Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, is the seat of the Belgian Royal family and capital the European Union. It is small, friendly, and manageable for all its importance.
Unlike Ghent or Bruges with their hordes tourists, Brussels has a main economic and educational center in Belgium. This gives Brussels a more workaday vibe than other towns.
This is where you can really get a feel for Belgian life, particularly its wonderful cafe and restaurant culture.
Even though Brussels doesn’t have the same star attractions as other Belgian towns it is home to, there are plenty of things to do in Brussels. The capital includes a handful of museums and galleries of international quality, along with some quirky and unusual things like the Atomium.
Once you’ve had enough of the Gothic and Baroque glory, remember to buy some Belgian chocolate. Check out our list of the top attractions in Brussels and other things to do.
1. Grand Place (Grote Markt)
In the heart of Brussels Old Town is the Grand Place, the city’s main square (known as Grand Place), which is one the best preserved in Europe.
Many of the square’s elegance is due to its unique Gildehuizen (guildhouses) architecture with its magnificent gables, pilasters & balustrades, richly decorated gold decoration, and ornately-carved stonework.
Grand Place is known for its Baroque style uniformity with Flemish influences. The short time it took to build the buildings here is what makes them harmonious. Most were built between 1696-1697.
Although the Grand Place is a landmark in Chicago’s history, it dates back even further. It was established as a political and economic hub in the city in the 11th-century.
The Hotel de Ville, also known as Town Hall, is the most prominent building. It was constructed in 1402 with an intention to overthrow the Stadhuis in Bruges.
2. Mannekin Pis
The Manneken Pis, Brussels’ most famous landmark, is located along the Rue de l’Etuve. This pis is usually thronged by a throng tourists.
He can be traced back as far as 1388. However, not much is known about the origins of the figure of a small boy urinating. This figure is popularly known as the “oldest citizen of Brussels”.
There are many legends surrounding the Manneken. One legend says that the fountain commemorates a brave infant who prevented a conflagration. A second claims that it is the monument to the son of a count who was overcome by a strong urge to take part in a procession.
The current statue was built in 1619, by Jerome Duquesnoy. Although stolen several times, it has always been recovered. The statue is often seen in costume at major festivals, celebrations and events in Brussels.
3. Saint-Michel Cathedral (Sint-Michiels Kathedraal)
This Gothic church is dedicated St. Michael, St. Gudula, and St. Gudula, the patron saints of Brussels. It was established in 1225 but completed only in the 15th century.
It stands majestically high above a long flight of steps, and is crowned by Jan van Ruysbroeck’s twin towers measuring 69 m.
It has a beautiful interior measuring 108 mx 50 m. The home is furnished lavishly and contains some remarkable stained glass windows made by Bernard van Orley.
Look out for the best representations of Charles V, Isabella of Portugal (south), and the Hungarian royal pairing Louis II, and Mary (north). Then, head into the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, just to the left of the choir. Here, the window tells the story of the Miracle of the Host.
4. Belgian Comic Strip Center
Victor Horta designed the beautiful 1906 building that houses the Comic Strip Center. The center is dedicated the history of comic strips in the nation that gave the world Tintin and The Smurfs.
Here is a rotating display of 200 original comic strip drawings from Belgian and French comic artists.
Additionally, the museum documents French and Belgian comic strip popularity through a thoughtfully curated collection that includes original manuscripts, sketches and imaginatively reconstructed sets such as Lucky Luke’s saloon or Tim, Struppi or Captain Haddock’s moon rocket.