“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”Anonymous
Home to European Union, Brussels is the beautiful and stunning capital city of Belgium.
As a part of my business trip, I got a chance to visit Brussels, Belgium in August 2019. It was a 4 days trip and I tried to sneak in some time to visit a couple of major attractions in Brussels.
There are many attractions to explore here in Brussels, ideally a very good location for a weekend!
This is a small country and is squeezed between the top tourist destinations like London, Paris and Amsterdam and is therefore often overlooked. But Belgium has a lot to offer to any type of traveller! 2 days should be a good itinerary for Brussels.
Brussels Airport is the main airport in Brussels. I had travelled from Dublin to Brussels and it takes around 1 hour 40 minutes in Flight. The other airport is Brussels South Charleroi Airport, from where Budget airlines like Ryanair operate.
Typically, it takes around 30 minutes’ drive or 45 minutes metro ride to city centre from Brussels airport.
I would encourage you to explore the following options:
a) Brussels Card + Public transport (24/48/72 Variants available)
b) STIB – MIB Contactless Card
I have personally used the 24 hours card (worth 7.5 Euros) and found it very effective (used in Bus, metro and tram). You can get the tickets from the Kiosks, which is available in the stations.
Some of the attractions that I Visited:
1. Grand Place (Grote Markt):
The central square of Brussels is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered as one of the most beautiful town squares in the world. It’s a square containing the Town Hall and Guild Halls and the Maison du Roi where the Museum of Brussels is now located.
Frankly, this is one of the most beautiful squares that I had ever visited. Whenever you see a picture of Grand place, you will see a flower carpet in front of that. Please note that it’s not a regular installation and happens once in 2 years (the next appearance will be in mid-August 2020). The architecture of the buildings in this area is simple amazing.
Try to reach this place a little early in the morning as it gets crowded later in the day.
2. Manneken Pis:
This is a handsome little guy (peeping Boy) who is the most popular person in Brussels and a must see on your first trip to the city. Not much time is required here, and the good thing is that its quite near to the Grand Palace (5-10 min walk). Manneken Pis is the best-known symbol of Brussels.
Don’t forget, at certain times, Manneken Pis gets dressed up in all manner of costumes meaning a second visit will always be interesting. Unfortunately, there was no special dressing when I visited.
Also please note that this is not the original one. If you wish to see the actual original boy, you need to visit Museum of the City of Brussels.
Interestingly, Manneken Pis has over 900 costumes, of which 100 are on display in the city museum.
3. Jeanneke Pis:
The ‘sister’ of the Manneken Pis – Jeanneke Pis can be found in a small alley next to the Rue des Bouchers and is been little hidden out of sight.
Due to some reason, Jeanneke Pis issitting behind the bars and she is not that popular as Manneken Pis.
There is also a Zinneke Pis, but I did not get time to visit that.
4. Galeries Royales St Hubert:
It’s a gorgeous shopping centre in the middle of Brussels. The two long galleries that make up the arcade were filled with brightly lit shops, boutiques, and delicious-smelling chocolatiers. Its worth visiting this place.
5. Atomium: (nearest metro station is Heysel):
This is Brussel’s Eiffel tower.
Built in the 1950’s (for world fair expo), the Atomium is a little outside the city centre but a great spot to see something a little different. Over 100 metres (330ft) tall, it’s a great place to see some views of the city. This is said to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in Brussels. It has nine large spheres connected with tubes. In 5 spheres, there are different exhibitions (Both Permanent and temporary). There was also a light show inside one of the spheres. My personal feeling is that it is worth seeing Atomium from outside, and you won’t really miss much if can’t go inside. At the ticket counter and at the lift to the summit, you will have to spend a lot of time waiting in the queue.
Another concern is about the lack of restaurants in this area. There are very limited options and you will have to depend on the street vendors/vans for your lunch/snacks (mainly French fries, ice-creams and waffles).
More details here : https://atomium.be/home/cover
6. Mini Europe:
It’s one of the nicest family-friendly attractions in Brussels. Combination tickets are available for both attractions (Atomium and Mini Europe). Mini-Europe sits at the foot of the Atomium, so it’s best to do them both together.
Featuring each of the nation members of the European Union, this miniature park brings to life over 80 cities and 350 of the continent’s most famous buildings, containing live action models such as trains, fire, mills and cable cars.
More details here : https://www.minieurope.com/en/
7. Royal palace of Brussels:
The official palace of the Belgian King in the centre of Brussels is used for all kinds of official events and can be visited from the end of July till beginning of September. The Royal family itself lives in the Castle of Laeken, on the outskirts of Brussels.
Please note that Royal palace is closed for public, on Mondays.
8. Cinquantenaire & Triumphal Arch:
The park features a giant, U-shaped building with the city’s Triumphal Arch at the center, inside of which you’ll find the Royal Military Museum, an art gallery, and an automobile museum. Please note that this place is slightly away from the city centre and you might need to use metro to reach here from the city centre.
9. Auto world:
If you are automobile lover, you should never miss this place. AutoWorld is a car museum that has over 300 vintage European and American automobiles from the late 19th century to the seventies. Admission is €12 EUR or €11 EUR (Online) and it’s opened every day from 10am-5pm.
More details here : https://www.autoworld.be/onthaal
Despite having administrative centres in Strasbourg and Luxembourg, the EU headquarters are in Brussels. Open seven days a week with no admission fee and audio guide included, visiting the Parlamentarium is a cheap and informative way to spend a couple of hours for visitors of all ages.
11. Mont des Arts:
The Mont des Arts is one of Brussels’ most iconic places, with a long floral garden and views of the city hall tower.
12. Old England Building:
The Old England department store was a large retailer in downtown Brussels, Belgium, partially housed in a famous, important Art Nouveau building constructed by the Belgian architect Paul Saintenoy (1862–1952) in 1898–99. Today its former buildings house the Museum of Musical Instruments, founded in 1877, which forms part of the group of Royal Museums for Art and History.
Don’t leave Brussels before trying the below:
This was one of my favourite snacks in Brussels. After all, you can’t leave Brussels without having some of their famous waffles. The no of varieties really surprised me.
b) Belgium or French (Not sure which country created Fries)
Fries here had a different taste and I really loved it. Its mostly served in cones.
Where to Stay in Brussels:
Any where near to the Brussels Central station will be a good place to live. So, look out for hotels in this area. The commutation to airport and other attractions will be easier.
Other places worth visiting are:
Again, in Brussels also I tried some Indian restaurants.
a) Indian Flavour (in City Centre):
I had tried Biriyani from here. Food was tasty and economical. Would certainly recommend.
b) Star of Asia – Indian Cuisine (Near Parlamentarium):
I had tried a chicken dish and Roti.
It was not economical and not tasty…Not recommended
a) Both the trains and buses are extremely neat. Metro is mostly underground, and the good thing is that you have very good Mobile network connectivity in underground metro.
There is also proper marking in metro stations.
b) Most of the shops (including hotels) are closed on Sundays.
c) Many of the Museum’s (like Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History) and Royal Palace are closed on Mondays.
d) Brussels is very safe, and people are very friendly.
e) I did not see any of the big chains like KFC. Seems they are very limited.
f) Brussels has a lot of street food options and that would easily fit in to your budget. Best and economical option will be to try out Fast food / Kebab type of shops.
g) I saw a lot of Police vehicles around during my visit. Not sure if it’s a regular scene here in Brussels.
h) I had observed that many of the shops close around 6 PM.
i) If you are looking for souvenirs, there are many shops within the city centre.
j) Try to take a metro map and the city attraction guide from the hotel itself. It will be very handy.
k) People here use a lot of mechanical and electronic cycles. You will see a lot of such cycles around city centre.
l) All price includes Tax as well and there are no hidden charges.
m) You will see a lot of chocolate shops around. Don’t miss trying some chocolates before you leave Brussels.