Mix one part architectural gems with one part world-famous cuisine, add a dash of museums and a comprehensive art scene, and you have Belgium’s magnificent capital – Brussels. Its combination of Flemish and French influences creates one astounding city. Here’s how to spend a weekend in Brussels, Belgium.
Welcome to the capital of the European Union, Brussels! Settle in for an evening of making the most of Brussels’ unique cuisine. There’s something to suit every taste and budget, so dive in and eat and drink to your heart’s content. For a cheap and cheerful meal, head to your local frituur (or fry shop) to chow down on some deep-fried delights. If you’re more in a ‘treat yourself’ mood, one of the thriving restaurants on the Grand Place may be the ticket, complete with the traditional moules frites (mussels and fries). Either way, wash down your dinner with a local drop of Belgian beer.
Let’s get you acquainted with Brussels this morning. Brussels is super easy to get around either by foot or public transport, especially if you’re exploring the city centre.
Begin your walking tour at the Belgian Royal Palace and its immaculate gardens. If you’re spending a weekend in Brussels during the summer months, the palace is open to the public (for free!) so you can walk through history in its hallowed halls and ballrooms. Next up is St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, double the names with double the magnificence. This medieval Roman Catholic church has been a centrepiece of Brussels since the 11th century, named for the patron saint of Brussels. While we’re on churches, Èglise St Nicolas is not too far away; the oldest church in Brussels.
Next is a series of fabulous architecture that Brussels is so well known for. Stroll through Les Galeries Royales de Saint-Hubert, a shopping arcade with its curved, glass roof that is instantly recognisable from photos of Brussels. Les Galeries has been a hub for locals and travellers alike since 1847, featuring a myriad of shops, restaurants, an art cinema and theatre. Not two minutes away is the Grote Markt, or Grand Place. This square is grand indeed, with much of the medieval architecture remaining from the former market square. You can’t miss its magnificent 15th-century Hotel de Ville (town hall) or the former King’s House (now a City Museum).
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a walking tour of Brussels without seeing some of its quirky art scene. The city is the birthplace of many famous comics, from Tintin to The Smurfs. There are over 40 murals painted throughout Brussels so keep your eyes peeled! You will have also heard of the Manneken, Zinneke and Jeanneke Pis statues – each one their own fountain through urinating!
All that walking has made us hungry. The great thing about being in the city centre is the sheer number of places you can head to for lunch. Park up for a relaxed lunch at a beer garden under leafy trees, pick a restaurant along Rue de Bouchers with its Parisian Latin Quarter vibes, or simply grab a cone of pomme frites for an on-the-go lunch.
Once you have fuelled up, it’s time to take advantage of the museum scene. Here are some of our favourites for you to choose from:
- Royal Museums of Fine Arts – covering several locations, view world-class art from various periods
- Cacao and Chocolate Museum – we think this is self-explanatory (and delicious)!
- Atomium – resembling an atom, this silver structure was constructed in 1958 for the World’s Fair in Brussels. Nowadays it is filled with fascinating scientific exhibits
- Museum of Original Figures – MOOF for short, this museum is for the comic enthusiasts and is filled with Tintin, Smurfs and Astérix and Obélix figurines
Belgium is famous for its beer, so we recommend paying a visit to a Belgian beer café to round off your first full day. Have you heard of Delirium Café? Centrally located, it features over 3,000 different types of beers so settle in for some delicious tastings.
Brussels is the perfect gateway to many nearby towns and cities. Our top pick is Bruges, nicknamed the ‘Venice of the North’ thanks to the picturesque canals threading their way through the township. There are plenty of direct trains to Bruges each day, taking just under 1 hour one-way and starting from €18.
The city centre of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the medieval town remains fairly well-preserved. From its Grote Markt to towering churches, canal boat rides to the Frietmuseum (yes, that’s right – a museum about the humble potato fry), Bruges is well-worth a day trip when in Brussels. It truly is a romantic town to visit, and you’ll easily spend a day here exploring its cobblestone streets – a wonderful way to end your weekend in Brussels.