Among Europe’s big cities, Brussels doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Yet Belgium’s capital has prime architecture, public parks, and 19 municipalities, each with its own distinct vibe. These include trendy Ixelles, artsy Saint-Gilles, and the city center with its Grand-Place on the main square, surrounded by opulent buildings. Add to that a unique artistic sense, excellent cuisine, and multilingual conversation — French, Dutch, and German are all official languages, and English is widely spoken — and you have a lot to explore in one short weekend. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Go up inside the Atomium.

A picture of the Atomium in Brussels

Photo: brunocoelho/Shutterstock

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This shiny metallic attraction in Heysel Plateau in the north of Brussels was originally built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, or Expo 58, but now serves as a timepiece. Designed to depict the Atomic Age, this set of nine spheres was supposed to be dismantled once the World’s Fair was over. However, the fixture won Belgians over and became a beloved landmark.

It was restored in 2006, and now you can go inside and up escalators to two levels. Take in the permanent and temporary exhibits, and more importantly, orient yourself with an overhead panoramic view of Brussels. To enjoy the view longer, stay for a meal of Belgian dishes or seasonal specialties within Atomium’s restaurant within its top sphere. (Reserve a table in advance, to be safe.)

2. Giggle at the Manneken Pis statue.

Famous statue Manneken Pis in Brussels

Photo: Felix Lipov/Shutterstock

This bronze, pint-size statue of a naked boy urinating in a fountain sounds gross, but this little guy has been a Brussels’ city center fixture since the 15th century. Manneken Pis has had some stories about him, from being a boy who saved Brussels from burning down due to peeing on the flames to being the lost son of a rich man who found him taking a whiz at a street corner.

In reality, Manneken Pis had an important job back in the early 1600s: aiding in the distribution of water through a system by standing on a column and pouring water into a stone basin up until the 19th century. He’s also been through some bumps, having survived a bombardment of Brussels in 1695 and being stolen but returned a few times. (The original one sits in the Brussels City Museum.) These days, Manneken Pis gets dressed up throughout the year in attire based on themes or events. In 2017, the GardeRobe MannekenPis opened as a costume museum that displays and stores his wardrobe.

3. Savor a proper Belgian waffle.

Belgian waffles

Photo: Ana del Castillo/Shutterstock

You’ve never really had a waffle until you’ve tried a Belgian waffle, a special treat that’s very simple but incredibly tasty. The waffles are traditionally made with yeast, which gives them an airy texture and makes them crispy on the outside but light and fluffy on the inside. Try a Brussels-style waffle, which comes topped with powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream or a drizzle of melted chocolate. Another waffle version is the Liège, which has an oval shape and is sweetened with pearl sugar, compressed nibs of sugar.

Photo: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/belgian-waffles-gaufres-49592260?src=Ethp801wKE8Ll3HoRX1sIQ-1-39">Ana del Castillo</a>/Shutterstock’ width=”1280″ height=”853″ class=”size-full wp-image-544543″></p><p class="wp-caption-text">Photo: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/exterior-view-maison-dandoy-patisserie-brussels-1370017691?src=6hks_ncPvytMYpJLKQ7h9g-1-1">Alexandros Michailidis</a>/Shutterstock</p></div><p>Try either type of waffle at <a href="https://maisondandoy.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Maison Dandoy</a>, a bakery founded by the owner’s great-great-great grandfather in 1829. It has several locations, including one with a tearoom at its City Center address on Rue Charles Buls; consider their <em>speculoos</em>, or spiced shortbread, as a crunchy topping. In Saint-Hubert Royal Galleries, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Mokaf%C3%A9-1565011460451527/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Mokafé</a> is a longtime bistro with waffles and other Belgian delights, while the <a href="http://bruxelles.wafflefactory.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Waffle Factory</a> near the Manneken Pis sculpture has traditional and experimental orders such as a <em>LunchWaf</em> sandwich. </p><h2>4. Appreciate Art Nouveau architecture.</h2><div id="attachment_544539" class="wp-caption alignnone" style="width: 1290px"><img src="http://travel.atspace.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/View-of-the-decorated-interior-on-the-ground-floor-of-the-first-house-by-Horta-Maison-Autrique.jpg" alt="View of the decorated interior on the ground floor of the first house by Horta, Maison Autrique" width="1280" height="854" class="size-full wp-image-544539"></p><p class="wp-caption-text">Photo: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/schaerbeek-brussels-belgium-03-2018-view-1109676248?src=TIM7h7v84DxTrypBb0pdjw-1-1">Werner Lerooy</a>/Shutterstock</p></div><p>Art Nouveau, an architectural style centering on natural forms, can be found throughout Brussels. Belgian architect Victor Horta is considered to be the father of Brussels’ Art Nouveau, and you can see his work throughout the city. The <a href="http://www.hortamuseum.be/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Horta Museum</a> is the house that Horta lived in for 20 years in Saint-Gilles, which today is a boho, multicultural area. The house’s interior reflects Horta’s work through its mosaics, stained glass, and elegant wall decorations. </p><p>You can view other examples mainly from outside. The Hôtel Tassel, a townhouse built in 1893, is where Horta first applied his theories in Art Nouveau — using an exposed metal structure, integrating décor with form, and being fluid with spacing. In the hip Ixelles neighborhood, <a href="http://www.hotelsolvay.be/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Solvay House</a> is a luxe townhouse built for an industrialist with eye-catching altered metal framing and glasswork. There are other game-changers in Brussels’ Art Nouveau heritage. Designed by Belgian architect Paul Hankar, Maison A. Ciamberlani is named for the painter it was built for; its façade has beautiful frescos and oriental design windows. </p><h2>5. Savor locally produced chocolate.</h2><div id="attachment_544544" class="wp-caption alignnone" style="width: 1290px"><img src="http://travel.atspace.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Famous-Belgian-chocolatier-Pierre-Marcolini-prepares-chocolate-dessert-in-Salon-du-Chocolat.jpg" alt="Famous Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini prepares chocolate dessert in Salon du Chocolat" width="1280" height="853" class="size-full wp-image-544544"></p><p class="wp-caption-text">Photo: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/brussels-belgium-24th-february-2019-famous-1322807474?src=xsgz-d2a4r3yAwsXR9xUEg-1-35">Alexandros Michailidis</a>/Shutterstock</p></div><p>Brussels and chocolate have a sweet relationship, and many confectionaries create exquisite bars, truffles, and other chocolaty goodness packaged in beautiful boxes. Within the city center, Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is where <a href="https://www.neuhauschocolates.com/en/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Neuhaus</a> created the praline; it’s said that pharmacist Jean Neuhaus came up with it while trying to make medicine make better. The shop has different locations throughout Brussels. </p><p><a href="https://www.mary.be/en/home" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Mary Chocolatier</a>, which also has multiple addresses, is a century-old artisan shop that makes everything from chocolate squares to truffles to pralines. Within the Sablon district, <a href="https://www.leonidas.com/en/products/chocolate" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Léonidas Chocolates</a> is a Belgian institution known for its chocolate dipped fruits, marzipan, and napolitains, while master chocolatier <a href="https://eu.marcolini.com/en/maison-pierre-marcolini/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Maison Pierre Marcolini</a> roasts his own cacao beans, and <a href="http://www.chocolaterie-belvas.be/en/where-to-buy/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Belvas</a> emphasizes fair trade practices and has gluten- and sugar-free choices. In Mont des Arts, <a href="http://www.chocolatsgerbaud.be/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier</a> holds decorating workshops that let chocolate-lovers add on kumquats, sesame seeds, ginger, hazelnuts, and other unique toppings.</p><h2>6. Sip on craft beers.</h2><div id="attachment_544547" class="wp-caption alignnone" style="width: 1290px"><img src="http://travel.atspace.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/young-woman-and-man-with-a-glass-of-beer-at-the-festival-Belgian-Beer-Weekend-2014.jpg" alt="young woman and man with a glass of beer at the festival Belgian Beer Weekend 2014" width="1280" height="854" class="size-full wp-image-544547"></p><p class="wp-caption-text">Photo: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/brussels-belgium-september-07-2014-unknown-1065101348?src=qLDsb2bqiS8-oAgP_1OxCA-1-89">Alexey Pevnev</a>/Shutterstock</p></div><p>After taking in city sights, relax over a glass of one of Brussels’ most excellent liquid creations: beer. Belgium has been brewing craft beers long before they became a thing. Today, the industry produces great varieties, which you can sample at pubs, breweries, and beer halls. There’s even a <a href="http://www.belgianbrewers.be/en/events" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Belgian Beer Weekend</a> in early September in the Grand-Place. </p><p>Headquartered in Dansaert, the <a href="https://www.beerproject.be/en/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Brussels Beer Project</a> works as a cooperative in constantly developing new beers and fostering brewing dialogue with like-minded brewers and beer drinkers. This microbrewery’s resulting creations can range from a Belgian IPA to their Grosse Bertha, a blending of the recipes of a malt-heavy <em>tripel</em> beer and a <em>hefeweizen</em>. <a href="http://brasseriedelasenne.be/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Brasserie de la Senne</a> is also a small brewery with an emphasis on traditional methods and producing beers with lower alcohol level content. As a nightlife spot, <a href="https://www.deliriumvillage.com/bar/delirium-cafe/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Delirium Café</a> has quite the long beer list — with just over 2,000 choices from Belgium and all around the globe — so much that it earned a Guinness Book of World Records title in 2004. </p><h2>7. Take in Brussels’ famous comic strip art.</h2><div id="attachment_544542" class="wp-caption alignnone" style="width: 1290px"><img src="http://travel.atspace.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/comic-wall-painting-in-Brussels.jpg" alt="comic wall painting in Brussels" width="1280" height="853" class="size-full wp-image-544542"></p><p class="wp-caption-text">Photo: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/brussels-belgium-may-17-2015-comic-284804204?src=zLlDNDzR5J_qRtwcatRr9g-1-2">Christian Mueller</a>/Shutterstock</p></div><p>Belgian and other European comic strip illustrators have made their home within Belgium, and Brussels is the place where this Ninth Art becomes the centerpiece within museums and galleries, along walls and on the sides of buildings. A comic strip mural tour offers a route to check out outdoor murals featuring native Belgian designs — from <em>The Smurfs</em> by Peyo to Hergè’s <em>Tin Tin</em> to <em>Lucky Luke</em> by Morris. Pick up maps for the tour at <a href="https://visit.brussels/site/en/article/tourism-information-desks" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Visit Brussels</a> information desks. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.comicscenter.net/en/home" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Belgian Comic Strip Center</a>, a two-level Art Nouveau building designed by Horta, delves into the history of the comic strip but also highlights works by native and noted creators. Fans of the Smurfs will delight in viewing the story behind these small blue creatures and their appearance in print, a TV cartoon, and movies. 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