Walking Guide to Explore Central Brussels

The historic center of Brussels brings together most of the city’s tourist attractions. They are all close together, so the best way to explore these sights is on foot or on a walking tour. The historic center still has parts of the medieval layout and still offers a good insight into the history and past of Brussels.

This walking trip will guide you to the main attractions like the Manneken Pis and famous landmarks like the City Hall or the Grand Place and also help you discover secret corners in Brussels that are off the beaten track.

This guide is meant for both tourists and residents of the city who receive guests and want to show them around.

Table of Contents

1. Grand Place (starting point)

The visit to the center of Brussels should start at the Grand Place as early as possible in order to admire the beauty of this square before it gets crowded. You will realize that its reputation as being one of the most beautiful in the world is well deserved. When you you’ve had enough of admiring it and taking photos from all angles, head down Rue de la Colline to the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert .

2. Saint Hubert Royal Galleries

They are made up of three galleries: the Queen’s, the King’s and the Princes’ . They were the first in the world of their kind and have served as inspiration for many others such as those in Milan or St. Petersburg. If you come from the Grand Place you will access them through the Queen’s Gallery . Walk slowly and stop at the shop windows, especially those of the chocolate shops. They are impressive!

The galleries are separated by Rue des Bouchers , a typical cobbled street full of restaurants and places to eat. If you feel like eating something fast and quality, I recommend you make a stop at Pistolet Original, where they make delicious sandwiches on a typically Brussels round bread called pistolet. 

As soon as you enter the King’s Gallery you will find the Aksum café, where they serve exquisite coffee made with Ethiopian beans, and two beautiful tea and cake places – Dandoy and De Meert. While Dandoy has lovely cakes and tarts, its waffles are one of the best in Brussels.

Almost opposite the latter, in the Gallery of Princes, is the Tropismes bookstore, one of the most beautiful in the world.

Go back to the King’s Gallery and go through it to the end. On your way out, cross the street and enter La Mort Subite , a charming old beer bar where they serve a wide variety of beers and some tapas to go with them. As you exit the brewery, take the first street on the right onto Rue d’Assaut. Continue straight until you see the Cathedral of San Miguel and Santa Gúdula.

3. Cathedral of San Miguel and Santa Gúdula

The Brussels Cathedral is inspired by the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It is Gothic in style and has spectacular stained glass windows. It is worth visiting because it is beautiful.

When you leave, go to the Comic Museum on Boulevard de Berlaymont. It’s a five-minute walk at the end of which you’ll see a sculpture of the well-known comic book character Gaston Lagaffe. Going down the stairs of Rue des Sables you will find the museum on the right hand side.

4. Comic Museum

Brussels is known as the capital of comics, so a visit to this museum is more than justified. If at the end of the visit you want to eat something original and different, you can go to a nearby creative restaurant called Humphrey

If, on the other hand, you prefer to continue the route, when you leave the museum, go to see the beautiful Place des Martyrs.

5. Place des Martyrs

The Place des Martyrs, built in neoclassical style at the end of the 18th century, owes its name to the more than 400 martyrs of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 who are buried under its crypt.

Go around it and head down Rue Saint Michel towards Rue Neuve. This is the most popular shopping street in the city. If you turn left towards La Monnaie you will pass the Passage du Nord.

6. Passage du Nord

Passage du Nord is a commercial gallery from the end of the 19th century. It has just been restored and is worth exploring for its great beauty. There are twenty shops in it and its main attraction is it’s sculptures.

After the walk through the gallery, head to La Monnaie or Teatro Real de La Moneda. It is the opera house of Brussels and one of the largest in Europe.

Continue straight on Rue des Fripiers until you reach the Saint Nicholas church just behind the Stock Exchange building. Continue along Rue du Midi until you reach Rue du Lombard. Turning left you will immediately see many people heading to see the famous Manneken Pis located on the nearby Rue de l’Etuve.

7. Manneken Pis

This famous little bronze man, 65.5 cm tall, is one of the iconic symbols of Brussels. It is a small naked boy urinating into the bowl of the fountain and symbolizes the free spirit of the city’s inhabitants.

It is located on a busy street lined with souvenir shops, waffle shops and chocolatiers. One such shop is Elisabeth, specializing in handmade chocolates and sweets from all corners of Belgium. Continuing along Rue du Chêne towards Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés, you will immediately see the well-known Manneken Peace mural, next to the Museum of the Costumes of the Manneken Pis. If you continue a little further you will reach the Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés.

8. Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés

In this square is the statue of the legendary Jacques Brel  and the foundation that bears his name. Right there, and continuing with the sweet recommendations, is the Delacre biscuit shop,  the inventor of the famous Russian butter cigarettes.

Take Rue de L’Escalier towards Boulevard de l’Empereur to see the remains of the Porte de Annessens.

9. Tour Anneessens – Old Wall of Brussels

The Toor Anneessens was one of the gates of the first city wall. Its construction began at the beginning of the 13th century and lasted for several decades.

Continue straight until you come across the statue of King Albert I, at the bottom of what is known as Mont des Arts .

10. Mont des Arts

It is an area full of life with tables where people play chess, play music, chat animatedly or take photos under the walk of trees with trunks painted white.

Climb the stairs to the top of the city to get a nice panorama of the center of Brussels. 

The highest number of museums is concentrated in the upper area.

11. Museum of Musical Instruments

The first that will catch your attention due to the uniqueness of the building is the Museum of Musical Instruments.

If you are looking for a place to have a drink in the evening after dinner, next to this museum is La Pharmacie Anglaise, one of the best cocktail bars in Brussels.

12. Magritte Museum

If you continue towards Place Royale you will see the Magritte Museum. We advise you to get to know the work of the father of Belgian surrealism.

If you need to recharge your batteries after finishing your visit and you feel like going for a drink in a place with a modern atmosphere, you just have to cross the square and head towards Rue de Namur to the cozy Jat’ Café. It has amazing coffees.

13. Royal Palace

If you are visiting Brussels during the summer, you may have the opportunity to see the inside of the Royal Palace , which is open only two months a year.

Otherwise you can always admire its beautiful façade and if the weather is good, even take a short walk in the park opposite (Parc Royale).

14. BELvue Museum

If you are interested in knowing the history of Belgium in a playful and interactive way, the Musée BELvue, located next to the royal palace, is highly recommended. It’s a good place for children too.

After visiting this museum, return back to the Royal Square and walk straight ahead towards the last stop on this route – Place du Grand Sablon.

15. Place du Grand Sablon

Luxury chocolate shops and lively terraces await you in this elegant square. It is presided over by the Church of Our Lady of Victories. This place enjoys an excellent atmosphere at any time of the day and on weekends there is a book and antiques market.

With this, your tour of central Brussels will come to an end. We hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did.

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