Brussels is a city that most people just pass through on their way to another destination. Those who do visit often go straight to the tourist hot spots and we think that’s a shame! To help you to avoid some of these tourist traps and spend more time exploring the local culture, we’ll list a few of the most touristy places and commonly made mistakes in the city. They’re really easy to avoid!
Maison & Atelier Horta. (by Alastair Carey-Cox)
Art nouveau architecture is amazing. We get that, however standing in line to just see one example of Art nouveau isn’t. The Horta Museum has a very limited capacity and a really high demand resulting in long lines and rushed visits. Brussel has so much more to offer than just the Horta Museum when it comes to Art nouveau. So skip the line and try an art deco walking tour instead. Or explore on your own by wandering around in Saint-Gilles.
The Atomium is the symbol of Brussels. But did you know it’s almost an hour away from the city center? A visit is also quite expensive and you will have to wait in long lines before you can get inside. If you are really set on your going inside, pair it with a visit to ADAM, the design museum right next to the Atomium. It’s included in your ticket and actually a great museum. But if you want to save time, we advise to skip out…
Those Beautiful Chocolate stores
Neuhaus Chocolatier Brussels (by Pieter Heremans)
Who doesn’t love chocolate? As Belgium is famous for its chocolate you will find a chocolate store on almost every corner in town. These stores are often catered to tourists and very overpriced. Did you know that the best Belgian chocolate brands, Callebaut and Côte d’Or can just be found at the supermarket? Will save you money and time for sure!
Delirium Café Brussels
When you come to Brussels you can’t miss out on the Belgian beers and the beer culture. Many will advise you to go to Delirium Café as they have the most options of beer. Sadly they are not representative of the Belgian beer culture at all. They may have the beers but they don’t have the authenticity as it’s always filled with tourists. If you want to experience real Belgian café culture you can better check out some more local spots.
Grand Place Brussels (by Happytowander)
We can’t deny that Grand Place in Brussels is a beautiful place but the crowds just ruin it. Nothing about it is authentic or representative of Brussels. All shops and restaurants cater to tourists with exaggerated pricing and crappy souvenirs. Brussels is filled with beautiful architecture, by just walking around you’ll see plenty of it, without the crowds.
Galleries Saint-Hubert (by Happytowander)
Being close to the Grand Place, Les galleries Saint-Hubert face the same problems. Always overcrowded and the shops are ridiculously expensive. We will make an exception for the little movie theatre tucked away here, that spot is pretty cool! But if you not up for an independent movie, avoid this place if you are not one for the crowds
Janneke Pis (by Christophe Darmangeat)
Being another symbol of Brussels Manneke Pis is marketed as a “must-see” spot. But most people who visit are usually quite disappointed. It’s small, crowded, and just not worth the hype. Opt for Janneke or Zinneke pis instead. They are more original and way less crowded. Or just opt out altogether and get some fries instead.
The living room of René Magritte (by Andrea Anoni)
Magritte has made some amazing artworks, however, the Royal museum is not the best place to enjoy his art. The Royal Museum is highly marketed and doesn’t show any insight into the life of Magritte. If you want to get to know about Magritte’s work and his life, the real Magritte museum in Jette is the spot for you!
Rue de Boucher
Rue de Boucher (by Amazing Belgium)
If you want to be sure that you will eat average food, served by clingy waiters, and that you will pay way too much for it, you should go eat at Rue de Boucher. This street full of restaurants caters exclusively to tourists. The waiters will almost drag you inside when you walk through the small street, so it’s best to avoid the area if you can. Eating at local restaurants will always taste better!
Fries (the touristy ones)
A real “frietkot” Maison Antoine at place Jourdan (by Bruzz)
Belgian Fries are delicious, and you should definitely try them when in Brussels. However, if you want real good fries you should follow some guidelines:
- They should not be marketed as Belgian Fries (frittes/frieten is what you are looking for)
- They should not be located in an overly touristy area
- They should not be expensive nor fancy
- If there is a long line but the people seem to be local, you have found some of the best fries in the city, congratulations!
The “unsafe” Neighborhoods
Molenbeek Brussels (by Mima)
Lastly, we want to touch on the neighborhoods that often get marked as unsafe when talking about Brussels. Molenbeek, Saint-Josse, Schaerbeek, and parts of Brussels itself have been labeled as unsafe and areas you need to avoid. This is simply not true! You are much more likely to get pickpocketed at Grand Place than in any other part of the city…
These parts of Brussel are where you will come across the real and raw Brussels, some parts are ugly, some are incredibly beautiful, but they are always real. If you want to get the real Brussels you should head to all corners of the city, including the ones with a bad reputation.