This is what I’ve seen and done and – note to myself – what I still wanna do (with you?). Living in Bruxelles/Brussels (or more precisely in Elsene/Ixelles) since August 2014, I love to discover constantly new sides of my hometown every weekend or evening as far as my job in the European Parliament allows for.
Recommendations from own experience
- Grande Place: The center of the center, Brussels cozy living room where local youngsters and tourists hang out, listen to music (sometimes offering a colourful light show around 22h or 23h).
- Museum of Brussels’ history: On Grande Place, opposite the landmark town hall, in a building rivaling its grandezza, you find the history of town on several levels. Your own mobile phone or a device guides you with good explanations through the beautiful collection. Most impressive is the foldable altar decoration in the ground floor. The collection of dresses for Manneken Pis should be moved by now to a new home.
- La Bourse: Celebrations, demonstrations or just an evening with friends – it all starts here. Since Boulevard Anspach, passing in front of la Bourse, became a pedastrian area, now it is even more a living room for Brussels’ citizens. My most favourite place for a drink or snacks is Le Cirio where ladies as old as the pre-war decorations meet youngsters groups before partying or after cinema.
- Musée des Beaux Arts: See classical paintings, even for free in the monumental entrace hall. There you see a version of the Belgian revolution that wants to look like the French ideal but cannot fully hide that the Belgian uprising started in an opera and stoped right when it threatened to become are bloody story.
- BELvue Museum: Well designed collection about the history of Belgium, completely explained in the 3 languages of Belgium (NL, FR and DE) as well as English. I love the complete picture it offers of migration first of poor Belgians escaping to France, the US and Canada and then of poor Africans and Asians seeking a better life the other way around. Do not miss the development of voting rights from the foundation until today and the children section where you can rearrange Brussels buildings and sit on them.
- Musée Magritte: (surrealist fun)
- Palais de Justice (Justice Palace): The massive building towering over the town carrys a golden dome and crown. It is so impressive that Hitler asked for the construction plans to copy it into the Germania he wanted to make of Berlin. Do not miss the entrance hall which you can enter any time of the day including the larger than life statues, massive staircases and balconies where some youngsters might party in the night.
- House of European History (museum in parc Leopold behind the European Parliament): Opened only in mid 2017 you can discover the common European history with an iPad in any of the 24 EU languages Mon to Sun for free. https://historia-europa.ep.eu/en/general-information
- Parlamentarium: Musem explaining the European Parliament and EU integration history. Open 7 days a week and free of charge. A personal iPad will guide you in any of the EU’s 24 languages. It’s in a wing of the Parliament’s building. You can watch Eurocrats in their natural habitat in the cafés around Place Luxembourg just next to it.
- European Parliament Plenary: Individual visitors can discover the European Parliament with the help of a multilingual media guide. The visit takes 30 minutes and no advance booking is required. Mon-Thu 9h, 10h, 11h, 14h, 15h, 16h, Fri 9h, 10h, 11h, Sat and Sun closed. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/visiting/resource/static/files/european_parliament_visitors_guide_en.pdf
- Les Marolles: Perhaps Brussel’s most charming quarter, just below the Justice Palace, full of small streets and squares (including Place du Jeux de Balles, with flea market on Saturday and Sunday until 12h). You find plenty of cafés, cheaper restaurants, art galleries and more and more hipster shops.
- Lobby Tour in the EU quarter: So far only in German/DE, Perspectives Daily published a short tour in the EU quarter along several lobby offices how EU policy making is influenced: https://perspective-daily.de/article/465/l0KVC8Rq
- Horta House: incl. walk to other Horta-buildings around
- Parvis de Saint-Gilles: Square close to metro Porte de Hal/Hallepoort bursting of cafés and restaurants. Maison du Peuple is a good address for concerts and events as much as for breakfast on the weekend.
- WIELS: The museum of modern art reinvents itself regularly with completely new exhibitions. The building is an impressive example of industrial architecture turned into something new. Do not miss the view from the roof top terrace, the beautiful entrance hall displaying the old brewery maschines next to a good café.
- Musée d’Ixelles/Musee van Elsene:
- Place Saint Catherine: Epicentre of Flemish and bourgeois Brussels, just next to the canal where you would cross into infamous Molenbeek.
- Musée de l’industrie et de travail: A bunch of Communists and idealists runs this lovely museum of industrial history. It is at home in Molenbeek, the quarter known known for inhabitants with Maroccan background. Do not miss the old school typewriter that could do the calculations of a bill while you typed it and the collection of toys and coockie boxes with the Belgian royal family.
- MIMA: Brussels newest museum displays contemporary art in a small permanent collection and one or few changing exhibitions. Avoid the museum café for too often times bad quality of food and check instead the plenty of great cafés at the start of Rue Antoine Dansaert that connects MIMA and Molenbeek straight to La Bourse.
- Pencil graffiti: https://www.brusselslife.be/en/article/pencil-graffiti-in-brussels
- Atomium (no need to go inside, but 5€ only for students)
- Mini Europe parc (next to Atomium, 14.50€)
- Art Nouveau houses around Ambiorix
- Art Nouveau houses around place Boniface
- Art galleries: https://neca.brussels
- museums opening late on Thursdays (“Nocturnes”, sometimes for free): https://www.brusselsmuseumsnocturnes.be/ or https://twitter.com/BrusselsMuseums
- open door days at La Cambre art university
- Critical Mass cycling manifestation (last Fri each month 18h at Porte de Namur) https://www.facebook.com/criticalmassbrussels/
- partying in squatted house (rue Ulens 82)
- La Cambre forest
- Carte de Visite art exhibition (yearly early February)
- Hotel Solvay: Architectural master piece of Victor Horta in Avenue Louise 224, saidly accessible to the public only with long term planned guided tours.
Daytrips around Brussels
- Seeing the blue bells in Hallerbos (during April or May)
- Antwerp: Second biggest city of Belgium, centre of dutch-speaking Flanders.
- Gent: Student city with beautiful old city centre. Similar to Brugge but more lively.
- Brugge: Beautiful old city centre with many canals reminding of Venice. The city is such a typical tourist destination that it lacks a bit normal live.
- Oostende and beach
- Blankenberge and beach
- Namur: The Capital of French-speaking Wallonia has a beautiful old city centre crowed by a castle on a hill surrounded by a long curve of river Meuse.
- Liege/Luik/Lüttich incl the amazing train station and the expo En Lutte about the history of social fights that made our lives better
To be discovered
- House of Nature in Molenbeek, Chaussée de Ninove 997: https://www.thebulletin.be/molenbeeks-last-farmhouse-reborn-house-nature
- rowing boat on the lake in La Cambre forest
- Parlor Coffee, Chaussée de Charleroi 203, recommended by Way to Coffee blog
- Wiertz museum (near EP), Rue Vautier / Vautierstraat 62, Tue-Fri 10-12h, 12h45-17h
- National Library: to search for the artists living in my house
- daytrip Mons/Bergen for contemporary art museum (European capital of culture 2015)
- daytrip Zwarte Kiesel beach
- daytrip Leuven
- daytrip Charleroi for photography museum
Collections of others
- most original bars of Brussels: http://www.elle.be/fr/60474-les-10-bars-les-originaux-bruxelles.html