Brussels, Belgium has been the de facto capital of the European Community for decades and there’s a reason why. Between the Gothic and Baroque-style squares that are set between medieval streets, the authentic Belgian food, and the multicultural diversity seen in the museums, marketplaces, and restaurants, Brussels should be on your travel list. While the city isn’t as busy as Paris and Amsterdam, it’s worth a visit. Here’s your guide to Brussels.
Best Time to Visit
Between March and May and September and October are the best times to visit Brussels. This is when room rates are cheaper and the weather is mild. Rain is possible year-round as the city experiences all four seasons. During the winter, the temperatures have lows in the mid-30s and to highs of the low 70s in the summer.
How to Get Around
Brussels has an extensive public transit system called the Brussels Intercommunal Transport System, which is often referred to by its French acronym, SITB. Biking is also popular and bike rentals are available across the city. From May through October there are waterbuses that take you between Brussels, Van Praet, and Vilvoorde on the canal.
Where to Stay
This 5-star hotel is in the heart of Brussels near shops, restaurants, museums, and tourist attractions. The property was once a prison in the 1500s and was converted into a hotel for the 1958 Brussels World Exhibition. You can still see original details like a lobby floor made of cobblestones from 620 and there are traditional Belgian accents throughout the property. The hotel has a fitness center, a bar, and an Italian restaurant.
Le Dixseptieme, a 4-star hotel, is just steps away from Brussels’ Grand-Palace and the building stands on the first road in Brussels. Everything about the hotel is historical, including the staircase which dates back to the 17th century. The hotel has a bar, fitness space, sauna, and infrared heat cabin.
Sofitel Brussels Le Louise
This 5-star hotel is within walking distance to many of the best shopping spots and tourist attractions in the city. Sofitel Brussels Le Louise is super luxurious—the rooms have flat-screen TVs, rainfall showers, and Hermès toiletries. The property also has a restaurant, bar, fitness center, and meeting facilities.
What to Do
Grand-Palace Brussels is a must-see. If you’re going to see just one spot, let it be Grand-Palace. The square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s known for its Gothic and Baroque-style buildings. It’s also not far from many of the city’s main attractions including the St. Gudula and St. Michael Catherdral and the Manneken Pis. At Christmas, check out the Winter Wonders light show and the huge Christmas tree. Every August there’s a massive carpet made of flowers inside the palace.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
Named for its chapel dedicated to St. Michael and for housing the relics of St. Gudula, this cathedral is built in Brabantine Gothic style and it dates back to the 11th century. It’s full of stained-glass windows, paintings, statues, a new Grenzig organ, and a crypt that may have the remains of St. Gudula.
Musical Instruments Museum
The Musical Instruments Museum resides where a former Old England department store built in the 19th century was. The museum has more than 1,200 instruments from all around the world, displayed in four galleries. In addition to seeing the instruments, you can hear them. Be sure to check out the restaurant inside, which has amazing views of Brussels.
What to Eat
Steamed Mussels and Fries (Moules-Frites)
This classic Belgium food is steamed mussels with a side of fries. There are tons of varieties to choose between, but the most common is mussels steamed in white wine.
Can you really visit Brussels without having a Belgian waffle? There are two types of waffles in Brussels—the Liege which are thicker and sweeter and Brussels waffles, which are fluffier. They’re often topped with chocolate, whipped cream, ice cream, and fruit.
Belgian Trappist Beer
There are only ten monasteries in the world that brew Trappist beer and six can be found in Belgium. Tripel and Dubbel are two examples of Trappist beer. So, why not drink the local beers while soaking in beer culture while in Brussels?