels in modern times
In more recent history, Brussels became a focal point of European politics. Following Belgium’s independence in 1830, Brussels was chosen as the capital of the newly formed nation. The city played a central role in the establishment of the European Union, hosting various EU institutions and serving as the de facto capital of the EU. Today, Brussels stands as a testament to its storied past, with a captivating blend of historical landmarks, modern infrastructure, and a vibrant international atmosphere.
Things to do in Brussels
Start your adventure by exploring the Grand Place, Brussels’ central square and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Marvel at the opulent guildhalls that line the square, adorned with intricate facades and gilded statues. Take a moment to appreciate the architectural masterpiece that is the Town Hall, with its stunning Gothic design and soaring spire. As you wander through the cobblestone streets, indulge in delicious Belgian chocolates and waffles from the numerous artisanal shops that dot the area.
No trip to Brussels would be complete without a visit to the iconic Atomium, a symbol of the city and a testament to human ingenuity. This towering structure, resembling a giant iron crystal, offers panoramic views of Brussels from its observation deck. Immerse yourself in the fascinating history of Belgium at the Atomium’s exhibition spaces, where you can learn about the 1958 World Expo and the building’s unique construction.
Indulge in Belgian Cuisine
Treat your taste buds to delicious Belgian cuisine. Sample mouthwatering Belgian chocolates, devour crispy waffles with various toppings, and savor flavorful moules-frites (mussels with fries). Don’t forget to try the famous Belgian beers and visit local brasseries for a true culinary experience. Delve into the world of Belgian chocolate by visiting artisanal chocolate shops and take part in tastings and workshops. Explore the vibrant beer scene in Brussels by visiting traditional Belgian pubs and breweries, sampling a wide range of local brews.
Discover Belgian Comics
Brussels is known as the birthplace of famous comic book characters like Tintin and the Smurfs. Explore the Belgian Comic Strip Center to learn about the history of comics, view original artwork, and immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Belgian comics.
Marvel at Art and Museums
Visit world-class museums in Brussels, such as the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, which house a vast collection of art from renowned artists like Bruegel and Magritte. Explore the Museum of Natural Sciences, which features impressive dinosaur exhibits and interactive displays.
This small bronze statue of a urinating boy has become an endearing symbol of Brussels. Located near the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis attracts visitors who enjoy the charm and folklore associated with this quirky landmark. The statue is often dressed in various costumes on special occasions.
Situated in the Cinquantenaire Park, the Cinquantenaire Arch is a triumphal arch built in the late 19th century to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence. The arch stands majestically at the eastern end of a wide boulevard and offers an impressive sight. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and is a popular spot for picnics and leisurely walks.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Located in the Koekelberg district, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Cœur) is one of the largest churches in the world. Its striking Art Deco design, stunning stained glass windows, and panoramic views from the dome make it a remarkable landmark worth visiting.
Royal Palace of Brussels
Situated in the heart of Brussels, the Royal Palace is the official residence of the Belgian royal family. While the palace is not open to the public for regular visits, visitors can admire its grand exterior and explore the surrounding gardens. During summer, the palace’s interiors are open to the public, allowing visitors to glimpse the opulent royal rooms.
Stroll in European Quarters
Discover the European Union institutions in the European Quarter. Take a walk through Parc du Cinquantenaire, visit the European Parliament, and explore the interactive exhibitions at the Parlamentarium to learn about European politics and history.
Wander in Quaint Neighborhoods
Explore charming neighborhoods like the Sainte-Catherine district, known for its seafood restaurants and picturesque canal views. Enjoy the bohemian atmosphere of the Marolles district, with its antique shops and the famous daily flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle.
How to get to Brussels
Brussels is conveniently located in the heart of Europe, making it easily accessible by various modes of transportation. Here are some common ways to get to Brussels:
Brussels has an international airport called Brussels Airport (BRU), located approximately 12 kilometers northeast of the city center. It is well-connected to major cities around the world, with numerous airlines offering direct flights. From the airport, you can reach Brussels city center by train, bus, or taxi.
Brussels has excellent rail connections with neighboring countries and major European cities. The city is served by three main train stations: Brussels Midi/Zuid, Brussels Central, and Brussels Nord. High-speed trains, such as the Eurostar and Thalys, provide convenient connections to cities like Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Cologne.
Several international bus companies operate routes to Brussels, offering affordable travel options. The city has several bus stations, including Brussels North Station and Brussels South Station (Gare du Midi). Buses connect Brussels to various European cities, making it a viable option for budget travelers.
Brussels is well-connected to neighboring countries through an extensive road network. Major highways, including the E19, E40, and E411, provide access to the city. However, keep in mind that traffic congestion can be common in Brussels, especially during peak hours. Additionally, be aware of parking restrictions and consider using public transportation within the city.
If you prefer a more scenic route, you can take a ferry to nearby ports, such as Zeebrugge or Ostend, and then travel to Brussels by train or car. Ferry services connect Belgium to the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.
Once you arrive in Brussels, the city has a comprehensive public transportation system, including metro, trams, and buses, making it easy to navigate and explore the various attractions and neighborhoods within the city.
Enjoy our discounts in Brussels
Useful information about Brussels
Where to find Brussels?
Brussels is located in the central part of Belgium, in the region of Flanders. It is approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the northwest of the city of Leuven and around 110 kilometers (68 miles) to the southeast of Bruges. Brussels is geographically within the Brussels-Capital Region, which is an independent administrative region in Belgium. Brussels is also close to other major European cities, making it easily accessible by various transportation modes, including air, train, bus, and car.
Is Brussels safe?
Brussels is generally a safe city to visit. However, like any major urban area, it is advisable to take common safety precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings, avoiding poorly lit areas at night, and keeping an eye on your belongings to minimize the risk of petty theft.
When is the best time to visit Brussels?
The best time to visit Brussels is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) seasons. These months offer pleasant weather, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds compared to the peak summer months. Additionally, visiting during spring allows you to experience the city’s beautiful blooming flowers, while autumn showcases the vibrant colors of changing leaves.
Best experiences in Brussels
Brussels has everything a visitor needs to have a great experience. Its natural beauty draws visitors from around the world- along with its numerous important sites and cultural heritage. As far as things to do in Brussels go, there are plenty of activities available for visitors.
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