A weekend in the heart of Brussels

Brussels, my beautiful, is what the people of Brussels call their city. And with good reason, the Belgian capital is brimming with majestic landmarks. And even though the country itself is very young - in 2030 it will only be 200 years old - the history of Brussels goes back to the Middle Ages. Your visit to the city will take you to the heart of Brussels' soul. A cosmopolitan city par excellence, it will appeal to all travellers. If you're an art, culture and history lover, the city's many museums await you: the Fine Arts Museum, the Magritte Museum and the Army Museum are all free on the first Wednesday of the month. For those with a sweet tooth, it's the ideal place to sample the specialities of the flat country. Chips, waffles, chocolates, beer, pralines - there's something for everyone. Last but not least, Belgians are bon-vivants and love to party, so the city of Brussels is known for its many events and bars where you can party!

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Brussels is not a large city, but public transport is very well developed, with the STIB providing tram, bus and metro services. The Brussels network has joined forces with the Flemish network to provide easier access to the airport. Although the city is not large, there are 19 communes in Brussels, similar to the arrondissements in Paris. Each district has its own atmosphere, and all are lively and friendly. However, if you are unfamiliar with the city and are here for the weekend, you should opt for a hotel in the city centre, as this will bring you closer to the capital's most important points of interest.

Where to stay in the city centre

‚≠ź Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre

Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre Brussels
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Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre

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Day 1: Visit to the town's squares and streets

Morning

Start by visiting the Grand-Place in Brussels, one of the most beautiful squares in the world, with its flamboyant architecture and café terraces. Admire the architecture, its ornamental and aesthetic richness. You'll also find guild houses such as the Town Hall and the King's House. Built in a neo-Gothic style, the King's House houses the city museum, where you can discover the real Mannekene Pis, protected from vandalism and thieves in the heart of the building.

Manneken Pis

- © Alina Zamogilnykh / Shutterstock

Take the time to wander through the cobbled streets. You'll find a statue of good luck, t'Serclaes, beneath the house of the star. A listed work, it evokes the liberation of the town from the Count of Flanders. Legend has it that you can make a wish by touching its arm. Just a stone's throw from the Grand-Place, don't miss the famous Manneken Pis, or rather its replica. Take a short diversions to Saints Michel and Gudule Cathedral, which dominates the old town. This imposing building contains the relics of the patron saint of Brussels, Saint Gudule. If you can't visit it, it's still a must-see.

Grand-Place Brussels by night

- © Sergii Figurnyi / Shutterstock

Afternoon

Head for Rue au Beurre, where you'll find shops selling gourmet souvenirs. The street is lined with shops selling chocolates and other Belgian delicacies. Don't miss "Elisabeth", a renowned establishment where you'll find an impressive collection of truffles. Or drop in at 'Dandoy', where you'll find succulent speculoos, traditional Belgian spiced biscuits!

Maison Dandoy

- © Alena Veasey / Shutterstock

For a quick lunch, stop off at the Tabora chip shop on the corner of Rue du Marché aux Herbes for the best chips in the city centre!

With a packet of chips in hand, set off to discover the Stock Exchange, just a stone's throw away. Inaugurated in 1873, it was built to embellish the city and create a business centre. Today, this gigantic building is used mainly as an exhibition hall. But it is not usually open to the public. It is also a meeting place. You'll see lots of Brussels locals sitting on its steps! Next, explore the Sainte Catherine and Danseart districts. The freshly renovated Church of Saint Catherine is the heart of this old Brussels district, which is constantly reinventing itself and has become one of the capital's trendiest neighbourhoods. In Sainte Catherine and rue Antoine Danseart you'll find trendy boutiques and concept stores where you can pick up an original object, such as "Icon" or "Stijl", as well as numerous vintage and second-hand shops.

Halles saint Gery

- © olrat / Shutterstock

Continue on to the Halles Saint Gery, a former covered market, now home to exhibitions and occasional markets. This is a very lively area with lots of bars. It's an ideal place to take a break and enjoy a good beer accompanied by cubes of cheese dipped in mustard or celery salt (a Belgian speciality!). It's a popular place for young Brussels locals to party! So take note.

© Luts Iryna / Shutterstock

At the end of the day

Take a stroll through the streets around the Grand-Place, rue Marché au charbon, rue Lombart and Plattesteen. This is the LGBTQIA+ district, where you'll find plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. The capital is also known for its frescoes, which can be found all over the city. There are around ten to admire in this district.

Flatstone

- © Werner Lerooy / Shutterstock

For dinner

Brussels is an eclectic city. You'll find Brazilian restaurants, tapas bars, an all-Asian district and Ethiopian restaurants. One of them is a must-do in the city centre. TOUKOUL, on rue de Laeken, offers a warm, chic atmosphere just a stone's throw from Place Sainte Catherine. If you're looking for a taste of Belgian cuisine, we wouldn't recommend the ultra-touristy restaurants in the Rue des Bouchers, where you won't be able to form a true opinion of Belgian cuisine. You'd be better off in one of the better-known restaurants, such as 'T Kelderke' on the Grand-Place or the Grimbergen Bruxelles café on the Place Sainte Catherine.

Le pub Kelderke

- © Claudine Van Massenhove / Shutterstock

Day 2: Brussels' must-see districts

Morning

Start your day with a visit to Les Marolles, a popular district of the city centre. Antique dealers, artists and the marginalised have all set up shop here for many years. Every morning, take advantage of the unmissable flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balles. Les Marolles is THE district for bargains, even if it is unfortunately tending to become gentrified. It's a great opportunity for bargain-hunters to find that rare item in the brocante and other second-hand shops. There are dozens of them in Les Marolles!

Marché au puce des Marolles

- © Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

Afternoon

Head for the Royal Quarter! It's time to visit the most beautiful museums in Brussels. Start with the Magritte Museum, which boasts the largest collection of works by Belgian artist René Magritte. Not far from there are the Royal Museums of Fine Arts (yes, there are several), which will follow your visit. Stop off to admire the Royal Palace and stroll through the adjacent Royal Park. There's a waffle van just a stone's throw from the park, so treat yourself to this warm, sugar-spiked treat while admiring the view over Brussels. Head back down towards the city centre towards rue Montagne. Here you'll find an absolutely sublime Art Nouveau building housing the Musical Instruments Museum. If you don't want to visit it, you can go for lunch in its restaurant, which offers a spectacular view of the city. Take a moment to admire the city from above. Then descend the Mont des Arts staircase.

The Royal Palace, Brussels, Belgium

- © TTstudio / Shutterstock

At the end of the day

For a change of atmosphere, head for the Sablon district, the chic arts district of the city centre. Don't miss the Annessens Tower on Boulevard de l'Empereur, a vestige of Brussels' 13th-century city walls. The area is peaceful and you'll have the chance to admire some magnificent architecture, with its mansions and gardens! Finish off the day at Place Poelaert, via the Marolles lift. Go up to the square, where you'll find the Palace of Justice (the largest in the world), an impressive building that has been imprisoned in an armoury of scaffolding since 1984! From here, you can admire the sunset from an absolutely magical vantage point over the city! For dinner, try a gourmet Belgian meal at the San Sablon restaurant on rue Joseph Steven in the Sablon district.

Palais de Justice, Brussels, Belgium

- © Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock
by Val HANCOCK
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