A Walking Tour of Brussels: The Highlights in One Afternoon

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Wise travelers know it’s not all about the destination. The journey is just as important. Halfway between Paris and Amsterdam lies Brussels, Belgium, an often overlooked little city perfect for an afternoon stroll. If you ever find yourself passing through, be sure to stop and take a walking tour of Brussels.

I’m not going to lie. Brussels was not my favorite city. It doesn’t have the charm of Paris nor the beauty of Amsterdam. I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to visit again.

After our weekend in Paris, we had to take the train back to Amsterdam for our long flight home. As it happened, it was more affordable to buy train tickets with a layover in Brussels, Belgium. Since we were there anyway, we decided to take a few hours to explore the city with our own little self-guided walking tour of Brussels.

Luckily for us, most of the highlights can be seen on an easy walking tour of Brussels. Even though I was walking with an injured leg, we were able to see everything in about 2 hours.

So if you find yourself with a free afternoon in the Belgian capital, take this short walking tour of Brussels.

 

A Walking Tour of Brussels: Manneken Pis in Brussels, Belgium

Manneken Pis

Starting from the train station, make your way up Avenue de Stalingrad. At the traffic circle, continue straight up the Rue du Midi until you see all the tourists turning off to visit Manneken Pis.

The fountain of a peeing boy is actually rather small. Many consider it the most disappointing must-see attraction in Europe. I’d have to disagree. The Eiffel Tower light show is way worse than this.

Though not exactly a life-changing experience, the Mannekin Pis sits perfectly along the route of your walking tour of Brussels. And for equality’s sake, there is also a statue of a peeing girl, Jeanneke-Pis, in Brussels as well.

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A Walking Tour of Brussels - Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium

Grand-Place

For your walking tour of Brussels, I advise having a map of the city downloaded on your phone. I attempted to go off a paper map with mixed results. After leaving the Mannekin Pis, I got lucky and randomly decided to head north on Rue de l’Etuve instead of going back to the main road.

Fortune smiled on me because that was the perfect way to go. The street is lined on both sides by waffle shops, chocolate shops and souvenir shops. We arbitrarily chose a small waffle shop, and I now understand why Belgium is known for its waffles.

Because I had no idea where I was going, I was completely surprised when I stumbled into Grand-Place. The central square of Brussels, Grand Place is surrounded by beautiful buildings. I had been feeling a bit iffy about my walking tour of Brussels until then. Suddenly, I got a full view of the glamour of the city.

In the center of the square, individuals offer you a free walking tour of Brussels. Since I was on my own little walking tour of Brussels, I didn’t really investigate. But if you are looking for a knowledgeable guide that could be the way to go. Though the walking tour of Brussels is free, I assume the guides expect you to leave a generous tip.

Related: The Best Things to Do in Amsterdam in Spring

 

Walking Tour of Brussels: Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula in Brussels, Belgium

Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula

One street past the Grand-Place is the entrance to the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert. A shopping mall full of more waffle and chocolate shops as well as some decor and vintage shops, the shops aren’t really anything special. However, the beautiful high ceiling over the pedestrian street is lovely. Besides, the shopping mall makes the perfect shortcut to the next destination on your walking tour of Brussels.

Once you come to the opposite end of the shopping mall, turn right and continue to the next intersection. From here you will see the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula, named after the patron saints of Brussels. With beautiful stained glass windows and arched ceilings, this cathedral is absolutely worth a stop on your walking tour of Brussels.

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A Walking Tour of Brussels: The Royal Palace

Parc de Bruxelles and Royal Palace

To continue the walking tour of Brussels, from the side of Cathedral just make a few turns and you’ll arrive at one end of Brussels Park. Sandwiched between the Palace of the Nation, the home of the Belgian Parliament, and the Royal Palace, the park is a great place to sit and rest for a minute. I was actually surprised that I didn’t see more people enjoying the park.

Take a stroll from the Palace of the Nation down the park to the Royal Palace. Though it’s the official palace of the King and Queen of Belgium, the Royal Palace is not their actual residence. So don’t expect to catch a glimpse of them.

I loved how the palace actually looks warm and inviting without any massive gates keeping people out. Don’t be mistaken, I saw a number of heavily armed security guards. But it was easy to imagine myself visiting the palace.

Related: 10 Places to Take Your Family This Year

 

A Walking Tour of Brussels: view of City Hall in Brussels, Belgium

The Museums of Brussels

From the Royal Palace, turn the corner onto Rue Royale, and you’ll encounter a small museum district. Right next to each other you’ll find the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Magritte Museum and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium along with its sister Musee Fin de Siecle. We didn’t have time to stop at any, but the Museum of Musical Instruments looked fascinating.

Even if you don’t plan to visit a museum, from the steps of Eglise Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, you have a beautiful view between the museums of the spire of City Hall rising above the rest of the city. Just follow this path straight down the hill. Several parks provided a shortcut so you can walk straight back to the start of your walking tour of Brussels.

Once you hit the Place de L’Agora, you’ll have come full circle. Just around the corner is the Grand-Place. Feel free to end your walking tour of Brussels with a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants. And don’t forget to try the chocolates and the waffles!

What do you think? Would you ever be tempted to take a walking tour of Brussels?

A Walking Tour of Brussels: The best things to see in Brussels on a self-guided walking tour. Perfect for your first visit to Bruxelles, Belgium. See all the highlights in one afternoon in Brussels.

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