Brussels, the capital city of Belgium is one of the most famous historical cities and tourist attractions in the world. The city is also popular for beers, breweries and beer festivals. It also hosts the headquarters of the European Union. The city has vast number of museums, monuments, and historical places that are never to be missed. Though the city is comparatively small and easy to explore even on foot, because of its many 'must visit' places and numerous 'must-do' activities, we have compiled a complete tourist guide of Brussels including its main attractions, outdoor activities, bars, FAQs and means to get around the city. Brussels, a city that has grown from a 10th-century fortress town into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants, a historical place that unveils the stories dating back to 17th century is a place that everyone should visit.
Grand Place: Grand Place is one of the most stunning town squares in Europe. An eye-catching bunch of public and private buildings that date back to the late 17th century, the square boasts of an intricate but beautiful architecture.The towers are 96 meters (315 ft) high, and are capped by a statue of Saint Michael slaying a demon.
Atomium: Atomium, a whopping 102 meters (335 ft) tall structure located on Boulevard du Centenaire was developed for World's Fair, 'Expo'58' in Brussels. It represents a structural composition of an iron crystal unit cell if magnified 165 billion times. The nine steel spheres of Atomium house exhibit halls, restaurants and are connected by the tubes along the 12 edges inclusive of escalators of the cube and all eight vertices to the center.
Parc du Cinquantenaire: A large, urban public park in Brussels where a huge U-shaped complex dominates the park was specially built by King Leopold II. The structures were built in iron, glass and stone to symbolize the economic and industrial performance of Belgium. The complex at north-western corner of the park houses the Royal Military Museum, Cinquantenaire Art Museum, the AutoWorld Museum, Temple of Human Passions and the Great Mosque of Brussels.
Mosque: Mosque located in the Cinquantenaire Park is Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium and the oldest mosque in Brussels. The mosque was reconstructed by Tunisian architect Boubaker at the expense of Saudi Arabia. After the completion of reconstruction it was inaugurated in 1978 in the presence of Khalid ibn Abd al-Aziz and Baudouin.
AutoWorld: A vintage car museum in southern hall of U-shaped complex at the Cinquantenaire Park owns large collection of 350 European and American old-timer automobiles from the late 19th century until the seventies including Minervas, a Bentley of 1928, a Cord and a Bugatti of 1930 and several limousines which belonged to the Belgian royal family.
Art Museum: One of the must visit places, an art museum at southern part of Cinquantenaire Park's U-shaped complex boasts a national collection of artifacts from prehistory to the Merovingian period (751 AD), a collection of artifacts from the antiquity of the Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Military Museum: The Military museum was originally on the site of the Abbaye de la Cambre but later in 1923, it was moved on the Cinquantenaire Park. Today, it proudly shows one of the largest collections of uniforms, weapons, and military vehicles of all ages and all countries in the world.
Quartier Royal: Once upon a time, Quartier Royal was the home of Belgian royal family. Quartier Royal prides itself in housing Palais Royal, Palais de la Nation and Palais des Academies, the palaces with neo-classic architecture that were built between 18th and 20th century. The Palais Royal, the largest of the palaces at Quartier Royal is open to the public between July and September and is well worth the visit.
Cathedrale Sts Michel et Gudule: One of the remarkable archaeological sites in Brussels, Cathedrale Sts Michel et Gudule' is a roman catholic church at the Treurenberg hill located in the city centre of Brussels, Belgium. The history of the cathedral spans over 12 centuries.
Musée des Instruments de Musique: The Musée des Instruments de Musique in Belgium basks away in the glory of displaying more than 7000 instruments from all over the world and from all ages. In addition, the Brussels Musical Instruments Museum also organizes galleries displaying a collection of instruments over four floors, a concert hall for events, meetings, conferences and private functions, a library, a museum shop and a rooftop restaurant offering breathtaking views of the city.
A La Mort Subite: Delicious Gueuze beers served at 'A La Mort Subite' are the most craved beers in the world. If you want to taste Gueuze and other beers of Brussels, visiting this bar is inevitable. Attractive architecture and furniture made of old rich wood of A La Mort Subite add a special classic feel to its vintage atmosphere. This is one of the famous hang-out places preferred by tourist and locals as well.
Poechenellekelder: This beer bar is easy to locate as it is right across the famous Mannekin Pis in the centre of Brussels. All-embracing and very well chosen beer list and traditional dishes like 'kanibal' are available at stylish, funky yet cozy Poechenellekelder beer bar. The walls of the bar take pride in showing off some costumes of Mannekin Pis and tons of puppets. Service at the bar is a bit slow after the first round of beer to allow you savor the taste.
Celtica: 'Cool, easy going and casual' describes Celtica bar the best. It is one of the preferred bars by young enthusiasts of music, dance, and beer who enjoy being together. The atmosphere of the bar is casual and youth friendly. One can hang out and dance with friends all night at Celtica without worrying about the bill as the price on the beer list is affordable.La Fleur en Papier Dore: It is the oldest bistro in Brussels that dates back to middle of the 18th century. The bar gives an unforgettable feeling of being in a company of all the masters whose drawings, paintings and the citations are written on the walls of La Fleur en Papier Dore. You won't experience the smoky atmosphere, the signature of bars in Brussels, in any of today's bars.
O'Reilly's: Little noisy bar 'O'Reilly's' is located directly across the bourse in central Brussels. This is a great place for having meals along with beer, socializing, watching sport events such as soccer, rugby matches with large group of friends. Lively atmosphere make first timers visit the bar repeatedly.
Brussels Chocolate Walking Tour and Workshop: Belgian chocolates rule the world! Along with visiting the marvels of Brussels, a four hours' guided tour on foot in Brussels offers a chance to stroll through the chocolate shops. Participating in the 'Chocolate making workshop' is chocoholics' dream as one can learn how to make the real Belgian pralines in the workshop!
Ghent and Bruges Day Trip from Brussels: A visit to Brussels is not complete if two beautiful cities, Ghent and Bruges are left unseen. Drive through the Flemish countryside to Bruges or take a boat cruise along the canals. Lake of Love (Minnewater) and the Beguinage (convent) will calm down your soul while other sights such as Lady Church with a statue by Michelangelo, the Town Hall Square (Burg) with the Chapel of the Holy Blood will please your eyes.
Belgium in One Day Sightseeing Tour: A one-day tour in Belgium offers you a chance to be in heaven. This guided tour dots the most attractive places such as Brussels, Antwerp and Bruges. A 35-minute canal-ride in Bruges enhances your zest of embracing the unforgettable adventures in Brussels.
Brussels Beer Tasting Tour: When you are in Belgium, Beer Tasting Tour in Brussels must be a part of your plan. It takes you to some of the local as well as international finest breweries and offers neophytes and experienced a chance to taste the beers. It also introduces you to the country's beer heritage that boasts a rich brewing tradition.
Brussels Night Walking Tour - Gourmet Belgian Food: A short tour during early hours of the night is a great pleasure for foodies as they get to taste the local cuisine. Exploring the gourmet city along with tasting the highly regarded Belgian cuisine is a must-do thing. It introduces you to the Brussels' culinary past, and the history of the city settled by exiled French chefs.
Brussels Half-Day City Tour: This tour takes you to the top attractions such as Grand Place, Royal Residence, Royal Square, Houses of Parliament, EU Commission, and European Parliament of the city. You can choose any of the day tour or night tour sessions as per your convenience.
Brussels City Hop On Hop Off Tour: Board the open-top bus in Brussels and get a chance to visit the top attractions of Brussels in approximately 90 minutes ride. According to your preferences, you can also choose to get on/off the bus at any of the destinations pinned by the tour.
Mini Europe - Miniature Model Park: A visit to Mini Europe will make your trip unforgettable. The park boasts off the miniature versions of charms or icons of the scenic cities in European countries. The miniature models here including Big Ben, Gondolas and Mandolins of Venice, Acropolis of Athens and the canals of Old Amsterdam paint an entire picture of Europe before your eyes.
Bruges Express City Tour from Brussels: Bruges, known as Venice of the North, has the atmosphere and the look of medieval period unlike any other city or region in Europe. To get to the historical city of Bruges one needs to travel through the Dutch landscape which is equally mind-blowing. Bruges, one of Europe's most enchanting places boasts Our Lady's Church where Madonna statue by Michelangelo is, the Market Square with the Belfry and the Town Hall Square where the Chapel of the Holy Blood is located.
Visiting the Place du Grand Sablon (Grand Sablon Square): This architectural square houses buildings dating from the 16th to the 19th century. Today, the square is mostly known for shops selling chocolates and antiques as well as tapestries and carpets. The Wittimers pastry shop is one of the famous places to google at delicious chocolates. In addition, the place also holds an antique flea market on the weekends from 9 am to 6 pm where you can find a land full of historic wares and statues.
Q.1) What is Brussels popularly known for?
Ans: Brussels is the capital of Belgium and hosts the headquarters of the European Union (EU). It is famous for Mini Europe miniature model park and Beer Festivals.
Q.2) Which countries border Belgium?
Ans: France, Germany, Netherlands and Luxembourg are the neighboring countries of Belgium.
Q.3) What is the official language of Brussels?
Ans: Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German.
Q.4) Which languages are spoken in Brussels?
Ans: The two main languages spoken in and around Brussels are French and Dutch. That is why most places have two different names. For example, the Main Square is called la Grand Place and de Grote Markt at the same time. Fortunately for tourists, English is also widely spoken.
Q.5) What are the important phrases in French while conversing with locals?
Ans: Useful French phrases in towns where locals don't speak English
Here are some more phrases/terms useful for tourists:
Q.6) Which is the cheapest way to get around in Brussels?
Ans: Exploring the city on foot is the best option, as most of the tourist attractions are situated in and around the city center, very close to each other.
Q.7) What is Brussels' weather like?
Ans: Brussels has an oceanic climate and nearness to coastal areas is the reason why it is so. Marshy areas also ensure a maritime temperate climate. On an average based on the last 100 years, Brussels approximately has 200 days of rain per year. Snowfall is rare, generally occurring once or twice a year mostly during winter.
Q.8) Which are the best months to visit Brussels?Ans: Late spring to autumn is probably the best time to visit Brussels. Some attractions may be closed in winter, although most are open year round. If you are in Brussels during winter, do not forget to get water-resistant footwear as the city is likely to be wet and the snow makes grounds slippery in winter.
Spring months: March, April, May Summer months: June, July, August Autumn months: September, October, November Winter months: December, January, February
Q.9) How safe is Brussels for tourists?
Ans: Brussels is a safe city for tourists but three main stations in Brussels North, Central, and “especially” the South are prone to minor crimes like pickpockets, bags, and small luggage thieves. Avoid traveling at night. Some suburban neighborhoods have a poor reputation, but most travelers are unlikely to visit them. In case you should be robbed, though, there is a police office right next to the gate in front of the Belgian Parliament where experienced policemen can help you. Most of them speak French, Dutch and English well.
Q.10) Can you provide a list of Emergency Numbers in Brussels?
Ans: National Emergency Services are:Medical Service (Service médical d'urgence / Medische spoeddienst) 100 Police (Police Fédérale / Federale politie) 101 Fire Service (Pompiers / Medische spoeddienst) 100 Pan-European emergency number: 112
Q.11) Can you suggest me some hospitals in Brussels?
Ans: Here are few of hospitals in Brussels:
Q.12) What is Brussels' currency? Are there ATMs in Brussels?
Ans: Euro is the currency used in Brussels, Belgium. Many parts of Brussels have ATMs but be sure to inform your bank before traveling to Brussels or abroad, and be aware as you may be charged for cash withdrawals.
Q.13) How do I exchange foreign currency in Brussels?
Ans: You can exchange your currency to Euro. It is advisable to exchange some cash before arriving in Brussels. Most Brussels banks or Foreign Exchange Bureaus offer the facility of currency exchange. The sign 'Bureau De Change', 'Geld Wechseln' or 'Cambio' stands for Currency exchange office. You can exchange your currency at Brussels airport, but exchange rate may not be the best.
Q.14) I heard Brussels is famous for beer. Is it true?
Ans: Brussels is the capital of Belgium and Belgium is famous for beer, breweries and chocolates as well. Many small, medium and large Belgian breweries offer you a chance to taste their best beers. Belgium is a country which boasts a tradition of beer making and produces 450 different varieties of beer, including some world famous brands. The country also arranges huge beer festivals throughout the year.
Q.15) What is Brussels' attitude towards LGBT community like?
Ans: Same-sex marriage and adoption are legal in Belgium. The 'Rainbow House'- 'Maison Arc-en-Ciel de Bruxelles' in French is a café and information centre for questions about sexuality and gender and a favourite hangout for most Brussels LGBT organizations. Belgian Pride is held in Brussels every May while Lesbians also get together in autumn to celebrate L-week. Brussels also hosts LGBT film festivals.
Brussels, the capital of Belgium is one of the most scenic and historic cities in the world.
Exploring the city and the attractions on foot is the best option as most sights such as museums, parks and monuments are located close to each other. Getting around in Brussels on foot is more beneficial than any other as many roads in old town of Brussels are closed for cars. If you are out on foot exploring the city in winter days, wearing water-resistant footwear is advisable as the city is likely to be wet and the snow makes the grounds slippery in winter.
Given the case though, well-planned public transport system comprising trams and buses make moving around the city pleasurable. One can also hire taxis for visiting various attractions in Brussels. Another interesting way of visiting the attractions and exploring the city is hiring a bike.
Various trams, buses shape up transport system of Brussels. These services are managed and operated by single company, STIB, making purchase and transfer of the tickets easier while intercity trains are managed by another company 'SNCB'. All of the train stations are connected to tram stops, bus stops and metro stations.
National trains in Brussels are convenient for inter-region and inter-city travel. Brussels South, one of the main train stations is connected to the Ringway metro line and tramways in Brussels, is the high-speed trains stop en route to Paris, Ostend and London.
Brussels Central is an underground train station located in the city centre, between the North and South stations while Brussels North station manages the trains to the airport, Antwerp, Amsterdam and Cologne.
Brussels Metro that dates back to 1976 operates through six underground lines. Prominent 'M' in white on blue background denotes the metro stations which also are accessible from street level.
If you want to skip walking and all the other ways of traveling, take a tram or a bus. Do not forget that the trams and buses only stop on request. If you want to board the bus or tram, raise your hand to indicate that you want to hop on the tram/bus.
Traveling by tram is beneficial also as they have higher priority to all traffic, including pedestrians.
Brussels being an eco-friendly city offers 'Velo' the bicycles. The city is dotted with around 180 bike-hire terminals that are open for 24 hours a day. When you hire a bike, the first half hour is free of charge. The bikes can be hired for a day or for a week as well.
Hiring a taxi that has an official yellow-and-blue Brussels taxi sign is advisable. If you book a taxi in advance, it is more profitable and also, most companies offer a pick-up facility at your place.
Skipping all the options, if you decide to travel through the city at your own space, renting a car is a better option. It also enables you to move to out-of-town areas on your own. Most of the major transport hubs in Brussels have rental car outlets. It is best to hire a car in advance.
Being a capital city of Belgium, one of the francophone countries, communication in the Brussels is mainly carried out in French and Flemish resulting in all signage in French and Flemish while announcements at tram stations, railways stations, or bus stops are in Dutch, French, and English.
Communication with the inhabitants of the City of Brussels is carried out in 2 ways: a magazine and a website.
The City of Brussels informs the inhabitants with the help of city's website and a municipal magazine called 'Brusseleir'
Other modes of communications are Internet, Telephone, VOIP & WiFi.
Fixed Line Telephones: Numerous telephone companies exist in Belgium but to be connected to the land line network, you must be subscribed with Belgacom, the national Belgian telephone company. Once you have subscribed yourself with Belgacom, you are free to avail the service of any of the service provides. Belgacom offers telephone and Internet services to private individuals and small as well as medium and large companies.
Mobile Telephone: There are 3 major service providers for mobile phones in Belgium. So, it is advised to compare tariffs of each company before signing or accepting a service.
Internet: Like most of the countries in the world, internet usage in Belgium is very high. Most fixed-line telephone companies provide vast range of internet packages.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is also in use in public areas such as Brussels Airport, Internet cafés and bars.