Although it’s a small city, Brussels has plenty of fun, quirky ways to spend your visit. Like many of European cities, it’s beautiful, with historical architecture, quaint cobblestone neighborhoods, and delicious food and cafes. Here’s how to spend three days in Brussels:
Probably the attraction most associated with Brussels, it’s the peeing kid statue. Weird, yes, but fun to see, and it always has a crowd of tourists vying to get a good picture. Originally made in 1619 by Brussels sculptor Hieronimus Duquesnoy the Elder, the statue was repeatedly stolen. The original version can be found in the Maison du Roi/Broodhuis on the Grand Place, the one on the street is a replica.
The splendor, the historic ornate buildings, the vibrant feel of the city center – along with Manneken Pis, Grand Place is the most popular attraction in Brussels. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s definitely worth a visit and makes a great photo op.
Musical Instruments Museum
Home to over 8,000 instruments in its collection, this small, quirky museum displays both historical and contemporary musical instruments from across the globe. The best part is the headset included in the admission fee, which lets you hear many of the instruments being played. There is also a scenic restaurant on the top floor that offers beautiful views of the city.
The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
Located in the city center, it is the oldest shopping arcade in Europe. Home to expensive boutiques and chocolate shops, it’s a great place to roam for a few hours.
The Horta Museum
Another unusual way to spend an afternoon, the Horta house was the home and private studio of Victor Horta. It was built between 1898 and 1901 and is a prime example of Art Nouveau at the height of its popularity. Think light wood, curved furniture, gilded stair railings and art, and adorned glass windows. Can you imagine having your whole HOUSE become the symbol of an art movement? The man did have a urinal built in to the wall next to his bed, so, props there.
Because it is a private house, only a limited number of visitors are allowed in at one time so expect a line and get there well before closing. There is also no photography permitted in the house.
The Sablon is a quaint, picturesque district with upscale shops, fine eateries, and plenty of pastries and chocolate. There are lots of open-air markets and shopping. Spend an afternoon wandering the cobblestone streets.
This museum features the life and works of René Magritte, the famous surrealist painter and a Brussels resident. The museum carries his paintings, notes, and drawings, and offers a great deal of information about his life and creative process. There are a few drawbacks – many of his most famous paintings are not in this museum, and you really have to like surrealist art to appreciate much of the work (IMO).
Royal Museums of Fine Arts
A combined collection of the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art, the museums contain Belgium’s largest collection of fine art.
Note: the Magritte Museum and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts are right near each other – follow signs for each museum’s entrance. The Musical Instruments Museum is around the corner.
St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral
Built at the start of the 13th century and taking 300 years to complete (!), the style of the church exemplifies the Gothic architecture of the period. A huge, gorgeous cathedral, it’s worth a visit.
What else is there to do in Brussels? EATING extraordinarily decadent food, which is one of the best parts of a visit to this beautiful city. Check out last week’s blog post on the best places to find beer, chocolate, frites, mussels, and more!