Although there are plenty of tourists milling about Brussels, it doesn’t feel like a tourist trap. I had my first couch surfing experience here, so I felt like I was living the Belgian culture rather than just visiting it. A major perk of Brussels? Everything was so cheap! A good meal is worth the money, but all the major attractions were either free or under 10 Euros. As you guys know, I love a good bargain, and I thought you would too.
1. Army Museum
When I looked up the Army Museum on Trip Advisor, the first comment to pop up said, “Weapons galore!” Between that and all the 5-star ratings, I figured this was a safe place to visit. If you’re a military enthusiast, the Army Museum is the place to go. As a bonus, it’s situated in a gorgeous public park next to the Arc de Triumph (yes, there’s one in Brussels too).
2. Royal Palace Park
I love public parks because they give me an opportunity to people watch while resting my feet for a bit. The park in front of the Royal Palace is on the smaller side, but it has two big fountains and lots of space to stretch out. The Royal Palace itself is only open to the public for a few months at the end of the summer, and the park is a good spot to sit and pretend like you’re laying on your own royal property. Who doesn’t love a good daydream now and then?
3. City Hall of Brussels
Located in the heart of the city at the Grand Place, the City Hall of Brussels boasts an impressive array of Gothic architecture and is one of the most beautiful public buildings I’ve seen. I took a tour of City Hall on my last day in Brussels, and I’m so happy I found time to squeeze it in.
Tours are only offered on Wednesdays and Sundays at specific times, so make sure you plan accordingly if you want to see the building. My tour guide was quite funny and gave us some great information about the current and past uses of the city hall. The rooms themselves are stunning, and most of them are completely original as well, which speaks highly of the maintenance of the building. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside as it is a public office building.
Cost: 3 Euros for students, 5 Euros for adults
4. Museum of the City of Brussels
I happened to duck into the museum on a rainy morning and spent a very pleasant hour and a half perusing the displays. Although quite small, the Museum of the City of Brussels gets two thumbs up from me. There’s a lot of information packed into the small space, but I never felt overwhelmed or bored. The museum has a good range of tapestries, paintings, and general historical objects, and they offered information sheets in several different languages. If you can’t stand to read all the information yourself, tours are included in the entrance fee. My favorite display in the museum was a miniaturized layout of the entire city as it would have originally existed.
Cost: 3 Euros for students, 4 Euros for adults, free on the weekend if under 18
In Belgium, waffles aren’t just something you eat, they’re an event. You haven’t fully experienced Brussels until you’ve had a waffle here. Fun fact: Belgian Waffles in Belgium are completely different from the ones in the States because they’re cooked from a dough rather than from a batter and taste more like cake. I ordered my first one with a heap of whipped cream and a drizzle of melted chocolate. Be warned though: the waffles have a caramelized sugar coating on them, so only order as much sweetness as your stomach can handle.
If you want the absolute top waffle experience, order one from a restaurant or cafe. If you want to save a few Euros (like me), pop into a chocolate store advertising waffles. That way you know your waffle was freshly made and the chocolate topping is the good stuff.
Cost: 1-5 Euros, depending on how crazy you get with toppings
6. Street Markets
Like any large city, Brussels has some amazing street markets. I hit up the antique market that takes place every Sunday at the base of the Our Lady of Sablon church, and I was surprised at the quality of the items on display. The stalls carry everything from old postcards to real silverware sets, so if you’re a serious collector, this is the place for you.
Another notable market is the Sunday market near the Gare du Midi train station. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to visit this myself, but my couch surfing host had nothing but praise for it. If you’re interested in exploring more markets in Brussels, you can find more information here.
7. City Tour
Brussels is a city with a fascinating historical background, and although I love visiting museums, city tours are great ways to experience the history. Another bonus of going on these tours is that you get to ask your guide for insider tips and restaurant recommendations (because good food is important too!). There are a few different companies who offer free tours, but you can find a few options here and here.
Which item on this list are you most excited to experience? Do you have any other suggestions for places to visit in Brussels? And has anyone figured out how to get fresh Belgian waffles shipped to America yet??