My weekend trip to Brussels was fantastic; in fact, I’d even go so far as to say I preferred it to some of my days in Italy. Although there are plenty of tourists milling about, Brussels on the whole doesn’t feel like a tourist trap, and I felt like I really got to experience the Belgian culture. A big reason for this was that I had my first couch surfing experience, which made me feel like I was living in the city for a few days rather than just visiting it. Another major reason why I loved Brussels was that everything was so cheap! Well, maybe not all the restaurants, but the major attractions were either free or under 10 Euros. As you guys know, I love a good bargain and thought you would too.
1. Army Museum
When I looked up the Army Museum on Trip Advisor, the first comment to pop up said, “Weapons galore!” Between that and all the 5-star ratings, I figured this was a safe place to visit. If you’re a military enthusiast or just need something to keep your husband/boyfriend/brother busy while you window shop, the Army Museum is the place to go. As a bonus, it’s situated in a gorgeous public park next to the Arc de Triumph (yes, there’s one in Brussels too. Who’d’ve thunk it?).
2. Royal Palace Park
It’s no surprise that this made it to my list. I love public parks because they give me an opportunity to people watch while resting my feet for a bit. The park in front of the Royal Palace is on the smaller side, but it has two big fountains and lots of space to stretch out. The Royal Palace itself is only open to the public for a few months at the end of the summer, so this is a good spot to sit and pretend you’re laying on your own property. Who doesn’t love a good daydream now and then?
3. City Hall of Brussels
Located in the heart of the city at the Grand Place, the City Hall of Brussels boasts an impressive array of Gothic architecture and is hands down one of the most beautiful public buildings I’ve seen. I took a tour of the City Hall my last day in Brussels, and I’m so happy I did so! Tours are only offered on Wednesdays and Sundays at specific times, so make sure you plan your day accordingly if you want to see the building. My tour guide was quite funny and gave us some great information about the current and past uses of the city hall, and the rooms themselves are stunning. Most of them are completely original as well, which speaks highly of the maintenance of the building. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside as it is a public office building
4. Museum of the City of Brussels
Although quite small, the Museum of the City of Brussels gets two thumbs up from me. There’s a lot of information packed into the small space, but not in such a way that I ever felt overwhelmed or bored. The museum has a good range of tapestries, paintings, and general historical objects and there are information sheets offered in several different languages. If you can’t stand to read all the information yourself, free tours are offered as well (once you pay the entrance fee). My favorite display in the museum was a miniaturized layout of the entire city from way back in the day. I happened to duck into the museum on a rainy morning and spent a very pleasant hour and a half perusing the displays.
Alright, fine, waffles are more something to eat than to do, but how could I resist adding them to my list? You haven’t fully experienced Brussels until you’ve had a waffle here. Fun fact: Belgian Waffles in Belgium are completely different from the ones in the States! They’re cooked from a dough rather than from a batter and taste like cake. I ordered my first one with a heap of whipped cream and a drizzle of melted chocolate, and while it tasted absolutely amazing, it also gave me a bit of a stomach ache because the waffles also have a caramelized sugar coating on them. If you want the absolute top waffle experience, order one from a legit restaurant or cafe. If you want to save a few Euros (like me), pop into a chocolate store advertising waffles. That way you know your waffle was freshly made and the chocolate topping is the good stuff.
6. Street Markets
Like any large city, Brussels has some amazing street markets. I hit up the antique market that takes place every Sunday at the base of the Our Lady of Sablon church, and I was surprised at the quality of the items on display. I suppose I just haven’t been to enough real antique markets to know when one’s really good, but from what I saw at Sablon, this one’s legit. The stalls carry everything from old postcards to real silverwear sets, so if you’re a serious collector, this is the place for you. Another notable market is the Sunday market near the Gare du Midi train station. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to visit this myself, but my couch surfing host had nothing but praise for it. If you’re interested in exploring more markets in Brussels, you can find more information here.
7. City Tour
Brussels is a city with such a fascinating historical background, and although I love visiting museums I also find city tours a great way to experience the history first hand. Another bonus of going on these tours is that you get to ask your guide for insider tips and restaurant recommendations (because good food is important too!). There are a few different companies who offer free tours, but you can find a few options here and here.
Which item on this list are you most excited to experience? Do you have any other suggestions for places to visit in Brussels? Those waffles were so sweet, but I’m already craving them!