Brussels, the heart of the European Union, is a cosmopolitan capital to discover by bike or on foot, full of ideas for travellers.
From the rooftops and urban gardens of the Royal Library to slow food restaurants and local markets, sustainability is everywhere. Here you can find 5 ideas to start discovering Brussels in a Green way!
1.Take a bike ride through Brussels’ parks
Set out to discover Brussels’ hidden gardens and enjoy a relaxing time in the heart of the city. Your first stop should be the Bois de La Cambre park.
In this park, you will see many families and locals walking, jogging, cycling, skating and picnicking. The park has many impressive trees. It is home to 16 different species of bats, and the Sonian Forest deer occasionally roam here. Close to Bois de la Cambre, Villa Empain is an Art Deco jewel from the 1930s where you can visit impressive exhibitions. You can take a break at the various kiosks dotted around the park, such as Le Kiosque and Le Flore.
A few steps from Place Flagey, the Abbaye de la Cambre garden, an oasis of peace and relaxation. In the middle of the European quarter, you can find the Parc du Cinquantenaire, a peaceful park covering some thirty hectares of classical gardens. Inside the large Cinquantenaire building, there are the Cinquantenaire Museum and the Art and Military History Museums. Another park in the heart of the European quarter is Parc Leopold. In this green oasis, many students and institutional employees meet during their lunch hours. There is also a beautiful basketball court here with a view of the European Parliament.
Another beautiful park that you can not miss is the Parc de Forest, which covers 13 hectares of lawn. The top of the park, nearby the highest point in Brussels, offers a vast panorama of the city.
2. Take a walk on the Étangs d’Ixelles
The Étangs d’Ixelles are charming and picturesque that you can not miss in Brussels. They are located in the Ixelles neighbourhood nearby the gardens of the Abbaye de la Cambre in a district characterised by a formidable architectural quality with Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings.
They were initially four ponds formed by the course of the Maelbeek. Until the mid-17th century, the ponds were used as fishponds, washhouses, and reservoirs for drinking water in summer and ice in winter. The Grand Étang, partially drained in 1860, which covered Place Flagey, is today’s lower pond. The Pennebroeck and Ghévaert ponds were joined to form the upper pond Paddevijver, wholly drained, became the Esplanade de la Cambre, now known as Square de la Croix-Rouge.
3. Discover local flavours at markets around the city’s districts
In all its neighbourhoods, squares and streets, Brussels offers you its quality products and warm atmosphere. We recommend you to discover local flavours at the city’s main markets: in Place Flagey (every day from 7 am to 1 pm), where you can find stalls of local producers with flowers, fruit, vegetables, clothes, fish, meat, organic food; the market of Châtelain (Wednesdays from 2 pm to 7 pm), a perfect place to chat, have a drink and fill your cart with local products. We also recommend that you drop by the Saint Gilles market (every day except Mondays from 9 am to 1 pm), the Place Jourdan market in the heart of the European quarter (Sundays from 7 am to 1 pm) and the Place Sainte-Catherine market (Wednesdays from 7.30 am to 3 pm), a small market with a solid commitment for controlled organic farming.
Moreover, besides the local markets in the various neighbourhoods, we recommend you explore The Barn Bio Market. It is a permanent indoor market with 100% organic products in bulk, without plastic packaging and at fair prices, allowing the producer to ensure sustainable production, both ecologically and economically. Julien and Quentin, the founders, are two young entrepreneurs who, after working several years in the sports industry, decided in 2017 to start this sustainable project.
4. Be inspired by the creativity of the comics on the walls
In Brussels, comics are so loved that their protagonists have conquered the walls of the city. Tintin, Spirou, the Smurfs and many other characters grew up here. Brussels is not only the capital of the European Union and Belgium; it is also the capital of comics.
The project to transform Brussels into an actual comic book city began in 1991. It started with an initiative that saw the creation of a route of comic book murals, the so-called Comic Book Route: a comic book promenade that winds through the centre of Brussels, where you can find over 30 murals dedicated to the most famous comic book characters.
Take a walk through the streets of Brussels and open your eyes wide to discover the comic strip trails! A cartoon pops out from every corner of the city. Go in search of the main murals:
- ASTERIX (Comic strip by Goscinny & Uderzo, 2005) in Rue de la Buanderie 33
- THE YOUNG ALBERT (Comic strip by Yves Challand, 2000) in Rue des Alexiens 49
- LUCKY LUKE (Comic strip by Morris, 1993) in Rue de la Buanderie 40
- BROUSSAILLE (Comic strip by Frank Pé, 1999) in Rue Marché-au-Charbon
- L’ARCANGELO (Comic strip by Yslaire, 1998) in Rue des Chartreux 19
- TINTIN (Comic strip by Hergé, 2005) in Rue de l’Etuve 33
- VICTOR SACKVILLE (Comic strip by Francis Carin, 2002) in Rue Marché-au-Charbon 60
- NERONE (Comic strip by Marc Sleen, 1995) in Place Saint-Géry, BRUSSELS
- LE PASSAGE (comic strip by François Schuiten, 1995) in Rue Marché-au-Charbon 19
- RIC HOCHET (Cartoon by Tibet, 1994) in Rue du Bon Secours 9
5. Enjoy the view over the rooftops of Brussels
To get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, just look upward. Brussels offers beautiful panoramic views with rooftop terraces. Take a break during your bike or walking tour and enjoy the best cocktails and finger food menus at sunset, such as prawn croquettes “croquettes aux crevettes“. Here are some of the city’s best rooftops that you should explore:
- Jardin. A few metres from Boulevard Anspach, it offers a beautiful view of the city centre.
- Perché. It is located at the top of the Jam Hotel in Saint-Gilles, and it has a beautiful swimming pool. It allows you to cool your feet while enjoying delicious cocktails! A dip in the water here is a must.
- Albert Summer. This rooftop is located on the Mont des Arts. It usually hosts numerous concerts with the best DJs from Belgium’s emerging music scene.
- Secret Rooftop by Warwick. This stylish bar is located on the sixth floor of the five-star Warwick Brussels hotel. Relax and enjoy a view of the Grand Place square!
- The View. Here you can relax in the sun on soft benches and get a breathtaking view of the Willebroek Canal.
- Soko Rooftop. Located on the 11th floor of the Crossroads Building at the entrance to the Forêt de Soignes, at the strategic point of Quatre Bras de Tervuren.
Backpack on, ready, set, go! Where would you like to start exploring Brussels? Comment below.
Cover image: photo via Canva Pro