Things to do in Brussels

I lived for about four years in the beautiful yet often underestimated city of Brussels, capital of Belgium. So here are some insiders’ tips on visiting this city.

While Brussels has a lot to offer for every kind of traveller, there are some places that everyone should visit while there. The true beauty of Brussels lies in its diversity. It has some major historic sites ranging from medieval charm to Art Nouveau architecture. On the other hand Brussels is multicultural and has a unique demographic. The different surroundings give the impression of entering other foreign cities. In that way a trip to Brussels can be quite surprising, giving you a lot of beautiful sights and impressions on a relative small space.

What follows are 5 insider tips or: what to do in Brussels.

Grand Place Brussels

Grand Place Brussels

Putting the famous Grand Place in this list might seem a little cliché, but a trip to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Grand Place. The Grand Place was actually built in the 15th century on a drained swamp. The place is a triumph of medieval, renaissance and neo-gothic architecture. In the summer the Grand Place is subject to a spectacular lightshow, you shouldn’t miss. Otherwise just take place in one of the many charming cafés, enjoy a real Belgian beer and be impressed by the panorama. You could also take a blanket and have a picnic on the square as is done by so many young travellers.

Visit a local market

The most impressive market is located in the so-called “Marollenwijk” on a square called “Place du Jeu de balle”. Here you’ll find a big antique and second-hand market every morning. Take a stroll through the different stalls offering a wide variety of products ranging from exclusive antiques to one-euro give away sales. Here you’ll find the true essence of Brussels in a mix of Flemish and French speaking natives ranging from any imaginable ethnical background. The market is surrounded by one of the oldest quarters of Brussels ‘les Marolles’. You should definitely take time to wander around, observe the authentic life and the small workman’s-houses and sniff up the air of a vibrant city.

Exotic Brussels

In the Matongé quarter Brussels starts to get really interesting. This is where the African community gathers, and this is reflected in the colorful streets filled with little shops vending their cultural products. A collage of exotic fruits, manioc and peppers, barbershops and hair-extensions sales, fabrics, restaurants and cafés turn this area into a vibrant mix of diversity.

This truly original Brussels quarter is however threatened. Big businesses and the European parliament seem to expand fast, and take over the Matongé quarter rapidly. If you want to see a part of Belgian and Brussels history still alive, you should visit this authentic quarter before it’s absorbed completely by the uniformity of the big city.

Brussels Art Nouveau

In the beginning of the 20the century Brussels was the epicenter of a vibrant art movement: Art Nouveau. One of the most important architects of this movement was Victor Horta. Examples of his work include the Central Station and the Brussels Center for Fine Arts. The typical use of wrought iron, steel plate and organic decorations in combination with a quest for light are just a few examples of this esthetic style of creating. UNESCO recognizes lots of these buildings as “world heritage”. Here is a list of buildings worth visiting: the Horta museum, Hannon House, Solvay Library, Center of Fine Arts, the Belgian Center for Comic Strip Art and the Museum of Musical Instruments.

Concerts in Brussels

Last but not least, here my advise for an evening activity. Go to a concert. Brussels has lots to offer when it comes down to music. Virtually every night there are bands playing in one venue or another. Check out the local papers and free magazines to see what’s happening that night. There are some bigger venues where international artist perform, like Ancienne Belgique, Botanique, VK (Vaartkapoen), Vorst Nationaal and BOZAR. On the other side probably the most charming way to spend an evening is in a small local music club, and there are plenty of them for every taste. Some examples: the Music Village, Sounds Jazz, the Wax Club, Dali’s bar, Recyclart or the Brussels Rhytm and Blues Club, just to name a few.   

Find the Locations

Daily Market Get Directions
Vossenplein, 1000 Brussel, België
Grand Place Brussels Get Directions
Art Nouveau Brussels Get Directions
Horta Museum, Amerikastraat 25, 1060 Sint-Gillis, België
Matongé Quarter Get Directions
Matonge, 1050 Elsene, België