While Brussels is famous for waffles and the EU, it is a small but diverse city. The Belgian capital is a hub for the European Union, and so naturally, the city is used to many tourists visiting the famous landmarks in Brussels, Belgium. According to visit.brussels, the city attracts over 4 million visitors each year!
Brussels became the capital following the Belgian revolution in 1830 when the country declared independence from the Netherlands. The country is split into two regions – Wallonia and Flanders – and Brussels sits in the Flanders region.
Located in the centre of Belgium, Brussels is an eclectic mix of French and Flemish culture. This is apparent throughout the city, with all signs and Brussels landmarks having both French and Dutch names.
Whether you want to drink beer like a local (you have to try Delirium red!), or are more interested in seeing some of the famous art that has come from Belgium, this city offers something for everyone. The iconic European landmarks listed below will give you plenty of ideas of how to fill a trip to this beautiful city.
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Using the map of Brussels, you can explore all the landmarks.
The Grand Place (or Grote Markt in Flemish) is at the centre of the old town in Brussels. The square is a UNESCO world heritage site and is overlooked by distinct gothic architecture, which houses guildhalls, museums, and cafés. This is usually the first stop for tourists on their 2 day Brussels itinerary, and so the Grand Place is always bustling and vibrant.
Every two years, a different themed flower carpet decorates the square's centre, drawing in large crowds that want to catch a glimpse of the near-million-flower display. It is well worth trying to time your visit to this event, as it is a rare but beautiful chance to see Grand Place decorated.
There are many things to do in and around Grand Place once you have wandered around and taken in the sights. Horse and carriage rides are available from here, and you can pop into some of the buildings for chocolate or beer tasting!
The Atomium is a landmark monument and museum at the Heysel Plateau in Brussels north-western suburb of Laeken. Initially, it was constructed for the World Fair in 1958 and was designed to look like scientific atoms. Six of the nine spheres feature exhibits and conference rooms, with the top sphere containing the viewing panorama and a restaurant.
This monument is impressive in the day, but it is a magical experience at night. The Atomium is illuminated in the evening with LED lights, meant to reflect the idea of an electron around its core. Science lovers will adore this landmark, which is open to exhibition visitors from 10 am - 6 pm Friday to Monday.
This is an interesting and unique landmark that you can only find in Brussels, and it is excellent to add to your list if you have the time to visit.
The European Parliament buildings are central to the running of the European Union. They are responsible for the EU legislation, and the European Parliament itself is made up of 705 members that represent all EU countries – around 450 million people.
Located on Rue Wiertz, this building contrasts the old town in the centre of the city. The area is filled with official buildings, and the European Parliament is a tall glass building with flags from the EU nations welcoming you on the road outside.
This is an exciting part of the city. Anyone who loves politics or journalism will enjoy being at the centre of the action (you could even catch a glimpse of David Sassoli, the EU president!). This is a must-do if you are from the EU, and it is a fun landmark to see if you prefer modern architecture rather than old, historical buildings.
Situated around the corner from the EU Parliament building, the Parlamentarium is a museum and visitor centre for the EU. It was opened in 2011 and hosts several exhibitions that explain how the different European Institutions work.
When you visit, you are given a PMG, short for personal multimedia guide, which has headphones and allows you to wander through the museum unattended. The information is available in 24 EU languages, and the PMG activates a number of the exhibits’ videos and extra features.
Open every day except Monday morning, Parlamentarium is free to visit and offers some behind-the-scenes information surrounding the European Union and its member states. Visitors will be able to find out how the EU attempts to run successfully, and the challenges facing Parliament today.
Perhaps the most famous (and amusing) emblem of Brussels is the Manneken Pis. This tiny statue of a boy peeing is located a two-minute walk behind Grand Place. Built on a fountain essential to water distribution in 15th century Brussels, this statue is an iconic landmark that attracts thousands of visitors every day.
Part of the attraction to Manneken Pis is the costumes that the little boy statue is dressed in. Each week the statue is covered in a different costume, usually topical or seasonal, which are decided by a not-for-profit-panel called ‘The friends of Manneken Pis’.
Occasionally, for big celebrations, the statue is linked to a beer keg and beer is given to visitors who have come to see the Manneken Pis. Some of the outfits can be seen in the City Museum, which is located in the Grand Place.
Related to the Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis is the Flemish name for the peeing girl statue. Located slightly further from Grand Place, in Fidelity Alley, the bronze girl is tucked away from the restaurant-packed Rue des Bouchers. She was designed by Denis-Adrien Debouvrie and was displayed in 1987. You'll be able to spot the red gates that protect her fairly easily.
Het Zinneke, also called the Zinneke Pis, is the third in the trio of peeing statues. It is slightly more challenging to find than Manneken Pis and Jeanneke Pis, but it features a dog peeing on a bollard. The most recent addition to the funny statues, it was erected in 1998 by sculptor Tom Frantzen. It is located near Rue des Chartreux and perfectly encapsulates the ‘Zwanze’ humour in the city.
These statues are strange but well worth seeing as you wander around Brussels, and are a great photo opportunity!
The City of Brussels Town Hall is arguably the most striking gothic building on Grand Place, dating back to the 15th century. The towering spire can be seen from multiple parts of the city, and when illuminated at night, this building is the centre point of the square.
If you look incredibly closely, you can just about make out a figure that is on top of the 96-meters-tall tower. This is the famous Archangel Michael, and he is portrayed holding a golden sword with gold wings. The details on the building are incredible. The outside is covered in statues, and the inside is adorned with tapestries and paintings.
Guided tours are regularly arranged of the inside of the Town Hall and are a must-do for anyone interested in beautiful architecture and the history of the city.
One of the most breath-taking landmarks in Brussels is the Galleries Royals Saint-Hubert. Designed by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer, this gallery is nearly 200 years old, and it is one of the oldest in Europe. Walking through here, you really get a sense of wonder looking at the ornamental accents that feature on the walls.
Inside this glass-topped strip are many high-end fashion stores, cafés, and famous Belgian chocolate powerhouses. Aksum Galerie du Roi is a personal favourite; it’s a café that serves the most delicious hot chocolate for you to drink whilst nestled inside a cosy nook.
This gorgeous piece of history is located just minutes from Grand Place and even has art galleries and a cinema so you can relax after a long day of walking around the city.
Brussels is famous for the comic strip art that can be found painted around the city. If you are a classic comic fan, then the Comic Strip Center is a dream come true. Victor Horta created the art nouveau building that houses the iconic work in 1906, and today, it is an exciting shrine for both historical and modern comic book art.
Tintin, The Smurfs, and Spirou are just some of the iconic comic book characters that can be seen around the city, on the side of buildings. Memorabilia and original art from these cultural icons can be found inside the centre.
It is just 8 euros for a ticket to the Belgian Comic Strip Center, which is open every day from 10 am - 6 pm. With several different temporary exhibits available, this is a fun day out if you are after something a little bit different.
Notre Dame du Sablon is a 15th-century gothic church and is widely regarded as one of Belgium's most beautiful churches. This church's construction took around a century to build and has some lovely features inside that make it so iconic. This is a landmark that must not be missed if you love classic gothic architecture.
Inside, the church is beautifully decorated with eleven intricate and brightly coloured stained glass windows, which are gorgeous on a sunny day as the light shines onto the altar. The famous wooden pulpit was made in 1697 by Marc de Vos, which is one reason why this church is so notorious today. Many people visit this church just to see it.
Notre Dame du Sablon is free to enter and is open every day from around 10 am - 6 pm. This church is located on Rue des Sablons, near the Sablon sculpture garden.
The Royal Palace of Brussels is the Belgian King and Queen’s Royal palace, though they choose to live in the Royal Palace of Laeken instead. The palace overlooks Brussels Park and is next door to the Belgian Prime Minister’s residence.
The palace was initially built in the 19th century by William I of the Netherlands. Over a hundred years later, King Leopold II decided to remodel the façade during his reign. Since then, the palace has been left untouched.
As the palace is where the Belgian King does most of his work, this is where Royal visitors will go, and often celebrations are held outside. Since 1965, the palace has been opened to the public every summer after the 21st July holiday until September. If you are in Brussels around this time, it is a rare and exciting opportunity to take a look at some of the rooms inside the palace.
Brussels Cathedral was built in the 11th century as a Roman Catholic church after it was requested by the Duke of Brabant, Henry I. Gothic architecture was trendy at the time; hence the features you can see clearly like large, pointed details. Saint Michael and Saint Gudula are the patron saints of the City of Brussels.
The inside of the Cathedral has the most stunning details. The nave is lined with columns marked by statues of the 12 apostles, and the many pulpit’s feature sculptures of Adam and Eve, as well as other famous figures. The multiple stained glass windows depict historical rulers and battles. This is the Cathedral that is used to celebrate and mourn famous Belgian figures today.
It is just a euro to enter, and for this, you get to see some of the most beautiful Baroque and Romanesque architecture that is still standing today. It is an iconic landmark that is not to be missed.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the fifth largest church in the world – it is 89 meters tall! It is situated in an outer suburb of Brussels, in the neighbourhood of Koekelberg. Its striking green dome contrasts the terracotta stones that make up the church's main building, and from the inside, the dome steals the show.
This church is the perfect example of Belgian art deco architecture, and it was built to celebrate 75 years of Belgian independence. King Leopold was first to lay down a stone in 1905; however, the temple was disrupted by World War II and was only completed in 1971.
The church also offers excellent views of Brussels. Climbing up to the terrace will give you access to 180-degree views of the city, and it allows you to really see the whole of the surrounding areas.
There is also a museum that offers information about the dome's history and how the war hindered its construction. This is a great stop on the trip if you have time to get out of the city centre.
Mont des Arts translates to mount of the arts, and it is a famous landmark in Brussels that hosts many different historic sites around the complex. The top of Mont des Arts is next to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, and the bottom of the hill leads you to Place de l'Albertine, which is just a five-minute walk from Grand Place.
Requested by Leopold II before the expo of 1910, the gardens at Mont des Arts were created by Jules Vacherot. These gardens and the rest of Mont des Arts are overlooked by the Royal Library of Belgium, an extensive library used by students and professionals alike from around the city.
The top of Mont des Arts offers the most spectacular views of Brussels, especially at sunset when the lights turn on and illuminate the city. People often gather here to have a casual drink on the steps with friends in the early evening before heading down into the town to go to a bar. This is a great way to start a night in Brussels.
Previously the home of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Le Botanique is today used as the cultural centre for the French-speaking community in Belgium. A number of different events and concerts are held in the Orangerie Marquee, and throughout the rest of the building art exhibitions and film screenings are shown.
In the spring of every year, Le Botanique hosts its famous ‘Botanique Nights’ festival, which welcomes many musicians playing gigs in both the building and the surrounding garden. The garden outside is so beautiful and well-kept, with many statues and focus points - it is worth visiting these alone.
Located next to the Botanique/Kruidtuin metro station, Le Botanique is open from 12 pm - 6 pm Monday to Friday, with the gardens free to explore. Ticket costs for the different exhibitions and concerts will vary, so it is a good idea to pre-book your admissions online before you turn up.
Mini Europe is one of the cities' top attractions that features all of the iconic landmarks throughout Belgium and Europe in miniature form. With over 300 tiny monuments at a scale of 1:25, it is a must-do on your Brussels list.
Located next door to the Atomium, this amusement park allows you to see the best of European architecture in an afternoon - where else can you see the Eiffel Tower from France stood beside the Colosseum from Italy? This is a unique day out that all of the family will enjoy, and you can even have your birthday party here!
Mini Europe is usually open from 10 am - 6 pm each day. However, opening times vary for this attraction throughout the year, so it’s worth checking before planning your visit.
To the east of the European Quarter is the large public Parc du Cinquantenaire. The triumphal arc is an iconic monument in the park's centre, which is home to many museums. Throughout the year, the park itself holds many events in its gardens, like concerts and firework displays.
The landmark was built in 1880 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence. Here you can also see the Temple of Human Passions built by the Belgian art-nouveau figurehead, Victor Horta. His influential architecture can be spotted all around Brussels and have a distinct style that is easy to identify.
The Great Mosque of Brussels is also nestled in the park's corner, and anybody who would like to go and pray is welcome to do so. Originally built by Ernest Van Humbeeck, the Mosque was redesigned in 1978 by Tunisian architect Boubaker.
Parc du Cinquantenaire offers something for everybody, whether you like architecture or history or simply want to take some time out to relax or attend the prayer.
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are a collection of art museums next to the Royal Palace. Between them, they have over 20,000 pieces of work and showcase some of the most incredible art from the early 15th century onwards.
The Oldmasters Museum is the perfect place for anybody interested in seeing some classic Flemish art. Works by the likes of Bruegel, Van der Weyden, and Hieronymus Bosch are on display here, as well as some temporary exhibitions that are constantly on rotation in the museum.
Another famous museum included in the group is the Magritte Museum. Here you can find an extensive collection of paintings by the surrealist Belgian René Magritte. Opened in 2009, this museum is a must-see for anyone interested in surrealism.
Combination tickets are available for the museums to make the most out of your visit. The Museums are open every day except for Mondays and are in close vicinity to other famous landmarks, so it is worth visiting to see some classic Belgian art.
This stunning park is a slice of heaven within the busy city. Formerly called Parc Royal, Brussels Park was the first public park in the town. Located close-by to the Royal Palace and Mont des Arts, this is the perfect green space for relaxing with a picnic or exploring the park and taking in the gorgeous fountains.
The park itself has many Brussels monuments inside, such as a bust of Peter the Great and other statues by famous sculptors. Spending an afternoon here as part of a fun-packed trip is the perfect way to take a time-out and appreciate Brussels and its breath-taking nature.
The park is also home to a children’s playground, which will make sure that the little ones are entertained if you want to take a rest on one of the many benches surrounding it. The park is open from 6 am until 10 pm, so you have most of the day to explore and enjoy the scenery.
Brussels City Museum is located on the Grand Place, opposite the town hall in the heart of the old town. It is inside the building known as the King’s house and has the iconic gothic look. It features the history and folklore of Brussels, as well as showcasing lots of paintings, intricate tapestries, and models of the city in the middle ages.
This museum is free on the first Sunday of every month, and it is well worth the visit if you would like to know more about the history of Brussels. On the top floor of the museum, you can see the original statue of the Mannekin pis – thousands if his costumes also used to be displayed here, before most were moved to a separate museum called Garderobe MannekenPis.
The old stock exchange building, known as Bourse, is a striking landmark that anyone who enjoys grand, historical buildings will want to see. It was built in 1873 and designed by the famous Léon Soys, with a number of intricate, baroque ornaments on the roof of the building. The inside is just as beautiful, so it is worth booking a tour of this monument.
It is located in the centre of the city, nearby to Grand Place and some universities. It is common to see students sat with lunch and a beer on the steps outside, enjoying the sunshine in the summer months.
Recently, it has been announced that the Bourse building's top floor is going to be used as a celebration of the beer that comes from the country. The Brussels Times say that 104 Belgian brewers have already agreed to take part, with plans to host exhibitions and shops on the building's lower floor.
As you can see, Brussels has something for everyone. It is the perfect city to spend time getting lost in the old back streets around Grand Place, admiring the architecture. Or spending the day wandering around the number of museums dotted throughout the centre of the city.
The locals have a saying - ‘sprout to be Brussels’, and it is easy to see why they are so proud of this beautiful place. The delicious food, variety of different cultures, and iconic landmarks make Brussels one of the most gorgeous cities to visit in Europe. It is worth making the time to visit and tick off as many of these famous landmarks as possible on your trip.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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