The 5 Best Neighborhoods in Brussels for Tourists
Here’s a look at five of the Belgium capital’s best-loved districts and why visitors keep coming back for more.
If you appreciate life in the beating heart of a city, then a stay in Brussels most central neighbourhood (Historical City Centre) is going to be perfect. Even previously run down areas have been reclaimed by young professionals, who have made the restaurants around Place St Catherine, and the clothes shops of Rue Antoine Dansaert, incredibly hip.
The little lanes branching off from the huge Grand Place are lined with cafes, boutiques and artworks, especially in Louise, where you’ll also find plenty of antique shops.
2. Ixelles and Saint-Gilles
In this trendy urban community, the Parc de Forest and Bois de la Cambre offer some glorious city greenery, while on summer days the beautiful art deco Victor Boin pool provides cooling refreshment. Visitors can drop into the workshop of sculpturer Constantin Meunier on Rue de l’Abbaye, catch a show at the theatre, or try out the arts cinema in the Place Flagey.
However, the main attraction of this chic district is the Avenue Louise, a fashion lover’s paradise. Flanked by numerous designer stores and a two-story mall, this is an ideal spot for a little retail therapy. At night, the streets come alive with fine dining restaurants, live music and bars competing for attention.
Known as a cultural hub, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode is home to ex-pats from across the globe and hosts a range of premium hotels set within the ultra-modern Place Rogier. It’s a very friendly, relaxed place, where residents and tourists make the most of fragrant Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurants, dishing up spicy delights.
Surrounded by tropical gardens, La Botanique is a stunning glasshouse which provides a platform for concerts, exhibitions and plays, while over at the Belgian Comic Strip Centre, you can giggle at the adventures of Belgium’s most famous fictional adventurer, Tintin. If you’ll be arriving by aeroplane or train, there’s a direct connection to here from both Brussels Airport and Brussels Nord station.
A mecca for chocolate lovers, this peaceful neighbourhood is centred around two squares, the Petit Sablon and the Grand Sablon, both of which host a large antique market. Grand Sablon is the place to head for everything sweet, as most of the country’s top chocolatiers, including Godiva, Marcolini and Wittamer, have a store here.
To escape from the material world, step inside the Nôtre-Dame du Sablon, a 15th-century gothic church that’s steeped in history. Legend states that the Virgin Mary once appeared to a young local girl, telling her to bring a statue from a church in Antwerp to the Sablon chapel, making this a place of pilgrimage ever after.
Made up of many unique shops, bustling squares and pretty green spaces, the European Quarter is also home to the EU Council and the European Union Commission. The upmarket accommodation is punctuated by shops, bars and cafes giving it a village feel.
The Place du Luxembourg is full of eateries that spill out onto terraces, it also holds markets and attracts a low-key crowd from the EU buildings. For the best views head to Schumanplein and take a good look at the EU HQ, this is especially impressive in the evening when warm lights show off the Europa complex and the streets are alive with international conversation.