Brussels, Belgium is a fascinating, historic city. I’ve visited many times and each time, the city seems to evolve and change.
There is always something unique and interesting to do. While travelers should not miss popular touristy things like the Mannekin Pis, here are ten more unique things to do in Brussels:
Visit the European Parliament
Brussels is the home of the European Union and like Washington, D.C., a great deal of the business in this city is government business. The European Union is the organization of European countries designed to unify business and commerce. You can take guided tours of the Parliament building itself from Monday – Thursday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. except when the Parliament is in session. If it’s in session, you can register to attend a session and sit in for an hour. Tours are free and available in English.
Rue Wiertz/Wiertzstraat 60
Visit the Falcons
As they have for seven years, a pair of peregrine falcons makes their home at the top off the St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral. You can climb to an observation area and even talk to on-site ornithologists (bird experts). A cool fact, falcons are the fastest creatures on earth, reaching speeds of 200 mph when they dive for their prey.
St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
cathedralestmichel.be Walk in the Park
From April through November, the city offers free, guided walks throughout the parks and green spaces of this city. Aside from parks and forests, two walks are through historic cemeteries in Brussels.
Hit the Beach
Each summer, usually between July 15 and August 15, the city brings in 3000 tons of sand from the nearby North Sea and turns an area of the city next to the canal into Brussels Beach. The area is near Place Sainctelette.
Explore an Atom
Where else can you get inside a realistic scale model of an atom? The Atomium, originally built for the 1958 World’s Fair is really an atom of common Iron, blown up 165 billion times. The science is very interesting, there’s a great view from the top and even a restaurant. Admission is 11 euro for adults and the Atomium is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Square de l’Atomium
Check out a Comic
Not a stand-up comic, check out a comic strip. Brussels has a very high reverence for the art of comic strips and Belgian Comic Strip Center houses a seemingly endless collection from all of the world, mainly looking at newspaper comics. Americans will most recognize the Smurfs, a creation of a Belgian cartoonist and very popular here. Visitors get an additional bonus, the building itself is a an architectural gem, designed by Belgium’s Art Nouveau master architect, Victor Horta. The museum is closed on Mondays and adult admission is 8 euro.
Belgian Comic Strip Center
20 rue des Sables (Zandstraat)
Ride a Historic Tram
If you like trains, trolley cars, trams or buses, the Tram Museum is chock full of them. Housed in a 1945 train depot, the museum presents a large collection of train cars, in addition to a detailed history of their impact on transportation. The museum operates the BTT, Brussels Tourist Tramway, which travels throughout the city and offers a great, detailed narration. The tours are every Sunday from April through October, and by reservation in the winter.
The museum includes several live displays, where you can ride historic trams in the museum and around the city on specific routes. The museum is only open on Saturday and Sundays, along with official holidays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. A single adult admission is 8 euro, and that includes unlimited rides on the historic buses and all trams on the same day.
Av de Tervuren 364B – Station: Woluwe St.Pierre
Visit an Underground Palace
Directly under the sidewalk of the Place Royale, in the center of Belgium, the ancient palace of Charles V, Coudenberg, has been partially excavated. The ruins are well presented in a museum setting with great documentation of everything shown. The museum is closed on Mondays and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week and until 6 p.m. on weekends. Adult admission is 5 euro or you can buy a combo ticket for 8 euro for access to the BELvue Museum as well.
Entrance via BELvue museum
Mont des Arts
Place des Palais 7
View an Amazing Display of Airplanes
A great unique thing to do in Brussels is to visit the RMM, the Royal Military Museum. My favorite is the amazing display of 130 planes in the Aviation Hall. The museum also has great collections of uniforms, weapons and suits of armor. Admission is free, the museum is open from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Parc du Cinquantenaire 3 Jubelpark
Visit Asia in Brussels
Located in a peaceful park, the RMAH is Belgium’s Museum of the Far East showcasing artwork from Japan and China. There are three wonderful things here, The Japanese Tower, the Chinese Pavilion and the Japanese Art Museum. All were some of the last buildings built for the last king of Belgium, Leopold II. They house a staggering collection of Chinese and Japanese artwork, sculpture, porcelain and other items, presented in an authentic atmosphere..
Museums of The Far East (RMAH)
Avenue Van Praet 44 Van Praetlaan
Brussels offers a great range of unique activities, along with luxurious hotels and fine dining. The city is served by major international air carriers and easily reached from Paris, London and Germany via the Thalys high speed rail network.