Things to see in Brussels

Tourist information

VisitBrussels
Rue Royale 2, Grand-Place
Tel: 02 513 8940.
http://visitbrussels.be
Opening hours: Daily 1000-1800.

There are also tourist offices at City Hall, Grand-Place and at Bruxelles-Midi train station.

Passes

The Brussels Card (www.brusselscard.be) gives free entry to over 30 museums and unlimited travel by STIB public transport for 24, 48 or 72 hours. It also offers reduced prices in selected shops, restaurants and bars. This Brussels pass is sold at BOOTIK agencies, tourist information offices, hotels and museums.

Atomium

Léopold II bequeathed the 202-hectare (500-acre) estate of Heysel to the city of Brussels in 1909. The large exhibition spaces are located here, to the northwest of the centre. Its most famous landmark, however, is the Atomium - a giant model of an oxygen molecule, built for the 1958 World Fair as a temporary structure, although never fully dismantled. It reopened in February 2006 following extensive renovation, including replacement of its metal 'skin'. The highest sphere gives a panoramic view of the entire region; the base sphere has an exhibition on Expo 58 and the centre also hosts temporary exhibitions.

Opening Times: Daily 1000-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Square de l'Atomium, Boulevard du Centenaire, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 475 4775.
Grand-Place

A web of narrow cobbled streets suddenly opens out into the vast Grand-Place - economic and social heart of Brussels since the Middle Ages. The array of filigree gothic buildings is dominated by the asymmetrical Hôtel de Ville, built in the 15th century. Its 96m (315ft) spire is topped with a gilded copper statue of St Michael. Opposite the Town Hall and almost as grand is the Maison du Roi, commissioned in 1515 and faithfully rebuilt in the 1890s. Sometime pied-à-terre of the Hapsburg monarchy, the building now hosts the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles whose small collection includes tapestries and altarpieces, as well as the costumes worn by the Manneken-Pis. A series of lavish guild houses complete the rectangle of the square - number 10 still houses the guild of brewers, Maison de l'Arbre d'Or. Events, displays and markets are often held in the Grand-Place.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Grand-Place, Brussels, Belgium
Manneken-Pis (Statue of the Pissing Boy)

The Rue de l'Etuve leads from the grandeur of Grand-Place to this allegory of irreverence and symbol of Bruxellois self-mockery - a bronze statuette of a urinating boy. If it were not for the occupation of the young child, the sculpture might resemble an angelic putto, such as the ones decorating the facade of the nearby Bourse (Stock Exchange), said to have been sculpted by Rodin. Jérôme Duquesnoy cast Manneken-Pis in the 1660s, perhaps as a reference to the peasant lads of legend, who extinguished fires with their urine. Manneken-Pis is regularly kitted out in a choice of some 800 outfits supplied by companies, charities and other organisations.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Rue de l'Etuve , Brussels, Belgium
Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat (Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate)

This delightful little museum located in a magnificent 17th century house on a corner of the Grand-Place pays homage to one of Belgium's most famous products. It traces the history of chocolate from the time of the old Maya Empire, and explains the production processes involved in making the modern sweet delicacy, including audio-visual presentations and demonstrations by masters of the chocolatier's art.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 1000-1630 (open Mon during Belgium holidays).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Rue de la Tête d'Or 9-11, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 514 2048.
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Belgian Royal Museums of Fine Art) and the Musée Magritte (Magritte Museum)

The most important of Belgium's museum complexes is located close to Place Royal. It boasts three rich museums, their collections ranging from the 14th century to the modern day. The Musée d'Art Ancien (Museum of Ancient Art), housed in the former court of Charles de Lorraine, excels in its Old Masters, with works by Rubens, Bouts and Memling. Collections of Brueghel the Elder and Younger and Hieronymus Bosch are small, as Belgium's foreign masters took most of these treasures away with them. A passageway leads to the underground Musée d'Art Moderne (Museum of Modern Art), with its splendid collection of Belgian Surrealist art including haunting works by René Magritte and Paul Delvaux. Picasso, Chagall, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon are represented too. The new Musée Magritte, occupies three floors and presents a chronological examination of Magritte's art and its context.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 1000-1700 (late opening at the Musée Magritte until 2000 on Wed).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Place Royale 1-2, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 508 3211.
Place du Grand-Sablon

Although the smartest square in town, the Place du Grand-Sablon remains laid back. Notre-Dame du Sablon dominates the square. It began as a humble chapel for the guild of archers, but the arrival of a statue of Mary (with reputed magical healing properties) from Antwerp, in 1348, dramatically increased its popularity. The building was expanded into an impressive gothic church, which still hosts the annual Ommegang procession. The area is a major centre for antiques dealers and hosts a busy antiques and books market at the weekend. It is worth wandering around the Sablon district. Intriguing cul-de-sacs lead off from the square to shady spaces - such as the charming Impasse Saint-Jacques. The nearby Place du Petit-Sablon is a small, green square, surrounded by 48 bronze statuettes representing the 16th-century guilds, with larger statues at its heart, including the martyr-heroes, Egmont and Hornes, and Mercator, the cartographer.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Place du Grand-Sablon, Brussels, Belgium
Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée (Belgian Comics Strip Centre)

The history of the Belgian comic strip, including its links with silent movies and animation, is displayed throughout the airy and uplifting Grand Magasin Waucquez, designed by Victor Horta. Original drawings by early masters, such as André Franquin (who created accident-prone Gaston Lagaffe), and Georges Remi (Hergé) (who breathed life into Tintin) are complemented by modern-day cartoons, temporary exhibitions, an exhaustive academic library, children's library and a brasserie.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 1000-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Rue des Sables 20, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 219 1980.
Musée BELvue (BELvue Museum)

This upbeat museum is dedicated to the major periods of Belgium's history since Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1830. The permanent collection is themed around the reigns of each of the country's monarchs. The building itself is located at the scene of the 1830 Belgian Revolution which led to the establishment of an independent state.

Opening Times: Tues-Fri 1000-1700, Sat-Sun 1000-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Hôtel Bellevue, Place des Palais 7, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 070 220 492.
Musée Horta (Horta Museum)

Architect Victor Horta (1885-1946) worked to produce some 110 buildings, first in neo-gothic style, famously in art nouveau and latterly in sparse modernist style. Many (such as the Hôtel Solvay, Avenue Louise 224, and Hôtel Van Eetvelde at Avenue Palmerston 4) are still standing. However, the Musée Horta (the architect's former home and studio) is beautifully preserved and open to the general public. Attention to detail sweeps through the building, from the vertical letterbox and finely scripted number 25 on the facade to the sculpted staircase and dining room floor, where a marble mosaic encircles the finest American ash. A theatrical arrangement of secret front doors allowed the architect to welcome guests from different social and religious backgrounds without their being aware of each other's presence.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 1400-1730.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Rue Américaine 25, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 543 0490.
Mini-Europe

Located near the Atonium, Mini-Europe shrinks Europe to a size that can be covered in a short walk, with faithful miniatures of the Eiffel Tower, Westminster and the Berlin Wall in the process of being dismantled. Among the most recent additions are Prague, Bratislava and Vilnius.

Opening Times: Daily 0930-1800 (late Mar-Jun and Sep); Sun-Fri 0930-2000, Sat 0930-midnight (Jul-Aug); daily 1000-1800 (Oct-early Jan).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Bruparck, Boulevard du Centenaire, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 478 0550.
Musée du Cinquantenaire

Everything conceived by Léopold II was on a grandiose scale and the Parc du Cinquantenaire, built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence, is no exception. The Musée de l'Armée, situated in the north wing, has an interesting display of vintage aircraft and free entrance. However, the Musée du Cinquantenaire is the major draw card of the area. Boasting collections from five continents, ranging from prehistory to the present, it includes art nouveau furniture designed by Victor Horta and fine examples of centuries-old lace. Comic strip fans might find some pieces familiar - the large Egyptian collection was the source of inspiration for Belgium's artists, including Hergé.

Opening Times: Tues-Fri 0930-1700, Sat-Sun 1000-1700.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Parc du Cinquantenaire 10, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 741 7211.
Muséum des Sciences Naturelles (Natural Sciences Museum)

Close to the European Parliament and containing what is claimed to be one of the finest dinosaur collections in the world ('starring' the iguanadons of Bernissart), this fascinating museum additionally features a special presentation on the Arctic and Antarctic regions. There is an extensive permanent marine mammals exhibition. All forms of wildlife, extinct and extant, plus mineralogy, are represented here.

Opening Times: Tues-Fri 0930-1700, Sat-Sun 1000-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Rue Vautier 29, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 627 4238.
Parc de Bruxelles and Palais Royal (Royal Palace)

Some of Brussels's most opulent buildings and top attractions are clustered around the centrally located Parc de Bruxelles, a formal 1870s park with poker-straight tree-lined avenues and a central fountain. The southeast edge is graced by the Palais des Académies, a former residence of the Prince of Orange and Place du Trône, an impressive statue of Léopold II astride a horse. Opposite the Parc de Bruxelles lies the Palais Royal, begun by King William I in the 19th century and later expanded by Léopold II. The royal family now resides in Laeken, in northern Brussels. However, the palace is still used as royal office and for state functions. Each summer, the palace, with its Throne Room, chandeliers, tapestries and gracious dining room, opens to the public.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 1030-1630 (Jul-Aug); times can vary due to official events.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Rue Bréderode 16, Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 02 551 2020 or 513 8940n (information line).
Edited by Tina Banerjee
Did you find what you were looking for?
Newsletter