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Grand Place, Brussels

The 14 best things to do in Brussels

Cutting edge art, comic books, beautiful parks and excellent beer are just some of the best things to do in Brussels

Written by
Sally Tipper

Brussels is great. And that’s not just because there’s hot Belgian waffles dusted with powdered sugar everywhere you turn though that’s a pretty major perk. Brussels is a city bursting with rich history and culture, from its famous galleries to its street murals, and doesn’t take itself as seriously as you might expect (yep, it’s got a cracking nightlife scene too). 

Brussels gives you everything you want from Belgium, and more. Sure, it’s known for its steaming bowls of moules marinières and truly excellent beer, but you’ll stay for the long strolls through flea markets, and days spent admiring Brussels’ architecture. Whatever you’re into, there’s something for you in Brussels. Read on for the top things to do in the Belgian Capital. 


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Fun things to do in Brussels in 2023


1. Bozar

What is it? A multi-purpose Centre for Fine Arts building, built in 1929 and home to galleries, concert halls, cinemas and more. 

Why go? If you do one thing in Brussels, check out the Bozar. The city’s flagship cultural centre is the place for art and exhibitions, but it’s also home to over 200 concerts a year, and shows films from all over the world at its cinema. But even if you don’t fancy any of the events it’s putting on when you visit (impossible), the museum is well worth a visit for the architecture alone, designed by Belgian architect Victor Horta. The best part? You can get in free with a Brussels Card.

Comic strip murals

2. Comic strip murals

What is it? Fantastic murals bringing colour and vibrancy (and Tintin) to the streets of Brussels

Why go? Perfect for your day of strolling – and your Instagram feed – Brussels is filled with huge paintings and murals, most of them in the style of comic book strips. And don’t worry, you won’t miss out on any, as you can download a comic book map of the city, which guides you through all the major street art in the city. Belgium is the land of Tintin, remember, so he features a lot. 

Grand Place

3. Grand Place

What is it? A gorgeous, Unesco-listed cobblestoned square, surrounded by gilded guildhalls that were once the headquarters of the city’s merchants.

Why go? In a city that’s short on must-see landmarks, this is one you really must-see. It’s been burned, bombed and rebuilt over the centuries, but has emerged as magnificent as it ever was. Once you’ve taken in the opulence (and checked out the tiny Manneken Pis just off the square), learn a little about its history in the Brussels City Museum.


4. Monk

What is it? A local favourite hangout in the tourist heartland.

Why go? They’ve got a very healthy beer list and there’s often live music in the bustling, crowded bar at the front, while the elegant Art Nouveau dining room at the back serves spaghetti three ways and nothing else. It’s a mixed crowd of students, tourists, serious beer aficionados and old locals. The restaurant doesn’t do bookings; if it’s full, just take a number and hang out in the bar till they can squeeze you in.


5. Atomium

What is it? A bizarre silver structure built for the World’s Fair of 1958, designed in the form of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

Why go? Belgium prides itself on its quirkiness, and this is unlike any other tourist landmark. Five of its nine spherical rooms host exhibitions on subjects ranging from the history of air travel to the surrealist art of René Magritte, joined by escalators in the narrow connecting tubes (not for the claustrophobic). The surrounding parkland is ideal for picnicking, and the next-door Adamuseum has some interesting shows on the evolution of design.

Jeu de Balle flea market

6. Jeu de Balle flea market

What is it? A large, outdoor market in the Marolles.

Why go? This sprawling collection of vendors has everything you could possibly want, practically. Looking for unique, vintage artwork? They have that. Want kitsch crockery? They've got that too. Even if you're after a wood carving, an armchair and an art deco coffee table – you're sure to find it all here. You just have to spend enough time rummaging around the numerous stalls. Drop into Atelier en Ville (temporarily closed due to the pandemic) for coffee and bagels, or Le Marseillais for pastis if you fancy something stronger.

Art Nouveau architecture

7. Art Nouveau architecture

What is it? Brussels’ streets are filled with the most beautiful Art Nouveau houses.

Why go? Belgium was home to some of the biggest names in Art Nouveau – the likes of Henry Van de Velde and Victor Horta – and their legacy is everywhere you look. Keep an eye out for the trademark curves and flourishes in wood, metal and stained glass, with ornate mosaics above every other doorway. Notable spots include Horta’s own house, now a museum, and the Belgian Comic Strip Center. Again, the tourist office sells maps for self-guided walking tours.

Chasseurs Ardennais Market

8. Chasseurs Ardennais Market

What is it? A Friday evening market in a northern district that’s overlooked by tourists.

Why go? This is where the locals gather to welcome in the weekend with a drink and a chat. You’ll find the usual fruit, veg, cheese and deli stalls you’d expect at any market, plus food trucks and mobile wine bars, with cafe patrons spilling out onto the neighbouring terraces on sunny evenings. This is the sort of thing Brussels excels at; it’s cool, but the vibe is still very neighbourhoody, and you’ll find similar events around the city on other nights.


9. L’Epicerie

What is it? A tiny one-woman restaurant in the chic Châtelain neighbourhood.

Why go? The menu here depends on what the owner has picked up from the market that morning, and what she feels like cooking. There’s no choice, but who needs choice when everything is this fresh and delicious and the service this charming? It’s like going for dinner at a friend’s place. While you’re in this part of town, pop into Typographe just around the corner: heaven for fans of exquisite stationery.

Beer tasting tour

10. Beer tasting tour

What is it? A chance to discover some of the thousands of beers Belgium is renowned for.

Why go? Don’t know your lambic from your dubbel, your tripel from your trappist, your gueuze from your elbow? You will by the end of this tour, which takes in some lesser-known spots in the city with the aim of educating you about one of Belgium’s finest contributions to the world. Led by a knowledgeable and professional guide, you’ll enjoy several kinds of beer, cheese and some real local colour as you learn.


11. MIMA

What is it? A great addition to Brussels’ art scene, in an up-and-coming neighbourhood.

Why go? This temple to the ultra-contemporary – they call it culture 2.0 – specialises in urban art inspired by subcultures like skateboarding and tattooing, as well as comics, advertising and abandoned spaces. It’s in a converted brewery by the canal, a previously run-down part of town that’s slowly being shown some love. A 10-minute stroll brings you to Phare du Kanaal, a coffee shop/coworking space that’s helping lead the waterside revival, serving up creative food all day.

Dieweg Cemetery
Photograph: Courtesy Ben/wikimedia commons

12. Dieweg Cemetery

What is it? An overgrown graveyard that’s full of charm and totally photogenic.

Why go? The cemetery closed to new burials in the 1940s but made an exception for Hergé, the creator of local comic hero Tintin, who was interred here in 1983. For a long time, it was left to grow wild, and is now home to hundreds of plant and tree varieties, as well as a fabulous collection of headstones of all kinds. To get there, take the wobbly old 97 tram through the southern suburbs to the end of the line; the journey’s an interesting way to pass the time in its own right. The rolling landscaped Wolvendael Park nearby is a good picnic spot.


13. Waffles!

What is it? What do you mean what are waffles? Come on, everyone knows what waffles are. 

Why go? You’re in Belgium, you eat waffles. It’s just a given thing – and it’s the same in Brussels. Get ‘em plain or get ‘em loaded with cream and sugary goodies; for a classic Brussels waffle head to Maison Dandoy, while for a swankier, more innovative waff go to Vitalgaufre

VK Concerts
Yannick Sas

14. VK Concerts

What is it? An ideal spot for those who love to club á la mode.

Why go? All the latest up-and-comers venture to Molenbeek for sets they're in Brussels. That's acts and DJs from all kinds of genres too, from hip hop to pop, punk to garage and reggae to electro. This joint has been serving up the freshest cuts in music for a good three decades now, so you can be sure to catch someone cool here on any night. Check their website before you head out if you want to know exactly who'll be down there. 

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