Brussels: tourism in Belgium’s irreverent capital
Quirkily contradictory: not what the average tourist might expect of the EU’s capital, until they catch a flight there. As offbeat as it is stuffy, Brussels is a chocolate-dipped enigma in the heart of Belgium, complete with fine food, surrealism and some zany things to do.
Built for Expo ’58, The Atomium—a 102-metre model of an iron crystal—is Brussels’ most iconic feature. Permanent and temporary exhibits are on display inside five of its nine spheres.
Another of the city’s landmarks (and emblems of its cheeky spirit) is Manneken-Pis—literally “Little Man Pee”—a bronze sculpture of a boy urinating into a fountain. He is so beloved that he is regularly dressed up for special occasions and gifted with costumes from visiting dignitaries. He has over 900 now, 100 of which are on display at the City of Brussels Museum.
For an off-the-beaten-path excursion through the centre of the city, visitors love The Comic Book Route, a series of 50 murals depicting Belgium’s most famous cartoon characters, like Tintin and Lucky Luke.
Tourists and locals alike commune with another of Belgium’s famous sons at La Fleur en Papier Doré, where the walls are covered in writings and doodles by Magritte and his surrealist friends. The sign on the door reads, “Ceci n’est pas un musée,” (“This is not a museum”) in case anyone plans to come in for a gawk without buying a drink.
No trip to Brussels is complete without indulging in some of the country’s famous chocolate. Savvy gourmands head to Mary—the artisan chocolatier that supplies pralines to Belgium’s royal family—for tours and tastings.
Brussels Night Walking Tour: Gourmet Belgian Food takes foodies on a three-hour culinary adventure to sample the area’s specialties in the city’s best restaurants. A must for any passionate epicure.