Brussels is arguably one of the best European destinations for holidaymakers. After all, the city weaves history, culture and irresistible flavours for an unforgettable holiday escape. There’s truly something for everyone here – architecture buffs will marvel at iconic landmarks like its modernist icon the Atomium and the city’s central square, Grand-Place. The passionate foodie will get to unleash their taste buds with divine chocolates, waffles and beers while the avid shopper can find their thrills at vibrant street markets.
Singapore Airlines now flies to Brussels four times a week, starting 5 April 2024. Make your next vacation there one to remember with these ideas:
1. Be inspired by design
Created in 1958 for the Brussels World’s Fair, the Atomium is the only structure left standing after the end of the event. It can be found on the Heysel Plateau in northern Brussels’ Laeken district, where the fair took place. This design by Belgian engineer André Waterkeyn was way ahead of its time when it was built. The structure represents a single unit of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. There are nine spheres that represent atoms, connected by tubes with escalators and lifts inside. Six spheres are currently open for public access with exhibitions about the 1950s, Expo 58 and the building’s history, event spaces as well as a restaurant with panoramic views. The Laeken district is quite the tourist attraction and it also houses popular sights such as the Royal Castle and Royal Greenhouses.
2. Picnic in the park
Also known as Ter Kamerenbos, Bois de la Cambre is an English-style urban public park on the edge of the Sonian Forest in Brussels. This little green oasis is perfect for family activities such as ball games, picnics, sunbathing and walks, especially during the summer months. Take a boat across the lake to the gorgeous Robinson’s Island where you can pop open a bottle of Belgian bubbles and toast with a loved one.
3. Take a Belgian beer tour
There are a number of beer tour operators which can be found all over the city and online. Most follow the general format of a visit to some of Brussels’ most vibrant and historic bars to sample a selection of beers. Global Enterprises Belgium’s award-winning tours will teach you everything you need to know about Belgian beer. You’ll experience seven kinds of beer from Brussels’ oldest taverns, many of which are in hidden parts of the city. The guides are experienced Brussels natives and each tasting includes snacks such as cheeses, sausages and more. Tour prices start at €79 and can be booked online.
4. Step back in sound
Brussels has its fair share of quirky museums and the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) is one of its best. It’s tucked away in a stunningly restored complex with Art Nouveau and neoclassical influences along the Montagne de la Cour street. Fun fact: Did you know this street has roots that date back to the Middle Ages? There are close to 1,200 musical instruments on display and MIM hosts one of the most important collections of musical instruments in the world. This includes pieces such as the viola da gamba from the Court of Brussels to the 20th-century theremin. Admission starts from €8 and tickets can be purchased on the MIM website.
5. Taste the world’s finest chocolate
Chocolate making is an art in Belgium, where it is held to exceptionally high standards. All chocolate must meet a minimum level of 35 per cent pure cocoa. In comparison, milk chocolate in the US only needs to be 10 per cent chocolate liqueur. Belgian chocolates must also be made with 100 per cent cocoa butter – vegetable oil is forbidden. A popular must-visit is Pierre Marcolini, which creates some of Belgium’s finest chocolates. You can expect to find champagne truffles, financiers, pralines, macarons and more. You won’t have to queue for long either as there are stores all over Brussels with the chef’s famous bean-to-bar creations. Everything comes in pretty packaging so it’s an ideal souvenir to bring back to those at home.
6. Befriend the city’s most famous little boy
The Manneken Pis statue on the corner of Rue du Chêne and Rue de l’Etuve is an iconic symbol of Brussels’ quirky charm and irreverent humour. This bronze statue of a naked little boy urinating in a fountain is only 61 cm tall and attracts curious visitors from around the world. It was put on its pedestal in 1618 and can often be found dressed up in fabulous costumes during seasonal events and special occasions. Its wardrobe consists of more than 900 outfits; so if you’re lucky, you may just witness the famous little boy sporting one of them. Stop by one of the many pubs and restaurants around the area, if you’d like a quick pint or other nibbles.
7. Frame yourself in an architectural masterpiece
In the heart of Brussels lies the Grand-Place, an iconic tourist hotspot and an unforgettable symbol of the city. It has proudly held its UNESCO World Heritage status since 1998 and is recognised as one of the world’s most stunning squares. Stepping into this medieval marvel is like stepping into the past. The building is surrounded by 17th-century architectural gems featuring Baroque and Gothic architectural styles. The centrepiece: the breathtaking Town Hall, majestically crowning the cobblestone square. Cafes and shops adorn its perimeter, perfect for resting your feet while indulging in some leisurely people-watching. Don’t miss the enchanting morning flower market thrice a week or the Christmas fairs and summer concerts that bring seasonality to its charm.
8. Order a pot of Brussels’ finest mussels
Mussels are a national dish in Belgium, and Brussels has no shortage of this tasty shellfish. Chez Leon is probably the most famous place to try this signature dish, although you’re likely to find a decent enough serving almost anywhere in the city. Chez Leon’s vibrant interiors comprise a giant Smurf statue, a rocket figurine and colourful posters all over the walls. The restaurant is not far from the Grand-Place so once you’ve explored the area’s baroque guildhalls and neo-Gothic architecture, treat yourself to a plate of garlic-flavoured mussels. Other must-haves on the menu include thick-cut fries, grilled fish and cold Belgian beer.
9. Hunt for unique souvenirs
The Marolles district is a hit for its urban art, nightclubs, modern galleries and indie fashion. However, it also draws visitors in with a huge daily flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle. The market is one of Brussels’ most famous, and the Old Market (as it is fondly known) has been a point of fascination since 1873. Go in search of hidden treasures and antiques from 9am until 2pm. As with the nature of such flea markets, it will take time to uncover a cherished gem among junk, but those in search for trinkets, vintage furniture, preloved clothing and antique photographs may try their luck here.
10. Board a classic train
There is something about European rail travel that gives it a glamorous edge over the rest of the world. Belgium’s railway network is one of the European continent’s oldest and it’s certainly celebrated at the Train World museum at Schaerbeek. Train World is housed in a stunning, old train station, and features thousands of train-related pieces. These include an original 19th-century railway bridge and the oldest preserved locomotive in Continental Europe, the 1842 Pays de Waes. You’ll also get to see genuine Royal Trains once used by the monarchy as well as Trans Europ Express cars, which had been the standard for high-speed travel through Europe in olden times. The museum also runs fun events for children. Ticket prices start from €5 and can be purchased in advance from the Train World website.
To learn more about Singapore Airlines’ flights to Brussels, visit the official website.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings and updated in August 2023 by Hazel Vincent De Paul