Brussels is not cheap, but it does have some freebie gems which all Cheapos should take advantage of. While we have no secret tips for nabbing free steamed mussels and Belgian beer (alas!), we do have the skinny on the top free attractions in the city. (Don’t forget to check out our Brussels city guide for more budget tips.)
Here are five free attractions to enjoy in the Belgian capital:
1. The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday to Friday), 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Saturday), 8:30 to 2 p.m. (Sunday)
Dating back to the 11th century, the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is a prominent fixture in the Brussels cityscape. Inside you’ll find stained-glass windows and beautiful arched ceilings. The cathedral is home to a Romanesque crypt, though visitors must pay €2.50 to view it.
In addition to holding daily services, the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula hosts classical music concerts, may of which are free. Check the cathedral’s calendar of events to see who’s playing when you’re in town.
2. Visit European Parliament
Tel: +32 (0)2 284 21 11
Lest you forget, Brussels is the administrative center of the European Union. This special distinction affords visitors the opportunity to tour the European Parliament—without spending a euro.
To get your international relations fix, catch a guided tour of European Parliament’s debating chamber. Tours are conducted at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday to Thursday and at 10 a.m. only on Friday. If you want an extra special glimpse into the workings of the EU, check out the plenary sitting schedule to see when events are open to the public.
3. The Royal Museum of Armed Forces and of Military History
Tel: +32 (0)2 737 78 33
Hours: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. (Tuesday to Sunday)
A visit to Brussels’ Royal Museum of Armed Forces and of Military History is completely free. The exhibitions document Belgian and European history chronologically, with no shortage of tanks thrown in for good measure. After winding your way through the galleries, head up to the museum’s roof. You’re in for a real treat: Look out and enjoy a panoramic view of Brussels.
4. Free museums on the first Wednesday of the month
While some Brussels museums are always free, others open their doors gratis monthly, on the first Wednesday of the month. Among the participating museums are the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Free admission begins at 1 p.m. Visit the Brussels Museums Web site for more information.
5. Free concerts
L’Archiduic, a popular bar in the Ste. Catherine hood, hosts live jazz throughout the week. Check the site to see what’s on—but don’t blame us if you end up shelling out for a few drinks.
Just a few blocks from L’Archiduic, the Beurscafé also boasts some free music events. Check the site (in French and Dutch) for more info.
Have other suggestions for free activities in Brussels? Share your wisdom by leaving a comment!