A short guide to Brussels
If you have an extra day or two to spend in Brussels, here are 5 things to do while in the vibrant capital of Belgium.
We have also included 3 mapped runs if you're the type who likes to explore the city while getting some exercise.
If you haven't already signed up for CUE Days 2023, use the button below.
Why travel unprepared?
1. Soak in the cultural richness
A view inside the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
The entrance to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Like most major cities in Europe, Belgium has a lot of history and culture to offer. Despite being a “young” country, who declared their independence in 1830, they have quite the history, and have during the past century become a highly modern and proactive country.
If you would like to explore some of Brussels culture, here are a few places to visit:
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium consist of six different museums which includes: The Oldmasters Museum, Modern Museum, Meunier Museum, Wiertz Museum, Magritte Museum and the Fin-de-Siècle Museum.
The art collection assembles paintings, sculptures and drawings which trace back the history of Belgium from 15th to the 21st century. One of Belgium’s most recognized artist, Rene Magritte, can be found at Magritte Museum.
Place Poelaert is a historic square located in the upper part of Brussels, Belgium. It is home to the Palais de Justice (Law Courts of Brussels), which is one of the largest courthouses in the world and an iconic landmark in the city.
Another attraction to find on Place Poelaert is the giant Ferris wheel known as The View, which rises to 55 meters, offering a spectacular panoramic view of Brussels, including the cityscape and the surrounding areas.
A view of Palais de Justice, Place Poelaert and The View
The Atomium is a symbolic landmark of Brussels, Belgium, and was originally built for the 1958 Brussels World Expo. It has since become a popular tourist attraction.
The spheres of the Atomium house various exhibition spaces, including the Atomium Museum, which showcases the history and significance of the structure.
In the highest sphere, 100 meters above the ground, you find the Atomium Restaurant offering Belgian specialties and a panoramic view of Brussels.
The Atomium seen from the grounds in front of it
The cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is one the most historic places and landmarks in Belgium.
Built in the 13th century and later restored between 1983 and 1989, it draws attention with the similarities it holds to the Notre Dame in Paris.
A view of The cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula from the square in front
Manneken Pis is the symbol of Brussels. Where Paris have the Eiffeltower, Brussels have the Manneken Pis.
The statue is a historic fountain that used to supply drinking water. In recent years its status and symbolic role have shifted to being the protector of the city. It has become customary to dress up the statue in different clothes and styles for special occasions.
The Manneken Pis seen in one of his many sets of clothing
2. Enjoy the city like a local
The European Parliament hemicycle that houses all 705 members of the European Union is located close to the Royal Palace of Brussels and is easily accessible by bus or metro.
The European Parliament is where a lot of legislation is negotiated and settled during historic votes that influence millions of people in the EU.
A view inside The European Parliament hemicycle
If you would like to start your morning like a local, you should do so with the Marolles Flea Market. Located in Place du Jeu de Balle, in the Marolles district, occupying the entire square, the Flea market is a typical Brussels experience that hosts hundreds of merchants, selling all kinds of stuff from old antics to ceramics, jewelry, vinyls, and so on.
The flea market is open every single day from 6AM - 2PM. So, bring a cup of coffee and your bargaining skills to bring home a unique Belgian souvenir.
The Marolles Flea Market seen on a sunny and busy day
3. Exploring the craft beer scene
Belgium is world renowned for their beer scene. The tradition of brewing dates back centuries – with generations passing it on the next generation. Also the quality, variety and the right serving has brought Belgian beer to even higher altitudes in the beer heaven.
Belgium produces close to 1500 different kind of beer which include: Pilsner, Saisons, dubbels, tripels, Abbey beers, trappiest beers, Lambic and Guezes. So, when you’re coming to Brussels you have to try the beer. Places to have craft beer:
Brussels Beer Project brings a modern twist to Belgian beer culture, with its bold and atypical beers, that reflect the cosmopolitan Brussels. They have 3 locations in Brussels: Bailli, Dansaert and Port Sud.
The Brussels Beer Project Port Sud seen from above
L’Imaige Nostre-Dame is a cosy old fashion pub which offers mid-evil charm and live music, and serves Kwak beers. The pub has wooden furniture and holds a certain authenticity, which almost makes it feel as old as the city itself.
The L’Imaige Nostre-Dame sign hanging at the entrance to the pub
La Machine is a premium bar and intimate music venue, where you can discover the up-and-coming Belgian music scene with a free live concert and find your favorite beer from the extensive beer list, which you can have with a bit of tapas on the side.
Le Machine seen from the inside
4. Walking Tours in Brussels
If you want to pay 99€ to have delicious Belgian food and drinks during the tour – try the Brussels Walking and Tasting Tour: Hungry Mary’s Famous Beer and Chocolate Tour in Brussels.
An overview of where the Hungry Mary’s Famous Beer and Chocolate Tour will take you
If you want to explore Brussels by foot you should try out one of many walking tours around the city. You can do a free one or pay a little extra to combine a walkthrough with a handful of experiences.
The free walking tour: (pay what you want)
Royal Palace of Brussels,
Church of Saint Catherine,
The development of the city,
Medieval and baroque city,
Brussels from 1930 until today,
Museums and collections,
A bourgeois city
Here is a link to book the tour: Free Walking Tour of Brussels
Some examples of where The Free Walking Tour will take you
5. Try the Belgian food scene
Belgium is best known for its chocolate, fries and waffles, but has a lot more to offer. If you’re visiting the city, you should see if you can locate some of the great food of Brussels.
Featured here is a list of recommendations:
Charli Boulangerie – French quality bakery. Located at Rue Sainte-Catherine 34, 1000 Bruxelles.
Noordzee – Mer du Nord – Quality Sea Food. Located at Rue Sainte-Catherine 45, 1000 Brussels.
Maison Dandoy – Tea room and waffles.
They have more than 10 locations in Brussels.
La Belgique Gourmande – Gourmet chocolates and confectionaries emporium. They have 6 locations in Brussels.
Gaufres Waffles – Here the waffle is no longer seen as a dessert, but a real meal. Located at Galerie du Roi 6, 1000 Brussels.
La Friterie – Belgian Waffles, frying their fries in the fat of a beef. Located at Rue de l’Etuve 47, 1000 Bruxelles.
The classic Belgian waffle
If you don’t have time to explore these on your own. We’ll be going to the following two places during CUE Days.
On the first night, we’ll eat at La Brasserie de la presse situated in Le Soirs buildings. Their head chef, Nico, will be sure to serve refined foods attached to local and seasonal products.
La Brasserie de la presse seen from the inside
On the second night, we’ll be eating at Wolf Sharing Food Market, which is Brussels's first food market.
Here you’ll, among other things, be able to find Asian, African, American, Italian, and Belgian food – fresh homemade pasta, Syrian bread, and a pizza you won’t forget.
Wolf Sharing Food Market seen from the inside
6. Running in Brussels
If you’re the sporty type, who will bring your running shoes, wherever you travel, we’ve come up with a few runs, so that you get to explore the city and get some exercise at the same time. Is there a better way to get a first glimpse and get familiar with the city? We don’t think so.
Route 1 (7 km) – Parc du Cinquantenaire & Parc de Bruxelles
Take the metro to either Schuman or Merode. From here you can start your run around both Parc du Cinquantenaire and Parc de Bruxelles.
The mapped run is around 7K and is a great way to explore two of Brussels's great parks and get some renewed energy to kick off CUE Days.
Picture of Parc du Cinquantenaire
Picture of Parc de Bruxelles
Route 2 (5 km) – Bois de la Cambre
The second route is just 4 km outside the city center in the wonderful park – Bois de la Cambra. This park is accessible by bus N38 Longchamp station. The park is laid out in an English style and resembles a forest, with walks, pony rides, jogging, and playgrounds.
This run can be made longer or shorter depending on the run you’re going for. The mapped route is around 5K.
Picture of Bois de la Cambre
Picture of Bois de la Cambre
Route 3 (5 km) – Tour de Brussels
This Route will take you around the city-center, for a run-seeing. To start the run, walk to - or take the metro to the metro station ‘Parc’.
On the run, you’ll come through the old town of Brussels, and it will take you by Mannekin Pis and the female version Jeannekin Pis, The Grand Place, and a bunch of other historic places. If you want to make it longer than a 5 km, you can easily run through Park the Bruxelles.
Picture of Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Picture of Grand Place