By Briana Seftel
Visiting Europe's main business and diplomatic hub doesn't mean you have to remortgage your house. In fact, the Belgian capital has plenty of free fun to satisfy even the most seasoned of travelers! Save your euros for piping hot waffles with these free things to do in Brussels.
1. Grand Place
The square to end all squares is Brussels' bustling centerpiece. Surrounded by opulent guildhalls mainly dating back to the 17th century, the Grand Place is worth a trip to Brussels alone. Simply wander and take in all the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful cobblestone square.
Brussels could easily rival Paris or London in terms of museums. If you're planning on hitting more than one museum, we recommend purchasing the Brussels Card which includes free entry to 40 museums. You can also access certain museums like the Magritte Museum for free on the first Wednesday of the month from 1 pm onwards.
Brussels is blessed with at least 16 historic parks all within the city limits. Royal Park, also known as the Park of Brussels, was the first public park in Brussels and a great picnic spot on a warm day. For the Instagram set, don't miss Cinquantenaire Park, home to the much-photographed Triumphal Arch. Leopold, Petit Sablon and Josephat parks are more great parks to explore.
Festivals are a major part of Belgian culture, so plan ahead and schedule your vacation during one of the city's many festivals. Nuit Blanche is one of the biggest celebrations of the year, with all-night concerts, performances and installations. The Flower Carpet is another major event taking place every two years at the Grand Place.
5. Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
This cathedral can be traced back all the way to the 10th century. Construction of this baroque gem took around 300 years and was completed in 1519. Today, it is one of Belgium's most important religious centers and has served as the site for royal weddings and funerals.
6. Botanical Garden
Melding English, Italian and French styles, the Botanical Garden represents the multi-cultural beauty of Brussels. A shining model of urban green development, the garden features a beautiful rotunda, orangery and two large greenhouses.
7. Comic Strip Route
Brussels has a long history with comics and is considered the home of the comic strip. While you can certainly pay admission to the Belgian Comic Strip Center, you can also take to the streets and follow the Comic Strip Route. Discover the collection of over 50 murals depicting iconic characters like Tintin, Asterix and Spike and Suzy.
Travel tip: A mini-map of the comic strip itinerary is available at the visit.brussels tourist information centers for €1.
8. Palace of Justice
The gigantic Palace of Justice looms high above Place Poelaert, named after the celebrated architect Joseph Poelaert. The seat of Belgium's supreme court of law, the building itself is a 19th-century architectural marvel. The court has two floors and a basement, all of which are accessible to visitors.
9. Abbaye de la Cambre
Founded in 1201, this former Cistercian abbey is a splendid place for quiet contemplation. The buildings were badly damaged during the Wars of Religion but were rebuilt in the 16th century and enlarged in the 18th century. Visitors can explore the small church and terraced gardens.
10. Royal Palace
Open to the public in the summer months, the Royal Palace is where the King of Belgium exercises his authority (like the U.K, Belgium has a constitutional monarchy). Built in a Louis XVI style, visitors can explore many rooms like the dazzling Mirror Room used for events. The palace can be visited free of charge, except on Mondays when it is closed.
11. Galeries Royales St-Hubert
You'll feel like a million bucks strolling through the elegant Galeries Royales St-Hubert, a shopping arcade dating back to 1847. Just around the corner from the Grand Place, the three galleries are the perfect place to browse and discover local artisans. You'll also find art galleries, theaters, a cinema and even a salsa school!
12. Quirky statues
Brussels' trio of peeing statues will surely make you do a double take! The most well-known is Mannekin Pis, a bronze fountain statue of a little boy peeing into a basin that's been a part of Brussels' identity for 400 years. Newer to the scene is Jeanneke-Pis and Zinneke Pis, a little girl and dog, respectively.