Brussels, the city best known for waffles, beer, chocolate and fries, has so much more to offer than just good food and drinks. With more than 100 museums, the European Quarter, the Atomium, … there is much to discover. So you can imagine that a day in Brussels can sometimes be expensive if you want to have explored the whole city. In this post you get an idea of how you can keep a day in Brussels cheap and still have the whole Brussels experience.
Start the day by visiting a museum (and do it for free)
For free! How is that possible? Well, contrary to popular belief, there are many museums where you do not have to pay an entrance fee or where you can enter for free 1 day per month. Thanks to that concept, all people have the opportunity to visit their favorite museum and there are no more excuses for missing this wonderful experience. In addition to museums, there are also a few well-known buildings where you can take a look inside for free. Think of the royal palace (during the summer) or the Palace of Justice.
Below is an overview of some museums that are definitely worth a visit. Don’t forget, however, that there are many more to discover in Brussels than the brief overview shown here. Every year, Brussels Museums publishes an overview of the free museums in Brussels, along with the necessary information. More information can be found on https://www.brusselsmuseums.be/en/museums.
Museums that are always free
House of European History
Located in the heart of the European Quarter, the House of European History takes visitors on an interesting journey through all the challenges of yesterday, today and tomorrow in Europe. The permanent exhibition consists of objects from more than 300 different collections and museums worldwide. At the start of your visit, you can exchange an identity card for an interactive tablet that explains the exhibition in no less than 24 languages. Visiting the museum is free of charge and takes approximately 1h30.
Antoine Wiertz was a versatile artist and one of the most famous Brussels painters from the 19th century. His great example was Rubens. He spent his last 20 years in Brussels and the current museum was his former home and studio, creating a homely atmosphere. Some well-known works are “Buried alive”, “The flight to Egypt”, “Deux jeunes filles”, “The Revolt of Hell against Heaven, … The Wiertz Museum is highly recommended for those who like to discover quietly hidden places.
Museums that are sometimes free
Museum of Natural Sciences
In this museum, you will discover more about biology, human nature and our evolution. Also, you will find more than 1000 dinosaurs. The dinosaur collection is the largest in Europe so it is the ideal place for those who love dinosaurs. The museum consists of 4 floors with different rooms, each devoted to a specific theme. You can visit the Museum of Natural Sciences for free on Wednesday from 1:00 p.m.
Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium keep a collection of 20,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures spread over 6 museums and reflect our history from the 15th century. The 6 different museums are the Magritte Museum, Fin-de-Siècle Museum, Oldmasters Museum, Modern Museum, Meunier Museum and the Wiertz Museum. Some well-known artists whose works can be found in The Royal Museums of Fine Arts are Rubens, James Ensor, Magritte, Bruegel and Delvaux. You can visit the museum for free every Wednesday from 1:00 p.m until closing time.
Have a picnic in one of Brussels’ many beautiful parks
Do you fancy an extensive but cheap lunch? Then a picnic sounds like a great idea! Of course it is recommended to check the weather forecast the day before as the Belgian weather can be quite unpredictable. But in good weather, nothing is more fun than a tasty picnic in a quiet green area with good company. Since Brussels is one of the greenest European capitals, you have come to the right place. Which park you choose depends entirely on your preferences, but to make the choice somewhat easier, some of them, in which you can experience an unforgettable and tasty picnic, are listed below.
Parc du Cinquantenaire
Located on the Wetstraat, this park is not only an ideal place for relaxation but also an interesting place for a lover of history/culture. Next to the most important landmark, the triumphal arch, you will find the Art & History Museum, the Military Museum and Autoworld. The park itself was built under king Leopold II in 1880 and is popular with both tourists as locals. Combine your picnic with a fun, relaxing walk through this huge city park.
You get there by taking a metro to Merode or Schuman.
The Park of Brussels
The Park of Brussels, also known as the Parc Royal, is situated between the Royal Palace and the Federal Parliament and was the first public park in Brussels. In the quiet area you have several facilities such as public toilets, small kiosks serving refreshments and drinks, a playground, benches and free drinking water. It is therefore no surprise that this is the largest (public) urban park in the center of Brussels. Thanks to these extensive facilities and green surroundings, this park is the perfect place for a pleasant picnic.
Petit Sablon Square
Petit Sablon Square is a small rectangular and colorful architectural pearl in the city center. In the park, there are benches where you can rest and you can also find 10 statues of important humanists and 48 statues representing traditional guilds like weavers, cobblers and bakers.
The Botanical Garden is an urban park stretching over 6 hectares in the north of Brussels. Originally, it was a botanical garden that reflected the multicultural history of Brussels. Today you can find a wide variety of trees and plants in different styles. The lawn in the park is divided into several rest zones, surrounded by trees and separated by walking paths. In addition to the beautiful nature, you will also find benches, a multi-sports area and a playground.
Located in the heart of the European Quarter, Leopold Park is close to the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Solvay Library and the Museum of European History. The park is very popular with students who love to spend time in the bright sunshine. You can have a picnic on the lawn or one of the many benches. The large pond in the middle is a remnant of the Maalbeek valley and the park itself originally served as a zoo.
Spend the afternoon outside and wander the streets
After a delicious meal, continue your adventure with as much enthusiasm as you started it. Spending an afternoon walking around Brussels will bring you tons of fun and memorable photos that will often remind you of the great time you had in the city of fries. Whether you are an art fanatic or someone who likes to enjoy the outdoors, Brussels has it all. Here are some suggestions that are almost completely free. All you have to do is choose the one you like the most and get started!
Discover Brussels’ street art
Comic Strip Trail
It is impossible to visit Brussels without seeing some colorful cartoon walls. The Comic Strip Trail is a route through the city center and the neighborhoods where you can spot several painted cartoons on the walls of all kinds of random buildings. You can get a map with all the cartoon walls in the tourist information center for just 1 euro. It will show you where your favorite cartoons are hidden and will help you to find them all. So go ahead, raise your eyes and discover Brussels from a different perspective!
Other Street Art
In addition to comic paintings, you will also find many other types of street art on the walls in Brussels. Almost all open-air artworks in Brussels and its surroundings are indicated on a clear map on the Parcours Streetart Brussels website. The website offers various routes that vary in duration and theme. For example, you have the Marolles Route, a route around the Grand Place, a Route around Sainte Catherine Square and so on. Be sure to check their website and choose the route you prefer or just admire them all!
Underground art in the metro stations
Soaking up culture has never been easier. Discover more than 80 works of art in the entire metro network of Brussels and also the largest underground art gallery. STIB has published a brochure that guides you through all these artworks and provides more information. Moreover, you can even download this brochure for free. Be sure to check the website and be enchanted by the underground art in Brussels.
Take a free guided city walk
There is no doubt that a guided city walk has many advantages!
- You will often receive information from a reputable experienced guide without paying too much.
- Guides normally have a good knowledge of the culture and history and can, therefore, answer all your questions.
- The tour guide knows the city well and can, therefore, show you around in an efficient way, giving you more time to explore afterwards.
The organizations below offer free city walks. Many of them, however, ask to book in advance. So be sure to check their website for more information.
- Sandemans New Europe Tour: Starting at the Grand Place, a local English-speaking guide will take you on a 2h30 tour that will show you all the top attractions in the old city center. Some of the highlights include the Grand Place and Town Hall, Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, the Manneken Pis statue and Saint Nicholas’ Church. The tour concept is a tip-based model.
- Viva’s tour: Vivas Tour offers an authentic free walking tour of the city center. During this tour, guests will not only learn more about the history of Brussels but also learn more about secret city legends and hidden mysteries. Besides, the guest will receive a free city map and local tips and recommendations to make your day in Brussels unforgettable.
- Bravo Discovery: Bravo Discovery offers a free city tour divided into the Upper City and Lower City. The tour includes an English speaking guide and the highlight is a free tasting of the finest Belgian chocolate.
End the day with magnificent panoramic views and an enchanting sunset
After a delicious meal in one of the numerous restaurants in Brussels, it is time to end the evening in beauty. What better way to end the day than with a tasty snack, refreshing drinks, good company and a beautiful sunset in the background? Here are some places where you can see some stunning views and magical sunsets.
- Park Reine-Verte
Park Reine- Verte is a small, hidden park situated in Schaerbeek and a breathtaking jewel. With it’s 5000 square meters, the park covers a small hill between a block of houses. The Pavillion offers the best and clearest view over the Atomium and a few impressive skyscrapers. The park is open daily until 9:30. PM so go there and enjoy the stunning sunset!
- Mont des Arts
This place offers a magnificent view of the city center. The captivating view is great during the day and at night, but the highlight is around sunset when it gets magical. Enjoying the Brussels skyline with a wonderful color palette in the background will be even more fun with a tasty refreshing drink.
- Place Poelaert
Located in front of the Palace of Justice, Place Poelaert is a popular spot for tourists and locals to hang out and watch the charming sunsets. If you are lucky you can also see the Atomium and the Basilica of Koekelberg in the distance in clear weather.