The Belgian capital has plenty to offer for architectural aficionados and those who enjoy comics and beer. You might also visit some of the interesting museums in Brussels or take a trip to the neighboring areas by tram.
Enjoy the architecture
Brussels is known as the capital of art nouveau architecture. You cannot help noticing the decorative buildings in the city, and some of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Many of the buildings were designed as private homes and continue to be so. However, some of them are also open to visitors, such as Hôtel Solvay (Avenue Louise 224) and Maison Cauchie (Rue des Francs 5), and Maison Autrique (Chaussée de Haecht 266) in the Schaerbeek suburb.
Many such places require advance reservation. The Musical Instruments Museum, or MIM (Rue Montagne de la Cour 2) operates from a former art nouveau department store.
Places worth visiting in the art deco style from the interwar period include the Koekelberg Basilica (Parvis de la Basilique 1) and the Flagey building (Place Sainte-Croix) that houses a cultural center. You can find more art deco in the L’Archiduc jazz restaurant (Rue Antoine Dansaert 6), which has witnessed performances by some of the greatest musicians, such as Miles Davis.
Take a breather in the parks
The beautiful parks of the city provide a more quiet setting for a break from the bustle of the city. The oldest one, today called Parc de Bruxelles, is located next to the Royal Palace. In addition to the meticulously maintained footpaths, old trees and sculptures, there are also a couple of outdoor bars.
Another park, Bois de la Cambre, more than 150 years old, is located at the end of the upmarket Avenue Louise. The park, with its many kiosks and restaurants, is very popular. The most exquisite one is Le Chalet Robinson, on an island in the middle of a reservoir, accessed by a cable “ferry”.
Other popular green areas include the monumental Parc du Cinquantenaire close to the European Quarter, and Parc Duden, with a variety of great cityscapes.
Read comic books
Belgium is a comic book superpower, home to Tintin, Lucky Luke and the Smurfs. These and many other characters adorn many murals in various parts of the city. To find them, see the maps on the City of Brussels website (brussels.be).
Belgium is a comic book superpower.
Brussels also has a huge number of shops specializing in comic books. In the city center, you might consider Brüsel (Boulevard Anspach 100) and Multi BD (Boulevard Anspach 122), and for second-hand items Le Dépôt (Rue du Midi 108).
For serious collectors of rarities, you should go to Jeu de Bulles (Place du Jeu de Balle 79). With limited opening hours, it is located next to the Place du Jeu de Balle marketplace in the working class district of Marolles. It also has a daily flea market, which is where Tintin also visited in The Secret of the Unicorn.
If you want to learn more about comics, you should head to Centre Belge de BD (Rue des Sables 20) with exhibitions on research data on both European and international comics. The art nouveau building designed by Belgian architect Victor Horta also houses a bookshop specializing in comics.
If you want a nice trip for the whole family, try Musée Moof (Rue Marché aux Herbes 116). It is a stunning private collection of figurines and other collectibles of all sizes.
Take a trip on the tram
Take tram 44 at the Montgomery station. Ride on nostalgic 1950s carriages to the municipality of Tervuren rich in woods and parkland. Along the way, you will see a range of fantastic city palaces. Getting closer to Tervuren, it gets greener and greener, some stretches running in the middle of the woods.
At the destination, you will find, among other things, the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Leuvensesteenweg 13), presenting not only the cultural aspects of Central Africa but also the nature and wildlife. It is a disputed place, because Belgium’s colonial history is richly present in the museum and its collections. These days, the exhibitions tend to focus on the victims of colonization.
Have a local beer
Belgium is famous for its beers, such as Chimay, Duvel and Chouffe. Brussels is an excellent destination for friends of brewery products.
To get a good idea of how important beer is in Belgium, go to Delirium Café (Impasse de la Fidélité 4). They have a selection of thousands of beverages, mostly Belgian. For serious beer enthusiasts, the Cantillon brewery is an absolute must (Rue Gheude 56). In addition to the restaurant, it also houses a museum where you can learn about the making of sour gueuze lambic.
Anyone interested in local craft beers should visit Moeder Lambic (Rue de Savoie 68), offering hundreds of beers. It has a branch also in the city center these days (Place Fontainas 8).
One of the most prominent microbreweries in Brussels is Brasserie de la Senne, the products of which you can taste in Zenne Bar (Drève Anna Boch 19/21) along the canal. Another new brewery worth visiting is Brussels Beer Project (Rue Antoine Dansaert 188). It has a bar in the picturesque area of Chatelain (Rue de Bailli 1).
3 home museums in Brussels
The renaissance humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam retired to the tranquility of the countryside in 1521 and lived in this house (Rue de Formanoir 31). In addition to items related to Erasmus, art by Albrecht Dürer is also on display. The charming garden is open from spring to autumn.
Completed in 1901, the home and studio of architect Victor Horta (Rue Américaine 27) is a magnificent place to visit for anyone interested in architecture and cultural history. Visitors are free to see the 24 rooms of this art nouveau building.
Musée René Magritte
The surrealist artist René Magritte and his wife lived in this house (Rue Esseghem 135) for 24 years, and the ground floor has been preserved in its original state. Magritte used details of the house also for his paintings.
Text: Joonas Kananen Photos: All Over Press, Maison d'Erasme, and Paul Remy, Jean-Pol Lejeune, Daniel Fouss, and Olivier van de Kerchove for Visit Brussels
This story was first published in Mondo's issue 08/22.