11+ Things to Do in Brussels: Hidden Delights

Step into the whimsical world of Brussels' Art Nouveau - where every ornate detail tells a story. But, there's a secret…
Date Published
March 8, 2024

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Are you really gonna sit there and tell me you've experienced Brussels if you haven't dug into its chocolate with the zest of a waffle-crazed tourist or breathed the crisp air through the art-lined Ixelles Ponds? Nope, not buying it. This city isn't just a pit stop for a quick selfie with the Manneken Pis—it's a treasure trove of neoclassical architecture, the kind of place where you can stroll through living history and happen upon a street art masterpiece around the corner from some gothic spectacle. It's the cradle of Art Nouveau, with Horta's masterpieces practically begging you to come closer. And let's talk uniqueness—have you ever seen such diversity in chocolate, from the offbeat to the outrageously delicious, or beer so crafty it could knit a sweater? This isn't just Brussels. This is a vibe. An experience. Your next big story. So buckle up, buttercup. We're about to embark on a little rendezvous through the quirkiest, most serene, and outrageously sumptuous pockets of Brussels. Get ready—this is your ultimate cheat sheet to the city of endless charm.

Unearth Brussels' Art Nouveau Heritage

Imagine walking down a charming street, lined with whimsical buildings that seem to dance with elegant curves and intricate ironwork. That's right, you've just stepped into an outdoor museum of Neoclassical architecture in Brussels. This place is a treasure trove for those who appreciate the flowing lines and organic forms of Art Nouveau heritage.

As the sunlight hits the stained glass, casting colorful patterns on the pavements, your eyes are treated to a visual feast that only gets better with every step. Each building tells a unique story, a silent narration of history and creativity that flourished during the turn of the 20th century. It's not just a backdrop for your photos; it's a living, breathing testament to the artistic revolution that swept through Europe.

Spend a few hours here, because Brussels has some of the finest Art Nouveau buildings designed by famous architects like Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. It's not just a niche interest; it's a dazzling expression of a cultural era that even today stands unmatched.

And who is this a hit with? Whether you're an art enthusiast, a history buff, or just in love with pretty things, the intricate facades and elegant interiors will capture your heart. Even kids can't help but feel like they've walked into a fairy-tale world. This is where splendid design meets everyday life.

What's nearby? Well, after soaking in all that architectural glory, you'll find cozy cafés where you can mull over your experience over a cup of hot chocolate or a light Belgian waffle. Whether you're a solo traveler finding inspiration in the details or a family exploring the grandeur of the past, Brussels' Art Nouveau heritage is sure to enchant you. So, lace up your walking shoes and get ready to be amazed by the stories etched in stone and steel.

Indulge in Offbeat Belgian Chocolate Flavors

Imagine wandering through a chocolate paradise, where every turn uncovers a new, savory secret that's waiting to dance on your taste buds. That's what you get when you plunge into Belgian chocolate tasting. And let me tell you, these aren't your grandma's chocolate flavors; we're talking about a symphony of strange yet delightful combinations that'll make your heart sing a sweet cocoa tune.

Your first stop has to be a quaint little chocolatier tucked away in a cobblestoned alley. Here, you're not just munching on chocolate; you're embarking on a taste adventure. We're talking wasabi-infused dark chocolate, lavender truffles that bloom with flavor in your mouth, and raspberry basil domes that are like a summer garden party for your senses.

Each piece of chocolate isn't just a treat; it's a masterpiece. Crafted with the kind of skill that only comes from years of passionate chocolate making. Imagine biting into a piece of smokey bacon chocolate and experiencing that savory and sweet combo. Perfect for those who think they've tried it all.

Whether you're a die-hard chocolate aficionado or a curious newbie, a Belgian chocolate tasting journey is perfect for anyone who loves having their taste buds tantalized. Plan to take your time here – these bold flavors are meant to be savored, not rushed.

So, who's this chocolate wonderland for? Everyone! Whether you're flying solo, bringing your sweetheart for a romantic nibble, or showing your kiddos that chocolate can be a wild ride. Just be sure to save some room, because this is a tasting experience that begs you to try 'just one more piece'.

Round up your band of chocolate-loving friends or make it a sweet solo mission. And while you're indulging, don't forget to pick up some unique flavors to take home. Can you imagine the looks on your friends' faces when you break out a bar of chili pepper chocolate at your next gathering?

Remember, life's too short for boring chocolate. So dive into those offbeat Belgian flavors and taste the wild side of the cocoa bean!

Stroll through Ixelles Ponds and Flagey

Picture this: You're walking along serene water, the sun playfully bouncing off the surface, flanked by rows of art nouveau buildings reflecting in the gently rippling Ixelles Ponds. You can almost feel the cool breeze and hear the symphony of birds and the distant chatter of city life around Flagey.

The Ixelles Ponds are not just any old puddle; they're the heart of one of the swankiest neighborhoods in Brussels. And Flagey? It's the cultural hotspot that's been around since your great-grandma's radio days.

Here's what makes Ixelles Ponds and Flagey special:

  • Artistic Vibes: Cultured folks, listen up! There's a whole vibe here with Ixelles art that'll make you stroke that invisible goatee in approval. The neighborhood is an art and boutique hub where creativity runs as free as the waters in the pond.
  • Unique Boutiques: Scattered around are one-of-a-kind boutiques packed with treasures. From vintage clothing to quirky souvenirs, shopping here feels like an Easter egg hunt, but for cool stuff.
  • Nature in the City: The ponds offer nature lovers an idyllic escape without ever leaving the 'bustle bubble' of Brussels. Jog, stroll, or picnic – your call, outdoor enthusiasts!

Spend a good hour or two here because there’s no rush when you’re unwinding in style. Plan your visit in the morning when the waters are still glass-like or late afternoon when the sun sets and jazz tunes start pouring out from Flagey.

This experience is versatile, perfect for solo explorers who want quiet reflection, couples seeking romantic walks, or families ready to duck-watch.

So, imagine yourself leaning against a bench, with Ixelles' stylish scene to your right, and the historic Flagey building to your left, soaking in the ambiance that only Brussels can offer. If your heart is racing with excitement, congratulations, you've just mentally strolled through Ixelles Ponds and Flagey. Now, go experience it for real!

Discover the Marolles' Flea Market Treasures

Imagine the charm of a European flea market where hidden gems and local banter fill the air. That's Les Marolles flea market for you, right in the heart of Brussels at Place du Jeu de Balle. Nestled in the quirky Marolles neighborhood, this bustling market is where you'll rub shoulders with savvy collectors and curious tourists, all hunting for treasures from dawn till afternoon.

Every day, this iconic spot transforms into a treasure trove. Picture this: rows upon rows of stalls with antiques that tell a thousand stories; vintage clothing that's just waiting to be rediscovered; and odd, eclectic bits and pieces that you never knew you needed. Whether you're a seasoned collector or a casual browser, your eyes will be wide with wonder here.

It's a place that's perfect for families, couples, or even solo explorers eager to soak in the local atmosphere. Want insider tips on finding the best deals? Chat up the stall owners – they're as much a part of the market's fabric as the wares they sell. Duck in and out of the surrounding shops for a quick break or grab a waffle to fuel your adventure. You'll want to carve out a good part of your morning or early afternoon to roam through the market – and trust me, the time will fly as fast as your money!

Wear your comfiest shoes, because this isn't just shopping—it's a scavenger hunt in the open air, where every item has a story, and every purchase feels like a personal victory. And remember, the early bird gets the worm: the market starts early, so get there when the doors open, and you just might score the find of a lifetime.

So, are you ready to unearth the treasures of Les Marolles flea market? It's not just shopping, it's an experience that encapsulates the spirit of Brussels, where the past mingles with the present, and where each find is a piece of history ready to start its next chapter with you.

Savour Craft Beers at Cantillon Brewery

Are you ready to sip on some history? Cantillon Brewery is the spot for Belgian beer sampling! This family-run brewery in the heart of Brussels is like a living museum dedicated to traditional lambic, gueuze, and kriek beers. Yep, real Belgian craft beer magic happens here, and you're invited to watch and taste.

Grab a glass because Cantillon isn't your average beer stop. It's not just about the hops and the malt here; it's about tradition that's been frothing since 1900. Let's talk about what's unique here — the wild fermentation process. They let the Brussels air do its thing, adding wild yeast to the mix like some kind of boozy alchemy. Fascinating? Absolutely. Delicious? Even more so.

At Cantillon Brewery, you can explore the brewing process up close. Get a whiff of the malt, listen to the barrels creak, and let the taste of a well-aged gueuze roll over your tongue. And hold on, beer buffs, because these brews have character. Each sip is like a choose your own adventure story, where sour meets sweet meets whoa.

What about the crowd? Well, it's a hotspot for beer enthusiasts and the curious traveler alike. Whether you're a solo explorer on the quest for the perfect pint or a group of pals aiming to expand your beer horizons, Cantillon welcomes you with open arms and full glasses. And after you've partaken in the sacred act of Belgian beer tasting, take some time to meander through the nearby streets, where countless little shops and eateries await.

Oh, and don't rush off too fast. Spend an hour or two immersing yourself in the craft; after all, good things come to those who wait... especially when it's beer we're talking about. Trust us, with the unforgettable zing of each Cantillon brew, your taste buds will be yelling Thank you! long after the last drop.

For those ready to take their Belgian beer game to iconic levels, you can't miss Cantillon Brewery. Get ready to raise your glass to the brewmasters of yore and the fine art of beer. Cheers to Brussels, cheers to beer, and cheers to doing things the time-honored way!

Enjoy Serenity at Bois de la Cambre

Picture this: a lazy afternoon, the gentle rustle of leaves above, and the soothing calm of nature wrapped around you like a cozy blanket. That's Bois de la Cambre for you. It's a place where relaxation isn't just a word; it's the whole experience. Nestled at the edge of the Sonian Forest, this enchanting park is an oasis of tranquility right in the heart of Brussels.

Bois de la Cambre is perfect for everyone – whether you're a solo wanderer hoping to commune with your inner thoughts, a love-struck couple seeking a romantic backdrop, or a lively family looking for space to let the kiddos run wild. Got a furry friend? They'll love it here as much as you will!

Here's the scoop on making the best of your visit:

  • Time Investment: Reserve at least half a day to savor the scenery. Trust me, you won't want to leave!
  • Nearby Gems: After unwinding in nature, why not stroll over to the chic Avenue Louise for some window-shopping?
  • Crowd Pleaser: Ideal for those who delight in nature, Bois de la Cambre is a hit with all age groups.

And here's a fun tidbit: Bois de la Cambre often plays host to impromptu concerts and delightful markets. Imagine stumbling upon a jazz quartet as you meander down a sun-dappled path – it's like the park is putting on a show just for you!

So go ahead, plop down on the grass, stretch out, and let the sun kiss your face. Whether you're looking to meditate, picnic, or just take a breezy boat ride, Bois de la Cambre promises you that quiet moment you've been longing for. It's a hidden slice of paradise in bustling Brussels, and it's calling your name. Can you hear it? It's whispering, "Relax."

Experience Local Jazz in Saint-Gilles

Prepare your ears for some toe-tapping goodness because Saint-Gilles is the place where Brussels' jazz scene really sways into action. Nestled in a commune that's as eclectic as the music itself, you can disappear into a world of brass, bass, and bebop that lingers in the air.

What makes Saint-Gilles unique for jazz lovers? It's simple: intimacy and flair. The venues here are intimate, making you feel like part of the band. As for flair, let's just say if the tunes were colors, you'd be bathing in a kaleidoscope.

Brussels jazz venues in Saint-Gilles aren't just any old music spots. They're cozy, they're quaint, and they practically ooze musical history from their walls. It's a place where both aficionados and newbies to the jazz world can rub elbows, sip on a drink, and nod along to some of the smoothest sounds you can find in the city.

And what's cooler than chilling in a jazz bar? How about the fact that Saint-Gilles itself is a cocktail of cultures, offering you a slice of local life while you jazz the night away. While here, you're not just a visitor; you're part of the commune's vibrant tapestry.

So, who's this for? If you're the type that loves a good rhythm, a heartfelt solo or just a place with a soulful vibe, you'll fit right in. Singles, couples, music nerds, or even if you're just curious about the genre, Saint-Gilles' jazz scene is beckoning you.

Spend an evening nestled in one of the neighborhood's charming venues. Trust me, whether you're there for an hour or until the wee hours of the morning, it'll be time well spent. And it’s not just about the music; it's about experiencing a staple of Brussels' cultural heart. Saint-Gilles commune is a must-visit for that authentic beat that's guaranteed to jazz up your Brussels adventure.

Admire Lesser-Known Street Art Works

Imagine turning a corner and—bam!—you’re face-to-face with a giant mural, popping with color and bursting with life. That’s the surprise street art discovery awaiting you in Brussels, where every alley and lane can be a secret gallery showcasing some brilliant off-the-radar piece that’ll make you stop in your tracks.

Why is Brussels street art special? Simple: each work tells a story, a whisper of the city's quirky spirit and artistic soul. This isn't your everyday graffiti. We’re talking about masterpieces by artists like Bonom, famously elusive and wildly talented. His compelling, often enigmatic creatures seem to climb the walls of the city, each a hidden gem in plain sight.

You could literally spend a whole day getting lost in the concrete canvas that is Brussels. Whether you're solo, with your squad, or have the kiddos in tow, this city turns a simple stroll into an art adventure. Even the locals can't help pausing to snap a pic or share insider scoops on the newest pieces to pop up overnight.

What’s nearby, you ask? Just steps away from these urban canvases are cozy cafes serving up what must be sorcery disguised as coffee, because wow, it's good. Maybe it's the rich Belgian roast, or perhaps it's the street art magic spilling over. And the best part? You can wander for free, indulging in street art discovery without spending a dime—unless you opt for that second latte, which, let's be honest, you totally should.

So, lace up your most comfortable walking shoes and hit the streets. Allow yourself a few hours for this unguided tour because you'll want to take it all in. And don’t forget to check out that nifty street art map to find the big names and the hidden treasures. This is where Brussels’ heart beats brightest, and you're right there to feel the pulse. Welcome to the art lover's paradise, with an urban twist!

Get Curious at MIMA the Millennium Iconoclast Museum

Picture this, you're standing in the heart of the vibrant district of Molenbeek, maybe you're sipping on a warm Belgian coffee, or maybe you're just taking in the street vibes. But there's a building that catches your eye. It's not like the others. It’s MIMA the Millennium Iconoclast Museum, a space that breathes new life into contemporary art.

MIMA is all about the art that defines the 21st century. Imagine being surrounded by bold graffiti, digital creations, and pieces that merge art and technology. It speaks to the trailblazers, the trendsetters, and even the "I-don't-get-art-but-this-place-rocks" visitors.

  • Street Art and More: It's like they took everything cool about modern culture and stuffed it into an old brewery. So, if you're into street art, you've just hit the jackpot.
  • Feel the Pulse of Modern Creativity: MIMA isn’t your grandma’s museum! It’s a little edgy, super interactive, and there’s not a single velvet rope in sight.
  • Perfect for Everyone: Whether you’re flying solo or wrangling a bunch of art-curious kiddos, MIMA’s got your back. There's enough digital art and sculpture to make your head spin – in the best way!

You could easily kill a couple of hours here, and it's smack-dab in the middle of plenty of places to grab a bite, so you won't go hungry. Trust me, MIMA is the artsy backflip you didn't know you needed in your Brussels itinerary. And don't get me started on the snaps for your Insta story – this place will light up your followers' feeds faster than you can say 'iconoclast'.

So go ahead and get your contemporary culture fix at MIMA, and don't forget to click right here on MIMA for more insider info – 'cause cool kids come prepared. Ready, set, art!

De-stress with a Day at Spa Cinq Mondes

Picture this: you've been exploring Brussels, wowed by the grandeur of the Grand Place and the quirky charm of the Manneken Pis, and now, it's time to take a breather. Why not do it in style at Spa Cinq Mondes? Inject a little "ooh-la-la" into your getaway with a taste of wellness that's both unique and rejuvenating.

You walk into Spa Cinq Mondes, and instantly, the soothing ambiance wraps around you like a warm, scented hug. This place isn't just a spa; it's a wellness haven designed to enchant every one of your senses. Here, pampering is the name of the game, and trust me, you're going to want to play all day.

Now, you might be asking, "Is Spa Cinq Mondes the kind of place I can just stroll into?" Well, my friend, this oasis of calm is adored by both savvy locals and thrilled tourists, so it's always a good idea to book ahead. Don't worry, this is the type of planning you'll be thanking yourself for later.

And let me tell you, whether you're flying solo, coupled up, or with your little tribe, there's a slice of serenity with your name on it. You won’t find any wild adrenaline rush here, but rather the blissful zen of pure relaxation—the kind that seeps into your bones.

Expect to relish in treatments that draw inspiration from around the globe, with everything from soothing massages to revitalizing facials. Dedicate at least half a day here to truly unwind – because why rush when every moment feels like a gentle whisper telling you to relax?

Plus, with the vibrant city just outside, you're never too far from your next adventure. After all, isn't the best kind of sightseeing the one where you're refreshed and ready to take on the world?

So, what makes Spa Cinq Mondes a must-visit? Simply, its commitment to your wellness and its enchanting ability to transport you to a world of tranquility. So go on, treat yourself to a day of indulgence. Trust me, it's an experience your mind and body will thank you for!

Go Antique Shopping in Sablon

Imagine strolling through a charming district, where every corner whispers tales from the past. Now, open your eyes—welcome to Sablon! This neighborhood is your golden ticket to finding the treasures you've been dreaming of adding to your collection. Oh, and a little birdie told me that antique shopping at Sablon is not just a pastime, it's a delightful quest for history buffs and curious cats alike!

Picture this: you're meandering through the cobbled streets lined with elegant stores, each window an invitation to uncover a relic from bygone days. Here it's possible to find a 17th-century oak chest or a vintage Art Deco lamp that will definitely start a conversation in your living room. But even if buying isn't on the agenda, window shopping in Sablon is an experience in itself—just to marvel at the craftsmanship of yesteryear.

And let's talk about the vibe here—it's the perfect mix of sophistication and laid-back cool. Locals love it, tourists envy it, and you're smack dab in the middle of it all, soaking up the unique atmosphere. Whether you're a seasoned antique hunter or a newbie looking to dabble, Sablon charms you with its array of fine silver, dazzling jewelry, and rare books. You'll want to spend a few hours here, trust me.

Sablon caters to all crowds but is a particular delight for the artistic soul and those who appreciate Europe's rich history. Come with your family, your significant other, or embark on a solo adventure—it's great for anyone who enjoys a touch of elegance with their exploration.

So, what's nearby? Just a short walk from the Grand Place, you can easily combine your antique quest with some of Brussels' most iconic sights. Whether you come for the antiques or just the experience, a visit to Sablon is like taking a leisurely walk through a living museum. Don't forget to put your negotiation hat on—half the fun is in haggling for that perfect piece!

And hey, it's not all about the antiques. If you need a break, you're never far from a cozy café to sit, sip some coffee, and watch the Sablon world go by.

Relax in the Greenery of Josaphat Park

Picture this: you've got a gentle breeze stroking your face, the sun playing peek-a-boo through lush, towering trees, and the soft murmur of families enjoying a day out. That's Josaphat Park for you! And let's be real, who doesn't love a good picnic? This park isn't just a patch of grass; it's 20 hectares of picnicking paradise nestled right in the heart of Brussels.

Grab that checkered blanket, because whether you're flying solo or with your squad, Josaphat Park is picnic central. Got little ones in tow? They won't even think about complaining they're bored with playgrounds to conquer and ducks to befriend. Are you and your sweetheart nature nerds? Well, the variety of trees and plants will have you ooing and ahhing more than a fireworks show.

Ready to eat? Those picnic baskets won't unpack themselves! Dive into that homemade sandwich or that fancy quiche you picked up from the local market—it's all good. And while you're munching away, take in the sculptures and maybe even strike a pose next to one for that perfect Insta shot.

Oh, and don't forget to strut down those park pathways! They've got mystery and charm just like those old-world novels, with the added bonus of no page-turning required. Josaphat Park is not just a pretty face either; it’s a historic haven where every leaf seems to whisper stories of the past.

Bottom line, spend a couple of hours or make a day of it—Josaphat Park is flex-time at its best. It's a hit for families, couples, and even the introspective solo wanderers. The peace? Priceless. The vibe? Pure bliss. Just remember, once you sprawl out on that soft green carpet, you might never want to leave. So go ahead, let Josaphat Park work its zen magic on you!


Q: What are some things to do in Brussels for young adults?

A: Hit the lively bars at Place Saint-Gery, explore cutting-edge art at Wiels, or feel the vibe at a summer music festival.

Q: When visiting Brussels, Belgium for a day, what should I do?

A: Stroll the Grand Place, nibble chocolate in Sablon, and snap a selfie with the cheeky Manneken Pis statue.

Q: What activities are there for kids in Brussels?

A: Marvel at dinosaurs at the Natural Sciences Museum and have a blast at Mini-Europe theme park.

Q: What are some things to do in Brussels this weekend?

A: Check out local markets, like the antique market in the Marolles or indulge in a waffle food tour.

Q: What can I do in Brussels today?

A: Find a concert at Ancienne Belgique, visit a pop-up art event, or cruise the city on a sightseeing bus tour.

Q: Are there any free things to do in Brussels?

A: Yes, wander through the beautiful Parc de Bruxelles or visit the iconic Atomium at night for its sparkling lights.

Q: What is Brussels best known for?

A: Brussels is renowned for its historic Grand Place, world-class chocolate, and the iconic Atomium.

Q: Is 2 days enough for Brussels?

A: Two days is just right to explore highlights like the Royal Palace, comic book murals, and relish Belgian beer.

Q: Is Brussels a walkable city?

A: Absolutely, Brussels is pedestrian-friendly with its compact center and charming neighborhoods.

Q: Is it worth visiting Brussels for a day?

A: Definitely, even in one day, you can experience its unique charm, from art nouveau architecture to delectable cuisine.

Final Words

So, you just got a sneak peek into the crème de la crème of Brussels' delights. You unpeeled the vibrant Art Nouveau scene, took a whimsical walk through Ixelles, and sniffed around for treasures in Marolles' flea market. Belgian chocolate and craft beers? You got the inside scoop. A dash of serenity at Bois de la Cambre, a swirl of local jazz, and an artistic feast of street murals, your senses got quite the workout!

And let's not forget the quirky wonders of MIMA museum, the oh-so-relaxing Spa Cinq Mondes, the thrill of antique hunting in Sablon, and a green escape in Josaphat Park. Your Brussels adventure may end on paper, but it's just beginning in spirit. Ready to live these stories? Go ahead, dive into the many things to do in Brussels; the city awaits with open arms!

Meet the Author
Aria Ohlsson
Aria Ohlsson, the Instagram storyteller extraordinaire, takes you on adventures through her enchanting narratives. An avid hiker, she scales peaks and weaves tales of mountaintop triumphs. When she's not conquering trails, you'll find her immersed in classic novels, finding inspiration for her next tale.
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