So I had an incredible experience in Brussels, it one the first countries I travelled to as a backpacker apart from my volunteering experience in Sri Lanka. We went one week after the horrible terrorist attacks on both the airport and metro station in Brussels and it was just
The way people from all over the world came together in such a terrible time was incredible and I cannot sum up how that connection with people felt.
There was also a terrorist incident whilst we were there where two men drove at police in an Audi, raced around the city, knocked over a woman and were finally arrested with two petrol bombs in their car (100m from our hostel). People ask why I didn’t cancel my trip or why take the risk but you cannot live your life in fear otherwise your life is not one at all.
Anyway, moving onto 10 things I recommend you do in Brussels. Some I have did myself and some I fully regret not doing.
1. Explore the city
This is always my first recommendation for any city. Walk around and get to know the place. I love doing this pretty much unplanned and getting lost because 9/10 times you stumble across something amazing.
Brussels is a very strange place, sometimes you get a fairly dodgy feeling from being there and think it looks pretty dull then you turn around a corner and something amazing happens. Get yourself into the city centre, and wander around.
Some of the recommendations I would make is the famous HOP ON HOP OFF tours. These are pretty good as you get a feel for the city in general. Although I didn’t visit many museums in my time there, if you plan to visit many, get the Brussels Card and get free entry to around 30 museums.
If you want to save yourself some hassle in finding the best places, I just found a cheap Half Day City Tour that covers the best spots and some things I missed out on. I regret starting this blog, I keep noticing things I missed out on.
ONE THING YOU MUST DO AT SOME POINT IS RENT BIKES. You can cycle all the way down by the river and all around the city. We had an awesome day doing this and I can’t believe I nearly forgot about it. We rented our bikes from our hostel (Memminger Hostel) but you can easily rent them in the city. You can even cycle up to Anderlecht Football Stadium if you like that kinda stuff.
2. Pay your Respects at the Memorial
On the 1st anniversary of the Brussels attack, a memorial in the city centre was revealed. I have no knowledge of where this is but I recommend that you find it and pay respects to those who lost their lives. This is something that has to be a personal choice. We visited Maalbeek station one week after the attack and lit a candle. It may have no effect or go unnoticed but I believe it is something worth doing.
3. The Triumphal Arch in Cinquantenaire Parc
We stumbled across this after going to visit the European Union & European Commission buildings. You can see it at the top of the hill and it looks like Arc De Triomphe or Brandenburg Gate. We walked up and it was spectacular to look at with the largest flag I have seen hanging in the middle, an the beautiful Cinquantenaire Parc surrounding it.
4. Try some Belgian Waffles
You should try some authentic Belgian Waffles. They have so many different kinds with incredible toppings to choose from. The question is not whether you should get some waffles, it’s “Which type should you try?” I don’t even have a picture of mine because I couldn’t wait to eat it.
The best place to find waffles would be any of the streets near La Grand Place (Main Square) which we will talk about next or there is a cool little waffle van placed on the other side of the Triumphal Arch in Cinquantenaire Parc.
5. La Grand Place (Main Square)
One of the most impressive main squares I have been too. This is not too hard to find and it is absolutely lovely. Unlike some main squares, it is not too crowded or over commercialised, it is pretty much how it would have been for hundreds of years.
My recommendation would be to visit both day and night if you get the chance but for me the way it is lit up at night carries a more romantic and a more awe-inspiring atmosphere. You can just get caught up in the moment of being there which is the dream of travelling.
(Video not available yet)
6. Atomium/Mini Europe
This is one thing I genuinely did not visit but I kinda wish I did. We were so lazy at times that we sometimes limited what time we had left. Atomium and Mini Europe sit next to each other but are a bit further out of town. This does not excuse our laziness as its not that hard to get too.
The atomium is a large structure built to resemble an atom ofcourse, but looks really awesome and I really wish I went there. After I write this article, I’m messaging my friend to blame him for us not doing this.
Mini Europe is a miniature park with tiny structures from all the most famous places in Europe. It’s multi-sensory too as they play chimes of big ben and mandolin instruments for added effect. The more I research this, the more I want to go back to Brussels to visit these things. Take me back. The Half Day City Tour from Brussels covers all of this so that may be a good suggestion but I didn’t go on it myself.
7. European Parliament and European Commission
This one is not the most exciting tourist/backpacking thing to check out so do not allocate a full day or even a half day to it. It is somewhere between the city centre and the Triumphal Arch in Cinquantenaire Parc. You can spend 15-30 minutes around the parliament grounds and another 10 minutes at the European Commission building as they are a short distance apart.
It is cool to check out where all the major political decisions take place and the grounds of the parliament are pretty cool so my recommendation is to check out but try not to expect too much from it.
8. Manneken Pis
Do I even have the right to write this article as I did not see this either. I feel like I have seen nothing on this list including Manneken Pis. Truthfully, it was the first thing we found when we researched things to do but the reviews seemed a little dissapointing and it slipped our mind when we were in Brussels.
I am not sure how we forgot about it when there are a variety of souvenirs in every shop inspired by it. Unlike us, I would recommend that you visit it and make your own mind up in whether you like it
. One thing I did recently find out is that there is a less famous version of a little girl peeing named” Jeanneke Pis” which I would check out too. There seems something more significant from this statue than the boy.I think I need to read up more on the background of these statues however as I am curious about how strange and random they are.
Delirium Delirium Delirium. This involves alcohol so this is one attraction I could talk about at length.
How did we end up there? It had always been part of the plan and the main thing we wanted to visit as they stock over 3,000 beers and it just looked like a really awesome place to be. We got to our hostel about 6pm in Brussels and had a day trip booked early the next morning to Amsterdam. We enjoyed a few drinks and made friends intending to go the bed early.
Instead, Martin (backpacking buddy) made friends with some French people and we ended up on a completely wild night out. We did not know we were going to the Delirium and do not remember much about it but it was an incredible night for sure. The only problem is that we got in at 4am and missed our 8am bus to Amsterdam.
There are two things I remember about delirium. Firstly, struggling to choose a beer from the 3,000 on offer which were displayed in a catalogue larger than a telephone book. I decided to play it safe and chose the same beer as the guy next to me and hated it. The second memory is an ornamental photobooth that I do not think worked yet a Drunken Martin demanded he get the passport photos he required taken from it. This could be a dream as I am filling in a lot of blank spots on my memory.
10. Pub Crawl
I never truly discovered pub crawls until I got to Budapest which was our destination after Brussels but having been on a large number of them in multiple countries now and ended up working on one in Krakow, Poland. I would always recommend them to people now and think they are great.
You could easily have a great night but as a solo traveller or with a small group, you are unlikely to truly realise what a city has to offer in terms of its nightlife. You might find a nice bar or club if you are lucky but are you missing out on somewhere better?
This is a personal preference of mine but there is nothing better than starting the night off with a group of new people, getting drunk with them and getting to know them whilst being escorted around by people who know where to go and when. Fortunately we did not need the pub crawl as we met people who knew their way around and had a similar experience but I can recommend them enough in any city you go to. You can book tickets to Brussels Main Pub crawl here.