Read on for my What to see and do in Brussels guide. I’m not a massive Christmas fan – there I said it. I know most people love the season but I’m usually glad when it is over although I do adore the post-Christmas sales. So this year rather than trek down to see my parents I decided to go abroad for the season. Christmas in Brussels seemed like a really good idea so a few days before Christmas I set off for the capital of Belgium with bag and passport in hand.
To keep the trip low-cost we decided to travel by coach – it came in at under £20 each way. It was a roughly 7-hour trip and was better than I expected. We drove from London to Folkestone then embarked on the crossing via Le Tunnel – on the other end it was just a couple of hours on pretty clear roads and then we arrived into Brussels.
Brussels has a really good transport system so getting from the central station to our AirBnB was a breeze. Prices were low and the service was fast. Like any foreign transport system we were a little confused at first but we soon got the hang of navigating our way around the city.
There are so many things to love about Brussels – a hugely diverse, multicultural city, relatively low prices, tonnes of great museums and landmarks and of course the friendly nature of its people.
And of course there are many amazing things to see and do. This is my guide to What to see and do in Brussels.
What to see and do in Brussels
On our first full day in the city we visited this delightful little independent cinema and film museum called Cinematek. It was full of pieces chronicling the history of film – all the way from the silent movies era to the current day. The cinema itself is very small but very cosy. Just in case you’re interested we saw the Michael Gondry film Be Kind, Rewind (hilarious and heartwarming).
TinTin Comic Mural/Various Street Art
Belgium’s most famous fictional character is of course Tintin and this is commemorated in various places across the city. The TinTin mural can be found in the cemtre of Brussels adjacent to a quirky shop selling memorabilia for TinTin, The Smurfs, Harry potter and others.
You can’t walk very far in Brussels without stumbling on street art. The city is full of amazing pieces and they adorn skate parks, buildings, the inner walls of cafes and many other places. You could spend days wandering the city doing the street art trail.
One of the oddest things I saw was Mannekin Pis. Also known as the peeing baby. It is iconic, was created in the 17th century out of bronze and they dress him up in costumes for certain holidays. Whilst, I was there it was dressed as Santa while we were there. A peculiar sight but still well worth seeing.
Also, look out for both the girl sculpture Jeanneke Pis and the dog sculpture Zinneke. Whilst they don’t have the heritage or fame of the original they have been around since the 90s. Read on for more tips on What to see and do in Brussels.
The Grand Place is the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city’s Town Hall, and the King’s House or Breadhouse building containing the Museum of the City of Brussels. The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels. It is also considered as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.
Whilst we were there they were also hosting their annual Christmas market. This market even runs on Christmas Day. Well worth a look – just a warning that it gets VERY busy as it is one of their biggest tourist attractions.
Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the city’s main tourist attraction. The site may look grand now but is started life as a swampy sand-bank between two brooks, known as ‘broek sella’. It was later turned into a market which sold textiles and alcohol.
Charlotte Cafe, Uccles
Of all the food we had in Brussels Charlotte Cafe was our favourite. As we were in Belgium we had to try Carbonnade which is a lovely Flemish stew. The restaurant had a delightful ambience, staff spoke English, service was fast and the food was out of this world. The walls were adorned with some amazing politically-themed art. For a main plus a drink you’d be looking at around 25 euros per person.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
This church began life as a small chapel in the 9th century and it became a Romanesque church in the 11th century, and over the next 300 years it was built up into the magnificent structure you see today. Built using local materials in the Gothic style. The interior is especially beautiful with intricate statues and fineries that you’ve come to expect from churches of the era.
Sint-Goedelevoorplein , 1000 Brussels
Law courts of Brussels
Kleine Zavel – Petit Sablon
This is a beautiful garden to visit, featuring trees, hedges, flowers and some gorgeous statues.
The Zavelbeek had its beginnings in the Petit Sablon. The Petit Sablon was once the site of the Saint John Hospital’s cemetery.
The garden was lovingly created by the architect Henri Beyaert in 1890. It is surrounded by an ornate wrought ironfence inspired by one which once decorated the Coudenberg Palace. The fence is punctuated by tall stone pillars; atop each pillar is a statue of one or more historical professions, with 48 statues in total. To ensure that the statues were stylistically coherent, Beyart asked painter Xavier Mellery to design all of the statues. Each pillar has a unique design, as does each section of fence.
Regentschapsstraat , 1000 Brussels
No visit to Brussels is complete without waffles. You can’t walk 100 metres without stumbling onto a waffle van. At just 2 euros a pop they are delicious and cheap.
So there you have it my guide to What to see and do in Brussels.