With its cobbled streets, grandiose architecture and picturesque squares, it’s easy to see why Brussels has played the part of muse for many esteemed artists. But far from being just a visual beauty, Brussels is a thriving arts hub in itself. Dubbed ‘the new Berlin’ by critics, the city’s historical and political context has given birth to a fascinating contemporary creative scene, which visitors can see throughout the Belgian capital. With so much to experience in this exciting multicultural city, we’ve selected our top things to do in Brussels, from exploring the medieval Grand Place to shopping for local designers, and discovering the works of Belgium’s greatest artists.
People watching at Grand Place
The magnificent Grand Place is a must-see both at day and night. Located just a few steps from Hotel Amigo, the square is a hive of activity, with cafés and bars providing plenty of opportunities to sit and watch the world go by with a cold Belgian beer in hand. Taking pride of place in the square is the Town Hall, a beautiful Gothic building with a spired bell tower that adventurous visitors can climb.
Discover Magritte’s art in the heart of the city
René Magritte was one of Belgium’s most revered artists, famed for his thought-provoking surrealist paintings. Many such artworks can been seen in the multi-disciplinary collections on display at the Magritte Museum in the historic Place Royale.
Shopping on rue Antoine Dansaert
Rue Antoine Dansaert is one of the most creative streets in Brussels. If you’re interested in local designs, its independent boutiques and avant-garde ateliers are the best places to start. Browse the rails of local designers such as Annemie Verbeke or visit multi-brand space Stijl to discover a plethora of up-and-coming labels.
Sample some Belgian chocolate
Belgian chocolate is the best in the world, and where better to sample the different flavours and cacao varieties than in the capital? One of the city’s top chocolatiers, Pierre Marcolini, allows customers to pick and choose their favourites to put together a customised box. Another famous chocolatier, Mary also offers chocolate-making courses teaching the craft behind its signature treats, including its famous pralines with their temptingly sweet flavoured fillings.
Enter the Atomium
Built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, the Atomium remains one of the city’s most recognised modern landmarks. The giant structure, which represents a chemistry set of iron atoms, encloses a museum and a restaurant with unparalleled panoramic views over the capital.
Explore art at BOZAR Museum
Immerse yourself in the artistic heart of Brussels at BOZAR – Centre for Fine Arts. The museum, founded by Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta, is an arts centre with a range of concert halls and exhibition spaces showcasing talents from across the world.
Visit the Comics Art Museum
Over the years, Belgian cartoonists have created a range of world-famous characters and comics, such as Tintin and The Smurfs. Venture into the comic world of their creations at the Comics Art Museum, where numerous permanent and temporary exhibitions await avid fans.
Discover the Sablon district
The neighbourhood of Sablon is renowned for its antiques. Home to The Sablon Antiques Market, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday, this is a great place to shop for original keepsakes. Visitors to the area can also discover a variety of art galleries and traditional Belgian chocolate shops.
Experience Belgian opera
Bring a magical Brussels evening to a grand finale at Le Théâtre de la Monnaie, Belgium’s leading opera house. Founded in 1818 and restored in the ’80s, the theatre is one of the most beautiful in Europe and its balletic and operatic productions are acclaimed across the globe.
As striking historical building just around the corner from Grand Place, Hotel Amigo is an attraction in itself. Relax over a sumptuous dinner of Italian cuisine at Ristorante Bocconi after working your way through our list of top things to do in Brussels.
Image credits: cover image © vichie81/iStock. Belgian chocolates © 77Studio/iStock. Comics Art Museum © Daniel Fouss. Le Théâtre de la Monnaie © Johan Jacobs.