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There’s a reason that Brussels attracts so many tourists every damn year. This vibrant city, which is the capital of Belgium, is home to a ton of beautiful sites and here you’ll be able to enjoy some of the most typical things to do in Belgium!
Brussels, the cultural heart of Belgium, is home to some of the most well known landmarks in the entire country and even Europe! With a population of more than 2 million people it’s the largest municipality and historical centre of the country.
And while the city of Brussels already has a lot to offer there are also some beautiful places you must see right on the outskirts of the city.
This article will walk you through all of the top sights within the city centre of Brussels but I will also show you the best things to do around Brussels. Be prepared for historical landmarks, fairytale castles, beautiful gardens and magical forests!
Best And Beautiful Places To Visit In Brussels, Belgium
1. Grand Place, the most famous place in Brussels
The Grand Place is the central square of Brussels and also the most visited place in our capital. That’s why if you can you should plan on visiting it in the early morning. Especially on the weekend you’ll then have one of the most beautiful squares in Belgium all to yourself!
It’s a magnificent place surrounded by guild houses and here you’ll also find the city’s Town Hall and the King’s House which now hosts the Brussels City Museum. The Grand Place was even voted the most beautiful square in Europe in 2010 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A lot of festivities and cultural events are organized here such as a beautiful light show during the Christmas Period. But the most famous one has to be the Flower Carpet where every two years an enormous flower carpet is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. This is event is called Flowertime and a must visit if you haven’t so far! This year the event still has to be confirmed. And at least once in your life you should enjoy a Belgian beer at one of old bars surrounding the market!
2. Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert
Welcome to the oldest shopping arcade in Europe! The Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert was even built before the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan and The Passage in St Petersburg. The gallery is split into two sections and is divided in the middle by the Rue de Boucher. This little street is lined with restaurants and is one of the biggest tourist traps in entire Brussels.
The Royal Gallery is the perfect place to do some window or real shopping during your day in Brussels. Here you’ll find some of the most beautiful and exclusive stores such as:
- La Folie des Cadeaux – A magnificent toy store that you simply have to enter.
- Les Ecuadors – If you’re looking for unique jewellery you’ll love this shop.
- Maison Dandoy – Try their home made speculoos, it’s amazing!
- Delvaux – A luxury designer brand from Belgium, known for it’s beautiful handbags. You might want to check your credit card balance before entering :p.
3. Mont des Arts
The Mont des Arts is a historic site in the centre of Brussels, including the Royal Library of Belgium, the National Archives of Belgium and a public garden. It offers one of the most beautiful viewpoints over the historic centre of Brussels from where you can admire the spire of the City Hall. And on a sunny day you can even see the Atomium and the Koekelberg basilica from here!
These days the place is really popular with the locals. In the evening they will gather here for drinks which unfortunately also leads to a lot of empty bottles and cans laying around. If you really want to enjoy this place I suggest you visit in the morning or in the early afternoon. It’s definitely one of my favorite places to visit in Brussels thanks to the spectacular view over the city.
4. Grand Sablon
If you’re visiting Brussels during the weekend you have to pass by the Grand Sablon, one of the most beautiful places in Brussels! Every weekend there is the Sablon Antiques and Books Markets where you’ll find over 40 stalls selling artwork, porcelain and much more.
Surrounding the square are antique stores, designer boutiques, hotels, restaurants, an auction house and well-known Belgian chocolatiers such as Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini and Godiva.
5. Palace of Justice, the most impressive building in Brussels
The Palace of Justice is the most important court building in entire Belgium and has been under renovation for decades. Seriously, ever since I was a little girl I have only known it to be surrounded by scaffolding.
At the end of World War II the Germans started a fire inside of the building which caused an insane amount of destruction. Because of this never ending renovation the scaffolding got so rusted and unsafe that the scaffolding itself is in need of renovation. Nevertheless it’s one of the most beautiful and well known landmarks of Brussels.
If you’re visiting during the week make sure to also take a peek inside cause it’s one of the most impressive architectural marvels in Belgium!
6. National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg, the most beautiful church in Brussels
The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart is located on top of a hill in Koekelberg and can be spotted from miles away. It’s architecture was inspired by the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur in Paris and it is the largest building in Art Deco style in the world. Even that you can spot the National Basilica from miles away due to its grandeur it’s also one of those hidden gems in Belgium that not many tourists tend to visit.
Behind the Basilica you’ll find the Parc Elisabeth which offers an amazing view over this majestic building. It’s the perfect place to relax a little and maybe even enjoy a pic nic in the afternoon or early evening!
You can reach the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart with line 2 or 6 of the Brussels Metro.
The Atomium was originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo, also known as Expo 58, and is now a museum. The top sphere even hosts a restaurant which offers a panoramic view over Brussels. The Atomium depicts nine iron atoms in the shape of the body-centred cubic unit cell of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times. It wasn’t supposed to stand after the exhibition, but year after year it’s demolition was postponed until the city’s authorities decided to keep it.
You can easily reach the Atomium with line 6 of the Brussels metro and it’s also located close to the Parc of Laeken. Especially during spring it’s a wonderful place to go for an evening stroll. There are a ton of magnolia trees and cherry blossom trees in the surrounding area and in front of the Atomium itself is huge grass field.
The Atomium is one of the best places to visit in Brussels, especially if it’s your first time visiting the capital!
Opening hours – The Atomium is open every single day (including holidays) from 10am to 6pm
Entrance fee – €16
8. Château de la Hulpe, a beautiful castle around Brussels
Did you know that Belgium holds the record for the highest amount of castles per square meter? It’s crazy to think that a country this small holds over 2000 castles and more. It comes as no surprise that visiting one of these castles actually makes for the perfect day trip from Brussels.
The Solvay Castle is located in a beautiful park and is only 20 minutes driving from Brussels. It is surrounded by a beautiful park and offers the perfect contrast with the hustle and bustle of our capital.
To my knowledge there isn’t a real parking lot in the area but you’re able to park your car alongside the road.
Opening hours – 8am to 9pm (6pm during the Winter)
Due to new police regulations the park remains open for visiting on the weekdays but is closed on the weekend. Access to the terraces of the Château, the houses/gardens and closed-off meadows is forbidden.
Entrance – The park is free to enter
9. The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Every year the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken open their doors to the public. It’s one of the most beautiful and unique places to visit in Brussels during Spring. During this time most flowers are in full bloom and you get to witness what hundreds of gardeners work tirelessly on during an entire year!
This event only lasts for 3 weeks so make sure to arrive very, very early!. When I visited 2 years ago I made sure to be there at 8.30am, even that it only opens at 9.30am. And, it’s safe to say that I was very happy that I did cause not long after people started cueing up and a ton of tour busses started to arrive. There was a small rope on the other side of the street in front of the entrance which was pointed out as the designated waiting point.
As soon as it opens make sure to go to one of the ticket booths (2,5€, free under 18) and head inside.
READ MY FULL GUIDE ON THE GREENHOUSES OF LAEKEN, INCLUDING A LOT MORE DETAILS & PHOTOS – THE ROYAL GREENHOUSES OF LAEKEN, PLAN THE PERFECT VISIT
10. Castle of Groot Bijgaarden
The Spring flower exhibition in the park and the greenhouses of the castle of Groot-Bijgaarden offers an unforgettable flower experience! The park of 14 hectares incorporates nearly all spring bulb varieties and for the new flowering time, the gardeners of the castle have planted more than one million bulbs by hand. Special attention goes to the tulips, with almost 400 varieties, hyacinths and daffodils are also well represented.
I highly recommend visiting Floralia and it completely blew me away! There were soooo many stunning flowers and it was so easy to take beautiful photos!
Wearing a mask is obligatory for now but a lot of times you’ll find yourself at a distance of more than 5 meters of other people so it’s safe to take a photo without a mask on. I do recommend keeping it on when you’re just walking around!
Opening hours: from 10 am to 06 pm. The ticket desk closes at 05:30 pm.
Ticket price: €14
FOR MORE STUNNING SPRING LOCATIONS IN BELGIUM MAKE SURE TO READ MY DETAILED ARTICLE INCLUDING A TON OF PHOTOS – SPRING IN BELGIUM, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO SEE SPRING FLOWERS.
11. Parc Josaphat, a beautiful park in Brussels
There’s a beautiful park near Laeken in Brussels and once a year its entrance becomes a stunning arch of pink flowers. The cherry blossom trees are perfectly lined up in a way that you’ll get the feeling that you’re walking through a pink tunnel.
Parc Josaphat is a rather unknown park compared to the others in Brussels but definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area! And especially during spring it’s one of the best places to visit in Brussels!
12. Botanical Garden of Meise, a unique place to visit in Brussels
The Botanical Garden of Meise is definitely worth a visit and in April it’s pretty easy to combine it with a visit to Floralia Brussels!
There are two main highlights at the park. On one hand there’s the castle of Bouchout and on the other you have an enormous greenhouse which is filled with all sorts of tropical plants and flowers.
It can get pretty toasty inside the greenhouse so if you want to spend some time here make sure to wear layers! In total you really don’t need more than 2 hours to visit the entire domain. Unless you want to read everything about every plant then you’ll need an entire day ;).
Opening hours: 9.30am until 6.30pm
Ticket Price: €9
13. Dinasty Monument
The Dinasty Monument can be found right in front of the main entrance of the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. This beautiful monument is dedicated to the very first king of Belgium, Leopold I. It shows the King looking over to the Royal Castle, surrounded by nine columns, arranged in a circle. These columns represent the then existing 9 provinces of Belgium and each column holds a statue that embodies that province.
The Dinasty Monument is located at the Vorstenlaan and is a part of the park of Laeken. Make sure to visit this place at the end of March when the magnolia trees are in full bloom!
14. Chinese Pavillion and Japanese Tower
The Chinese Pavillion and Japanese Tower are both located at the edge of the royal estate and both of them were commissioned by Leopold II. Since 1946, the place has become an annex of the Royal Museums of Art and History where are exposed Chinese porcelain, furniture and tapestries dating from the 19th and early of the 20th century. But due to architectural weaknesses the museums have been closed since 2013.
It is however still possible to visit the park surrounding both buildings!
15. Hallerbos Forest, one of the best places to visit in Brussels
The Hallerbos forest, also known as the bluebell forest, is one of the most magical places in Brussels. Once every year the forest transforms itself into a purple haze and the entire ground is covered with these pretty flowers.
Hallerbos Forest is located in Halle, South West from Brussels and can be easily reached by both car and bus. It’s free to visit and there are hikes especially dedicated to see as many bluebells as possible!
READ MY FULL GUIDE ON THE BLUEBELLS OF HALLERBOS, INCLUDING A LOT MORE DETAILS & PHOTOS – HALLERBOS FOREST, A TRAVEL GUIDE TO THE BLUEBELL FOREST IN BELGIUM
16. Gaasbeek Castle
Gaasbeek Castle was built in around 1240, during the middle ages. The Duke of Brabant created the “Land van Gaasbeek” (the country of Gaasbeek) in order to defend the Duchy of Brabant against the nearby counties of Flanders and Hainaut.
Gaasbeek Castle is surrounded by a huge park which is free to enter and definitely worth a visit! There is also a Museum Garden which will reopen on May 2021.
The park is open every day from 8am until 8pm (only 5pm until the end of March).
Across the street there is a spacious parking lot to leave your car.
Where to stay in Brussels
The Hotel Brussels – Wake up with a view over the beautiful city of Brussels. The Hotel is a modern luxury hotel right next to all of the best luxury stores in Brussels and only 20 minutes walking from the Grand Place
Warwick Brussels – Located only a short walk from the major sites in Brussels. On the hotel’s roof top terrace guests can enjoy the gorgeous open Brussels skyline and an unbeatable view of the Town Hall building.
Vintage Hotel – The most spectacular feature is an experience named ‘glamping’: a vintage Airstream Caravan from 1958 parked in a courtyard of the hotel. Here guests can relive a nostalgic experience with the bonus perks of modernity.
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.