Dominating the city is the Grand-Place, the UNESCO listed square surrounded by impressive architecture and filled with hawkers selling trinkets. Historic events here include the burning of Protestant martyrs in the 1500s by the Inquisition and bombardment by the French in the late 17th century. In the square, the gothic Town Hall is often on must-visit lists, with its instantly visible spire. Surrounding the square are eateries offering ‘moules et frites’ and chocolate, Belgium’s famous offerings.
By getting out of this bustling area travellers will find quieter streets and sights to see, such as the Atomium, a giant sculpture of an iron crystal built for the World Fair in 1958, located at the edge of the city and visible from the taller buildings.
In the ‘busy tourist sights’ category is the famous Manneken-Pis, a small sculpture of a boy urinating (guess where the water comes out), which the city’s tourism organisation says embodies the rebellious spirit of Brussels. Apparently, originally a fountain for water distribution to the city, the statue is reportedly dressed in different suits on fixed occasions throughout the year, so travellers can check the suit calendar for what he will be wearing when they arrive.
A number of museums are on offer in the city, including arts and military history museums. Comic lovers should pay a visit to the Belgian Comic Strip Center which has a special section dedicated to the famous Belgian boy reporter, Tintin.
Places to Visit in Brussels
- La Grand-Place
- Parc du Cinquantenaire
- The Royal Palace and Royal Park
- Galeries St Hubert and the Royal Galleries
Unique Things to See and Do in Brussels
- Wander around La Grand-Place
- Eat ‘moules et frites’ at one of the many (many!) eateries offering the dish
- Visit the Belgian Comic Strip Center and check out the person-sized model of Tintin’s moon rocket
- Join the crowds around the Manneken-Pis
- Catch a glimpse of the Atomium
Tintin, the Boy Reporter
Blistering barnacles! If you’ve not read the works of Georges Prosper Remi or Hergé, do yourself a favour and hunt out a Tintin immediately. The adventures of the Belgian boy reporter are beloved worldwide, have sold millions of copies and have been adapted into Steven Spielberg films, TV shows, plays and more.
While the Hergé Museum is located about a 30 minutes’ drive out of Brussels, the artist and author was born in the city. The Belgian Comic Strip Center in the city centre can give you a taste of the tales, with a dedicated exhibit area. It is well worth a visit for its interesting exhibits of comic artists, including another Belgian creation, the Smurfs, character models and a person-sized replica of Tintin’s moon rocket at the entrance, and a reading room.
The Tintin comics have drawn praise for their artwork and intricate, intriguing plots. But fans may love them best for their wonderful characters, including the irascible, alcoholic Captain Haddock, whose poetic insults include the famous ‘thundering typhoon!’, as well as the excellent ‘fancy dress freebooter’, the absent-minded and hard of hearing genius, Professor Cuthbert Calculus, and the incompetent detectives, Thomson and Thompson.
Brussels even offers a Comic Strip Itinerary, which travellers can follow around the city to learn more about Hergé and Tintin, while those who pick up a copy of one of the reporter’s adventures can apparently spot the various features of the city in the books, including the Royal Park and Palace in King Ottokar’s Sceptre.
Getting around Brussels
Getting to Brussels is a breeze, with low-cost international coach options available. Direct rail links are available to Paris (about one and a half hours), Amsterdam (about two hours on a high speed train), and London (about two hours on the Eurostar). Brussels also has two international airports with regular flights from other European cities.
Domestic trains and buses within Belgium and Brussels are also reliable and affordable. Walking around the main sights of is very doable and the roads within Brussels are well-maintained.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Brussels
Like any European city, Brussels can get hot, sticky and crowded in summer (from about June to August), but the average temperature is reportedly about 23 degrees Celsius, while winter (from about December to February) sees an average of about one degree Celsius.
Early autumn and early summer are reportedly recommended times to visit Brussels. Travellers should do themselves a favour and not arrive in the city late at night – the city lighting has been low in the past and tired newcomers can be a little intimidated by this.
Did you know…?
The Manneken-Pis apparently has more than 900 suits, 100 of which are in the Museum of the City of Brussels.
Did you ALSO know…?
There are various legends attached to the Manneken-Pis and its importance to Brussels. One of these is that the city was once under siege and the aggressors placed explosives at the city’s walls. Seeing this, a little boy leaped forward to urinate on the lit fuses, putting them out and saving the city.
Ready to plan your visit to Brussels? Check out these popular guides and trips.