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Top Brussels Attractions

The first time you visit Brussels, or any new destination, the question asked isn’t usually what attractions should be scene but what attraction to see first, what to expect, how to get there, and how much time is needed. We’ve provided tips, advice, and other information about the top tourist attractions in Brussels to help with your itinerary planning.

The Grand Place The Grand Place
Hotel de Ville Hotel de Ville
Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles
Manneken Pis Manneken Pis
Bruges Belgium Bruges Belgium

The Grand Place

Grand Place BrusselsBrussels' city center known as the Grand Place is arguable the most magnificent square in the world. Dating back to the 12th century, the square is smaller then one might expect. The buildings were constructed in medieval fashion with decorative gables, gilded facades, and brilliant gold accents. The Grand Place is an astonishing accomplishment. Important statesmen owned these buildings. Each competed to outdo the others. The Grand Place was partially destroyed in 1695 by the French army. However, the monumental buildings were carefully rebuilt over the next few years. The history of the Grand Place is represented in art on display at the Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles.

Other then gazing in awe at the astounding parametric views, there really is not much else to do while visiting the Grand Place. A few venders setup small stands in the square’s center. You’ll find flowers, snacks, and maybe some souvenirs. Alternatively, you can get a table at one of the cafes in the square. In the evening, the illuminated Grand Place is even more spectacular.


Hotel de Ville

 Address Grand Place
 Phone 02-279-43-55

The de Ville is one of the premier buildings located in Brussels’ Grand Place. The de Ville was the town hall dating back to 1402 and today is the seat of the civic government. The building’s arched windows and stately tower project a monumental impression of stability and timelessness. The Hotel de Ville is decorated with various sculptors including one of St. Michael slaying a female devil.

When the city’s legislative body is not in session, guided tours of the Hotel de Ville are available. The tours last 40 minutes. However, only a few tours operate per day. Not all tours are provided in English. Therefore, if is recommended that you plan in advance.


Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles

 Address Grand Place
 Phone 02-279-43-50

The Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles wins the prize for being the most unique structure in Brussels’ Grand Place. The Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles’s dark and mystifying construction with shimmering gold accents make it a perfect fit for housing various collections of art focusing on the diverse history of Brussels and specifically the Grand Place. With your admission, you are provided with an information brochure that tells the history behind each piece on display in the museum. Works of art include paintings, photos, and prints. The combined collection tells the story of how the Grand Place was constructed, destroyed, reconstructed, and preserved throughout history. In addition, there are historic maps and miniature models of the square from various time periods on display. The Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles is a masterpiece in its self. A glorious wooden staircase and an astounding view of the Grand Place is worth the journey inside on its own.

The Mannekin-Pis’ wardrobe is also on display within the Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles. Miniature replicates of Brussels’ most celebrated character are dressed in various outfits that include military uniforms, an Elvis costume, and a leprechaun costume. The actual Mannekin-Pis wears these costumes on special occasions throughout the year.


Manneken Pis

 Address rue de l'Etuve Brussels

Manneken PisAlongside a narrow pedestrian walkway a couple blocks away from the Grand Place is Brussels’ favorite character, the Manneken-Pis. The Manneken-Pis is a small bronze statue of a gleeful boy urinating. No one knows exactly when the statue came into existence. However, some stories date back to the 8th century. The Manneken-Pis has been vandalized and stolen several times throughout history. During special occasions, the Manneken-Pis wears various costumes from his wardrobe at the Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles.


Bruges, Belgium

The nearby town of Bruges is a wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Brussels. Despite its popularity with tourists, Bruges is a tiny city with only 45,000 residents. The 13th century cloth-manufacturing town remains remarkable preserved. Visiting Bruges is like taking a trip back in time. The narrow cobblestone streets, romantic canals, glorious parks, and ancient city squares provide the perfect setting for a relaxing vacation.

Trains depart from Brussels to Bruges every hour. The trip takes about an hour and stops in Ghent. Buses travel from the train station to the town center. However, taking a stroll through the park is the best way to experience Bruges. On your journey you’ll cross a medieval bridge and pass along side a romantic swan filled lake. The lake is called the Minnewater, which actually translates to “Lake of Love”. Further along on your journey you’ll come across the Begijnhof (a commune where religious women known as Begijns once lived). Today, the Begijnhof is occupied by Benedictine nuns who try to preserve the Begijn tradition. The area consists of a series of small white washed houses and a church enclosed around a beautiful park. A feeling of tranquility over comes visitors who pass through the Begijnhof.

A bit north is the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady). It took two centuries (13th-15th) to build this spectacular church with its spire that reaches towards the heavens. The Church of Our Lady contains Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child in addition to a number of other masterpieces.

Bruges MarktBruges has two center squares, the Markt and the Burg, where you’ll find a number of beautiful gothic buildings in addition to some fine restaurants. Next to the grand Town Hall in the Burg is the richly decorated Heilige-Bloedbasiliek. This Romanesque basilica houses a cloth said to be impregnated with Christ’s holy blood. The streets connecting the town squares are lined with shops selling everything from lace to souvenirs. You may also want to grab some warm Belgium waffles from one of the many street vendors.

Canal tours and horse and buggy rides are available year-round in Bruges. Visitors can typically see all the sights in one day. However, we recommend taking an extra day to relax and soak in the history.

More Information:


Brussels Travel Guides
 Frommer's Brussels
 Lonely Planet Brussels
 Let's Go Brussels
 Fodors Brussels