Brussels is the capital of Belgium and the headquarters of the European Union, earning it the title “Capital of Europe”. NATO has its headquarters there, as do many large multinational companies.
Brussels’ city centre is split into a Lower Town and an Upper Town. These two distinct divisions in the city are surrounded by the Small Ring road which borders the line of the city’s medieval walls.
The Lower and Upper Town areas are very different from each other and their unique beauty makes Brussels what it is today. Whilst the Lower Town is famous for its historical quarters and the magnificent Grand Place is renowned as being one of the most attractive town squares in Europe, the Upper town is branded as the ‘posh’ half, housing the royals and holding many important institutions.
Brussels is mainly inhabited by the French and Dutch but nowadays, more noticeably in the city, it has changed into a more multicultural environment. The city is officially bilingual, with information presented in both French and Dutch, although French is more widely spoken. Many people speak English as well.
The city centre offers a variety of architecture which ranges from medieval constructions to modern EU institution buildings. Brussels has many attractive attributes, such as its picturesque medieval streets, lively town squares, beautiful boulevards and Gothic-styled cathedrals and churches.
The Atomium is a Belgian icon. It was built for the 1958 Universal Exhibition and it takes its shape and proportions from the internal lattice of an iron atom. There are nine spheres linked by escalators and each contains exhibition rooms hosting a rapidly changing series of exhibitions. There is a fantastic view from the deck of the uppermost sphere.
Address: Boulevard du Centenaire, Brussels
Belgium's love of comic book art is evident in this museum housed in a fabulous Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta. You'll see plenty of its most famous subject, Hergé's Tintin, as well as the Smurfs and art from over 670 cartoonists.
Address: Rue des Sables 20, Brussels
Copyright: M. Van Hulst
Mall lovers everywhere should make a pilgrimage to the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, the very first shopping arcade in Europe. Opened in 1847, the arcade became a draw card for the cream of 19th century society and today continues to inspire shoppers and browsers alike. The building itself is an architectural marvel: arcaded shop fronts across two floors are separated by pilasters, conceived in a Cinquecento style. The roof above is made of arched glass panes connected by a delicate cast-iron framework - very photogenic! In between the various shops you'll find cafes, restaurants, a theatre and even a cinema.
Address: Rue des Bouchers, Brussels
Copyright: M. Van Hulst
The Grand Place is the heart of Brussels and has been since the Middle Ages. One of Europe's most beautiful squares, it lies in the centre of a confusion of small cobbled streets, and is surrounded by richly decorated 17th century Baroque Guildhouses, various Neo-Gothic buildings and museums. It is, however, the town hall, a magnificent Gothic building that dominates the square. Markets, flower stalls and various events are held here and this is the place to get to grips with the essence of Brussels, perhaps over a local delicacy at a pavement café.
Copyright: OPT - Potigny
The distinctive statue has been described as the Eiffel Tower of Brussels and tourists throng the streets in search of the tiny urinating urchin. The bronze Mannekin is thought to represent the 'irreverent spirit' of Brussels, but there are numerous tales about its beginnings. Started by Louis XV of France many years ago, it has been the custom of foreign countries, companies, visiting dignitaries or charities to donate an outfit to the Mannekin-Pis and the little boy is usually decked out in the latest costume. Previous costumes are displayed in the City of Brussels Museum.
Address: On the corner of Rue du Chêne and Rue de l’Etuve, Brussels
Mini-Europe contains miniatures of all of Europe's favourite attractions at a scale of 1:25. There are approximately 350 attractions can be seen from around 80 cities. A must-see for young and old!
Address: Bruparck, Eeuwfeestlaan 20Bd du Centenaire, Brussels (next to the Atomium)
The Chocolate Museum is a tribute to the history of the cocoa bean and the famed Belgian love of chocolate. The first chocolatier in the city appeared in the 1600s and today Belgians eat an average of 9 kg a year! Visit from Tuesday to Friday between 10 am and 3 pm and you'll get to see the master chocolatiers at work and taste the efforts of their labour.
Address: 13 Grand Place, Brussels
Copyright: BITC - O. van de Kerchove
Belgium's magnificent Royal Palace was built in the 19th century as the official residence of the Belgian Royal family, although today it is used for official functions and other ceremonial purposes. The palace is positioned in front of Brussels Park, itself well worth exploring, and directly opposite the modern Parliament building.
Address: Place des palais, Brussels
Copyright: Luc Viatour
Belgium’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts hold some twenty thousand paintings, sculptures and drawings. The art works are divided among the Ancient Art Museum (15th – 17th century), the Modern Art Museum (19th – ¬ 20th century), the Wiertz Museum and the Meunier Museum.
Address: 3, rue de la Régence, Brussels
The brand new museum dedicated to René Magritte opened just last June and is the world’s largest collection of the artist’s paintings, photographs and films. A surrealist artist, René Magritte’s work features unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur.
Address: 3, rue de la Régence, Brussels
The museum dedicated to Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta is also a house that was owned by the artist. Furniture, utensils and art objects designed by Victor Horta are on display. The building itself is listed as UNESCO World Heritage.
Address: 25, rue Américaine, Brussels
Autoworld is a great place to discover the automotive history through a collection of more than 300 vehicles. Horse-drawn coaches, two-door sport sedans from the 1950s, motorcycles, commercial vehicles… there is something for everyone.
Address: Parc du Cinquantenaire 11, Brussels
Places of interest in Belgium