6 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Brussels

Jul 22, 2021

Brussels is often praised as "the European capital of culture." It is a glorious collection of artistic and historic buildings, some of which are open to the public, as well as scores of monuments to the life and culture of Belgium itself. The city's key historic landmarks include its mighty city hall, the Grand Place, and the vast Royal Palace, which boasts a busy mix of museums, exhibitions, and shops.

But the capital's most famous tourist attraction is the Atomium, a strange building where you can sit in the presence of the ancient invention that invented modern Europe. No visit to Brussels would be complete without a visit to its two greatest public parks, Saint Nicholas' and Cinquantenaire, where visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city and the unparalleled pleasure of sitting on a gigantic, gently sloping park bench.

Besides the Atomium, Brussels is well-known for its historic architecture and stunning art museums. There are at least 250 sights in the city, from 12 museums and art galleries.

Brussels is one of Europe's best-kept secrets and a dream destination for history lovers, architecture buffs, and culture fans. Plan your trip with our list of the top attractions in Brussels.

Grand Place

Photo of Grand Place
Grand Place: en.wikipedia.org

The magnificent Gothic spires, towering oriel windows and elaborate decorations of the Grand Place are a sight to behold. Visitors arrive here to marvel at the overall beauty and history of the Belgian capital. A visit here is easy enough, as you are surrounded by what are some of the most striking buildings in Brussels. For those seeking a dose of tradition, this is one of the city's most visited attractions. It is the symbol of Brussels and many of its homes are open to visitors. You can reach the Grand Place from the main train station in Brussels by taking the Metro.

Manneken Pis

Photo of Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis: en.wikipedia.org

Bruxelles' legendary Manneken Pis is the tallest bronze figure of a child in the world, with his flowing hair and hands on his hips. Described by Joseph Fiévée in 1902 as the "celebrated fountain of the capital," the statue depicts a naughty little boy who poured too much water on his head and ran away from the crowd, following which his long hair flowed, which is why he has it tied up in a bun today. After the infamous socialite countess who kidnapped Manneken in 1860, many things were changed, including his original outfit of a silk shirt and pink pants.

Museums and Art Galleries

Photo of City of Brussels
City of Brussels: en.wikipedia.org

Just north of Antwerp in Belgium's rich Flanders region is an unexpected gem: a 10th-century castle of an 8th-century Celtic queen. Royal Museum, just half a mile west of the city, has everything from prehistoric tapestries to a Chinese opera collection, to the famous riding boots of Peter the Great. Elsewhere, the Flemish Art Museum is worth a visit, as is the Petit Palais, in which you can view a collection of paintings from the 17th through the 19th century. Across the street from this neoclassical museum is Musée Belvue, showcasing the works of the Flemish painter David Teniers the Younger. The North District hosts the National Museum of Ethnology, which is housed in a 17th-century castle overlooking the modern city. The diverse collection showcases the cultures of Africa, Asia, and the Americas as well as a room with a number of firearms and swords from the 18th and 19th centuries. Be sure to go downstairs to the Artis Museum, one of Belgium's biggest. The Palais de Justice and Grand Place are two of Brussels' famous landmarks, as is the Royal Museums of Fine Arts and Anthropology. At the latter you can view the rare ancient carved wooden Phoenician trading ship now on permanent display. Another building worth visiting is the 13th-century Gothic Saint Nicholas Basilica, in which Belgian kings were crowned. Another must-see is La Monnaie opera house. Belgium's most famous poet, Charles Baudelaire, once said that it's the perfect opera house.

St. Michael's Cathedral

Photo of Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula: en.wikipedia.org

Construction on this lovely church began in 1352 to replace the 12th century cathedral that was damaged during the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1297. The Cathedral of Saint Michael has a magnificent red brick exterior, and the main altar dates from 1482. It also has a vibrant fresco in the nave dating from 1654.

Palais des Beaux-Arts

Photo of Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels
Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels: en.wikipedia.org

Set in a magnificent 19th-century edifice, the Palais des Beaux-Arts has been home to the Belgian arts council for nearly 200 years. Highlights include the 19th-century frescoes depicting the history of Belgian art in the series of rooms along the staircase; the 18th-century Italian statue of Apollo in the first gallery on the ground floor; and the fine collection of 19th- and 20th-century paintings in the galleries on the first floor.

Musical Instruments Museum

Photo of Musical Instrument Museum (Brussels)
Musical Instrument Museum (Brussels): en.wikipedia.org

This museum contains a huge collection of musical instruments and their history, allowing visitors to become immersed in a long musical tradition. Visitors can see paintings and sculptures of musical instruments from classical times to the present and explore the history of the orchestra and of musical instruments. Musical Instruments Museum is housed in a former church with an open-air atrium and the main hall extends across the entire width of the building.