The Grand Place is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, with architecture from three different eras (Baroque, Gothic, and Louis XIV) making their marks on the square giving it an eclectic flavor. This heterogeneous quality earned the Grand Place a listing as one of the Sites of World Heritage by UNESCO in 1998. Situated right in the center of Brussels, it is often bustling with people and is also a common place for festivals such as the flower festival or the beer festival. A great starting point for any holiday in Brussels.
As Brussels is the hub of European politics, a visit to the Parlamentarium is a must. Not only is it completely free, but it is dynamic and extremely interactive. The museum begins by taking you through a journey of how and why the EU was set up. After this it explains in detail the current role of the EU in contemporary society. You also have a chance to sit in the chair of an MEP and through an interactive map you can learn more about the variety of work of the EU in many different countries.
For a relaxing day you can spend some time just on the outside of Brussels at the Bois de la Cambre park. There, you can sunbathe, have a picnic, and feed the ducks and swans. For one euro it is also possible to take a small ferry boat across to the island where there is a lovely restaurant/bar, Chalet Robinson, and you have the possibility to go boating for a reasonable price. This is the perfect activity for a sunny day in Brussels.
Brussels is full of different markets taking place every evening and on the weekends. For foodies, Place du Châtelain market on Wednesday evenings is lovely and full of great stalls offering delicacies from all over the world. If you enjoy collecting antiques then Place du Jeu de Balle is the place for you. There you can find art, furniture, books, records, etc. If you fancy a bit of everything, then the market at Gare du Midi is great for a Sunday morning; you can taste an assortment of different foods and collect household goods, clothes, and souvenirs.
The best way to truly discover a city is to have a local show you around. Thus for an interesting and active 2 hour overview of Brussels it is a great idea to book a free walking tour. There are two options: the Sandemans Walking Tour or for those who prefer to learn about a quirkier side to places, then there is an Alternative Walking Tour. Both are very well recommended and you can choose how much or how little you wish to donate. Remember to wear comfy walking shoes and prepare to explore and learn about Brussels in depth.
If the weather takes a turn for the worst and you feel like learning some historical information about Brussels for free, then the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History is the place to go. The museum presents unique and amazing objects: not only armors, hundreds of uniforms, and prestigious distinctions, but also works of art and musical instruments and an outstanding collection of planes, guns, and tanks. In one afternoon you can wander through ten centuries of history, from the Middle Ages to the World Wars. Moreover, the arcade offers a beautiful view of the capital.
Most tourists are usually aware that somewhere in the center of Brussels there’s a small statue of a peeing boy (Manneken Pis). However, not as many people know that there’s also a statue of a peeing girl (Jeanneke Pis) and another of a peeing dog (Zinneke Pis). To enjoy an unusual walking tour around the center of Brussels, do your homework and find the coordinates of all three peeing statues so you can take home a series of portraits of the whole family.
If you would like to take a break from city life and see some beautiful sculptures and varied flora, visit the Botanical Garden. The main building, Le Botanique, is a well-known cultural complex where many concerts take place. In addition to lovely scenery and the cultural atmosphere inside the building, the garden has many sculptures by different artists. The Botanical Garden is located in between business premises, offering a distinct contrast to its surroundings. Entry prices vary between 3 € and 6 €.
Brussels is full of beautiful and diverse churches. Particularly if the temperature soars above 25°C, and walking the city streets becomes quite intolerable, you can seek shelter in a church. If you’re in the city center, head to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, or if you happen to be in the Etterbeek district, find Saint-John Berchmans Church – it looks like a castle from the outside. You might even be able to hear some lovely choral music inside.