Explore the Belgian capital’s green spaces, musical hotspots and extravagant market squares.
1 - Brussels Park
Start your trip to the Belgian capital with a visit to the city’s oldest public park. This 13-hectare green space, also referred to as the Royal Park, stands at the meeting point of the monarchy and government – the Royal Palace is located to the south, while the Belgian Federal Parliament is on the northern side.
Built on the site of the park of the Dukes of Burgundy and the Governors of the Spanish Netherlands, the park showcases beautiful neoclassical design by French architect Gilles-Barnabé Guimard and Austrian landscape gardener Joachim Zinner. Discover manicured avenues, statues inspired by Greco-Roman mythology, a tranquil fountain pond, and an ornate cast iron bandstand nestled beneath a canopy of leafy trees.
2 - On the air
Once you’ve filled your quota for peace and quiet, follow the sound of music emanating from the south. Here you’ll find a wooden shack that’s home to a radio station broadcasting tunes 24/7 to locals and visitors alike. Set up in 2017, the community-run Kiosk Radio champions local and international artists with a programme that spans a range of genres and includes live DJ sets along with pre-recorded mixes and interviews.
Grab a beer or natural wine from the kiosk-side bar (open from 12pm-10pm) and settle on one of the tree stumps to get a flavour of Brussel’s music scene at this unique gathering spot before dancing the night away. If you don’t want the party to end, take a musical memory of Brussels home with you and listen via the website kioskradio.com.
3 - Floral expression
While not as expansive as botanical gardens in other European capital cities, this well-manicured six-hectare space is an oasis in the otherwise brutalist area of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode in northern Brussels. Inaugurated in 1829, the gardens nod to the city’s status as a European hub, with French, Italian and English-inspired terraces on show, while art enthusiasts can study the 30 sculptures dotted throughout the space.
Winding paths are flanked by a variety of plants that lead to a large open space with landscaped mazes and a glass orangery structure. This listed neoclassical building was once devoted to scientific and botanical studies but became an arts centre in 1984. Fittingly named Botanique, the cultural centre of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation hosts around 300 concerts and ten exhibitions every year in its beautiful concert halls and gallery spaces.
Floral stamps on the floor mimic Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and celebrate those who have performed here – from Jeff Buckley and Oasis to Blondie. Art exhibitions are open Wednesday-Sunday from 12pm-6pm, and tickets for gigs can be purchased at the reception located at 236 Rue Royale.
4 - Food and fashion
There are few places where you can dine and upskill in the process, but Brussels has one such hybrid venue. Le C’Cube at 13 Boulevard D’Ypres is named after its triple offering – café, couture and cantine – and has a zero-waste ethos.
Guests can enjoy a daily changing lunch menu, featuring the likes of quiches, sandwiches, soups and a range of cakes, and then take part in an upcycling workshop, giving old clothes a new lease of life.
If you’re not the creative type, you can instead purchase some second-hand garments. You’ll leave with skills, a satisfied stomach and perhaps a new (sustainable) wardrobe.
5 - La Grand-Place
You can’t leave Brussels without a visit to this ostentatious market square, surrounded by gold-gilded Gothic and Baroque architecture mainly dating from the late 17th century.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the city’s political and commercial centre, starting out as a market square in the 12th century. It suffered from a bombardment by Louis XIV’s troops in 1695 but thankfully the cobblestone square was entirely rebuilt and is home to guild houses such as City Hall (recognisable for its 96-metre-high bell tower) and the Maison du Roi, which houses the City Museum.
The magnificent square hosts various events throughout the year, including the Belgian Beer Weekend from September 1-3, showcasing tipples from small and large breweries. The Tapis de Fleurs (flower carpet) also blooms across the square every two years and will return in 2024 after having celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.