Is Brussels Worth Visiting?
In a word: “Yes”.
We visited Brussels for the first time last December, and as you’ll see from all of our Belgium travel blogs, we actually can’t stop talking about how amazing Brussels really is!
Which is why we wanted to write this fun blog post all about the reasons why Brussels is worth visiting and why it’s not at all overrated or boring.
I mean, come on!
Where else can you see the pretty gilded buildings of Grand-Place?
Or see over fifty street art murals dedicated to comic books and cartoons?
And don’t even get us started on the three(!) pissing statues you can find here!
We’re pretty sure that by the time you’ve finished reading this blog, you would have come around to our way of thinking.
17 Reasons To Visit Brussels
1. Belgian chocolate is actually the best
Known for its creamy velvety melt-in-the-mouth texture, Belgian chocolate is famous all over the world. And tourists flock to the country’s capital by the bucket load in search of authentic Belgian chocolate to eat, drink, take home as a souvenir and basically inhale it in any way they can.
Some of the best Belgian chocolatiers in Brussels include Neuhaus, Godiva, Pierre Marcolini, Corné Port-Royal, Mary and Meert.
Can’t decide which shop to go to? Why not buy a couple of small bite sized pieces from each one during your very own self-guided chocolate walking tour and choose your favourite afterwards?
2. Not to mention the praline was invented in Brussels
Okay, so we know how awesome Belgian chocolate is. But did you know that Brussels is also where the praline was invented?
Jean Neuhaus Junior of Neuhaus Chocolates takes credit for that one.
His grandfather had owned an apothecary in the 1800s and covered his medicines with chocolate to help them go down that little bit easier.
Then, in 1912, his grandson (Jean Neuhaus Jr) evolved the idea to create the Belgian praline; delicious chocolate and sometimes nutty fillings coated in yet more delicious chocolate.
This all happened within the original Neuhaus flagship store inside the very pretty shopping arcade of Galerie de la Reine.
Top Tip: If you’re visiting Brussels at Christmas, we must say that their posh advent calendars are well worth the splurge!
3. And we haven’t even mentioned chocolat chaud yet!
So we’ve mentioned chocolate. And chocolate coated in chocolate. But what about drinking chocolate? Yep, this is a must when in Brussels and especially in winter of course!
Known as chocolat chaud in Belgium, we only have wonderful things to say about the hot chocolate we tried at Gaston near Marché aux Poissons in Brussels. Creamy, chocolatey, the perfect level of sweet… need I go on?!
4. Belgian beer is actually the best
Another infamous tipple you must try when in Brussels is – of course – Belgian beer!
Belgium might be a small country but there are over 100 breweries producing 700 different types of beer here.
Basically, you’ll be totally spoilt for choice – and for where to go to drink it in Brussels.
If you want to see the beer being made and try some free samples, then a brewery tour is perfect for you. In Brussels, Cantillon Lambic is the place to be.
If you’d rather just drink it in a pub or bar during your visit then you can literally choose any venue you like in Brussels. But if you see Trappist beers like Westvleteren 12, Orval, Rochefort 10, Westmalle Tripel and Westvleteren Blond on the menu then one of those should be your first choice.
Trappist beers are a very special kind of beer as they’re brewed in just fourteen monasteries around the world; with a whopping six of these in Belgium itself!
If you can’t find any Trappist beers on the menu then other delicious Belgian beers to try include Cuvee ST Antoine, Diole, La Boterresse, Cantillon and Brasserie de la Senne.
If you find you love the beer that much, then you could also take some home with you as a souvenir!
5. Belgian waffles are actually the best
Okay, I’ll admit it… there is a definite theme happening here but I promise not all the top reasons to visit Brussels include food and drink.
Seriously though. Belgian waffles… need we say more?
Famous the world over for their thick-cut waffles, did you know that there’s actually several different types of Belgian waffle you can try?
Brussels gaufre waffles are the ones you probably already know about. But there’s also Liège waffles, which are dense and chewy, crispy on the outside and slightly misshapen due to the way that they’re cooked.
Order them as a dessert in a restaurant with ice cream, buy them from any good street food kiosk, dribble chocolate or caramel sauce over them, take some prepackaged ones away with you as a souvenir… however you decide to eat Belgian waffles in Brussels, you’ll adore each and every bite!
6. Belgian frites are da bomb!
I promise this is the last mention of food (ahem, for now!)
Belgian frites are like thin fries or chips but with a difference – the sauce! You could get them doused in ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise (the latter being the most traditional when in Belgium).
You could even dip them in a ‘Samurai’ sauce, which is a mixture of ketchup, mayonnaise and harissa.
But our personal favourite and the one we would pick every single time is the equivalent of garlic and herb aioli.
We think the best way to eat frites in Brussels is out of a takeaway carton in the middle of the street with a wooden fork… preferably shared between two as the combination of chips and sauce is quite filling!
7. Like cartoons? Especially The Smurfs? Then you’ll love Brussels!
Some of the world’s most famous comic strips came from Belgium including ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, ‘The Smurfs’ and ‘The Adventures of Astérix’.
Brussels celebrates this infamy by showcasing over fifty giant comic strip murals along its comic book / comic strip route. Our personal favourite was seeing the Smurfs mural on the ceiling of the Putterie passageway just across from the Bruxelles-Centrale train station. It’s massive, covers 206 square metres and took over 60 litres of paint to create!
Although you can head out on an organised walking tour, we’d vote to create your own self-guided version so you focus on the murals you really want to see (as fifty is A LOT!) Check out our tips here for inspiration and advice on doing a self-guided street art walking tour in Brussels.
8. Brussels is perfect for a weekend city break
Although it’s possible to see most of the major sites in Brussels in a day, we feel it’s best to spend a long weekend in Brussels.
You can fly into Brussels but it’s also a stop on the Eurostar, making it the perfect weekend city break – especially if you live in another major European city.
9. It’s easy to get to lots of other Belgian cities too!
Brussels is a very well connected city so it’s easy to see lots of other Belgian cities during your time here.
As an example, Bruges is less than an hour away by train, as is the diamond district of Antwerp, while historic Ghent is just over 30 minutes away.
And what’s also great is that the trains are fast, reliable and cheap! So now you have no excuse to see more of this pretty little country alongside pretty little Brussels.
10. Brussels is closer to London than Paris…
I bet this one is a surprise! Okay so there’s only about fifteen minutes in it but still! London to Paris via the Eurostar takes around 2hrs 15mins while London to Brussels is a two hour journey time.
11. And far less crowded!
As far as European cities go, Brussels is practically still a hidden gem.
While first time visitors to Western Europe favour more mainstream cities like Rome, Paris and Amsterdam, first time visitors to Belgium often overlook Brussels in favour of the fairytale city of Bruges.
But this is great news for those of you in the know!
You can visit Brussels today (even during a peak season like Christmas!) and avoid the crowds… at least compared to Bruges, Paris and other immensely popular cities anyway.
12. Brussels’ Christmas festivities are beautiful and dramatic
For one, it’s less crowded than Bruges at this time of year. And two, Brussels’ Christmas festivities are stunning and dramatic.
For instance, over 200 chalets grace the citywide ‘Winter Wonders’ Christmas market every year, which is opened with a bang thanks to the massive Winter Wonders Inauguration Parade.
There’s a giant ferris wheel, vintage carousels, ice skating and even a dazzling light and music show at Grand-Place!
If all this doesn’t get you in the Christmas mood then we’ll eat our chocolate hats…
13. Grand-Place – need we say more?!
Grand-Place was the sight we were most excited to see in Brussels… and we were not at all disappointed.
We went there in the daytime to see the gold glint in the sunlight…
…and went back again at night to see the buildings turn from gold to silver thanks to dazzling light features! What more can we say, Grand-Place is every bit as beautiful as you can imagine.
14. The shopping galleries are stunning… and perfect for window shopping (and mini shopping sprees!)
Although Brussels has lost a lot of its covered shopping arcades over the centuries, several still remain – and they’re stunning.
There’s Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, which was built in 1847 and was actually one of the first shopping arcades to be built in all of Europe. This is where many of the designer boutiques and authentic Belgian chocolatiers can be found.
There are actually three sections of the arcade to see:
- Galerie du Roi / King’s Gallery
- Galerie de la Reine / Queen’s Gallery
- Galerie des Princes / Gallery of the Princes
Then there’s Galerie Bortier, which is a book haven and Passage du Nord, which is where to come if you’re after a charming café to relax in.
Each and every single one of these shopping galleries are beautiful and perfect for window shopping (and mini shopping sprees!)
15. Brussels is the hub of European politics (which is far less boring than it sounds!)
Although it’s unofficial, Brussels is frequently described as the capital of Europe and the political hub of European politics and the European Union.
The European Parliament Buildings on the outskirts of the city near Parc du Cinquantenaire are where the main offices of the Members of the European Parliament are, as well as where important EU debates, summits and votes happen.
And an audio-guided tour inside to see where all of this political magic happens is far less boring than it sounds.
16. Brussels is part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage (which means a gold shell treasure hunt!)
Our first visit to Grand-Place unearthed an interesting trinket on the ground in the shape of a golden shell.
At the time, we quickly snapped a photo of it and didn’t think anything more about it… until we saw yet more golden shells throughout the city.
We later found out that they exist all throughout Europe as part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, which leads to the shrine of Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.
Although you might not want to leave Brussels during your pilgrimage, it’s fun to look for the gold shells throughout the city. They’re also kinda beautiful so there’s that too.
17. Brucey Bonus: How could you not visit a city that celebrates not one but THREE pissing statues?!
Of all the reasons why Brussels is not at all boring, this has to be my favourite. Dotted around Grand-Place are not one but THREE pissing statues.
You’ve likely heard of Manneken-Pis, which is the boy version. It was built in the 1600s, is the oldest of the three and has become something of a mascot in Brussels. You may even be lucky enough to see him in an interesting outfit to commemorate a special event, occasion or day in history.
But there is also his sister, Jeanneke-Pis, which was built in the 1980s and Het Zinneke (sometimes also called Zinneke-Pis), which is the dog version from the 1990s and can be found peeing up against a bollard by the side of the road. How fun is that?!
So tell us… now that you’ve read this blog, do you think Brussels is worth visiting? Or are you STILL not convinced that travelling to Brussels is well worth it? Let us know by leaving a note below and we’ll answer any questions or comments you have…
If you want to do some more reading about Brussels or Belgium, take a look at some of our other blogs:
- 2 Days in Brussels, Belgium: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary
- Brussels Street Art & Comic Strip Self-Guided Walking Tour
- Self-Guided Chocolate Walking Tour in Brussels
- Brussels At Night: A Guide For First Time Visitors
- Christmas in Brussels: What To Do, Where To Go & More!
- Visiting Belgium in Winter: What You Need to Know
- 10 Fabulous Souvenirs From Belgium You’ll Love
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