Belgium's largest city isn't known as the Capital of Europe for nothing - it has an attitude all its own. An understated cool, with street art around every corner and an incredible dining scene. Venture west of the captivating, yet tourist-heavy, Grand-Place to Dansaert, full of locals with an electric atmosphere and bohemian bars to carry you into the night.
Brussels' currency is the Euro (€). €1 = £0.83 / $1.10 (as of 2022).
Top 5 things to see
Brussel’s cobblestone Grand Place is the heart of the city. The magnificent square is surrounded by impressive spired buildings, accessible by one of six narrow alleyways. Along these alleyways, you’ll find two of Brussel’s most famous residents – Manneken Pis and Jeanneke Pis (although these are overrated and disappointing).
The Atomium is a stainless steel clad atom-shaped structure in the northern tip of the city.
Originally built for the 1958 World’s Fair, it’s one of Brussel’s most popular tourist attractions with an acting as a museum, art centre, and cultural hub.
Tickets start from €16.
For a dose of history and neo-classical architecture, head to the Royal Quarter and the Place Royale. The grand square is a gateway between the Old Town, the Royal Palace, Brussels Park and the EU Quarter. The architecture is magnificent too - look out for the Musical Instruments Museum.
Also known as the European Quarter, Leopold Quarter is an upscale district home to the European Commissioner and the EU Parliament. Full of fantastic bars and cafes, it is also close by to the Parc du Cinquantenaire, a 200-year-old park with picturesque gardens, ponds and waterfalls. It's surrounded by a famed collection of museums that hold over 350,000 artefacts across the Royal Military Museum, Art & History Museum, and Autoworld (a vintage car museum).
Wander the Canals
A nice alternative to the Brussels' cobblestone streets are its canals west of the city centre, providing picturesque views and good photo opportunities of Dansaert Flemish architecture.
If you plan on seeing everything Brussels has to offer, we recommend getting the Brussels Card which allows access to 40 museums and unlimited city transport.
1 day = €26.
2 days = €34.
3 days = €42.
Two Passports Top Tip
On the first Wednesday afternoon of every month, many of Brussels' museums are free to enter, so check online before you go.
Where to eat and drink
Food in Brussels is much more than just moules frites and waffles - though both are delicious and should be had during your trip. Traditionally heavy, Belgian chefs are breathing new life into the cuisine - giving international flavours space to flourish while celebrating classsic Flemish dishes.
As its nickname Capital of Europe suggests, Brussels is expensive; it attracts traditional tourists as well as political figures, frequenting bars and restaurants in the EU Quarter. However, keep the costs down by taking advantage of the many happy hour offers going for drinks and street food. Plus frites really fill you up. We warned you...
Peck 47 in Îlot Sacré serves up an all day breakfast and brunch menu of eggs, waffles, and breakfast cocktails in a bright and airy café. Definitely recommend!
Créme Brussels, a café with industrial, warehouse vibes in Sablon is another excellent all day breakfast choice with an Australian inspired menu devised by four best friends.
Maison Antoine serves up some of the best frites in the capital from this unassuming hut in the European Quarter. While the food menu is simple enough – your sauce/dip options are extensive and make a perfect lunch to snack on whilst wandering the beautiful parks nearby.
A huge portion of frites should cost between €3.50: Read our Guide to Frites here.
Le Cirio Brasserie in Îlot Sacré provides the classic café experience is a must with all the gilded glitz you'd expect to see in historic Europe with a menu to match.
Oficina in Ste Catherine focuses on a fresh and seasonal Belgian menu in an industrial space, softened by bohemian flower arrangements and vintage chairs.
Saint-Boniface in Ixelles is a cosy restaurant with tightly packed tables serving delicious French cuisine inspired by the gastronomy of Lyon. In addition to an excellent menu, there is also an extensive wine menu to pair with your meal.
Dinner can range from €40-55 for two.
For the adults
Mappa Mundo in St Gery near the Grand Place is right at the end of a bustling side street and has a purely fun atmosphere. The bar staff is friendly and knowledgeable, plus the bar snacks are great.
Bon Enfants is a light and cosy brasserie in the Sablon neighbourhood. Surrounded by upmarket boutiques and antique shops, its menu of light food and cocktails provides the perfect place for a casual drink on a sunny afternoon.
A glass of wine is approx €3.50 with a bottle reasonable at around €12. Beers between €3-4.
Tipping isn't required, but you can add an extra euro to your bill if the service was particularly good. 10-15% is usually added to your bill anyway.
Brussels is considered a safe city in the evening. But as always, be careful when travelling in and around Grand-Place and extra touristy sights. No different to other major European cities.
Two Passports Top Tip: Dansaert!
Just west of Grand Place is Dansaert, a trendy neighbourhood beloved by locals, who flock to the terraces of the Place de la Bourse - a pedestrianised, cobbled streets lined with bars, pubs and eateries. The restaurants are well-priced and great quality, especially the Asian cuisine!
Unless you're grabbing a waffle or frites, steer clear of eating and drinking anything in or surrounding Grand Place.
When to Go
Low Season: November to February
Higher chances of rain and darkness bring smaller crowds. Its Christmas markets are some of the most popular in Europe, so make sure you book tickets and accommodation early.
Shoulder Season: March to May, September to October
Pleasant weather to walk the streets. Crowds are rising but comfortable. Events (like Briche) are around Lent and gather crowds too, so check before you book.
High Season: June to August
Lovely weather, but prone to extreme rain in short bursts. Grand-Place is heaving with tourists and not pleasant. High prices on hotels and tourist traps.
How to Get There
Brussels Airport (BRU)
Sitting just 12km North-West of the city centre, BRU is Belgium's largest airport. If you're flying from outside of Europe, you'll be flying into BRU.
Airport Train to Brussels Midi = 20 minutes for €10.
272 or 471 bus to City Centre = 30 minutes for €3.
Brussels South, Charleroi Airport (CRL)
46km south of the city, CRL is a large airport in its own right. It mainly flies within Europe and North Africa. The train from the airport to the city is complicated, as you have to get a bus or taxi to Charleroi Sud station. As easier option is the Flibco shuttle, departing directly from the airport for less hassle and similar time and cost!
InterCity (IC) from Charleroi Sud station to Brussels Midi = 53 minutes for €12.50.
Flibco Shuttle from Charleroi Airport to Brussels Midi = 55 minutes for €15.50.
Antwerp Airport (ANR)
Close to the border with the Netherlands, ANR (42km north) almost only services Tui Airlines from Southern Spain, North Africa, London City Airport and a handful of others. Antwerp might seem like a rogue choice, but it's closer and less complicated than CRL. Plus, Antwerp is a beautiful city, so it's an excuse to visit there for a day or two. From ANR to both Bercham or Central stations (which takes you to Brussels via train), get the frequent 51, 52 or 53 buses.
InterCity (IC) to Brussels Midi = 45 minutes for €10.
Flixbus to Brussels Gare du Nord = 1 hour for €5.
Travelling by Eurostar
If travelling from London, Paris, Lille, Rotterdam or Amsterdam, we recommend getting the Eurostar! It's a relatively environmentally friendly way to arrive in the heart of the city. Tickets from London start from £60 return from Trainline, but make sure you book well in advance or take advantage of sales.
Travelling in the city
Brussels is very much a walkable city - you get the true sense of the Flemish architecture and vibrant murals. Rather than the congested six-line Metro, we recommend using the 17-line Brussels tram - it can take you anywhere and it's better for the environment too!
A day travel card costs €7.50 or a five-journey ticket €8.