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30 best free things to do in Brussels
As the heart of Europe, Brussels is a welcoming city that is accessible to everyone, irrespective of nationality, language or economic means. Especially the latter will be of interest to people travelling on a budget. The truth is that you don't need to spend a lot of money to have a great time in the Belgian capital. There's always something to do, among which many cheap or free activities. This post provides an overview of the 30 best free things to do in Brussels that will keep you busy for days, if not weeks!
1) Explore the historic center of Brussels
If you've just arrived in the city, it goes without saying that you should explore the charming streets and beautiful buildings in and around the city center, which is one of the best ways enjoy Brussels for free. In order to help you establish your itinerary, we’ve published a list with places to visit on your first visit to Brussels along with a one-day walking itinerary.
2) Have a picnic in the park
One great activity in Summer is picnicking in the park. It doesn’t cost anything, you get to explore the different beautiful parks in the city and you’ll spend a great time with your friends. We’ve compiled a list with the best parks to picnic in Brussels. If you’re lucky, you might even combine it with a free concert or yoga class that takes place in some of the parks.
3) Enjoy the panoramic view at Mont des Arts
Situated on a hill next to the historic city center, Mont des Arts offers one of the most iconic views over Brussels. From there, you can marvel at the city center, dominated by the tower of the town hall. On a clear day you’ll also spot the [Basilica of Koekelberg]() and the Atomium in the distance. Whereas the view is very beautiful by day, it gets truly magical around sunset, as the sky turns pink and orange.
4) Visit the Palace of Justice
This enormous building looming out over the Marolles area houses the main courthouse of Belgium. Although it’s in scaffoldings since forever, the Palace of Justice remains a very impressive construction. But don’t stay outside! Have a look inside and discover a exquisit sample of classical architecture. Entrance is free.
5) Take a cartoon walk
Brussels is covered in beautiful cartoon walls and it won’t be difficult to spot at least a few as you’re wandering through the city center. We’ve published an article suggesting a cartoon walk in the Marolles area and if you need more inspiration, you can check this map that lists all the cartoon walls all over Brussels, so that you can draw your own itinerary.
Note: In the tourist information center of Brussels, you can also buy a paper map (1 EUR) listing all the cartoon walls.
6) Visit a free museum
Brussels boasts so many (free) museums that they can keep you busy for a few days if you want to visit them all. Some are always free, some are free on a specific day… Brussels Museums has published a very clear overview of the free museums in Brussels, along with lots of other useful information.
7) Have an apéro while watching the sunset on Place Poelaert
The square in front of the Palace of Justice is very popular with locals to hang out and have a drink in the evening. It’s especially interesting to come over around that time because not only you do get a splendid view over Brussels, you’re also treated to an enchanting sunset.
8) Grab a free concert
Looking for a place to go out in the evening? There’s always something going on in Brussels, and it’s often free. The Flemish website Uit In Brussel gathers all the free events in their comprehensive agenda. Beursshouwburg often does free concerts and movie screenings and always mentions on their website which ones are free. There are also many free outdoor festivals such as Boterhammen in het Park, Feeërieën, Fête de la Musique…
9) Visit the royal palace in Summer
Every Summer, the Royal Palace next to Parc Royal opens up to the public from the end of July to the beginning of September. This is the opportunity to visit the premises for free and marvel at the majestic halls, antique furniture and giant chandeliers… More information (in French) on the website of the Belgian monarchy
10) Check out the open air graffiti gallery
Although it’s usually ignored by tourists, there are at least four good reasons to visit Anderlecht. One of them is the open air graffiti gallery under the Ring around Brussels. Around 150 columns supporting the bridge have been covered with artistic graffiti masterpieces.
11) The rooftop view from the royal library
Looking for some quiet after exploring the historic city center? Then the rooftop from the Royal Library is the perfect place for you. Access is free, and besides you get an exclusive view over the Mont des Arts and the Palace of Justice!
12) Free city walk
Several organizations offer free (tip-based) city tours in Brussels, which is a great way to get an introduction to the city. More information on the website of Sandemans New Europe, Viva’s Tour or Bravo Discovery for an Art Nouveau Tour.
If you want to be sure of your spot, you can make a reservation on Viva's Free Walking tour beforehand.
You can also try to meet a Greeter, who are locals volunteering to show you around in the city. Finally, Be Brussels also lists a series of more atypical tours and open days.
13) Learn about the European Parliament in the Parlamentarium
You can take a self-directed tour in the visitors center, where you’ll learn about the workings of the European Parliament. An average visit takes about 90 minutes and entrance is free of charge. More information on the website of the European Parliamant
14) Look for the three peeing statues
Brussels has a thing with peeing statues. You have probably heard of Manneken Pis, but did you already know about the Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis? The former is a girl squatting by the famous beer bar Delirium, whereas the lattter is a peeing dog. He’s bit more difficult to find, but you’ll bump into him eventually by wandering through the city center.
15) Gather free food at marché du midi
If you arrive at the right time, you can get lots of food for free at the Brussels Sunday market next to Gare du Midi. Try to go around 2pm when the vendors are wrapping up. When fruit and vegetables aren't perfectly unblemished anymore, they don’t bother to take them back home, so that’s your cue to go and grab what they give away.
16) Seek out the best sunset spots
Brussels has multiple beautiful look-outs to watch the sunset. Just to name a few, the [Park of Forest][(#), Place Poelaert and Mont des Arts, which are all freely accessible, offer a magical scenery when the evening sun goes under. You’ll find more suggestions in our article about the best sunset spots in Brussels.
17) Organize your own art-nouveau-themed walk
If you appreciate Art Nouveau, you’ll often be walking with your head in the sky as Brussels boasts countless architecturally precious buildings. Some area, like Sint-Gilles, have a more dense grouping of art nouveau houses and you could explore those following the walking tour suggested by the Culture Trip. Otherwise, you can also obtain a map for 1 euro from the tourist office that marks all the art nouveau spot in the Louise district and in the city center, as well as the art deco highlights in Ixelles and the city center.
18) Take a selfie in front of the Atomium
The Atomium is one of the most iconic monuments in Brussels, which turns it into a required stop while on a trip in Brussels. Although you can also enter and visit the exhibitions within the building, the fee tends to set back travelers who are on a budget. That doesn’t mean a visit to the big balls of Belgium shouldn’t be fun. Strike your best pose for a series of memorable selfies in front of the Atomium!
19) Watch an open-air movie
In Summer, there are lots of open-air movie screenings on various locations in Brussels. Some of the recurrent events are: Bruxelles fait son cinema, Vaux-Hall Summer, l’Heure d’été, Wolubilis, Josaphat fait son cinema, Cinéma en plein air... Be Brussels also lists a few indoor options. Plenty to choose from!
20) Take a long walk in nature
Whereas the center of Brussels is dotted with countless parks, the suburbs offer various large green areas that are perfect to walk and unwind. Some of them are Moeraske, the last swamp of Brussels, the area around the windmill of Anderlecht, La Hulpe and its castle, the Park of Tervuren, the Sonian Forest, and so on.
21) Watch a parade
At various times of the year, celebrations of all kinds are coupled with a big parade. The folkloric Ommegang parade honours the visit of Charles the Fifth to Brussels in 1549. The Zinneke Parade wants to gather inhabitants, associations and schools from the different quarters of Brussels around 1 common project. The Pride Parade celebrating the social acceptance of LGBTQ, is always coupled with a big party all over the city… Keep an eye on the Brussels agenda for upcoming events!
22) Drink free tap water
Given that drinkable water is a basic right, it should be free, right? Nevertheless, it can be tricky to find free water in the city. The organization Infirmiers de la Rue has drawn up a map that points out all the fountains with potable water. You’ll find the map in several metro stations, or you can find a copy here. Would you like a glass of free water with your meal? Although restaurants usually charge money for still water, the app Free tap water Belgium lists all the restaurants that are willing to provide free water.
23) Visit an urban farm
Did you know there is a little farm right in the center of Brussels? Ten minutes walking from Gare du Nord, Ferme du Parc Maximilien accommodates some sheep, chickens, rabbits, goats and even two alpaca’s. It’s a great place to explore with children!
24) Free toilets
Although various bars and restaurants will let you use the toilet for free if you ask politely, some will still charge a small contribution. To avoid confusion, you can head to one of the public toilets. Look for the map created by Infirmiers de la Rue which is on display in various metro stations and which points out all the free toilets. You can also download a copy here.
25) Join a Couchsurfing event
Also in Brussels, the Couchsurfing community is quite active. Log in on their website or app to find out about the events taking place during your stay in Belgium. You might even find a host that’s willing to accommodate you for free at his/her place.
26) Repair your stuff for free
Why throw away stuff if it’s still possible to fix it? Head to a Repair Café where knowledge volunteers will help you to fix your clothing, furniture, electrical devices, toys… Have a look on the Repair Café website to find out which one is closest to you. Several bike repair ateliers have specialized in mending bikes. You don’t pay for the service, only for the spare parts. You can also get your bike engraved for free in the Maison de la Prévention of Auderghem.
27) Free workshops
Various workshops are often organized for free covering a wide range of subjects. Be Brussels lists a few places where you can go for breakdance, Portuguese dance, Argentian tango and knitting workshops. Keep an eye on the Brussels Facebook groups and you’ll discover much more.
28) Get a free haircut
Students in hairdressing schools are always looking for models to practice their skills. If you dare taking the “risk”, you can get a free or discounted haircut at Jean Louis David, Sama Academy, Franck Provost or go via an agency.
29) Underground art: the Brussels metro stations
You don’t need to enter a gallery to soak up some culture. Go underground and discover the unusual works of art on display for everyone in the Brussels’ metro stations. Pannenhuis is especially popular for its futuristic design. Horta features decorative ironwork and stained glass designed by Victor Horta for the Maison du Peuple and Hôtel Aubecq. Stuyvenbergh is populated by creepy statues representing Queen Elisabeth and her environment in different stages of her life. The entire metro network covers more than 80 works of art, which are all documented in this brochure from STIB
30) Take the elevator to the MIM rooftop
The splendid Old England department store on top of the Mont des Arts nowadays houses a large collection of unique musical instruments. Although access to the museum requires a fee, the rooftop does not. Take the beautiful art nouveau elevator to the top floor which houses a rooftop bar and restaurant. Apart from a unique view over Brussels, you’ll also get to appreciate the beautiful art nouveau interior design of the restaurant!
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