We will be on a ship that docks for the day in Brussels. We aren't interested in any of the excursions offered by the ship. What are some suggestions for a "do it ourselves" look at Brussels? We are an active bunch of mixed age adults.
Brussels isn't on the coast, so I think you'll be docking elsewhere. Most people seem to think Brussels isn't the most interesting spot in Belgium, anyway.
This is not a big cruise board. Make sure about your transportation to and from the ship, especially returning on time.
Brussels is quite famous for its multiple, very fine art museums. The Cathedral and several outdoor areas are historic architecture areas, very walkable. There are several other attractive and interesting churches. Everyone wants to see Grand Place, but there are equally attractive squares all over Europe. I agree that you don't need a ship tour, if you can easily get downtown from wherever the pier is. The Musical Instrument Museum, the Magritte Museum, and the Ancient/Modern Art Museums are especially good, if you like that sort of thing. (For example, The Death of Marat, by David, who fled to today's Belgium after the Revolution, and The Fall of Icarus, by Bruegel the Elder)
For those who don't like art, the underground Coudenberg Palace cellar museum and the Brussels History museum (which doesn't pull any punches about King Leopold and the Congo) are good. Newsboards often warn against deceptive marketing and bill-writing practices on the otherwise attractive Rue de Bouchers restaurant "strip". I simply say, "no thanks" to the touts. I find the diversified, non-"art" collection of the Bozar museum to be always appealing.
No, you cannot go to Bruges on the train from an 8AM-5PM cruise ship stop. It's a little risky, but you could go to Leuven, which is a lovely University town, more compact, and with several attractive features. But it would be safer to order a car service for that than to take the short train ride. There are three downtown train stations in Brussels, where all the local trains always stop. I happen to think that the Beguinage in Leuven is especially attractive, but it's almost too far to walk from the rail station. That would be risky from a one-day cruise stop. I got the feeling that Brussels and Leuven MIGHT use the same bus ticket system, but don't hold me to that. What day of the week is the cruise stop? I should warn you that the beautiful and famous University Library in Leuven has been war-bombed and rebuilt TWICE. But the town hall and cathedral are both exceptionally attractive. Nice little art museum, in a new building, also. Pretty public park.
I've seen the Atomium and the Euro Parliament from the bus, but they're not worth my time to get off.
Thank you. I realize that this is not a cruise board, but i am looking for more port advice than they normally provide. Your information is very helpful. Thank you.
Don't think it will be docking in Brussels as it is 25 miles from Antwerp, the closest ocean port, or 60 miles from Zeebrugge on the North Sea. Brugge (Bruges) or Antwerp will likely be more interesting places to visit.
It is possible that the OP is on a River Cruise. But you are right about Zeebrugge. I often read about cruises that nominally include Berlin, but the port is actually on the coast, and over an hour away. There are nice towns much closer to Kiel.
Anyway, I would think that a sea cruise stop at Zeebrugge would be programmed as "Bruges", not as "Brussels". Bruges is a highly marketable name. And I would go there if it's closer than Brussels to the ship. Of course there's a tiny subset of heavy drinkers (and painter James Ensor fans) who would rather go to Ostend, in the summer.
Edit: I forgot to say that I wouldn't cross the Brussels street to see Manneken Pis, and certainly not hike to see the female version. (Kiki Smith has done much better ... ... )
Grand Place to start. It really is a beautiful square and they've just done a bunch of restoration. I think the Museum of the City of Brussels is pretty good - and there isn't another one anywhere else in the world. I love going to "City" museums. Some are better than others, sure, but they are usually quieter, and the guides/docents are enthusiastic and generally pleased that someone is taking an interest.
Galeries Royales Saint Hubert - a shopping - or window shopping arcade. You can get macarons at Pierre Marcolini.
As Tim said, Mannekin Pis is underwhelming. But, the costumes that have been made for him over the years - somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 - are kind of cool - if you like that. I did. They used to be housed in City Hall on the Grand Place, but they now have their own museum at Rue du Chene 19.
Walk up the steps of the Mont des Arts - especially on a sunny day. Fabulous view. Up just above that is where the government buildings are located. You could take a walk in the Parc du Bruxelles. Also in that general area are the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique - the fine art museum, and the Magritte Museum right next door, and the musical instruments museum is in the vicinity.
There is the Grand Sablon neighborhood. Shops and restaurants. Recommend the Wittamer Bakery and Passion Chocolat. Especially the chocolate.
For beer somewhere like Mort Subite or Moeder Lambic.
That's a lot for a day, but you get choices
For Brussels, Grand Place is a good place to start. There is a Neuhaus chocolate shop on the square. Have a beer at Le Roy, with a nice view of the square.
These are good choices also- the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique - the fine art museum, and the Magritte Museum right next door.