5 must-see spots in Brussels

Brussels Street View
Brussels Street View

5 must-see spots in Brussels

by Anna Leigh Bagiackas
Stripes Europe

Home of the European Union and the capital city of Belgium, Brussels is an easy weekend trip for those of us located in the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC). But with a number of great Belgian cities within driving distance, many of us ask, “Bruges or Brussels?” and “Ghent or Antwerp?” While there are reasons to visit all of these cities, sometimes you’ve just got to jump in the car and go! That’s how we landed in Brussels. In between eating pots of mussels and sipping Belgian beers, these were the top sites we visited on a weekend trip to Brussels.

Atomium – Described as the Eiffel Tower of Brussels, the Atomium is sort of what it sounds like: an atom, but 165 billion times bigger. Built as part of the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, it became a fixture of the Brussels skyline and was renovated in the early 2000s to be accessible to tourists. This was one of my favorite experiences in Brussels—and I’d argue, a little bit more exciting than visiting the Eiffel Tower. You can take an elevator ride to the top of the structure, walking around the upper deck to see 360-degree views of the city. We visited on a particularly windy day and could feel a gentle sway as we explored the tip top, providing an extra memorable experience. You can then take elevators and stairs to the other modules, reading about the history of the Atomium, the World’s Fair and its renovation. We also experienced a light and sound exhibit, making us feel like we’d teleported to a movie set in outer space. There is a restaurant at the top of the Atomium, perfect for a cup of coffee or a full meal, if you make a reservation. You can purchase tickets ahead of time online or grab them the day of your visit.

Mini-Europe – If it’s warm outside and you’re visiting the Atomium, you might as well take a stroll through Mini-Europe, located right next to the giant atom. Paths take you through various “cities” and European landmarks, all made mini. From London’s Parliament building to the Eiffel Tower, it’s a great mini tour some of our favorite European cities. A restaurant is on site too if you’re feeling a little hungry or thirsty, after all that “travel.”

Grand-Place – This is the central square of Brussels, surrounded on four sides with beautifully preserved buildings. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the buildings surrounding the square include the City Hall, Brussels City Museum and the guild houses. With restaurants all around the square, it’s easy to find a place to enjoy a meal or drink either indoors or outdoors while taking in this central spot. Various events also take place in the square throughout the year, such as the flower carpet in mid-August, the Christmas tree and market, concerts and the Ommegang commemoration. Be sure to visit the square at night, as it is beautifully lit up, making it all the more majestic.

Illusion Brussels – With the growing popularity of experiential museums, it was no surprise that every time we walked by this museum, there was a long line out the door—and we quickly understood why. This museum was full of interactive “illusions,” especially perfect for taking pictures. We snapped fun photos hanging from the ceiling of a make-shift bedroom and climbing the walls of a kitchen, among other creative scenes. The staff was very helpful in taking group photos or advising us on where to get the best angles. Fun for all ages, this was well worth a visit! You can book reservation times in advance or risk waiting in line for an opening. Due to the space, only a certain number of people are moved through at a time.

Manneken Pis – One of the most iconic statues associated with Brussels and Belgium is Manneken Pis, or the peeing man. It is often decorated and adorned with different outfits depending on the season or current events. While not the most exciting stop on your trip to Brussels, this statue always had a crowd of people around it. (To visit the original statue, make your way to the Brussels City Museum on the Grand-Place.)

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