Search

Euro City Guide: Brussels

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to love Brussels as much as I did. The only previous knowledge I had of this city was that it headquarters the EU, and that it has great chocolate and beer. These are both true, but I was definitely surprised with how much this fun little city has to offer. Brussels hasn’t yet been completely bombarded by tourists like many other European capitals, and while I hope it stays that way, I’d also encourage anyone to visit this wonderful, underrated little city. Brussels is uniquely Belgian, in that it’s modern, progressive and multilingual, while also still having a lot of cool, well-preserved local history. It’s a fun, low key city where the main social activity is going to pubs, but make sure to check out all of the beautiful architecture and artwork around the city.





Brussels feels like a genuinely livable city. While every city is "livable" in its own way, it doesn't yet have the massive tourist crowds of Paris or Amsterdam, which makes it really enjoyable to visit. I stayed at an Airbnb in the nice, quiet suburb of Etterbeek, which felt like somewhere I'd genuinely want to buy a home and live in one day. Despite being a major city, Brussels feels quite small and well-connected, so staying out in the suburbs honestly wasn't a problem. It's a great way to save money, and the metro got me into the city centre in 20 minutes. Brussels also just feels more quaint than other big cities, and is easily explored on foot.



Belgium has 3 national languages: Dutch, German and French. Brussels is mostly French-speaking (and obviously English), so you can speak French here as well! I'd recommend visiting this city as part of a northern Europe trip. It's best combined with Paris and Amsterdam in order to maximize your time and money, and I'd highly recommend staying for a week and adding on day trips to some of the really beautiful Belgian cities nearby, such as Bruges.




Transport

How you get to Brussels depends on where you are travelling from. Coming from Madrid, I flew into the airport which is pretty close to the city. I flew Brussels Airlines, they have some pretty affordable flights from most European capitals. There are some great high-speed rail options if you're coming from Paris or Amsterdam that will get you there in less than 2 hours too. You'll arrive by train (from another city or the airport) into the main train station which is super central. You can easily find taxis or rideshares here, and it's super easy to get around. Most of the city can (and should) be done on foot, but the metro and trolleys here are great, affordable ways to get around the city. If you stay in the suburbs like I did, you'll probably take the metro in, which was very nice and clean compared to other cities'.



Sights

Brussels doesn't have as much sightseeing as other major European destinations. That's OK, and it really only takes a couple days to see all the sights (if you're determined of course). Use your time in this city to take a food and drink tour, check out the nightlife, and explore the city's art scene.

  • Grand Place. This is the main plaza of Brussels, and where you'll definitely want to come when you first visit Brussels. It's beautiful, ornate architecture makes it a great place to come night or day, with shops, cafes and bars all nearby. It's all lit up at night which makes it really pretty!

  • The Brussels Journey. If you're going to do one thing in Brussels, this is it. This beer and chocolate tour takes you to all of the city's best spots, avoiding the tourist traps for a true, authentic experience. This tour is great in that it's unique to Brussels, and our tour guide gave us some more tips on where to go and how to navigate the city. It's also just a great way to meet cool people! Go to their website and book tickets ahead of time, it's 100% worth it. Price: 80€.

  • Sablon. Brussels art district is a great place to walk around and just enjoy the atmosphere. Come here for shops, cafes and art museums. It's very picturesque, and walking distance from the heart of Brussels.

  • Manneken Pis. Allegedly the #1 site to see in Brussels, this statue of a boy peeing (??) is very famous here. I'm really not sure why, but I guess it's one of those things you gotta see while in Brussels? You'll probably walk by it anyway, just look for the crowd of tourists just off the Grand Place. Price: Free.

  • Royal Palace. The palace is beautiful from the outside, but I don't think it's possible to go inside. It's good to take pictures of and see!

  • Coudenberg. This network of underground tunnels and ruins from beneath the old palace was one of the coolest things I saw in Brussels. The ruins aren't as intact as some, but it's cool that they're underground, a great place to explore. Price: 7€.

  • Saint Michael & Saint Gudula Cathedral. This is Brussels' main cathedral! It's very pretty, and a great place to stop and see if you have some extra time. It's bigger and more ornate than other northern European cathedrals, but still quite different from the southern style. Price: Free.

  • Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert. This beautiful hall used to be where the royals and city's elite came to hangout. These days it's more of a market/shopping hall situation, but with only local businesses. There are some great waffle and chocolate shops here, as well as artisans selling local goods. The architecture of the hall itself is incredible, check it out! Price: Free.

Eat

I had A LOT of food in Brussels (lol) and this is not even all of it. These are, however, my tried and true recommendations as a vegetarian (who kind of cheated) in Brussels. I came here for beer, fries, chocolate and waffles, and Brussels did not disappoint.

  • La Vita e Bella. If you're staying in Etterbeek (which you should), this is a great place to check out. Pretty authentic Italian food with excellent pizza. I think they have one in the city as well!

  • Fritland. Since Belgium is famous for their fries, I had to check out Fritland, one of the best fry stands in the city. Most of the best spots are pretty far out of the city, but Fritland is just off the Grand Place and open late, perfect for after your drunk night out.

  • Cup 28. The perfect breakfast spot. They've got fairly healthy breakfast food and great coffee. A bit out of the city, but only a few stops on the tram. I think it's worth the trip for their food and coffee, as well as to check out a more residential part of Brussels.

  • Maison de la Brouette. Great place to have dinner in the centre. They have more traditional food, but their veggie burger and fries were incredible. Not too crowded, but I'd make a res anyway just in case.

  • Georgette. Some of the best fries in Brussels!!

  • Maison Dandoy. The city's most well-known waffle chain. Honestly just great quality waffles. Get the Leige waffle with powdered sugar, but don't get any more toppings, it changes the texture of the waffle (I learned that on my tour).

  • Creme. Cute, trendy brunch spot in Sablon that is definitely worth the long wait times. Get there as early as you can to put your name down, the place is super tiny and can only take a certain amount of guests at a time. Definitely worth it if you're a brunch person, the food is great! Australian-style brunch food.



Drink

I'm a beer girl, so Brussels nightlife was one of my favourites in Europe. I also love pub culture, which seems to be a big thing in Brussels (I know they're not called pubs there but hear me out). If you stay around the Grand Place there are tons of places to go.

  • Delirium. You've probably had their beer before, but this complex of bars along an alleyway is the best place to go out in Brussels. Each bar has a different vibe, but I spent a night in the tap room, which is probably the most popular. They have thousands of different house brews on tap, and multiple levels. Everyone here is super friendly, and it's one of the best places to go out to meet new friends in Brussels, it has a pretty big study abroad and Erasmus crowd.



  • Moeder Lambic. This chill beer hall is another good place to go for great local beer. They did close a bit early, so it may be more of a daytime thing.

  • L'Imaige Nostre Dame. You'll wind through an alley to find this hole in the wall place, and feel like you've stepped back in time. They brew great beer on tap, and the vibe is kind of like Belgian pub in the Middle Ages?? It's pretty cool lol.

  • Dolle Mol. One of my favourite bars in Brussels. Hangout in their upstairs area and try a tasting of all their different stuff.

  • Royal Puppet Theatre Toone. Another spot that feels like you've quite literally stepped back in time to medieval Brussels. They double as a puppet theatre, so there are puppets hanging from the ceiling, which is interesting. Check it out just to see it, and try their sour beer!

  • Halles Saint Gery. This old market hall is now an art exhibition centre by day and bar/club by night. If you can't find yourself a real European warehouse party, come here for the same vibe.


Brussels is incredible, and I hope you get the chance to visit when the world opens up again. It may seem like a long ways away now, but it'll be there before we know it. In the meantime, start creating that Brussels-Paris-Amsterdam itinerary and schedule in those day trips. Brussels truly is an incredible city, and I honestly hope and aspire to live there one day. Hope you enjoyed as always! I'm almost to the end of these Euro City Guides, where should I write about next?


For more pictures of Brussels, check out my Flickr.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All