Is Brussels Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons to Add It to Your Bucketlist

Home 9 Europe 9 Belgium 9 Is Brussels Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons to Add It to Your Bucketlist

From densely packed neighborhoods lined with majestic Art Nouveau Townhouses to luscious green parks, hearty Belgian cuisine to gourmet fine dining, Brussels has it all. As a local, I can say that Brussels is worth visiting. Let me show you why!

As a Belgian living in Brussels for many years, there is only one answer to that question: YES! However, I am the first to admit that the city requires a little research to uncover the multitude of layers underneath the abundance of brightly lit tourist traps and disjointed architecture.

Holding the dual title of both European and Belgian capital, the city is extraordinarily multicultural, open-minded, and easy to navigate. Just a handful of reasons to visit Brussels! Read on for my, slightly unexpected, ode to my hometown.


Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.


Additional Brussels Guides

Before delving into the nitty gritty of “Is Brussels worth visiting?”, you might want to check out the various additional guides on visiting Brussels I have penned down over the years.

WHAT TO DO: A Weekend in Brussels Like a Local // One Day Guide to Brussels

WHERE TO EAT: Brussels Brunch Guide // Vegetarian Restaurant Guide // Best Pizza in Brussels

WHERE TO STAY: Detailed overview of areas to stay in Brussels & which ones to avoid// 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Brussels

SEASONAL ACTIVITIES: Christmas Market in Brussels // Bluebell Forest in Brussels

AROUND BRUSSELS: Castles near Brussels // Day Trips from Brussels by Train

hidden gems Brussels

16 Reasons Why Visiting Brussels Is Worth It

1. Walkability

Compared to many other capital cities, Brussels is very compact. Manneken Pis is a 5-minute walk from the Grand Place and a 15-minute walk from the bustling Vismet. Most of the tourist hotspots are within comfortable walking distance from each other. Aside from the Atomium, which is a little further out but can easily be reached by metro.

In a bid to push forth a robust sustainability agenda, Brussels has started cracking down on the amount of cars allowed into the city. Swathes of the historical center have been fully pedestrianized while others fall under the Low Emission Zone, effectively banning highly polluting vehicles.

Each street has a sidewalk on both sides of the road, even the little cobblestoned roads crisscrossing the historical center of Brussels. Cars are legally obligated to let you cross the road, that is if you do so on the zebra-crossing.

WALKING TOURS | The very best way to discover Brussels is on foot, with a local guide. This top-rated walking tour includes a great mix of history and various stops to try beers & chocolate!


2. Plethora of Museums

Brussels has over 128 museums to visit! Ranging from the well-known Belgian Comic Strip Center to the more obscure Cinematek, showing films from the archives. Truly there is no better way to spend a rainy day in Brussels than by perusing the many museums.

Brussels City Museum: Located on the Grand Place. The museum houses the original Mannekes Pis as well as the history of Brussels.

Belgian Beer World: Housed in the fully renovated former stock exchange of Brussels ( known as La Bourse// De Beurs). A highly interactive museum about Belgian beer (with tastings!).

Magritte Museum: The iconic surrealist painter René Magritte was born and raised in Belgium. This centrally located museum runs through his life & inspiration and houses a few original works.

Victor Horta Museum: My all-time favorite museum in Brussels and an absolute must for all Art Nouveau lovers. Located slightly outside the historical center, but well worth visiting!

House of European History: As the capital of Europe, Brussels is home to a lot of European Institutions, as well as the most comprehensive museum on the history of Europe.

TIP | If you are planning on visiting multiple museums, make sure to check out the Brussels City Card as it offers free entrance to the main museums. This in turn will save you a pretty penny!


3. The Abundance of Art Nouveau

When people say Brussels is ugly it always makes me smile. While it might lack the uniformity you find through Haussmannian buildings in Paris, or the charm of canal-lined Amsterdam, it is the birthplace of Art Nouveau. And by goodness has this architectural style left its beautiful mark on the city.

One of the most prominent architects associated with the Art Nouveau movement in Brussels was Victor Horta. His innovative approach to design and use of iron, glass, and curves is exemplified in his residence, the Horta Museum.

You might not know this, but there are over 500 Art Nouveau buildings dotted around the city. The largest clustering can be found in the Ixelles and Saint-Gilles areas of town. Or stay in an Art Nouveau B&B in Brussels if you really want to indulge.

How to explore Art Nouveau in Brussels

FREE: Every Saturday of the year, the free 2-hour Art Nouveau walking tour guides you through the main Art Nouveau façades in Brussels.

3-HOUR TOUR ($): Have a knowledgeable local guide take you around Ixelles and Saint Gilles. Ends at the Victor Horta Museum. Check prices and availability.

RECOMMENDED | If you love Art Nouveau, check out the Art Nouveau Pass Brussels has recently launched. Starting at €20 ($22) and allows you to visit 3 Art Nouveau houses.


4. The UNESCO-Classified Grand Place

The crowning jewel of Brussels and one of my favorite places in Brussels. The sheer grandeur, opulence, and level of detail that went into building the various guild houses is absolutely breathtaking and well worth a visit. Even as a local, the Grand Place never ceases to utterly take my breath away.

Dating back to the 12th century, the Grand Place evolved from a bustling marketplace to a focal point for civic and cultural life. Remnants of its early market days can be found in the names of the streets flowing into the square: Rue au Beurre (butter street); and Rue Chair et Pain (bread street).

The Grand Place boasts a tapestry of architectural styles, with the opulent guild halls lining the square showcasing an exquisite blend of Gothic, Baroque, and Louis XIV architecture.

At the heart of the square stands the Town Hall, a masterpiece of Gothic design that dominates the skyline with its towering spire. Opposite, the King’s House, or Maison du Roi, flaunts its opulence with a majestic facade adorned in gold leaf, echoing the prosperity of the prosperous city.

INSIDER TIPS | Step inside the bar La Brouette on the main square, and head directly for the first floor. Order yourself a local Brussels beer (Zinne bier) and get the best view over the Grand Place.


5. The Tasty Beer

Renowned for its rich brewing tradition, Belgium boasts an impressive array of over 1,500 different types of beer, showcasing the country’s commitment to craftsmanship and innovation in the brewing industry.

What sets our Belgian Beer apart is not just the sheer quantity, but the diversity of its beers. From Trappist ales and lambics to witbiers and saisons, each brew is very different from the other.

Aside from the blockbuster beers like Stella, Affligem, and Duvel, we have more than 300 registered microbreweries! Brussels has a few of its very own beers that you simply have to try. Fear not, a bar is never far away and it will 100% serve beer.

Bars in Brussels to grab a Belgian beer

BRUSSELS BEER PROJECT: Founded in 2013 by a group of friends who loved beer. Since then the company has grown significantly with 9 fixed beers in its assortment and a host of seasonal beers. Their signature beer is the Delta IPA. Head to one of their two beer bars for a tasting.

DELIRIUM: The bar with the most amount of beer in Brussels. They used to have a huge book containing all the beers you could order (it felt almost like a manuscript). As the book kept on getting stolen, they have since switched to a digital menu.

MOEDER LAMBIC: Both of the establishments are real Brussels institutions as they have been around for many years. The great thing about this bar is its vast array of beers, on tap!

Craft beer brewed in Brussels

If you are visiting Brussels, why not try one of the beers brewed right here in the city? A couple of classics include Zinnebir and Zenne Pils (Brasserie de la Senne), Delta IPA (Brussels Beer Project), and Surrealiste (Brasserie Surrealiste).

DISCOVER LOCAL BARS | Try Hungry Mary’s Beer and Chocolate tour to uncover a few hidden bars or take a 2h30 top-rated Beer Tasting Tour with a local guide.


6. Chocolate Galore

Brussels is worth visiting for the chocolate alone! Our beloved chocolate traces its roots back to the 17th century when cocoa beans first arrived in Europe. But what really made us stand out was the invention of the praline by Jean Neuhaus in the 19th century.

Pralines are little bite-size chocolates, filled with creamy ganache or nutty centers. To this day whenever we have something to celebrate we often gift a box of pralines! Belgian chocolatiers adhere to traditional methods and add a higher percentage of cacao versus butter to their products. This is what truly sets us apart in terms of taste.

Where to buy chocolates in Brussels

Walking around the historical center of Brussels will entail sifting through an abundance of chocolate stores, all of them claiming to have “the best Belgian chocolate”. In all fairness, most of the stores do sell decent quality chocolate. Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini, BS40 Chocolates and Laurent Gerbaud are some of my go-to chocolatiers in Brussels.

DISCOVER LOCAL CHOCOLATE STORES | If you are a foodie, do not miss out on Hungry Mary’s Beer and Chocolate tour. I took it last year and discovered a bunch of new, locally-run, chocolate stores!


7. Mouthwatering Global Cuisine

READ | Best brunch in Brussels; Vegetarian & Vegan restaurants in Brussels; Best Pizza in Brussels

One of the many advantages of being the European capital is how multicultural Brussels is. This in turn translates to a dazzling array of restaurants serving any type of cuisine imaginable.

Word of caution though, veer away from the brightly festooned restaurants around the Grand Place advertising “Belgian Cuisine”, many of them serve lukewarm fries and a poor excuse for Flemish Stew at staggering prices.

If you are on the hunt for traditional Belgian Cuisine, head to Aux armes de bruxelles, Le petit chou de Bruxelles or Fin de Siecle.


Chateau de la Hulpe Brussels

8. Brussels is So Green!

Despite first impressions, Brussels is a very green city and plans to become even greener. Over the next 5 years, the city aims to increase the number of trees significantly. In 2020 the city conducted various studies to determine which public spaces could benefit from a bit more greenery. Since then, trees and little parks have been mushrooming up everywhere.

Walking around the city, you might stumble upon several little parks. Some of them wedged between buildings (Parc Tenbosch) others sprawling out like a neverending green picnic blanket (Parc du Cinquantenaire, Parc Josaphat).

My favorite park is Bois de la Cambre in the south of Brussels. On a sunny day, this 122-hectare park is choc-a-bloc with locals going for a walk, grabbing a drink, or having a picnic. Bois de la Cambre is a gateway into the 4,421-hectare Sonian Forest which is great for hiking and mountain biking.

LOCAL TIP | Hope on tram 44 which starts at Montgomery Metro Station and glides through the tree-lined Avenue de Tervuren cutting through a veritable forest. It is our most beautiful tram ride!


9. It’s Easy to Get Around

While Brussels is geared towards walking, the weather might not be. It is no secret that it does tend to rain a fair amount in our lovely capital. The good news is that Brussels has a solid public transport network. The tram and metro system will take you just about everywhere!

GOOD TO KNOW | You might have read that biking around Brussels is safe. Please rest assured these tips were not written by a local. Inexperienced bikers should not attempt to ride their bike around the city. The infrastructure is simply not there. Even I, as a local, do not bike around.

MAKE IT EASIER | Purchase the Brussels Card which includes free use of all public transportation in Brussels.

Taking the metro and tram around Brussels

METRO: The Brussels Metro is made up of 6 lines. Runs from 05.30 am – 12.00 am on weekdays; and 06.00 am – 12.00 am on weekends and public holidays. Metro stations are indicated by a blue sign with a large white “M”.

TRAM: There are 17 tram lines, all of which operate at the same hours as the metro. Lines 3 and 4 are what we call “pre-metro” as part of their journey is underground in the tunnels dug out for the metro. Tram stops are dotted along the way and easily spotted by following the track tracks.


in Brussels

10. It’s Not Affected by Over-Tourism

The beauty of Brussels is that it is in effect a “town with tourists, as opposed to a town for tourists”.

Bruges, like Marseilles and Amsterdam – which moved its ‘I Love Amsterdam’ sign from the Rijksmuseum to outside the city – is also engaging in “demarketing”, said Alain Decrop, tourism economics expert.

The Flemish town has stopped its advertising for daytrippers at airports and Flemish towns and imposed restrictions so that only two ships can dock at the same time at nearby Zeebrugge.


11. The Flea Market & Vintage Shops

Head over to the Palais de Justice – easy to spot with its golden dome and eternal scaffolding – and take the ‘elevator to the sky’ down to the Marolles district. This part of Brussels is the place to be for cozy cafés and vintage shopping.

I love walking down Rue Haute and Rue Blaes and popping into the endless array of little art studios, vintage shops, and antique stores. Place du Jeu de Balle is home to a fleamarket selling everything from antique furniture to little vintage nicknacks.

Come rain on sunshine, the market is held daily from 06.00 am to 01.00 pm. However, it is noteworthy to mention it swells in size significantly during weekends when both the number of visitors and stallholders doubles.

If you do spot a treasure amongst the mountain of goods, make sure to bargain the price down. There are no fixed rules about the percentage to bargain down, I tend to aim for 20%. Sometimes it works, other times I have had to walk away with a slightly bruised ego.


Hallerbos Brussels Belgium

12. Brussels Is Safe

Brussels ranks 26th on The Economist’s Safe Cities Index. This Index ranks 60 cities across 76 indicators in five main areas: digital, health, infrastructure, personal, and environmental security. The city scores in the top five when it comes to personal security (e.g. physical safety and crime rates).

As a woman, living in Brussels, I have walked many parts of the city at just about every time of day and never felt unsafe. The neighborhoods around the three train stations (Brussels North, Brussels Central, and Brussels South) tend to be a little dodgy after dark, but nothing in comparison to other larger cities.

Luckily I have never had anything stolen in all my years living in Brussels. But just to be safe, be mindful of your valuables when walking around the historical center. As these parts of the city tend to be busy, they form the ideal playground for pickpockets.


13. It Has One of the Best Christmas Markets in Europe

READ | Local’s guide to Christmas Market in Brussels

Brussels has a sprawling Christmas Market that takes over the historical center from the last week of November until the end of December. What I particularly like about our Christmas Market is how you can find a plethora of traditional Christmas foods from all over Europe.

Little wooden chalets are dotted around the Vismet, Boulevard Anspach, and Saint Catherine. A large ferris wheel towers over the Vismet offering magnificent views over the Christmas Market. Various activities are on offer including a Christmas carol concert, ice skating, and a light show on the Grand Place.

Over 160 streets are brightly adorned with lights and colorful Christmas decorations. Christmas tunes are played in a loop and many chocolate stores bring out a host of scrumptious seasonal treats. It is very much worth visiting Brussels in December! Do make sure to bring warm clothes though.


14. It’s Easy to Get To

Brussels has two international airports and one international train station. Getting to Brussels is an absolute breeze, and oftentimes not even that expensive.

Taking the train to Brussels

Both the Eurostar and the ICE high-speed trains pull into the Brussels Midi (Brussels South) station. This is the largest of the three train stations in Brussels. To get to the historical center you will need to catch a train from Brussels Midi to Brussels Central Station (3 min train ride).

Book both your international and national tickets in advance via the Omio platform. This allows you to compare prices as well as the train schedule.

Flying to Brussels

Technically Brussels has only one international airport: Brussels-National Airport or Brussels-Zaventem Airport. Lowcost airlines such as Ryanair and Wizzair fly into an airport called Brussels South Charleroi Airport. To be clear, Charleroi is a different city and completely unrelated to Brussels.

Getting from Brussels South Charleroi airport to Brussels requires taking a 40-minute busride. I use the Flibco bus, which drops me off right outside the Brussels South Train Station. Book your tickets in advance via the Omio platform.


15. It’s the Perfect Base for Exploring Belgium & Surrounding Countries

READ | Day trips from Brussels by train; Day Trip from Brussels to Bruges

Brussels is nestled in the heart of Belgium, making it the perfect jumping-off point to explore the rest of the country. Popular day trips include Antwerpen, Mechelen, Namur, and of course Bruges. Simply hop on a local train at any of the three train stations in Brussels. Purchase your ticket at the station right before departure.

Should you wish to travel outside of Belgium, you can easily take a day trip to London (2 hours), Paris (1h20), Amsterdam (1h50) or Cologne (1h50). These are all easily reachable via high-speed train but do require tickets to be booked before departure. Check the schedule and purchase your tickets on the Omio platform.


16. The Laid Back Atmosphere

Unlike many other capital cities I have lived in and/or visited, Brussels has a very chilled-out atmosphere. It is rare to find locals pushing past you in a rush, waiters to be so swept up off their feet they are downright rude, or large masses of commuters desperately trying to squeeze into the metro.

In terms of working culture, we tend to have a very flat hierarchy and a strong focus on work-life balance. When we go out for dinner with friends, it means spending several hours in the restaurant. None of this “eat and dash” business.

TIP | If there is a specific restaurant you want to try during your visit to Brussels, make sure to book several weeks in advance as restaurants tend to fill up very quickly.

Additional reasons to visit Brussels

THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO DO: There is a neverending stream of concerts, exhibitions, festivals, and new restaurants/bars to visit in Brussels. Check out the Brussels Agenda before your visit.

ITS THE CAPITAL OF EUROPE: As such it is home to many of the European Institutions. Take a tour of the European Quarter, visit the House of European History, or even the European Parliament.

ITS VERY KID-FRIENDLY: Brussels has a lot of activities that are perfect to do with kids. The Comics Art Museum and National History Museum are highly interactive, and Chicago Cafe and Le Balmoral have a nook for the kids to play.

Where to stay in Brussels

READ | Local’s guide to best areas to stay in Brussels

All hotels recommended have a focus on sustainability and minimizing their ecological impact by using locally sourced ingredients and supporting the local economy. Find hotels in Brussels.

Is Brussels Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons to Add It to Your Bucketlist
Views over the Grand Place Warwick Hotel

RECOMMENDED: WARWICK GRAND PLACE

If you are looking for a hotel with the very best views over the Grand Place then the Warwick Hotel does the trick perfectly. Located a 2 min walk from both the Grand Place and the Brussels Central Station.

Most unique design – ($) Art Deco: Le Berger Hotel


Fixate your eyes upon the vintage and original Art Deco pieces throughout The Art Deco: Le Berger Hotel. An immersive experience if you have an appreciation for Art Deco. Relax in the heated outside pool before you shop until you drop into one of Brussels’ most high-end neighborhoods, Le Sablon.
Location: 10 min walk from the Magritte Museum


A cosmopolitan hotel – ($/$$) Moxy Brussels City Centre

Brussels’ Moxy is conveniently surrounded by bars & restaurants so if you are looking to go out for the night this is the spot for you! This trendy and modern worldwide chain also serves an excellent breakfast. Fuel up for the busy day ahead.
Location: In the safest neighborhood of Brussels – Ixelles/Elsene

Visiting Brussels Travel Tips

Where is Brussels?

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and is located in the very center of the country.

How many days are needed to visit Brussels?

Brussels has a surprising amount of things to do and see, therefore I would suggest spending at least two days and one night in Brussels.

Best time to visit Brussels?

If you are a fan of Christmas come to Brussels in December and enjoy the beautiful Christmas Market. If you are not a fan of colder weather, head over end of April or, beginning of May to see the city carpeted in beautiful cherry blossoms.

What is Brussels known for?

The city of Brussels is known for beer, chocolate, the Grand Place, the Atomium, and the statue of Manneken Pis.

Is Brussels worth visiting for a day?

Visiting Brussels in one day is feasible if you stick the the historical center. One day will allow you to cover most of the major sites including the Grand Place, Manneken Pis, La Bourse, and the Magritte Museum.

How to get around Brussels?

Brussels is a very walkable city, all the main highlights are practically within walking distance from each other. Should your visit coincide with a bout of rain, you can simply hop on the extensive network of trams or metro lines to get you from point A to point b.

Is Brussels expensive to visit?

READ | 15 Sustainable Boutique Hotels in Brussels

Brussels is not a cheap city to visit. That being said, accommodations are a lot more affordable than in Paris or Amsterdam. Expect to pay anywhere between €30 and €60 per person for dinner, accommodation start at €85 per person, per night.

Brussels or Bruges?

Bruges is the most visited city in Belgium, with good reason. This fairytale town is unparalleled anywhere in Europe. If you have but one day in Belgium, I would combine a visit to Bruges and Ghent and skip Brussels.

So, is Brussels worth visiting?

I truly hope that I have been able to transmit my love for Brussels. The city has a ton of activities, history, and picture-perfect snapshots on offer for any type of tourist.

It has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, tons of green space, and locals speak a variety of different languages, all of which make visiting Brussels a hassle-free undertaking!

Is Brussels Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons to Add It to Your Bucketlist

MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING BELGIUM

BELGIUM: 16 Castle hotels in Belgium
BELGIUM: Beautiful places in Belgium to visit
BRUSSELS: Best areas to stay in Brussels
BRUSSELS: Day Trips from Brussels
NAMUR: Things to do in Namur

Is Brussels worth visiting? – Pin it
Is Brussels Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons to Add It to Your Bucketlist
Is Brussels Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons to Add It to Your Bucketlist

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Caroline Muller

Thanks for dropping in! With this blog I hope to harness the power of travel to do good in the world. Think connecting with local cultures, sustainable tourism and in-depth guides to known and lesser-known adventures. 

Looking for something?