Top 10: Best Free Things to Do in Brussels

Kerti Kulper • 9 Feb, 2017

Considering that Brussels is not the cheapest city in Europe, it’s useful to have some insider tips on how to spend your time here without spending a cent. Read on to discover ten fun things to do for free in the Belgian capital.

1. Get to know the local culture at various markets

Markets are definitely worth checking out when you visit any foreign city as they’re great places to get to know the local culture. In Brussels you’ll find various markets offering delectable edible goods like fresh oranges, cheeses, breads and other food products. Don’t be intimated when friendly salesmen try to give you scarves or T-shirts. Brussels is also home to many antique markets such as Place du Jeu de Balle, where you can find art, furniture, books, records and the like.

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2. Have a picnic at the Royal Park

Royal Park, also known as Brussels Park, is a large urban park located smack bang in the centre of the city. This neoclassical park is surrounded by the Belgian Parliament, the Royal Palace and the U.S. Embassy. It’s easy to get to by metro or by foot. It’s a great place to have a picnic with friends.

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3. Find Jeanneke Pis & Zinneke Pis

Tourists usually know that somewhere in the centre of Brussels there’s a small statue of a peeing boy (Manneken Pis). Not so many people know that there’s also a statue of a peeing girl (Jeanneke Pis), and another of a peeing dog (Zinneke Pis). Do your homework and find the coordinates of all three peeing statues so you can take home a series of portraits of the whole family.

Photo credit: Niels Mickers

4. Catch up on some reading at Jean-Felix Hap Park

This lovely little park can be hard to find if you’ve never visited it before, however it’s definitely worth the search. Nestled amongst apartment buildings, it’s a real hidden gem. It’s beautiful and quiet, making it the perfect spot for reading a book or flicking through a magazine. It’s home to several small ponds, so you can also just kick back by the water and enjoy the scenery.

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5. Enjoy some art during Nuit Blanche

If you’re into art, make sure you’re in Brussels for Nuit Blanche. This year it’s set to take place at the beginning of October. The entire city will be transformed into one big light and music installation, with different events happening all over the city. For more information, check out the official Nuit Blanche website.

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6. See a different side of Brussels in Schaerbeek

Brussels has many different city districts and each has a face of its own. Schaerbeek is perhaps one of the most interesting and colourful. As you wander its streets you’ll probably forget you’re in Brussels altogether. It’s a wonderful and unique mix of different cultures, home to a variety of shops, eateries (some serving kosher food) and vibrant streets.

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7. Visit elegant Ixelles

After taking a walk around Schaerbeek, head towards Ixelles. These districts are like night and day. Ixelles is a relatively large area with wonderful architecture, cafés and posh shops. Take a walk along Avenue Louise and you’ll see Tiffany & Co., as well as Chanel and Dior boutiques. Otherwise head towards Ixelles Ponds – this is where you’ll find the very popular Café Belga.

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8. Discover the Botanical Garden

If you’d like to take a break from city life and see some beautiful sculptures and plants, visit the Botanical Garden. The main building, Le Botanique, is a well-known cultural complex where many concerts take place. In addition to lovely scenery and the cultural atmosphere inside the building, the garden has many sculptures by different artists. The Botanical Garden is located in between business premises, offering a distinct contrast to its surroundings.

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9. When the weather gets hot, seek shelter in a church

If the temperature soars above 25 °C and walking the city streets becomes pretty much intolerable, seek shelter in a church. There are many beautiful churches in Brussels and you can be certain that it’s nice and cold inside them. If you’re in the city centre, head to the Cathedral of St. Michel and St Gudula, or if you happen to be in the Etterbeek district, find Saint-John Berchmans Church – it looks like a castle from the outside.

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10. Indulge your senses in chocolate shops

Brussels is mostly famous for three edible/drinkable delights: waffles, beer and chocolate. As you can imagine (or maybe you’ve already noticed), there are several waffle stands on different street corners and even more chocolate shops. Just pick one, step inside, and be amazed. Some shops allow customers to taste their delicacies to help make choosing easier. If you have a sweet tooth, go find yourself a chocolate shop – you won’t be disappointed.

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Cover photo credit: Luke Ma

Kerti Kulper
Freelance translator and editor at an online women's magazine. A Tallinn gal who previously resided in Helsinki, Brussels and Tartu.

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    Great article with awesome ideas. Helped me when I visited and had a very tight budget. The Zinneke Pis is no longer there though. Apparently it was run over by a car :-(.
    Sharon • Feb 19, 2017 • Reply
    Awesome list of best things to do in Brussels. I would like to share with you some valuable list of Top sightseeing & activities in Brussels, check out - http://www.lavacanza.in/sightseeing-tour/brussels/d458-ttd
    Neha • Feb 15, 2017 • Reply
    Great article ! Among other free things to do in Brussels... or in many other destinations, is to meet passionate locals and discover their city (yes, for free). In Brussels, check out the Brussels Greeters website http://www.brusselsgreeters.be/Bienvenue.php Have fun ! Jonathan.
    Jonathan Greeter • Feb 11, 2017 • Reply