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Brussels neighborhoods: The Old Town

Brussels neighborhoods: The Old Town

I’m sure the Old Town of Brussels is a neighborhood every visitor of Brussels visited. The historic heart of every city gets the most of the attention and time of busy travelers. And it’s legitimate and understandable. Even we spend lots of our time in the Old Town.

You can find everything in the Brussels city center: most famous and most popular sights, unique and traditional shops, trendy cafes, typical pubs, traditional and international restaurants and much more. You can buy the best Belgian chocolates here, eat typical Belgian waffles or drink all of the Belgian beers (but I wouldn’t recommend to do it in one evening ;)).

We have a few favorite spots where we grab a bite, a few favorite sights, and places that still take our breath away and make us stop for a while, a few things we show everyone who visits us here and a few places we would recommend to anyone planning their visit to Brussels.

An absolute heart of the city is about 500-meter radius around Grand Place. It may seem like a small area, but it’s full of narrow streets, packed with things worth to see. I marked all the places I’m mentioning in the map which you can find at the end of this post.

Things I love to do in the city center

  • Walk the cobbled streets full of old buildings some of which are dating back to the 13th century.
  • Admire the grandeur and beauty of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.
  • Take a look around the Grand Place and for the hundredth time look at the gold decorated guildhalls.
  • Visit the Museum of the City of Brussels to learn more about the history of Brussels.
  • Walk through the beautiful Galeries Royales Saint – Hubert.
  • Eat a waffle. It is a must in Brussels!
  • Grab a beer (or something else) in the most famous pub in Brussels, Delirium café.
  • Say Hello to Manneken Pis, get amused by how small he is and take a selfie with this iconic symbol of Brussels.
  • Stop at a chocolate shop to taste yet another brand or type of chocolate for the first time.

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What follows next are few places I like. If you plan to come to Brussels and have only time to see the city center you shouldn’t miss them. All of these activities and places are worth your time and are very close to each other so even with a tight schedule you can see them all.

Sights

  • The Grand Place is Brussels the main square with beautiful buildings all around. These are the guild halls, where craftsmen and merchants of the same profession held their meetings.
  • You can see the City Hall of Brussels also on the Grand Place, and its tall bell tower is visible from a distance.
  • The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is about 5 minutes from the Grand Place, and its architecture is very similar to the Cathedral Notre-Dame in Paris. There is a small park in front of the cathedral which is ideal for a short break before heading to the next sight.
  • The Galeries Royales Saint – Hubert is a glazed shopping arcade built at the end of 19th century. You can stop here for a coffee, to buy some Belgian chocolates or just walk through.
  • The St. Nicholas Church is a small but interesting church. It is surrounded by shops, and from the outside, it looks like they are all one building.
  • The small statue of Manneken Pis is a symbol of Brussels. You can find it on postcards, magnets, t-shirts, etc. and you should find this small iconic statue and take a selfie with it.
  • You can find the Jeanneken Pis fountain, the counterpart to the Manneken Pis,  right next to the Delirium Café, the most famous Brussels pub.

Eats & drinks

  • Lunch & dinner
    • Our favorite Italian restaurant in the city center is Pasta Divina where they specialize in delicious fresh homemade pasta. The restaurant is quite popular, and it’s not only me who likes it. It has pretty good reviews on TripAdvisor and Google.
    • Another of our favorites in the city center is a tiny Belgian restaurant called C’est Bon C’est Belge. They serve only a few meals, but all are a good representation of the typical Belgian cuisine.
    • If you would like to grab a sandwich or baguette, don’t hesitate to go to EXKI. It’s an international chain of healthy fast food restaurants, established in Belgium. They serve soups, baguettes, quiche, cakes, etc.
  • Beer
    • The most famous Brussels pub is Délirium Café. Here they have tens of different beers on tap and also hundreds of others in bottles. The pub is almost always crowded, but there is still a good chance to find few free chair, or you can drink your beer next to the bar.
    • If the Delirium Café is full, try Little Délirium Café. They have a smaller selection of beers, but they have all the best once.
  • Waffles and coffee
    • Our favorite waffle seller is the Waffle Factory. They have few tables inside and outside so you can eat your waffle there or take it with you. They have three kinds of waffles which they serve with sweet or salty toppings.
    • My favorite cafe in proximity to Grand Place is called Coffee Company. Again it’s a tiny place, but nice and very cozy.
    • If you are in search for strong Ethiopian coffee while in Brussels, look no more. The Aksum Coffee House is the place you need to go. They serve fair trade Ethiopian coffee, tea, and other beverages and the place provides true African experience, with music and all.

Museums & Events

  • If you want to learn something about the history of Brussels, visit the Museum of the City of Brussels. It is located on the Grand Place in a beautiful old building which was in the past used as a bread hall. What I find as a huge advantage is that the museum is rather small and you can easily see everything during one visit. In addition to learning about the history of Brussels, you can also see different costumes of Manneken Pis.
  • Every other year for one weekend in August the Grand Place transforms to a huge Flower carpet. This year it will be from 12th to 15th of August, and if you happen to be in Brussels at that time, you should come and check it out.

Shops

  • Belgian chocolate
    • My favorite Belgian chocolate brand is hands down the Neuhaus. You can find their shops everywhere in the city, and one is also on the Grand Place.
    • Godiva is another well-known chocolate brand. I think it’s little pricier than Neuhaus, but it’s worth the money.
    • Leonidas chocolate is my number three, and you can also find it on every other street in the city.
  • Others
    • Home design shop Maisons du Monde sells nice, trendy and affordable furniture, dishes and home accessories. It is probably difficult to bring a piece of furniture as a souvenir, but with home accessories, it’s easier. They are also nice gifts for friends. A few years back we bought Christmas decorations for our friends, and they loved it.
    • The toy store called the Grasshopper is worth a visit even if you don’t plan to buy any toys. They have beautiful, educative and ecological toys for children of all ages. Every time we go there I wish I could buy something just for myself. 

The Old Town map

Neighborhoods close by

  • Quartier Royale
  • Sablon
  • Bourse & St. Catherine


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