Kiki & Jazzie hugging in Brussels, Belgium
Blog Brussels | a complete travel guide to Belgium’s capital

Brussels | a complete travel guide to Belgium’s capital

Hey there, fellow adventurers! Buckle up because we're about to embark on an epic journey through the delightful city of Brussels. This is your full guide on Belgium's charming capital. Furthermore, get ready for some mouthwatering waffles, world-famous chocolates, and an overdose of Belgian charm.
Introduction to Brussels

Planning a trip to Brussels and wondering what to expect? This vibrant and cosmopolitan metropolis is known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and diverse cultural scene! 

Brimming with captivating tourist attractions, you’ll find yourself surrounded by old and modern allure. But beyond its historical and architectural charm, Brussels is renowned for its culinary delights, particularly its world-famous chocolates, waffles, and, of course, Belgian beer. The city is a haven for food enthusiasts, offering a wide range of gastronomic experiences from traditional Belgian dishes to international cuisine.

Brussels is also a city of art and culture, offering numerous museums, galleries, and theaters. The Magritte Museum, dedicated to the surrealist painter René Magritte, and the Atomium, an iconic symbol of the 1958 World Expo, are just a few examples of what you will find here! Whether you’re exploring its historic streets, indulging in its culinary delights, or engaging in its international affairs, Brussels is a captivating destination that seamlessly combines tradition, modernity, and global influence.T

Getting started in Brussels

Arrival information

First things first, getting here is a piece of cake. Brussels is like the ultimate European junction – you can fly in, hop on a train, or even ride a bus – like we did! Brussels Airport welcomes everyone with open arms, and trust us, it’s super easy to catch a train straight to the city center from there. And, if you’re coming from Paris or London, the Eurostar train will have you here in a jiffy.

Overview of public transportation options

Bus

Brussels has an extensive bus network that covers the entire city and its suburbs. The buses operate on a wide range of routes, connecting various neighborhoods, commercial districts and important landmarks. Schedules depends on the route, time of day, and day of the week. During peak hours, for instance, buses run more frequently to accommodate the higher demand. Don’t have a ticket? No need to worry. You can scan your debit or credit card directly on the bus to pay your fare.

Tram

Trams are a popular and efficient way to travel with an extensive network that covers various parts of the city and extends into some suburbs. The routes are numbered, each serving specific areas of the city. Trams connect major neighborhoods, business districts, and key points of interest. The same ticketing system used for buses is also applicable to trams. Just like buses, tram stops are well-distributed throughout the city and are equipped with shelters and information displays providing real-time information about tram arrivals at major stops.

Metro

Brussels Metro stations are strategically located throughout the city, making it easy to access key areas. Major transfer stations allow passengers to switch between different metro lines. There are four lines, each serving different parts of the city.

  • Line 1 : East-West line
  • Line 2: North-South line
  • Line 5: Circular line
  • Line 6: Serving the western part of the city

Metro trains operate frequently, especially during peak hours. The frequency may vary on weekends and during off-peak hours.  The metro system also offers night service during weekends, ensuring 24-hour public transportation access. Perfect for those late-night outs!

Uber

During our visit, Uber was available and very easy to use. However, the availability of Uber and other ride-sharing services can change. It’s always a good idea to check the most recent information before your trip via Uber’s website.

Neighborhoods and Accommodations in Brussels

Different neighborhoods and their characteristics

The diversity of this city becomes apparent when looking at the different neighborhoods Brussels has to offer. Each brings a unique atmosphere and characteristics, certainly keeping your visit interesting. Here’s an overview of some of the main areas you don’t want to miss.

 

City Center ( Bruxelles- Ville/Centrum)
As its name implies, City Center is in the heart of Brussels. It is known for its historic architecture, grand squares, and iconic landmarks such as the Grand Place (Grote Markt). This area is bustling with activity, offering a mix of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. If you only visit one area, this is the one you can’t miss.

Ixelles/ Elsene
If you love a trendy and cosmopolitan area with a diverse population, this is the place for you. Ixelles is known for its vibrant neighborhoods like Flagey and Chatelain, offering a mix of stylish boutiques, cafes, and a lively arts scene.

Saint Gilles/ Sint Gilles

This bohemian and artistic neighborhood is known for its Art Nouveau architecture, lively markets, and mix of trendy bars and restaurants. It certainly has plenty of hotspots to choose from! It is a popular choice for young professionals and art enthusiasts.

Anderlecht
Anderlecht is home to the iconic Atomium and the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. Here, you’ll find green spaces like Astrid Park and is known for its local markets.

Uccle/ Ukkel
For those traveling with their families, Uccle is a great part of Brussels to visit. This predominantly residential area with upscale homes and green spaces is known for its calm atmosphere, large parks, and beautiful houses. It’s a popular choice for those seeking a quieter environment.

Molenbeek-Saint-Jean/Sint-Jans-Molenbeek

Molenbeek has undergone urban renewal in recent years, with new cultural initiatives and community projects. This is a diverse neighborhood with a mix of cultures and is also known for its industrial heritage along the canal.

 

Accommodation options

Budget
MEININGER Bruxelles City Center

This charming hostel located on the Canal Bruxelles-Charleroi is inspired by the Urban Street art of the city. The rooms are comfortable, clean, and most importantly, affordable! Depending on your budget you can opt for a private ensuite or a dorm room. Plus, its location, near city center is absolutely ideal.

Mid-range
The Hoxton
You can find The Hoxton in a brutalist-style tower building which once hosted the European headquarters of IBM. Not only is it a historical accommodation, it is also quite modern with 198 rooms that will help you relax throughout your vacation. Plus, it has an incredible bar, restaurant and rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city.  

Luxury
Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo
Nestled within the heart of Brussels, Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo seamlessly blends art, culture, history, and creativity. Beyond its luxurious ambiance, the hotel serves as a second home for many people from around the globe. Plus, their proximity to the bustling business districts and European Parliament also adds to its allure and creates a refined retreat that harmonizes with the diverse interests of their clientele

Attractions and Landmarks in Brussels

Manneken Pis
You know you’re in Brussels when you meet Manneken Pis, the city’s cheeky little bronze dude taking a leak. Yep, you heard that right. The fun part? He’s got a whole wardrobe of costumes, and you never know what he’ll be wearing when you visit! Also, don’t forget to visit his sister Jeanneke and their dog Het Zinneke!

Saint-Michel and Saint- Gudula Cathedral
A magnificent Gothic cathedral located in the city center, Saint-Michel and Saint-Gudula Cathedral is known for its stunning architecture, impressive stained glass windows, and beautiful interior.

Cinquantenaire Park and Arch
Cinquantenaire Park is a vast public park with beautiful gardens, museums, and the impressive Triumphal Arch. The arch commemorates Belgium’s 50th anniversary and houses museums like Autoworld and the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces.

Magritte Museum
Dedicated to the renowned surrealist artist René Magritte, this museum showcases an extensive collection of his paintings, sculptures, and personal belongings. It provides insight into the life and work of one of Belgium’s most famous artists.

Belgian Comic Strip Center
Celebrating Belgium’s rich comic book heritage, this center showcases the country’s famous comic characters and creators. Housed in an Art Nouveau building, it offers a fun and interactive experience for comic enthusiasts.

Atomium
Check out the Atomium, a mind-boggling architectural marvel that looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. Take an elevator ride to the top sphere, and you’ll be treated to some epic city views.

The Grand Place
Brace yourselves for the jaw-dropping beauty of the Grand Place. Seriously, this place is so stunning it’s practically a real-life fairytale setting. Take a ton of pictures because you won’t believe your eyes.

Royal Palace
Fancy a peek at Belgian royalty? The Royal Palace is a regal spectacle in itself, surrounded by picturesque gardens.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

This complex comprises two museums, the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art. It houses an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 15th to the 21st centuries.

Parc Leopold and European Quarter

Parc Leopold is a green oasis in the heart of the European Quarter, surrounded by European Union institutions. Visitors can explore the European Parliament, the Berlaymont building, and other EU institutions in this area.

Dining and Cuisine in Brussels

Foodies, this is your paradise! Start your day with some heavenly Belgian waffles, indulge in sinfully delicious chocolates from spots like Neuhaus or Godiva, and sip on some of the world’s finest beer. Don’t leave without trying a Trappist beer or a fruity lambic.

Belgian Waffles

Light and crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, Belgian waffles are world renown for a reason and a must-try when you visit. They come in various styles, often served with toppings like whipped cream, chocolate, fruit, or ice cream. You can enjoy them indoors at a variety of restaurants or grab one to-go from a window stall like the one pictured below.

Fries

Here’s a fun fact, Belgium is where fries were actually invented. Grab a paper cone from a local friterie and drench them in an array of scrumptious sauces. Furthermore, you’ll discover these fries are the best of the best thanks to their thick and crispy consistency. Simply the perfect snack to have while you’re exploring the city.

Chocolates

Belgium is well known for its high-quality chocolates. Brussels boasts numerous chocolate shops where you can savor pralines, truffles, and other exquisite chocolate creations. Plus, if you’re looking for a fun and hands-on activity, we recommend you take a Belgium Chocolate Making Workshop with Tastings!

Beer

Belgium beer is our personal favorite! They are renowned worldwide for their diverse flavors. From Trappist ales to fruity lambics, there’s a beer for every palate. Beer bars and cafes offer an extensive selection of local brews and many even offer flights for tastings! If you are looking for a fun evening activity, why not do a Pub Crawl for a guided tour of the Belgian nightlife!

Speculoos

If you have a sweet tooth, try speculoos! These spiced shortcrust biscuits, often associated with the holiday season, are enjoyed year-round. They are served alongside coffee or as an ingredient in various desserts.

Mussels and Fries (Moules Frites)

This classic Belgian dish featuring mouth watering mussels is often cooked in a flavorful broth and served with a side of crispy fries. It’s a popular choice in many brasseries and seafood restaurants. However, you may be thinking this dish is available in  many European countries, but Belgium knows how to do it right!

Activities and Entertainment in Brussels

Brussels Events and Festivals
Depending on your timing, you might stumble upon some of Brussels’ popular festivals, like the Brussels Jazz Festival or the Flower Carpet event at the Grand Place.

Art and Galleries
Art buffs, you’re in for a treat! Check out the Royal Museums of Fine Arts to dive into Belgian art and history. Plus, if you’re into comics, make a beeline for the Belgian Comic Strip Center.

Nightlife and Bars
Wrap up your day with a night out in Brussels. Explore the chic bars in Ixelles or groove to the beats in the hip clubs around Saint-Géry Square.

Experience Belgian Jazz

Brussels has a thriving music scene. Enjoy live jazz performances at venues like The Music Village or the Jazz Station.

Cycling in Bois de la Cambre
Rent a bicycle and explore Bois de la Cambre, a large park with picturesque lakes and walking trails.

Explore Waterloo
Visit the site of the Battle of Waterloo, located a short distance from Brussels, and explore the historical landmarks and museums. You can even book a tour that picks you up directly from the city.

Language and Customs in Brussels

Language
Brussels is officially bilingual, and both French and Dutch are widely spoken. English is also commonly used, especially in tourist areas and among younger generations.

In Brussels, a simple “Bonjour” (French) or “Goedendag” (Dutch) for “Good day” is appropriate. “Bonsoir” (French) or “Goedenavond” (Dutch) is used in the evening. Politeness is highly valued. Use “s’il vous plaît” (French) or “alsjeblieft” (Dutch) for “please” and “merci” (French) or “dank je” (Dutch) for “thank you.”

Tipping
Tipping is customary in restaurants. A service charge may be included, but leaving small change or rounding up the bill is common.

Religious Sites
If visiting churches or religious sites, it’s essential to dress modestly. Women should cover their shoulders, and both men and women should avoid wearing shorts or skirts above the knee.

Shopping in Brussels

Rue Neuve
Rue Neuve is one of the most famous shopping streets in Brussels, offering a vibrant mix of international brands, department stores, and popular retail chains. It’s a bustling area with a wide range of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle shops.

Avenue Louise
Known for its upscale and luxurious shopping, Avenue Louise is a top destination for high-end fashion, designer boutiques, and exclusive brands. The avenue exudes sophistication and is ideal for those seeking luxury shopping experiences.

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

This historic shopping arcade is a must-visit destination, featuring a selection of upscale shops, chocolatiers, and theaters. Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is not only a shopping venue but also a cultural and architectural landmark.

Sablon/Zavel

The Sablon district is renowned for its antique shops, art galleries, and upscale boutiques. It’s a charming and elegant area, perfect for those interested in unique finds and high-quality craftsmanship.

Ixelles/Elsene (Place Flagey and Chaussée d’Ixelles)

Ixelles, particularly around Place Flagey and Chaussée d’Ixelles, is known for its trendy boutiques, vintage stores, and concept shops. It caters to a diverse audience and offers a mix of fashion, design, and quirky finds.

Local markets and unique finds

Marché du Midi (South Market)

One of the largest markets in Europe, Marché du Midi offers a lively atmosphere with diverse stalls selling fresh produce, cheeses, meats, flowers, and more. It’s a Sunday tradition for locals and visitors alike.

Place du Jeu de Balle Flea Market

This daily flea market in the Marolles district is a treasure trove for vintage and second-hand items. You can discover antiques, collectibles, clothing, and unique finds in a bustling and eclectic setting.

Marché des Antiquaires (Antiques Market)

Held in the Sablon district on weekends, this antiques market is a haven for collectors and vintage enthusiasts. It showcases a diverse array of antiques, unique pieces, and historical artifacts.

Souvenirs and specialty stores

Pierre Marcolini

Renowned for high-quality chocolates and pralines, Pierre Marcolini’s boutiques offer beautifully crafted chocolate boxes and individual pieces, making it a perfect gift for chocolate connoisseurs.

Maison Dandoy

Maison Dandoy is a historic biscuit and pastry shop known for its traditional Belgian cookies, especially speculoos. Their assortment of biscuits and cookies makes for delightful and authentic souvenirs.

Brussels Beer Project

Brussels Beer Project is an excellent choice for those who like a good brew. Offering craft beers with unique flavors, you can create a personalized beer gift pack or pick up individual bottles.

Neuhaus

Neuhaus, credited with inventing the praline, is a top-notch chocolatier in Brussels. Their selection of Belgian chocolates, including pralines and truffles, makes for a luxurious and classic souvenir.

Belgian Comic Strip Center Gift Shop

Situated in the Belgian Comic Strip Center, this gift shop is a haven for comic enthusiasts. It features a diverse array of comic-related merchandise, from Tintin to Smurfs, making it a unique and whimsical place to find souvenirs.

We hope our complete travel guide of Brussels will help make your trip to this bustling city as enjoyable as ours was! This city is such a wonderful hub for creativity, innovation, and culinary arts and we know with the right guidance, your visit will be one for the books! 

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