Updated: Jan 4
Most of us know that Belgium is famous for its chocolate … but did you know that the Brussels airport is the largest chocolate selling point in the world?! Not limited to chocolate, Brussels is also famous for its for beer and waffles. Certainly the recipe for a delicious trip!
Table of Contents
What Brussels is best known for
This is a 2.5-hour gratuity-based walking tour of Brussels led by locals and historians. We have found that starting our trip with one of these tours is a great way to learn about the history & culture of a new city. These tours provide a helpful understanding of the city layout by foot while you take note of attractions to visit throughout the remainder of your trip. Some of the highlights from our tour included the Grand Place, Saint Nicholas Church, Manneken Pis, & the Stock Exchange.
Tickets: Free! (with suggested gratuity)
2. Manneken Pis "Peeing Boy"
You may think we're pulling your leg here, but this is actually one of the most famous attractions in all of Brussels. This is, in fact, a fountain of a little boy peeing. But it is much more than just that. It is a fountain, a mascot, and also the hero of many legends. Manneken Pis is so famous, he has received several gifts from Lords & Kings, and has been abducted (and rescued) several times. There are many stories as to how this statue came to be.
The one we choose to believe is about the boy who saved the city of Brussels. This legend states that the city of Brussels was once surrounded by enemies who pretended to retreat but actually were hiding gunpowder underneath the city. A boy named Julien saw a burning fuse and peed on it, saving the entire city and resulting in a statue to pay him homage.
Read More: about the legends of Manneken Pis
3. Grand Place
The heart of Brussels, home of the beautifully ornate City Hall, along with numerous chocolate stores, museums, historic bars, and restaurants. This square shows its wealth in every building and is known to be one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Many events, concerts, and markets take place throughout the year in this square. Check out a webcam of the Grand Place to see what events may be happening during your travels.
J&L Recommended: Must visit in Brussels!
Within the Grand Place you will find the Galleries Royales of Saint Hubert, a beautiful high-end shopping district that contains elegant cafes, luxury brands, as well as, meeting places for painters and writers. You will also find shops to buy some of the delicious and famous Belgian chocolate so be sure to walk through during your time in Brussels.
Note: many options for buying Belgian chocolate
A lovely park to hang out, enjoy the beautiful scenery on top of a hill, admire some spectacular art sculptures, and take in EPIC VIEWS of Brussels. Mont Des Arts is located very close to the Grand Palace of Brussels, which is the official palace and working place of the King and Queen of Belgium. Although they live on the outskirts of Brussels, this palace serves as a symbol of the monarchy within the city center.
Hours: Tue - Fri: 9:00am - 5:00pm; Sat - Sun 10:00am - 5:00 pm
For those of you looking to add more culture to your trip, this is also located within a short walk from the Mont des Arts. This world renown museum is known for its collection of over 8,000 instruments. With that being said, it is highly encouraged to purchase the audio guide in order to get the full experience of the museum as you admire instruments (also helpful to get the audio guide as most of the information plaques are in Flemish or French). Once finished, there is also a restaurant on the rooftop that provides breathtaking views of Brussels.
Saint Nicholas is one of the oldest church in Brussels, dating back to the 12th century. With more recent updates throughout, be sure to notice the original 14th century choir stalls as you admire the breathtaking gothic interior. This church is free to enter, easily accessible within the city center, and well worth adding to your trip.
This church is dedicated to Saint Michael and Saint Gudula, the patron saints of the City of Brussels. Some compare it to Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral. Some prefer St. Michael over Notre Dame due to less crowds, its ability to worship, and equally breathtaking Gothic architecture. Spend as much time as you desire to admire the stained glass windows and peaceful atmosphere of this incredible architectural beauty. A must see on your trip to Brussels.
J&L Recommended: Must visit in Brussels!
The most popular dishes in Brussels
Frites are your classic French fries served in a cone and topped with mayo, spicy samurai sauce, or aioli. Did you know French fries are not actually from France?? According to a local, American's are to blame for the credit given to the French for these salty late-night snacks. Of course, the debate still continues today as to where French fries originated, however, we chose to believe our local Belgian friend who confirmed how the confusion began.
The origin of French Fries
During WWII, American soldiers had tried frites in Belgium. When they went back home to America after the war, they told everyone about these amazing snacks called "fries". When their friends asked them where they had discovered these fries, the soldiers replied, "I don't remember, but they were speaking French!". Now you know!
Try Frites: Get your fill of the original French fries at Maison Antoine, one of the best frites stands in all of Belgium.
This is a famous bar located in Brussel's City Center that offers over 2,000 types of beer! There are multiple levels, live music, and an overwhelming amount of beer options to try. Not only serving a wide variety of Belgium beer, but their kitchen also serves handcrafted wings, burgers, and frites. You may also want to try the local favorites, like mussels and Belgian waffles, also available on Delirium Cafe's menu.
Fact: serving over 2,000 types of beer!
3. Belgian Chocolate
Arguably one of the best chocolate shops in Belgium is Pierre Marcolini, which is located within the Galleries Royales, and makes your mouth water from the moment you walk into the store. Purchasing anything in this authentic chocolatier staffed with pastry chefs, will not disappoint.
Budget Tip: Head to the Lidl on Rue Van Artevelde (or any grocery store) and go straight to the candy aisle. Look for Galler chocolate bars or Cote d'Or. These chocolates will surely not disappoint your taste buds or your wallet.
4. Belgian Waffles
Not just a breakfast treat, Belgians eat waffles any time of day as a meal, a snack, or a delicious dessert. There are two types of Belgian waffles: the Brussels waffle and the Liege waffle. The Brussels waffle (pictured below) is rectangular, flaky, and filled with delicious toppings. We recommend trying at Le Funambule, a small stand located right next to Manneken Pis with the option to pile on the toppings yourself!
The Liege waffle has rounded corners, a sugar coating, and dough bursting with so much flavor that you do not need any additional toppings. The best place to try a Liege waffle is at Vitalgaufre. Although the lines may be long at this popular establishment, they move quickly and you will soon be enjoying one of the most delicious waffles you have ever tasted.
Tip: Leige waffles are more authentic, although most tourists prefer Brussels waffles for the temping toppings.
5. Peck 47
A delicious breakfast café located within a short walking distance to Grand Place. With incredible eggs Benedict, tasty coffee, and a quaint, local atmosphere, Peck 47 will fuel you for a day of adventure around Brussels. You can even order a savory Belgian waffle with eggs Benedict on top! We recommend getting here early in the morning to avoid waiting in line for a table. The service was friendly, accommodating, and efficient.
The best Brussels Breweries
Recommended Brew: Crazy 'Foune (Fruit Lambic 5% ABV
Brasserie Cantillon Brewery is a small and local family brewery. The brewery became immediately popular for its lambic beers when it was founded in 1900 by Paul Cantillon. A true lambic beer is a type of beer brewed both in an area southwest of Brussels, and in Brussels itself, since the 13th century.
What makes lambic beers unique is that it is fermented through exposure to bacteria and wild yeasts native to the Zenne valley. Typically most beers are fermented through exposure to carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeast. Lambic beers have a distinct dry, wine, and cidery flavor with a tart aftertaste. We recommend giving Crazy 'Foune a try!
Also Read: Top Things To Do in Brussels
Recommended Brew: Delta IPA (Belgian IPA 6.5% ABV)
BBP is younger brewery that was started by Olivier & Sébastien in 2013. They recommend trying one of their core 5 beers along with their 2 experimental brews rotated each week. They even offer homebrewing kit so you can brew your own Delta IPA, Grosse Bertha, and Wunder Lager! We recommend the Delta IPA that is made with aromatic hops and saison yeast. It is dry and pleasantly bitter.
Recommended Brew: Jambe-de Bois (Belgian Tripel 8% ABV)
Brasserie de la Senne is a recent start up that is helping pioneer the Beligan craft brew scene. There is plenty of space inside with a long bar and terrace outside. Their Jambe-de Bois is a full bodied blonde and cooper colored beer. It has a ripe banana scent with a subtle blend of aromatic hops. The malt dominates the taste with a delicate bitterness.
Also Read: Best Craft Breweries of Europe
Recommended Brew: La Meute (New England IPA 6.5% ABV)
La Source is a cozy and modern microbrewery that is definitely worth checking out. La Source has an excellent craft beer selection, relaxed atmosphere, and friendly staff. A less crowded alternative to Brussel Beer Project. La Meute is a tropical hazy IPA that will delight the senses.
Recommended Brew: Lanterne (American Pale Ale 5.5% ABV)
L'Ermitage is an fun and local place to casually enjoy a drink with a bar snack on the side. We recommend their beer tasting that allows you to sample 8 out of the 11 beers they offer. Laterne is their flagship beer that contains mosaic and cascade hops with dry, fruity, and fresh bitterness.
Also Read: Best Craft Breweries of Michigan
Planning Your Trip
When is the best month to visit Brussels?
In order to minimize crowds while having optimal weather, we recommend to visit Brussels in the spring or fall months.
J&L Recommended: April - May & September - November
Where is the best area to stay in Brussels?
Our recommendation is to stay near Grand Place. This location will allow you to walk to most of the below attractions and restaurants within Brussels. For our top recommended hostels based on location and value, see Best Hostels of Europe. For great deals on hotels, visit Booking.com
J&L Recommended: MEININGER Hostel
How do you get around Brussels?
Brussels is a very walkable city. We were able reach all of our attractions and restaurants during our stay by foot with no issue. However, if you would prefer public transportation, Brussels offers single and 10-trip tickets within town and to the airport. Price is dependent on location so be sure to review pricing here to plan you trip based off of your needs.
How long does it take to explore Brussels?
We recommend spending 1-2 days in Brussels in order to see all recommended Noms, Brews & Views. Limited time in Brussels? You may also like: One Day in Brussels Belgium.
J&L Recommended: 1-2 Days Minimum
Affordable International Data
Want to avoid roaming charges and $10/day international data fees? Airalo allows you to download an e-SIM to your phone and activate while in Europe for a very affordable price. We bought 3 GB of data valid for 30 days from activation for only $7. It worked great throughout our entire Europe trip and was very easy to install. Airalo offers e-SIMs all around the world and we can validate that it works with ease in multiple European countries.