Belgium is not a sweet-looking city like Ghent or Bruges, on the contrary it is a cold-looking place. But its richness in terms of history and culture cannot be ignored. Since Brussels is at a central point in terms of transportation, there is a dense transportation network. It is very easy to reach the neighboring states or countries from the main train station in Brussels.
- Brussels Itinerary: Day 1
- Congress Column
- Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
- Brussels City Museum
- Manneken Pis Statue
- Belgian Courthouse
- Royal Square
- Mont des Arts
- Jeanneke Pis
You can see chocolate and lace shops in many parts of the city. The city is famous for these. Especially for chocolate, every street is lined with chocolate shops. If you are thinking of buying a gift from Brussels, it should definitely be chocolate.
Brussels Itinerary: Day 1
On the first day in Brussels, we visit the places on the map above. The museums where we can get information about the history of Brussels, the royal offices in Brussels until 3 centuries ago, the symbol sculptures of Brussels are the places to visit on our route.
The Congress Column, a monumental column, commemorates the creation of the constitution by the National Congress in the 1830s. The Congress Column, which is said to be inspired by Trajan’s Column in Rome, was built in the 1850s. At the top of the column is the statue of King Leopold I, the first ruler of Belgium. The column is 47 meters long in total.
There is also a staircase inside the column. On the pedestal are important dates in Belgium’s struggle for independence and the names of the members of the National Congress and the Provisional Government. Sitting statues in the corner of the column represent constitutional freedoms such as freedom of the press and freedom of education.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Church of St. Michael and St. Gudula, the national church of Belgium, is an imposing piece of architecture. Located on the Treurenberg hill in Brussels, the cathedral is the site of royal weddings, funerals and baptisms. A chapel to St. Michael, the patron saint of Brussels, is believed to have stood on the site of the current cathedral since the 8th century.
In the 11th century, Duke Lambert II of Brabant built a Roman church here and moved the relics of St. Gudula. We do not know who St. Gudula was. That’s why the cathedral is named after St. Michael and St. Gudula. The church later developed into the Gothic style it is today. The inside is not as magnificent as the outside like many churches. But you can see old ruins inside.
Brussels City Museum
Every city has a city museum that tells the story of the city. Brussels City Museum is a museum that tells the history of Brussels from the past to the present. Located in Grand Place, the most popular square of the city, the museum hosts many paintings, sculptures and models.
I recommend it if you are curious about the history of Brussels. The Brussels City Museum also sells Brussels Card to use the city’s museum facilities for free. We bought our city card here. After visiting the square, don’t forget to visit the Brussels Chocolate Museum located near the square.
Manneken Pis Statue
We are heading towards the most famous sculpture in Brussels. In the 17th century, the statesmen who wanted to renovate the Manneken Pis fountain asked the sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy for a new design and the 61 cm tall statue of the peeing boy was born. This statue, which became one of the world’s most recognizable sculptures and a famous symbol of Brussels, stood on the fountain from the 17th to the 20th century. Later, it was given to the Brussels City Museum for preservation after it was in danger of being stolen. Today, there is a replica of the statue of the Little Boy Peeing in the fountain. The statue has a wardrobe containing about 800 clothes. You can see the replica of the statue, which is dressed up on special occasions and events, in many parts of the city in many ways such as chocolates and souvenirs.
On the Boulevard de l’Empereur, on your way to Notre Dame Chapel, you can see the remains of one of the old entrance gates of Old Town. Old Town used to be surrounded by these walls and towers in a circle. We saw how it was in the Brussels City Museum. These wall remains are one of the remnants of that period.
After the remains of the wall, we see the Notre Dame Chapel and after examining its Gothic structure, we continue walking towards another historical building located 600 meters away. Brussels is not as flat as other popular cities like Ghent or Bruges.
Although the places to visit in Brussels are close to each other, it should be said that there will be bumpy walks. Brussels Courthouse is also on a slope and allows us to see the city from above. Since it is one of the biggest courthouses in the world, it is worth seeing.
As you walk from the Palace of Justice building to the Palace Royale, on your left is the 15th century The Church of Our Lady in Sablon Square. Next to the church is Petit Sablon Square, a park with benches for resting and natural air conditioning to cool off in hot weather.
In this small park, there are dozens of professional sculptures ranging from laborers to plumbers. In the center of the park are the statues of Counts Egmont and Horn, who awakened the Netherlands against the tyranny of King Philip II of Spain.
Now we are on our way to the Royal Square in Brussels, where the kings live. There are several museums to visit in this square, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the archaeological site Coudenberg, where the ruins of the former palace are located, and the Museum of Musical Instruments. We have reviewed each of them individually in a new post.
Mont des Arts
After strolling around the Royal Square, we head towards the Mont des Arts nearby. The area where the park is located used to be a crowded neighborhood. Towards the end of the 19th century, King Leopold II had the idea to turn the hill into an artistic place. The houses in the area were completely demolished and cleaned. However, the king could not afford to fill the resulting void.
In 1910, during the World Exhibition, he had a temporary garden designed to make the area look better. The temporary garden turns out to be very beautiful and he wants the park to remain like this. The park, along with its surroundings, was landscaped and surrounded by geometric structures and became what it is today. It is very nice with its location overlooking Brussels from above.
There are several sculptures in Brussels that are a must-visit. One of them was a statue of a boy peeing called Manneken Pis. They also made a daughter of this statue. Jeanneke Pis was built in 1985 as a contrast to Manneken Pis. This girl, who defecates by squatting, is protected in an iron cage so that she cannot be harmed. (50.84848, 4.35404)
The third statue in the group of statues is a dog. Yes, the statue known as Zinneke Pis, but the correct name is Het Zinneke, is doing the same action. You can see the dog defecating at the foot of a pole in the middle of the street. (50.8488, 4.34568)
Today we visited the places that can be visited on foot without going too far out of the Old Town area of Brussels. Brussels is not on a flat ground like Ghent or Bruges, but it can be tiring because it has a bumpy soil structure.
Brussels Itinerary: Day 2
Brussels is the capital of Europe and the European Union, as the EU houses the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. NATO, also known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is headquartered in Brussels, as Brussels was the pioneer in the establishment of NATO. Brussels is politically important in Europe. Let’s continue our touristic tour.
On the 1st day of our Brussels trip, we visited the Old Town. On the 2nd day, we will go outside the Old Town and we will need to use public transportation from time to time. We will start our journey in Cinquantenaire Park and we will visit the museum of natural sciences famous for its dinosaur fossils. Afterwards, we will visit a few historical sites and end the day.
The first thing we do as soon as we wake up in the morning is to reach Cinquantenaire Park. We arrive at the park around 10:00 am, the opening time of the museums. This is not a park but a collection of royal museums. The Military and Navy Museum, the Automobile Museum and the museum of culture, art and history are open to visitors in the buildings in this park.
You can get detailed information on our page where we cover all the buildings in Cinquantenaire Park separately. After visiting all the museums in the park, we turn our route to the museum of natural sciences.
Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences
From Cinquantenaire Park, it takes about 20 minutes to walk to the Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences, 1.5km away. If you want to go by tram, you can take line 80 from the back of the Autoworld building and arrive in 6 minutes.
The Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences is one of the best and most diverse museums I have ever seen. Especially the dinosaur halls where dinosaur fossils from the nearby area are exhibited are worth seeing. Here you can closely see the fossils and bones of many extinct creatures that lived in the past. It is a museum that really opens your consciousness and appetite, a must-see museum.
Next to the Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences, a few minutes walk away, is the European Parliament. There is also a part of the Parliament for visitors. Parliamentarium is like a museum where visitors can enter for free and get information. They give you a small multimedia device and you can use it interactively in the museum. You can get information about the members of the European Parliament, learn about the working logic of the parliament, and see 3 different parliament buildings in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. In addition to these, there are digital presentations about what is what in the parliament on 360-degree screens. You can visit every day of the week except Monday morning.
From the Luxembourg stop at Luxembourg Square in front of the Parliamentarium, we take line 22 and get off at the Porte de Hal stop after a 20-minute ride. Halle Gate, the gateway of the old fortifications, used to control the passage of people, but today it is part of the royal museums. There are several exhibitions of armored suits inside. You can go to the top of the tower and have a panoramic view of the surrounding area. I think it’s a must, and if you have a Brussels Card, don’t even think about it.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart
To get to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, one of the largest basilicas in Europe, from Halle Gate, we need to take bus number 6 from Porte de Hal and get off at Simonis stop. Simonis stop is the beginning of a park. We walk through the park for a few minutes towards the basilica. Since it is a long and flat park, we can see the basilica from the beginning of the park. The inside of the basilica is a large version of a normal religious building. Of course you have to see the basilica, but what makes it even sweeter is the possibility to go to the top. For a small fee we can go to the top and enjoy the view of the surrounding area, which is quite pleasant.
We return to Simonis stop where we got off for the Basilica and take the bus number 6 again. After about 6 stops we arrive at Heysel stop. This is the closest stop to Atomium, it is also a metro stop.
Although the Atomium was a temporary structure built for Expo’56, it was admired for its unusual structure and allowed to stay. Atomium is the symbol of Brussels with its atom-like structure. You can go inside and go all the way to the top.
You can visit the spheres, each with different concepts. The ambience of the escalators running between the spheres is also very nice. The light plays in the tubes where the stairs are located make us feel like we are in a fantastic movie. We spend at most one hour and go to the Mini Europe exhibition right next to the Atomium.
Mini Europe is a wonderful exhibition of 1:25 miniaturized and elaborate models of important buildings in the cities of the European Union. From Malta to Italy, from Spain to Prague, from the Netherlands to Greece, you can see miniature versions of dozens of monuments.
Chinese House and Japanese Tower in Brussels
Among the dozens of buildings that King Leopold II has added to Brussels, there are a few buildings from the Far East. The exterior panels of the Chinese house built on the edge of the Royal Grounds in Laeken were made in Shanghai, as were the wooden cladding. 100 meters south-east of the Chinese house is a building in Japanese architecture. Called the Japanese Tower, it was inspired by a structure at the Paris Exposition of 1900.
According to the king, the main purpose of these buildings was to build a luxury Chinese restaurant to host Chinese elders. He even had the building behind the Chinese restaurant built as a garage. When the idea of a restaurant didn’t materialize, it just stayed like that.
Afterwards, it was used as the Japanese Art Museum for a while. The Far East Museum has been closed since 2013 due to structural problems, but it is still open for outdoor visits. That’s why we chose this place as the last place to visit. It is about 1.5km from the Atomium. If you want to see it, you have to walk a bit through a nice park.
The city is not a small city and one day is too little for Brussels. In two days you can see almost all the places to visit in Brussels. Especially in July and August, closing times in some places are moved forward by one hour, so you get an extra hour of time.