The capital of Europe and so much more! Here’s what I recommend for your weekend visit!
Once you get settled in your hotel or hostel, head not to the Grand Place but instead to the Royal Palace – bus and tram stop Royale or the metro stop Trone and walk a block.
Here, you should start at the Belvue Museum which presents an excellent and interactive introduction to Belgian history. It’s perfect for the family who may not already be a Belgium expert and at 7E full admission, 5E 18-25, and free under 18, it’s not too expensive.
From the Belvue Museum, walk around the corner to the Arts Hill. This has one of the best views over the center of Brussels and the hill is also home to multiple museums. Choose one (or more) from the museum of musical instruments, Magritte museum, Museum of Fine Arts and the church of Saint-Jacques sur Coudenberg . There’s typically a yellow waffle truck perched on the top of the hill so you can get your sugar fix in as well.
From the Arts Hill, you can either walk down the hill or continue down the street in the direction of the Palais de Justice (which is easily visible, just look for the massive dome at the end of the street).
If you choose to walk down, note the national library of Belgium on your left and the city-sponsored graffiti wall tucked into the side. Turn right at the end of the stairs and head about two blocks to the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula. This cathedral towers over Brussels and is where the King and Queen were married in 1999 — check out their wedding photos on the wall!
From there continue on and end your evening with a waffle or coffee at or around the Grand Place. Your choices are endless and it’s beautiful to watch the sun set over the facades.
If you stayed on top of the hill and headed towards the massive dome, you’ll end up walking by the Cathedral of the Petit Sablon. There’s a daily antique market that is held in the front so make sure you walk around and explore it! Before you get too lost in the Sablon neighborhood however, continue on towards the Palais de Justice.
Wander in and through and marvel at its size, then take the panoramic elevator (the glass one, it’s free!) down to the base of the Sablon neighborhood. Here, you’ll find some of the cutest cafés and hipster restaurants and again, an incredible place to watch the sun go down.
For your second day, visit the government sites! The European Parliament has an incredibly interesting museum called the Parliamentarium that can be found at Place Luxembourg. It portrays the history and complexities of the EP in each of the 24 national languages of the EU! Definitely worth a visit for wonks and non-wonks alike.
From there head behind Parliament to Place Jourdan for the best fries in Belgium at Maison Antoine. Hop a bus or tram to the Bourse area and explore the behind the scenes of the Grand Place. If you did this yesterday, hit up the Sablon area that you missed!
Hopefully, this will keep you from spending hours hiking the city aimlessly, and also keep you from getting stuck only in the overly-touristed Grand Place! Enjoy the quirkiness of the capital of Europe.