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Gracious architecture, international style, dozens of museums and, of course, beer in Brussels

Grand Place in the evening, Brussels

As European capital cities go, Brussels might be the most underrated. The cosmopolitan city, rich with international flair due to its status as the EU capital, offers a variety of historical and cultural attractions.

We can arrange a walking tour of the historic district, where you’ll see the arches and spires of the Grand Place and stroll along tree-lined avenues ringing rows of gabled houses. Or, you can tour the European Quarter, with its wide green parks, architecturally mixed governmental buildings and fine museums. Brussels is, in fact, home to dozens of museums, from the standard art and history offerings to one of the world’s foremost automotive exhibits to museums dedicated to beer, bookmaking and Braille.

You can also take tasting tours of Belgian cuisine and, of course, Belgian beer, for which the region is renowned. And, from Brussels, you can visit smaller towns like Namur, Dinant and Mons, or tour nearby World War II sites.

Things to see and do in Brussels

Grand Place

This gracious city square is the heart of Brussels, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s most-visited destination. Dating from the 10th century, the wide cobblestone plaza is surrounded by arches, gables, spires and patinated domes, the intricate architectural stylings of buildings from the medieval period onward.

Originally serving as the main hub of local merchants, today the square holds the Brussels Town Hall, the 12th-century Maison du Roi or King’s House and a number of gabled guild houses. The enormous plaza plays host to many city celebrations and festivals, as well as seasonal light and sound shows.

Royal Saint Hubert Galleries

Constructed by Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar for King Leopold and his sons in 1846, this covered shopping arcade is lined with some of the most exclusive stores, from clothing to leather shops and chocolatiers. The long, arched galleries have wide, slate walkways and towering skylights that bathe them in natural light.

The most impressive, King’s Gallery, has arches fashioned from pink marble, with semi-circular ornamented windows. Originally a way for royalty and bourgeois society to avoid the common people, today locals and visitors enjoy the delicate cast-iron arches and intricate shopfronts.

Royal Palace, Brussels Park and museums

The Royal Palace, Brussels

Some form of royal residence has been on the site of Brussels’ Royal Palace since the late 11th century, but the current structure dates from the 18th, and its grand pillared façade and other embellishments were only added in the early 20th, by King Leopold II.

The neoclassical front stretches 50% longer than that of Buckingham Palace, but while it’s impressive, it’s not the residence of the royal family. Instead, it’s now used as a reception building for foreign dignitaries and heads of state, and is open for tours from late July to late August, displaying ornate rooms and extravagant furnishings.

Across the street is the Parc de Bruxelles or Brussels Park, originally a hunting ground for the Dukes of Brabant in the medieval period but now a public green. Also in the immediate vicinity, you’ll find several museums that are worth a visit, including the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Magritte Museum and the BELvue Museum, which is focused on Belgian history.

European Quarter

Stretching from Cinquantenaire Park in the east to Brussels Park in the west, the European Quarter is home to the European Union, with dozens of parliament and council buildings making up one of the most international districts in the world. The exterior architecture alone is worth making a visit to see, since the district’s four main squares feature buildings from the Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Belle Époque eras, plus glassy modern buildings and the curved wings of the European Parliament.

Cinquantenaire Park spans 30 hectares (74 acres) and houses the Art & History Museum, The Royal Military Museum and Autoworld, one of the largest car collections in the world.

Belgian beer

Brussels is one of the beer hubs of the world, with a few must-tries for visiting beer lovers. We can arrange a trip to some of the most notable brewers, including The Cantillon, which focuses on gueuze, a sour, wild-fermented beer made by blending an aged lambic with a newer lambic that’s still actively fermenting. The nearby L’Ermitage microbrewery, while much less known, is equally impressive for weekend tastings.

In the historic district, you can follow the pink elephants to Delirium Village, a complex of eight different bars offering over a dozen options from the Delirium brewery itself, along with several dozen more rotating beers from Belgium and abroad.

Best time to visit Brussels

The months of March through May and September through November are the best times to visit, as temperatures are comfortable, trees and gardens are in full bloom and cultural events abound. These are the busier months for domestic travel, however, so expect crowds.

The summer sees a reduction of visitors, since temperatures increase and many Europeans head to more beach-focused destinations. December is quite lively as the Christmas Market kicks off the holiday season. January and February offer minimal crowds and while attractions are closed outside the city, many museums and attractions remain open in Brussels.

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Map of Brussels

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    Accommodation choices for Brussels

    We've selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Brussels. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing Brussels

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Brussels, and which use the best local guides.

    • Brussels highlights & beer tasting
      Grand Place, Brussels

      Brussels highlights & beer tasting

      Brussels highlights & beer tasting

      Combine history with beer on this five-hour guided walking tour of Brussels. As you make your way to the city’s most renowned landmarks, you’ll get to stop along the way at well-known breweries and off-the-radar taverns.

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    • Diamond District tour & diamond cutting workshop
      Loose diamonds, Antwerp

      Diamond District tour & diamond cutting workshop

      Diamond District tour & diamond cutting workshop

      Explore Antwerp’s legendary Diamond Quarter, a stopover for 86% of the world’s legal raw diamonds, on this three-hour walking tour. Your guide will take you to a workshop where you can watch the gemstones be cut, shaped and polished.

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    • Bruges old town tour & canal cruise
      Canal cruise in Bruges, Belgium

      Bruges old town tour & canal cruise

      Bruges old town tour & canal cruise

      Spend a few hours with a guide exploring Bruges’ historical highlights, where you’ll see artwork by Michelangelo, Gothic cathedrals and a towering belfry. Then, spend an hour cruising the postcard-worthy canals and see step-gabled houses and stone bridges.

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    • Private canal cruise with champagne & charcuterie
      Banks of the Leie River, Ghent

      Private canal cruise with champagne & charcuterie

      Private canal cruise with champagne & charcuterie

      See a world-renowned altarpiece, a bird’s-eye view of the city, a medieval castle and lively market squares on a walking tour of Ghent. Then explore the city’s waterways on a boat tour of the canals, where you’ll be served local delicacies and Belgian beer.

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