Brussels is a bubbling melting pot, overflowing with diversity. Rich in culture as it is in chocolate, the bilingual city is a liminal space where politicians, musicians and royalty share quarters.
Beyond the often 20-pound round-trip price tag, what is one to do when they arrive in Brussels? Below you’ll find the top things to do in town, annual events worth taking note of and of course, the top places in Brussels to pick up some of that world-famous chocolate.
If you’re planning a quick weekender, here’s the low-down on the best places in Brussels to check out. If you’ve got more of 3-4 day itinerary in mind then a day trip from Brussels is a must too!
Grand Place (Grote Markt)
Take a gander to Brussel’s most exquisite square – Grand Place. Considered to be the centre of Brussels, this market square is the number one attraction among tourists due to its architectural beauty and UNESCO status, it’s clear to see why.
Aligning the parameter of the busy market square you’ll find the Museum of the City of Brussels, the Breadhouse and the city’s town hall. If you’re interested in diving into the history of the city and the square you can find that most free tours of Brussels depart from this point.
Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
A window-shoppers dream. If the Grand Place isn’t enough to satisfy you inner architectural-fiend, then you simply cannot miss Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. One of Europe’s most extravagant shopping arcades is reminiscent of Florence’s Uffizi gallery and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.
At 100 metres long, the arcade is filled with mouth-watering chocolatiers, boutique shops and divine restaurants. Although the vendors may be at the top-end budget for every city-breaker, the fine food selection is worth the walk-through.
Catch the sunset at Mont des Arts
Ending a day of sightseeing with this spectacular view is a must for anyone visiting Brussels. Watching the sun fall behind the charmingly crooked neo-classical cityscape is one of the best sights the city has to offer.
When you’re phone gallery has had its fill, it’s time to re-energise. A quick stroll from Mont des Arts is Natural Caffe, a chic spot, perfect for a quick coffee and bite to eat.
Brussels’ plays host to some of the most visually stunning events across Europe, including royal flower shows and exquisite art exhibitions.
Get Creative at the Kunsten Festival Des Arts
If you’re a culture fan than the Kunsten Festival Des Arts (KFDA) should be number one on your lists of things to do in Brussels.Via. Instagram: @kunstenfestivaldesarts
Over the course of May 2017, the city’s gallery and exhibition spaces open their doors to contemporary art in all forms. Performance, cinema, sculpturing and classic canvas paintings – the city amuses even the toughest art critic. You can check out the KFDA website to stay up-to-date with the event.
Visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
One of the best places to visit in Brussels if you’re looking for a taste of the regal experience. For only two weeks a year, usually April or May, the royal greenhouses open their doors to the public. Why is it worth the mention?
The royal botanic collection is one of the greatest in the world, with flora from all corners of the world. Not to mention the elegance of the greenhouses themselves is enough to float your boat.
Smell the roses at the biennial Flower Carpet at Grand Place
Turns out Belgium and Japan have a solid friendship, which they celebrate every second year by decorating the city’s Grand Place with an orient flower display. Aw.
Taking place over the third weekend in August, the celebration commences with a dazzling firework display over the city, followed by a light and music show in the evening. With the next dates set for 16th-18th August 2018, there’s plenty of time to start planning your trip.
Let’s face facts, when planning a trip to Brussels we can’t help but wait for that first bite of pure Belgian chocolate. But what makes Belgian chocolate world famous? Engineering, centuries of practice, and a whole lot of love. This has ultimately attracted a global audience to the grand chocolatiers of Brussels.
Engineering, centuries of practice, and a whole lot of love. This has ultimately attracted a global audience to the grand chocolatiers of Brussels.
Location: Galerie de la Reine 29
Why? Although the Neuhaus chocolate chain has achieved global status this ornate space is where it all began, and for pralines too. Yes, pralines were created by the owner’s grandson, Jean Neuhaus II, and the world has been a better place since.
But oh what to try? Our favourite has to be the Art Déco chocolate, with 72% cocoa mass dark chocolate mixed with praline, Californian almonds and nougat pieces. Yum.
Location: Rue des Minimes 1.
Why? If it’s a taste of contemporary chocolate you’re after Perri Marcolini is the chocolatier for you. With a revolutionary reputation in the world of gourmet chocolate, inventor and owner Perri Marcolini draws his inspiration from modern art to create some of the best chocolate ever to cross our palettes.
But oh what to try? We recommend spoiling yourself by indulging in some unique flavours on offer. Such as the Madagascar cocoa with red fruits, both the cocoa and fruits are grown in the same soil, a combination which will have your taste buds come alive. Although you simply cannot ignore the macarons on display, with such a colourful variety of flavours, we’ll leave this decision up to you.
Location: 73 Rue Royale.
Why? If it’s good enough for the royal family it’s good enough for you. Mary has a high standard of raw ingredients, the chocolatier is renowned for turning away cocoa beans which do not meet her standards. This has resulted in her establishment being awarded the ‘Certified Royal Warrant Holder of Belgium’ twice since opening its doors in 1919, making her chocolate one of the best in the world.
But oh what to try? May ye be warned, when you enter the store you may hear Jean Wilders rendition of ‘Pure Imagination’ play through your head.
But let’s focus. There may be walls of chocolate but what we truly recommend is the Condit de Chocolat, possibly the best chocolate spread ever to come into existence. Pick up a jar or two so you can keep those taste buds bubbling even after your trip.
Why?: Wittamer’s is the Chanel of chocolate. A high-class establishment, a favourite among the monarchy but its high profile isn’t what draws its customers, it’s their world famous desserts, making this cafe one of the best places (ever) to grab a cake and coffee.
But oh what to try? Anything from the soft Eclairs to the crumbling Financier and the Forêt Noire. Although these treats are little on the expensive side your taste buds won’t regret the experience.
But if you’re feeling thirsty we recommend indulging in their hot chocolate, the richness of the smooth chocolate is guaranteed to accentuate feelings of internal feelings of warm and fuzziness.
The best way to get to Brussels?
Catching a flight from the UK to Brussels is the most popular way of travel. Although if you prefer to train via. earth, you can catch the Eurostar directly from London St.Pancras International to Brussels-Midi.