Brussels is the de facto European capital and home to the EU, but it also offers an incredible array of attractions. From parks and hills with specific cultural missions to resplendent Art Nouveau and Art Deco villas, there's something for everyone in this vibrant city.
While Brussels sometimes seems business and bureaucracy-focused, at other times it feels laid back and nonchalant. That's what makes it such a fun place to visit!
One of the main attractions of Brussels, Grand Place is a beautiful pedestrian square surrounded by charming shops, cafes and restaurants. The square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and receives tens of thousands of tourists each year.
The Grand Place has a long history of being a bustling marketplace for the citizens of Brussels. It was originally built in the 11th century and it grew into a central meeting point of the city.
During the 1700s, the Grand Place was reconstructed after it had been destroyed by French artillery. This was an impressive restoration project that helped make Brussels one of the most prosperous cities in Europe.
Today, the Grand Place is a major cultural hub and hosts events of all kinds. A highlight is the annual Flower Carpet, where over half a million begonias are woven together to create an eye-catching tapestry that covers the cobblestones for just a few weekends a year.
Located in Laeken Park, The Atomium is an incredible landmark that visitors tend to be awestruck by. It was built as the main pavilion and icon of Expo 58, the World Exposition in 1958.
The Atomium is 102 meters tall and has steel spheres that resemble the unit cell of an iron crystal. Only five of these spheres are open to the public and there is an on-site restaurant in the top sphere, which offers panoramic views over Brussels.
You can visit The Atomium on your own, but I highly recommend you pre-book your ticket online in advance (it costs 16 Euros for one adult entry). This way you will skip the queues and be able to select your preferred time slot.
Once you have your tickets, you can enter the building and take an elevator up to the panoramic viewpoint before seeing museum exhibitions. The queue is usually fairly short and there are fun things to read on the walls, which helps keep you entertained while waiting.
The Bourse (or Stock Exchange) is a wonderful landmark building that blends the Neo-Renaissance and Second Empire architectural styles. Its facade is adorned with elaborate ornaments and sculptures by renowned artists such as Jacquet brothers, de Groot, Carrier-Belleuse and Rodin.
You won’t get lost trying to find this historic building, and it’s definitely worth a visit. The architecture is quite stunning, and the interior features an array of exhibits.
It’s also one of the best places to see in Brussels at Christmas, where chalets decorated with lights and ornaments seem to meld into a festive market. The area is lively, and it’s a great spot to try a traditional Brussels Christmas market dish like vin chaud or oysters.
The Bourse is also home to the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, which is one of Brussels’ oldest shopping arcades. Here, you’ll find luxury boutique shops, beautiful cafes and stores selling Belgian delicacies.
The Manneken Pis
The Manneken Pis, a naked little boy peeing into a fountain, is one of Brussels’ most famous attractions. It’s a statue that has captured the hearts of visitors and locals alike.
The statue was first created in 1619 by sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy the Elder. Over time, this small bronze figure has become a symbol of the rebellious spirit in Brussels.
Many legends surround the statue and there are countless ways in which you can celebrate it. During Christmas and New Year’s, the Manneken Pis is often dressed in special outfits and spouts beer instead of water!
The Manneken Pis is a very popular tourist attraction and most sightseeing tours in Brussels make a stop here. However, be aware that you may need to get up early in the morning to catch a glimpse of this little statue before it is crowded with tourists.