Whilst planning our visit to Belgium, we were told time and time again that we’d only need 3-4 days to cover the whole country. Having spent two days in Belgium’s capital, would couldn’t disagree more though! With beautiful architecture and city parks, an incredible range of museums and art galleries and quintessential Belgium cuisine, this guide will help you plan your own Brussels self-guided walking tour (with the odd metro ride thrown in to save those feet!), allowing you to soak up all that this fabulous city offers.
First though, let’s get you into the city centre itself and find you a place to stay…
Transport in Brussels
Getting From the Brussels Airport to the City
You’ve got a few options here, including Uber, taxis and buses but one option that offers convenience, value for money (relatively speaking of course) and a timely arrival is the train. Follow the signs from within the airport (going down to the lowest floor), pay €9 to the cashier and jump on until you get to Bruxelles-Central.
Getting Around Brussels
We opted to add transport to our Brussels Cards, allowing us to jump on any tram, bus or metro within their system – too easy! We loved being able to jump on any form of transport we came across, without having to worry about whether it was value for money.
If you prefer, you can pay for your transport as you go.
As the title of this post suggested though, Brussels is an easy city to walk around and much of your time will likely be spent wandering the streets.
Even though we took advantage of public transport, we still managed to tick off 20,162 steps (over 14.88km) in just a day!
Where to Stay in Brussels
Brussels isn’t short of quality accommodation, offering something to suit all travellers. Well connected by public transport, it’s possible to stay a little further out of the central city should you wish.
The following are our recommendations within Brussels:
Budget: Train Hostel – Sleep inside a train cabin!
Mid: Best Western Hotel Royal Centre – Incredibly comfortable beds, friendly staff and a central location. This is where we stayed.
Luxe: Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo – An incredible location right on the square!
Recommended Locations on Your Brussels Self-Guided Walking Tour
To maximise our time in Brussels, we picked up a Brussels Card each. These magic little tickets grant visitors access to 39 museums and galleries, discounts to be used throughout the city, and in our case, free public transport too.
The following guide takes you through each of the stops we made, in the order that we recommend.
*With the exception of one gallery, all of the paid locations that we visited were included within our pass.
The icon on Brussels, this tiny bronze statue depicts a young boy, standing naked as he urinates below. The original was placed in the city in either 1618 or 1619, but the current statue (a replication), has been in the city since 1965.
Whilst in the city, you can also track down Zinneke Pis (a urinating dog) and Jeanneke-Pis (a little girl doing the same) – two more modern sculptural creations. Just don’t ask us why this this theme seems to run through Brussels!
This is the perfect spot to aimlessly wander, picking up pommes frites, waffles, chocolates and Belgian beer!
Home to the Town Hall, the Museum of Belgian Brewers* (where you’ll get a free local beer), horse and carts available for hire and an information centre that will help send you on your way, this square is the beautiful heart of the city.
If you visit during the Christmas period, this is also where you’ll find the towering Christmas tree and a stunning light show.
Galeries St Hubert
A beautiful shopping plaza, Galeries St Hubert doesn’t necessarily offer anything different in terms of shops but it is snuggly and warm in the winter and a treat for the eyes.
MOOF – The Museum of Original Figures*
Housing the dreams of every little European (and no doubt, many adults), MOOF displays a range of original figurines, including The Adventures of Tintin, The Smurfs and Asterix and Obelix.
Catch the metro from Central Station to Porte de Hal and walk/tram onwards between the following locations…
Sewer Museum (Musée des Égouts)*
A working sewer, this is an odd but intriguing glimpse into the unseen side of all cities. With information clearly displayed, this museum becomes most interesting when you head underground.
MIMA – Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art*
A museum with a strong focus on ethical and cultural issues, you’ll find a range of contemporary art housed there. Largely poster-based, you’ll come away from MIMA with a renewed desire to make the world a better, more equal place.
Catch a tram to the blue metro line and then out to Heizel
The most recognisable structure in Brussels, Atomium was constructed in 1958 to mark the World’s Fair which was held in Brussels. Through only designed to be a temporary exhibit, it soon became a must-see and has remained in the city ever since. Towering at 102m tall, it is now a museum and home to a number of exhibits.
Entrance fee = €15 (less 25% with your Brussels Card). We decided not to head up and into Atomium, instead enjoying it from the ground.
ADAM – Art & Design Atomium Museum (the Brussels Design Museum)
Just down the road from the Atomium, ADAM has a range of interactive, engaging exhibits. Though I didn’t go in myself, my friend, Becks did and absolutely raved about it.
Entrance fee = €10 (the only museum/gallery that we visited that wasn’t included in the Brussels Card).
Metro back to the city centre
Plaisirs d’Hiver – Winter Fun
If you’re lucky enough to visit Brussels during the Christmas period (and we recommend you try your best, especially if you’re travelling during the winter season!), you’ll be treated to fantastic wintery activities in the Dansaert area. With an ice skating rink, Christmas markets, light shows and a good smattering of twinkling lights, it’ll help get you into the festivities of Noël.
Additional locations of interest on your Brussels self-guided walking tour
- Royal Palace and the accompanying gardens
- Eglise Notre Dame du Sablon
- Palais de Justice
- St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
- CENTRALE for Contemporary Art*
- Belgian Comic Strip Center*
- BELvue Museum*
- Botanic Garden Meise*
- Museum of Medicine*
- Museum of Natural Sciences*
- Planetarium of Brussels*
With a relatively short amount of time in the city (48 hours was all we could manage and that had to account for jet-lag), we left with a newfound appreciation for Belgium’s capital city and a list of sights to visit upon returning.
Brussels is a great low-key introduction to Europe. Public transport is plentiful, the architecture is memorable and the cultural attractions are never-ending.
And let’s not forget the Belgian trifecta – chocolate, fries and beer!
*Included free of charge with a Brussels Card
Off to Belgium? Pin this post to help plan your own Brussels self-guided walking tour.
Thank you to Visit Brussels for providing us with our Brussels Cards, allowing us to put together our own Brussels self-guided walking tour. As always, all thoughts are our own.
Some photos provided by Becks Silke – thank you.