Top 10 Free Things to do in Brussels

By - March 21, 2012 (Updated: June 9, 2017)

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Things to Do in Brussels.

top 10 free things to do in Brussels, Belgium

Looking for things to do in Brussels, Belgium that won’t break the bank? We list our top 10 free things to do in Brussels while still enjoying the best Belgium has to offer.

With Europe in the middle of an economic crisis, many of us have had to cut back our entertainment budgets. While we all know it doesn’t cost anything to stroll through Grand Place or hang out with Mannekin Pis, it can be difficult to come up with activities in the capital that don’t cost an arm and a leg. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit at home.

There are plenty of free things to do in Brussels, and we’ve listed 10 of our favourites.

1. Take to the streets with a free walking tour

Even in tough economic times, foot power remains free. If you need guidance, Visit Brussels has created a series of thematic walks you can follow. Check out your favourite fictional characters on the Tintin Walk, or explore the city’s famous architecture on the Art Nouveau Walk. Stop by the nearest tourist office and pick up one of the mini-maps (they’ll only cost you a euro) or print off a PDF map and hit the road for free!

If you prefer to walk about with a passionate tour guide, book a trip with the Brussels Greeters in advance. Tours are free and can be catered to your interests. Read all about our experience with the Brussels Greeters.

Admire Brussels Art Nouveau Architecture

Admire Brussels Art Nouveau Architecture

2. Go Green in a Park

Brussels may be bustling and busy, but there are plenty of quiet green spaces to discover, no matter where in the city you find yourself. A few of our favourites include:

For a full list of parks in Brussels, on an interactive map, check out the Parks and Gardens of the Capital Region website.

3. Find Religion in Brussels’ Churches

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the beautiful art and architecture of Brussels’ churches and cathedrals. Although a few charge a nominal fee for entrance, most of the city’s churches are free or simply ask for a small donation. Beautiful examples include St Gudule and St  Michael’s Cathedral, The Church of Our Lady of Laeken, Notre Dame du Sablon, and The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Notre Dame du Sablon Church is lovely to visit

Notre Dame du Sablon Church is lovely to visit

4. Justice for all at the Palais du Justice

It may be a controversial sight in the city, but Brussels’ Palace of Justice is free to explore (at least those areas open to the public). Bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, this giant building towers over the Marolles neighbourhood below. Beside the Palace of Justice, is one of the best free views of Brussels at Place Poelaert, named after the building’s architect.

5. Mingle with royalty at the Royal Palace

Although the Royal Palace of Brussels is only open to the public during the summer months, it is free to walk through many of the staterooms and suites on a self-guided tour. The Royal family demonstrate their support for the arts with a different cultural exhibition each year.

Brussels Royal Palace is free to visitors during the summer months

Brussels Royal Palace is free to visitors during the summer months

6. Find peace at the Abbey de la Cambre

The former Cistercian abbey, Abbey de la Cambre, founded in the late 1100s, is now the headquarters of the Belgian National Geographic Institute and the visual arts school, La Cambre. You can freely visit the beautiful grounds and gardens as well as Notre Dame de la Cambre, the small abbey church.

7. Get militant at The Royal Museum of Armed Forces and of Military History

If you are interested in the history of the military and armed combat, you can freely explore the Royal Museum of Armed Forces and of Military History. Collections include exhibits from Medieval times to the European Forum of Contemporary Conflicts. You can see planes, tanks and all manner of weapons and uniforms from throughout history.

8. Learn about the European Parliament in the heart of Europe

If you are interested in politics, you can tour the European Parliament’s plenary chamber with a free audio guide, available in all 23 of the official EU languages. You can also visit the new, free Parlamentarium Visitor’s Centre, where you can take an interactive journey through the European Union’s member states.

9. Visit with Belgium’s dearly departed at the Ixelles Cemetery

Walking through graveyards is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Ixelles Cemetery has some famous residents if you are up to a visit. Art Nouveau architect, Victor Horta is buried here, and he also designed the tombs of sculptor Édouard Louis Geerts and chemist Ernest Solvay. Belgian chocolate master Frederic Neuhaus is also buried here, as are painter Antoine Wiertz and writer Camille Lemonnier.

10. Enjoy the city’s museums for free on the first Wednesday of the month

While many of Brussels’ major museums charge entrance fees, if you are flexible with your dates, you can visit many of them for free on the first Wednesday of the month. Participating museums include The Museum of Musical Instruments, The Magritte Museum, Cinquantenaire Museum (with its stunning Art Nouveau gallery), the Natural Science Museum (with its dinosaur collection, and many others. You can see a full list here.

The Musical Instrument Museum is free to visit once a month

The Musical Instrument Museum is free to visit once a month

This list just scratches the surface of the free activities in Brussels. There are many small, quirky museums that are always free. The Brussels Capital Region Portal has a huge list of free activities, arranged by category, and incredibly, it’s available in English. So get out there and enjoy the best (free) things Brussels has to offer!

For more great things to do in Brussels, visit our Brussels portal and stay tuned for more in our Things to Do in Brussels series.

Need a place to stay in Brussels? Be sure to check out our top 30 hotels in Brussels, Belgium top 30 hotels in Brussels, Belgium, or if you’re in a hurry, book hotels at the best possible rates below:

Top 10 free things to do in Brussels, Belgium

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
- 9 hours ago


  1. Comment by Jane

    Jane March 21, 2012 at 10:30

    Great list!!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 21, 2012 at 11:34

      Thanks Jane! I was surprised by how many of the museums are free, at least sometimes. If you plan ahead you can save a bundle!

  2. Comment by Jessica

    Jessica March 21, 2012 at 10:31

    Great post! Bois de la Cambre is also a great park to run. I think people who are bored in Brussels are by choice!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 21, 2012 at 11:34

      Thanks Jessica! I agree, there is plenty to do here if you take the time to look around a bit!

      • Comment by Jessica

        Jessica March 21, 2012 at 11:36

        I think that’s what makes the city truly special, the hidden gems!

        • Comment by Alison

          Alison March 21, 2012 at 11:46

          Absolutely! You may have to work a little harder to find them but it makes them that much more special when you do!

  3. Comment by Sarah

    Sarah March 21, 2012 at 19:23

    And, by going into the military museum you can climb the arch and get an amazing view over Brussels (on a good day!)

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 22, 2012 at 09:26

      Great point Sarah! In fact I think all of the best views in Bxl are free or almost free. Take that Paris and London 😉

  4. Comment by Juan

    Juan March 21, 2012 at 20:20

    Brussels is such an special city. At the beginning, it looks gray and dirty and boring. When you start to discover it, it is amazing, specially for its size. So many things to see and do! the interesting part of it, is to discover those things, and blogs like this help that to happen. Thanks! by the way, tried the cool bun, really nice, keep up the wonderful work!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 22, 2012 at 09:28

      Thanks so much Juan! I’m thrilled you’re finding CheeseWeb helpful and that you enjoyed Cool Bun. I totally agree with you about Brussels… It doesn’t always leave you with the best first impression (unless you happen to catch it on a rare sunny day). But once you start exploring it, you discover how lucky we really are to be here. It definitely grows on you!

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