What to Expect on a Brussels Walking Tour
The Belgian capital of Brussels is one of the most beautiful, yet underrated cities in Europe. It has an historic downtown that oozes fascinating culture, great food, extraordinary beers, and decadent chocolate! And the best way to experience all that Brussels has to offer is on a guided Brussels Walking Tour!
Highlights of A Brussels Walking Tour
How Does It Work?
What’s nice about downtown Brussels is that it is compact, so you don’t have to walk long distances to see the popular sites. In fact, we took a guided walking tour of the city that lasted about 2 hours and covered a total distance of just over 2 kilometres (about 1 ¼ miles).
Our guide was a history buff and gave us extensive information about the places that we visited in an engaging and casual style. The result is a tour where you not only see the key sites of the city but are immersed in the vibe and pulse of the community.
Where Do You Start?
Most walking tours in Brussels start at the Grand Place. The central plaza in Brussels which just happens to be an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is the perfect spot to start the tour because there are so many significant cultural and historic artifacts all around the square.
The Grand Place is home to the country’s most historic and significant buildings. Here are some of the ones that you will learn about on your walking tour:
Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall)
This early 15th-century gothic building is the most prominent in the square. It features a statue of Saint Michael, the patron saint of Brussels, on its peak. This is where the Mayor’s office is and has been in use for more than 600 years.
Maison du Roi/Broodhuis (King’s House/Breadhouse)
You will find la Maison du Roi directly across the square from the Hôtel de Ville. The current 19th-century neo-gothic construction sits on the site of the original 13th-century building that started as a bread market.
It is now a museum that holds some of Brussels’ most valuable art and historic pieces. And just a note – despite its name, no king has ever lived here.
The opulent Guild Houses are some of the most striking buildings in the Grand Place. Each belonged to one of the wealthy and influential guilds that controlled the finances and economy of the city.
There is so much to see in the Grand Place. Your guide will tell you some of the fascinating historical events that took place here. These include royal proclamations, medieval tournaments and even executions.
✅ Do you have more time in Brussels? Be sure to check out our more extensive list of what to do in this fascinating city.
The Manneken Pis
No walking tour of Brussels would be complete without a visit to the most famous peeing statue in the world – the Manneken Pis. The small statue is only a 2-minute walk from the Grand Place at a tiny intersection called “La Chapelle”.
Your guide will enthral you with several different stories about the whimsical bronze statue, its origin and the significance of the peeing boy to the history of the city.
A Variety of Food Tasting Stops
Most Brussels Walking Tours include some sort of food and beverage stop. Brussels has developed some of the most unique and renowned dishes in the world. Each tour guide has their favourite spot that they like to take their guests, but you will no doubt enjoy at least a few of the following stops:
Belgian chocolate is known the world over and the best chocolate shops are in Brussels. Your guide will take you to one of the famous chocolatiers in Brussels and explain why they chose this particular stop. You will get to sample the house favourites and have an opportunity to buy some to take home with you.
✅ If you really like chocolate then be sure to read our top spots for chocolate in Brussels.
Beer making has been a tradition in Brussels for hundreds of years and there are a few which can only be truly experienced in Brussels. That is because they are brewed with locally grown yeasts which have a very distinct flavour and aren’t available anywhere else.
The most famous are Lambic and Gueuze, both with an unmistakable sour characteristic. Your guide will explain the special process for making these beers during your flight tasting.
Belgian Frites Tasting
This was one of our favourite tastings when we were in Brussels. In fact, we made a special trip afterwards to seek out one of the best spots in the city for Belgian Frites, based on our guide’s recommendation.
What makes them so special? They are double-fried in beef fat giving them a nice golden crispy exterior and a hot soft interior. Delicious!
Belgian Waffle Tasting
You will pass by an endless number of shops selling waffles on your walking tour, but rest assured that your guide will take you to one that only produces fresh waffles made from scratch.
Unlike North American waffles which are made with baking soda, Belgian waffles are made with their unique, locally grown yeasts which give them a flavour and texture that you can’t get anywhere else.
The Royal Galleries
Once you have visited the Grand Place and the Downtown area your next likely stop will be les Galleries Royale St. Hubert. These 3 glassed-in arcades were initially built in the 19th century to cater to the growing middle class in Brussels.
The Galleries are a popular shopping area and feature high-end jewelry, clothing and leather boutiques. They are also home to some of Brussels’ most famous chocolatiers.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
After the galleries, you will make your way to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. This cathedral is absolutely breathtaking. The late Gothic architecture and stained-glass windows are stunning and the interior holds many priceless works of art.
The main altarpiece is a 10-metre X 7-metre masterpiece depicting the Assumption of Mary and is one of the largest oil paintings on a wooden panel in the world.
✅ Prefer to have a private guided tour of Brussels? This is a great tour option with a local.
Next up on the Brussels Walking Tour is usually Brussels Park. The leisurely walk through the park is a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some beautiful greenery. It features open lawns, flower gardens several ponds and wooded areas.
The 5.2 hectare (13 acre) park is constructed in a Renaissance garden symmetrical layout that is known for its weeping willows and flowering cherry trees.
The Royal Palace
Upon leaving the park, you will get a great view of the sprawling Royal Palace, the official palace of the King and Queen of Belgian. This is where the Royal couple conduct ceremonies and host heads of state from around the world. And while they use it as their main office, they do not reside here.
The palace is strikingly similar to Buckingham Palace in London although the façade of the Brussels palace is 50% longer than the famous London structure. That is because King Leopold II, who had the palace constructed, wanted his to appear bigger.
The interior of Buckingham Palace, however, is significantly larger than its Belgian counterpart.
Mont des Art
From the Royal Palace, you will start your walk back downtown towards your final stop on the Walking Tour – les Mont des Art.
Les Mont des Art is a public square on the hill overlooking the city of Brussels and provides some great panoramic views. You will recognize some of the places that you walked through as you gaze back toward the downtown area.
Home to several cultural institutions, Les Mont des Art includes the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the Musical Instruments Museum and the Biblioteca Wittokeana. There are also several sculptures and monuments in the square including a monument of Adam and Eve.
The Final Word on a Brussels Walking Tour
A Walking Tour of Brussels is one of the best ways to get acquainted with the city. You will learn a lot about the city in just a couple of hours and it will give you the key highlights of the area you are visiting.
We did our walking tour on our first day in Brussels. As a result, we were able to maximize the rest of our time in the city because we pretty much knew what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go.
We also capitalized on the knowledge of our very friendly guide who made some great recommendations for waffle shops, friteries and local restaurants. We really got to appreciate the history and culture of Brussels and we think it should be on your bucket list too!