Brussels – More than just waffles & chocolate!

brussels bruxelles belgium things to do

Our visit to Brussels, the capital of Belgium, was one of exploring city streets, relaxing in beautiful parks, delicious cuisine and wholesome family moments! We arrived in Brussels with minimal expectations, but full of excitement and ready to discover some hidden gems. We had arranged to meet Tess’s brother and brother-in-law for a weekend in the city (they live in the UK), with this the last catch up with them for a few months.

Brussels as a city definitely surprised us! Despite having an old town that was heavily damaged during WW2, the parts that remained are stunning (e.g. Grand Place) and many of the rebuilt neighbourhoods are thriving. We were particularly impressed with the quality of the multicultural food. Pair this with the traditional Belgium staples of waffles and pomme frites and you have a foodie’s paradise! The other thing about Brussels that really impressed us was the parks. Dotted around the city, these offered refuge from the bustling city. Many of the parks had cute little bars, and the trees bursting with colour from the autumn leaves.

If you are considering a visit to Brussels, we would definitely recommend it! Take a read through some of our top tips below!

Some of our favourite things to do in Brussels

This is a list of some of the best things to do in Brussels, however it isn’t a complete list of everything in this great city. We all enjoyed these activities, however they are in no particular order. Please let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favourites.

Try the Belgian waffles!

We had been advised that the Belgian waffles were special, but nothing prepared us for just how tasty they are! We don’t usually indulge in waffles for breakfast, but the waffles we had at Pardon Waffles for brunch were top notch. You can find waffle sellers all around the city, however we wanted to make a morning of it and seek out something a little ‘less touristy’ than the main street commercial sellers. We urge you to look for something beyond the ‘fast food versions’ although we did grab a take-away waffle from a food truck at a park which was also pretty tasty.

Marvel at the impressive grand place

A video call with Ky’s brother sitting in Brussels main square, Grand Place, had prewarned us to expect magnificence. However, as we turned the corner and the plaza opened up in front of us we couldn’t help marvel at its impressive nature. The square is lined by impressive old buildings from the 1600s. These gold painted facades create a sense of grandeur. The Grand Place is a must see when visiting Brussels. We also urge you to stop in the square for a drink (but maybe not too many). You will pay a ‘location tax’ to enjoy the impressive view, but we think it was worth it.

Wander into the impressive Brussels chruches & cathedrals

We enjoy marvelling the impressive old cathedrals and churches, and Brussels was no different. The architecture astounds us, especially for buildings build 100s of years ago. We also are regularly impressed by the stained glass windows. The part we liked most about visiting the churches and cathedrals in Brussels however was that they were FREE! Many places in Europe will charge entry (York in the UK was over 20 pounds!!), but this wasn’t the case in Brussels. Even if you only peak in for a minute, it’s often a breath-taking experience.

  • Notre Dame du Sablon, the church of Our Lady of Victory
  • St Michael & St Gulda Cathedral
  • And many others..

Check out the Square of Petit Sablon

This delightful garden sits adjacent to the Notre Dame cathedral (see above) and it’s definitely worth a visit. The well manicured garden is lined with impressive statues, but the main event is the peaceful and picturesque fountain at the back of the park. We enjoyed sitting in the autumn sun and appreciating the moment in this park. While not something that will take up that much of your time, it’s a good addition to your Brussels adventures.

Walk Galerie de la Reine

This covered passageway is definitely worth walking down. Built in the 1800s, the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries run for over 200m, and are lined with shops, cafes and the main highlight, Belgian chocolate shops. Despite being very touristic, it’s also quite beautiful, and is a nice place to walk along.

Eat some of the best pommes frites in the world

Belgium, the home of some of the best pommes frites (fried potato chips) in the world. According to Belgian history, the pommes frites actually origionated in Belgium. The rumour goes that locals in the 1600s who regularly ate fried fish decided to try frying potatoes. This was due to their regular fishing spot being frozen over. The result was the tasty fried potato chips! Whilst not the healthiest food we have tried on our travels, it was one one of the tastiest. The secret is apparently Belgium uses fresh potatoes and twice fries them. You will see pommes frites retailers all over the city, however we urge you to head a little out of the heart of town to try Frites Atelier.

Visit brussles park

Our afternoon visit to Brussels Park was one of our favourite activities during our stay in Brussels. We were treated to delightful autumn weather, and a chance to explore the park was too good to turn down. Around 15-20 minutes out of the heart of Brussels, this park was picturesque. We took a take-away lunch down to the park to have a little picnic.

However, the best part of the park were the two little bars set up amongst the trees. Filled with locals and a few tourists, these bars had a great atmosphere, and were the perfect stop for an afternoon beverage.

There were also many other great parks to see in Brussels including Parc du Cinquantenaire and Parc d’Egmont.

Wander the old town streets

Brussels has a charming old town that we loved to wander through. Despite losing many buildings during WW2, the remaining buildings stand out, and the rebuilt structures mostly fit in well. Brussels had many great areas to explore (see below for our favourites), lots of squares, many small alleys and heaps to see.

Have a drink with the locals in an old belgian square

Brussels has numerous old squares, none more impressive than Grand Place. However, we particularly enjoyed wandering outside the main heart of the city and sitting with the locals. We urge you to sit in a square somewhere in Brussels, people watch, relax, and enjoy a beverage like we did.

Try the famous Belgian Chocolate

Belgian chocolate is famous! Walking through the old town you will see chocolate stores everywhere! Despite the touristic nature, most of these serve some tasty treats! We visited the Galerie de la Reine to sample some of the best!

Check out the street markets

Like most big European cities, Brussels had some great street markets. We were lucky enough to visit on a weekend, with markets present in many of the squares around the city, particularly on Sunday morning. If you get the chance, check out Marche Aux Puces. This flea market was massive, and had some of the most interesting and unique antiques we have seen. If you are a bargain hunter this would be right up your alley.

Enjoy the street art as you walk the city

We were surprised and delighted to observe a multitude of street art as we walked around Brussels. Keep your eyes peeled as you traverse the city! Bonus points if you manage to spot any murals of Tin Tin (created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi aka HergΓ©)

Note: The Manneken Pis statue is overrated

The famous Manneken Pis statue is listed on all the ‘things to do in Brussels’, however we were very underwhelmed. It can be a bit of a laugh though to see what outlandish costume he’s dressed up in, and the streets nearby are cute, so it may be worth walking by. Don’t expect to be blown away.

Our favourite areas, streets & parks in Brussels

Areas we loved in Brussels:
  • St Catherine & Dansert – these areas were progressive, had great food options, and lots of cute bars. Head to the area near the Church of St Catherines
  • St Giles – This area had cute markets, great waffles, towers and churches.

Streets in Brussels you should explore:
  • Rue Haute – This was a cool street with brunch spots and boutiques. The end closer to old town is better.
  • Rue de Rollebeek – This cute old street has cafes and is lined with hanging lights. Cute during the day and at night.
  • Rue Sainte-Catherine – This really cue street is worth walking.
Parks you should check out in Brussles:
  • Brussels Park – see above. This park was our favourite!
  • Park near Square of Petit Sablon – This little park is adjacent to the Notre Dame and is worth checking out.
  • Parc de Cinquantenaire – This impressive park had massive archways and green fields. It autumn it also had lovely deciduous trees.
  • Egmont Park – Tucked in between streets, it was the perfect spot for a lunch stop.

The best coffee in Brussels

Okay, this isn’t an exhaustive list, however this is a few of the top picks for coffee in Brussels:

  • Kafei
  • Stella
  • Hinterland
  • Bouche
  • Pardon Waffles

Some of the best eats in Brussels

Brussels is a foodie city! There were so many great places we wanted to visit and only scratched the surface during our weekend stay. The list below is not exhaustive, but is a few of the places we loved during our stay!

  • La Verite Si Je Mange – Located out of the city, this deli serves a mean sandwich and salads for a bargain price! (2.5-8 euros)
  • EXKi – This chain located around the city offers take away salads and soups. Perfect for a picnic lunch!
  • Frites Atelier – The best pommes frites in Brussels! (see above)
  • Umamido – Offering some damn tasty ramen, Umamido should be on your list!
  • Pardon Waffles – The best waffles we have ever tasted! This place is a must!
  • Baladi – This restaurant offers excellent middle eastern food. You will need to book for dinner, however lunch often is much quieter.
  • Takumi Ramen – We didn’t visit, however it looks really good. Just around the corned from Umamido.
  • Nona – Nona offers a pizza or pasta restaurant (50 metres apart). They have no bookings but are very busy and will need to wait, it is worth it

How long should you stay in Brussels?

Brussels is a thriving and vibrant city with so much to see. We visited for 2 and a half days (2 nights) and barely scratched the surface. We would recommend a stay between 2-4 days to get the full experience of Brussels. However, if you only want to ‘sample Brussels’ 1-2 full days may be enough.

Want to stay in Brussels?

Brussels is great for a short stay (like a weekend getaway). Finding somewhere in the heart of the city is very expensive, however staying just out of the city will bring the price down and Brussels is very walking friendly. If you are looking at accommodation, check out the options here, or by looking below.

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