Bite-Sized Brussels: A Quick Guide To The Heart Of Europe

Tue Oct 31 2023

A Quick Guide To Brussels

Do you want to explore the rich history and cultural vibrancy of Brussels in an efficient way? AFAR Travel Experts have curated "Bite-Sized Brussels: A Quick Guide To The Heart Of Europe", providing a comprehensive overview of sights, restaurants and things-to-do for any traveler looking to experience Belgium's capital city.

This guide provides useful tips on transportation, attractions and experiences that will give readers a taste of this unique destination while still staying within budget. Ready to take on the adventure that is Brussels'? Let's dive into all it has to offer!

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Key Takeaways

  • Grand Place in Brussels is one of Europe’s oldest sites with Flemish architecture elements from many eras.
  • Atomium tower stands 103 meters tall, symbolizing science and modernity while also representing the city's unity in diversity.
  • There are more than 50 murals scattered around Brussels as part of ‘the Comic Strip Route’ celebrating the city's vibrant comic strip history.
  • Natural attractions such as the Chocolate Nation Museum offering an insight on Belgian chocolates plus Mini Europe - a miniature park featuring landmarks from 80 European cities - serve as exceptional hotspots to experience all that Brussels has to offer!

Overview of Brussels

Explore the bustling capital of Belgium, Brussels, and learn about its cultural heritage and unique attractions with this quick guide.

Overview of the city

Brussels is the capital city of Belgium, located in the valley of the Senne River. It has grown from a small rural settlement to become one of Europe’s most important cities, renowned for its politics, history, architecture and cuisine.

The Brussels-Capital Region is made up of 19 communes and it includes the City of Brussels which serves as its largest municipality and historical center. This culturally vibrant city boasts attractions such as Grand Place that provides visitors with an insight into Belgians' rich heritage while also providing spots to enjoy some delicious Belgian waffles! Numerous museums are dotted around Brussels too such as Royal Museums Of Fine Arts Of Belgium plus Manneken Pis – a iconic bronze sculpture depicting a small boy peeing into a fountain (a true symbol of good luck for locals!).

Against this backdrop there's also plenty more to do; whether enjoying some locally made chocolates or taking day trips out across Flanders region - be sure witness many marvels all tucked away in this pocket-sized powerhouse on your visit to Brussels!

Best time to visit

Brussels is best experienced between March and May or September and October, when the weather is pleasant and ideal for sightseeing around the city. These are considered shoulder seasons, meaning that things like room rates may be cheaper than during peak summer months.

This makes Brussels an appealing destination year-round. With a central train station located in Brussels it’s easy to get there from neighboring countries like France, Germany, The Netherlands and beyond.

It is also worth considering if you want to combine trips with other European cities such as London, Paris or Amsterdam! Visiting during these recommended periods allows travelers more time to fully explore attractions like Atomium structure, Grand Place of Brussels Illuminated Evening Show ,Manneken Pis Statue Experience ,Royal Palace of Laeken Tour day trip Starting From Brusselscasella wellas participating cultural activities without too much crowding -allowing them feel immersed in its local culture while discovering special places all over town!

Transportation options

Traveling around Brussels is conveniently easy with the city's well-managed public transport system. The network includes four metro lines, 17 tram lines and 50 bus lines which provide excellent access to get you anywhere in the capital.

Soft mobility and public transport are recommended for its eco-friendliness and affordably priced tickets. For example, TEC-bus A is a shuttle service from Brussels Airport (Zaventem) or Charleroi airport to Charleroi railway station (Sud/Zuid), offering an affordable solution to tourists visiting Brussels from other parts of Europe.

Plus, there’s the convenient hub of Brussels Midi – a railway station packed with high speed regional trains going all the way out to Germany and France!

Must-See Attractions in Brussels

Explore the historic Grand Place, gaze at the iconic Atomium structure, admire masterpieces in Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, snap a picture with Manneken Pis and wander along Brussels' famous Comic Strip Route.

Grand Place

Brussels’ Grand Place is a stunning array of historic buildings and rather ornate facades. At the center of it all, you'll find the city's most recognizable landmark—Hôtel de Ville, or City Hall.

Interestingly enough, this square was not always as grand as it appears today; in fact, historically it began its life as a plain market place. However, with the power of artistry and architecture added to its landscape over time ,it has since become quite impressive in both scope and size—measuring approximately 360 feet long by 223 feet wide! Its age only adds to its appeal: Built around 1695, it remains one of Brussels’ oldest sites and features iconic Flemish architecture elements from many eras.

The result? A pretty remarkable blend between old-world traditions enveloped within new age attractions —a sight so noteworthy that UNESCO even designated Grand Place a World Heritage Site!


The Atomium is one of Brussels’ most iconic attractions. Built for the 1958 World fair, it stands 103 meters tall and has 9 steel sphere connected to form a giant atom. The structure features various escalators, lifts and stairs that take you up to the top where visitors can enjoy incredible views across Northern Europe.

The nine spheres represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Symbolizing science, modernity and creativity -- and often seen as representing unity in diversity -- its unique design became an instant representation of Brussels, both domestically and abroad.

It opened again in 2006 after extensive refurbishments were completed including new LED lights illuminating from the windows at night making it even more spectacular!

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Housing over 20,000 works of art from the 15th century to today's modern day, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is a must-visit for those looking to delve into Belgian art history.

The museums offer six different institutions spanning several exhibitions; a highlight being the newly renovated Magritte Museum—dedicated solely to artist René Magritte and his surrealist works.

Other galleries include Oldmasters Museum housing old masters up until 18th centuries as well as contemporary prints and drawings. An audio guide (or tours) certainly helps make your visit even more enlightening by providing insights about various displayed pieces in an engaging manner!

Manneken Pis

The iconic Manneken Pis is an important symbol of Brussels, depicting a small boy peeing into a fountain. Located in the center of the city, it was designed around 1388 and has become synonymous with the heart of Belgium.

It’s also known for its self-derisive nature, often dressed up in costumes that celebrate local events or holidayssuch as football matches, royal weddings, national days and christenings.

Additionally, there is even a dedicated museum showcasing over 600 different Manneken Pis costumes since 2017! What’s more remarkable is that Manneken Pis gained another companion when Jeanneke – now called ‘the Peeing Girl - joined him in 1987.

Comic Strip Route and Comic Strip Center

Since 1991, the city of Brussels has been recognizing and celebrating its vibrant comic strip history through the Comic Strip Route. This route consists of over 50 murals that make up a unique guide for visitors exploring Belgium’s capital city.

The Comic Strip Center at Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée is also an essential stop along the way – offering an immersive experience in comics with interactive displays, comic book collections and original art by Belgian authors.

With artwork scattered in both downtown neighborhoods as well as the outskirts of Laeken and Auderghem, this self-guided tour provides a glimpse into the lasting legacy left behind by some of Belgium’s most iconic cartoonists throughout generations.

Experiencing Brussels

Take an audio tour and explore the city's myriad of attractions, including the iconic Grand Place, Atomium, Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Manneken Pis Statue and the Comic Strip Route.

Belgian chocolate museum and tasting

Located in Brussels, Belgium's Chocolate Nation offers the opportunity to learn about its unique process of chocolate-making with a visit and tasting. This museum is popular among both tourists and local chocoholics looking for something special.

Inside the museum, visitors can explore 10 different flavors of Belgian chocolate across eras and traditions - from praline to buttercreams - while learning more about how it's made.

As an extra treat, guests are invited to take part in specialized audio tours or guides where they'd learn further into the origins of this delicious national delicacy. The Chocolate Nation experience is a must-have for any visitor looking for a taste of this rich culture which has given us some of the best craftsmanship in Belgium's prized commodity – their world renowned fine chocolates!


Mini-Europe is a must-see experience for travelers to Brussels seeking to learn more about European architecture and landmarks. This miniature park offers an impressive 1:25 scale recreation of more than 350 buildings from 80 European cities, complete with bonsai trees, flowery groves, dwarf trees and other vegetation that brings the atmosphere vividly alive.

Most impressively, visitors may also discover mysterious animations and surprising scenes depicted in fine detail throughout Mini-Europe – perfect for those wanting to experience the rich complexity of Europe in one place!


From bustling city markets to quaint farmers' markets, Brussels has something for everyone. From new and unused goods to antiques and rustic flea market treasures, you can find whatever your heart desires here.

There are over five general markets dotted around the city that offer a huge range of items including clothing, books, artworks, local produce and much more. The best flea market in Belgium is held at Place du Jeu de Balle every Sunday morning.

Here you'll find everything from old artwork and rusty teapots to vintage furniture - it really is an eclectic shopping experience! For a unique experience exploring one-of-a-kind stalls filled with rare finds, there’s also Marché d’Aligre on Rue Jean Saintrémy where visitors are able to pick up handmade souvenirs or traditional Belgian foodstuffs.

Day trip to Ghent and Bruges

Exploring Belgium beyond the capital city of Brussels can offer visitors a unique insight into some of Europe's most iconic cities. Ghent and Bruges are two compelling destinations located only an hour away from Brussels via train, offering travelers a perfect day trip from the bustling capital.

Ghent is known as one of the cultural capitals of medieval Europe, with spectacular gothic architecture throughout its cobbled streets. It boasts an impressive range of museums such as STAM – Ghent City Museum and Gravensteen Castle which lend themselves to hours worth exploring Ghent’s rich heritage.

Conversely, Bruges provides tourists with something quite different; its picturesque Venice-like canals make it hard not to be captivated by this unique destination and put simply it’s too beautiful to miss! Both cities are brimming with incredible attractions so there really is something for everyone.

Food and Drink in Brussels

Indulge in the flavors of Belgium, from must-try Belgian dishes to craft beers and chocolates.

Must-try dishes and drinks

Brussels is widely known for its delicious food and drinks, making it one of the top culinary destinations in Europe. Between artisanal waffles, Belgian fries, mussels and a variety of meatball dishes like Boulet à la liégeoise and pork carbonnade, you’ll be sure to find something that will hit the spot.

The city is particularly famous for its waffles which are light and airy with caramelized sugar on top. If you’re looking for something savory then fries (or French Fries since Belgium shares a border with France) are your go-to snack from street vendors - make sure to slather on lots of mayo! Mussels pair perfectly with a cold beer at any local eatery or brewery so don’t skip out on this quintessentially Belgian experience while you're here.

Finally meatballs are also popular with dishes such as Boulet à la liégeoise being commonly found in restaurants throughout Brussels - made up of pork stewed in onion sauce and served over mashed potatoes they really can't be beaten!

Local tips for dining

When it comes to finding great food in Brussels, there are a few key points for travelers to keep in mind. Start by seeking out local recommendations; the city’s many traditional Belgian bistros can be tricky to find without a little insider knowledge.

Also check out the vibrant markets and food trucks that pop up around town - these are often great spots to sample some of Belgium's famous specialties like waffles or speculoos! As far as etiquette goes, tipping between 10-15% is expected at restaurant experiences in this region of Europe but you may also have service charges automatically added onto your bill already.

Finally, when deciding what type of beer to order make sure you do your research so that you can match it perfectly with your meal. Brussels has an incredible assortment quaffable brews produced right here – just remember not to rush through them—take time each sip and savor every moment!


Traveling to Brussels can be a thrilling and unique experience. With its captivating historical sights, vibrant culture, culinary delights of diverse food, chocolate and waffles, engaging attractions such as the Grand Place and Atomium, there is so much to do and explore in this beautiful European city! However, having a detailed itinerary prepared ahead of time is key when visiting Brussels for a short period if you are looking to make the most out of your trip.

From free walking tours providing audio-guides that offer insight into some hidden gems of the city like Manneken Pis to day trips taking you to Ghent or Bruges , there is plenty on offer for everyone in "Bite-Sized Brussels: A Quick Guide To The Heart Of Europe".

Thus at the end we urge all travelers researching their visit here should keep valuable tips from our guide while planning their journey - happy travels!

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