04 Aug A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Brussels
We recently spent a short time in Brussels with our primary goal to see as much of the city as we could by walking. While we are by no means experts in this area, we put together our own walking tour, thanks to advice from another travel blogger’s post, Top 10 Free Things to Do In Brussels by I Am Aileen, and our AirBnB hosts’ recommendations. (As you’ll see, it was a rainy morning but we had a great time!)
Click on the map above for a more detailed route via MapMyRun
1) Parc de Bruxelles
Our apartment rental was closest to the Parc de Bruxelles, so that’s where we started. The park is a huge, a great place to run laps (if you’re into that), and contains a number of Belgian government buildings.
2) Royal Palace
At the South end of the park, you’ll find the Royal Palace, which is only open to the public in late summer. Walking through the large halls, ballrooms, and exhibits takes at least half an hour; entry is free.
3 + 4) Place Royale, View, and Meeting Center Clock
This historic square is just around the corner from the palace. Continue walking Northwest from here and you’ll get a charming view, then pass through the Meeting Center and Mont des Arts with its gigantic clock (or carillon) and bells. The clock is surrounded by twelve historical figures from Belgian history and perched above it is a bourgeois figure, the Jacquemart, who rings a large bell.
5) Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
This gigantic Catholic church from the 11th Century is named after the patron saints of Brussels. Entrance is free and when we were there, a gentleman was playing the impressively large organ. (Technically if you want to make the walking tour into a nice loop, you can visit the Cathedral at the end and skip ahead to #6.)
6) Grand Place
The Grand Place, or Grote Markt, is the central square of Brussels and possibly the most awe-inspiring part of the city. It is the site of both historical and current, cultural events.
7) Mannequin Pis
This small, bronze statue/fountain of a little boy peeing has become a national landmark. Apparently, there is a non-profit that manages the Manneken’s weekly costume changes. When we were there, he was dressed in Mexican garb and sombrero. (Jedd was thoroughly confused by the tiny pissing boy attracting all this attention.)
P.S. We used Yelp to find a good waffle place and it led us one block up from the statue, on Lombard, to Waffle Factory. Good stuff!
8) Place de la Bourse
The large, pillared building here is the location of the Brussels Stock Exchange. It’s also the intersection of major shopping streets and a hot spot for events. It’s also next door to a popular fries place we sampled called Fritland.
9) Restaurants on Rue de Bouchers
There are countless eateries in Brussels but you’ll find a high concentration on Rue de Bouchers. Often more geared toward tourists, you may opt to just walk through to enjoy the ambiance. It has a very similar feeling to the Latin Quarter in Paris.
10) Les Galeries Royales de St. Hubert
The Galeries Royales (also called the Galerie de la Reine, it seems) are a series of luxury boutiques set along a stunning covered walkway. Whether you’re shopping or just enjoying the creative window displays, this place is a must see.
Bonus Route: ‘Parks and Politics’ Walking Tour
We took another afternoon, following our big sight-seeing day, to explore more of the sights that were out East of the city center. Whether you’re walking to sight-see or you’re a jogger needing exercise, this is another route we recommend.
Click on the map above for the detailed route via MapMyRun
1) Square Marie-Louise and Ambiorix
In the Quartier des Squares, these two adjacent parks offer a charming setting for rest or play. The lower, Square Marie Louise, features a beautiful pond. You’ll also find a playground, dog park, and gardens nearby.
2) Parc de la Cinquentenaire
This massive park features the grand Arcade du Cinquentenaire alongside gardens, sports fields, and a mosque. It is also home to the Royal Museum of Art and History and Royal Military History Museum as well as Autoworld. This park rivals those found in any other major European city.
3) Parc du Leopold and Parliament
Besides the beautiful park featuring a lovely pond and school down below, you’ll find some very important buildings. Here stands the home of the European Council, Commission, Parliament, and other key institutions. The Parlamentarium there serves as the Visitor Center.
4) Berlaymont Building
Just off the Schuman round-about stands the four-winged Berlaymont building, which houses the headquarters of the European Commission, the executive of the European Union. Now you should truly feel that you’re at the heart of Europe!
Where to Stay in Brussels
We chose our rental apartment in a neighborhood within easy walking distance of the metro line that could get us to and from the train station. This was also convenient if we found ourselves across town and didn’t want to walk back.
Try searching for a hotel or hostel by clicking on the images above (we will get a commission on your booking, at no additional cost to you). Or find a cool apartment to rent on Airbnb.com (sign up for a new Airbnb account with this link and get $20 off your first booking).
Have you been to Brussels? What did we miss that we should see next time? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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