City Center Churches, Brussels

Brussels is the cultural capital of Belgium, it is also the spiritual home of Belgium's most significant churches. The city has a number of unique religious sites such as the Saint Nicholas Church, the Church of Notre-Dame de la Chapelle and the Sablon Church. Take this tour to visit some of the most impressive churches and cathedrals in Brussels' city center.
You can follow this self-guided walking tour to explore the attractions listed below. How it works: download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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City Center Churches Map

Guide Name: City Center Churches
Guide Location: Belgium » Brussels (See other walking tours in Brussels)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 km
Author: audrey
Church of Notre-Dame de la Chapelle

1) Church of Notre-Dame de la Chapelle

The Church of Notre Dame de la Chapelle (Our Lady of the Chapel) is an imposing Romanesque-Gothic church constructed during the 13th and 14th centuries. Architecturally, it represents a transition between the Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. Its dramatic appearance makes it one of the most interesting churches in Brussels. The church was subject to numerous restorations during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the overall architectural appearance has remained intact. Two important historic figures are commemorated by two interior chapels. The church is perhaps most famous for being the burial site of Francois Anneessens, a historic Brussels individual who was killed for promoting civil rights. In addition, there is a chapel dedicated to the memory of Pieter Breughel the Elder. Sometimes called the “Peasant Bruegel”, he was a Flemish painter and printmaker who created stunning landscape and peasant scenes. He got the name Peasant Bruegel because he would often dress up like a peasant in order to gain access to lower-class weddings and celebrations so he could gather inspiration for future art pieces. There are also several funerary monuments in the church. The Notre Dame de la Chapelle is open year round and is popular with local parishioners as well as visitors.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Church of Saint Jean et Etienne aux Minimes

2) Church of Saint Jean et Etienne aux Minimes

The Church of Saint Jean et Etienne aux Minimes, often just called the Church of Minimes, sits at a busy crossroads. It is located within walking distance from two districts: the upscale Sablon and working class Marolles, so it draws a diverse range of parishioners. Constructed in the beginning of the 18th century, the church exhibits an architectural style representative of the period where styles transitioned from Flemish-Baroque to Neo-Classical. The interior of the church feels particularly serene due the whitewashed walls and the extensive amount of natural light that pours in. It is often noted that this church feels like churches designed by the Italian architect Palladio. Notable works of art in the interior are worth a look, including paintings by Jan Cosiers, a 15th century Christ figure, and the decorative pulpit. The interior and exterior proportions of the church are often noted as being visually pleasing. The church regularly hosts lecture series as well as a popular classical concert series which take advantage of the great acoustics in the building. These are popular with both locals and visitors. The church is open all year for parishioners and visitors.
Église Notre Dame du Sablon

3) Église Notre Dame du Sablon (must see)

The Église Notre Dame du Sablon (Church of Our Lady of the Sablon) is a late-Gothic style church in the upscale Sablon area. The original chapel on the site dates back to 1304 and was funded by the Guild of Crossbowmen. Upon completion of the chapel, the guilds-men used it as their place of worship. Later, the church was used by the monarchs; including Emperor Charles V. Up until the late 1700s the church was a burial ground for the rich community members, who would construct their own funeral chapels. The church was expanded through the years and was renovated in a neo-Gothic style between 1864 and 1934. The real beauty of the church is in the interior, with impressive and colorful stained-glass windows. These windows provide a contrast to the churches generally gray and white features. They are lit from behind and visible from the exterior of the church at night. The statue of St. Hubert is notable due to its interesting history. It was stolen from Brussels and spirited away to Antwerp where it stayed for a year. Eventually, it was returned to the church and in 1348, and it has remained ever since. The church is open daily.

Why You Should Visit:
To be struck by the sense of how grand the structure is, yet at the same time by its intimacy as compared to a more typical cathedral.
Well lighted by MANY beautiful stained glass windows – amongst the most memorable you will see!

Make sure to go early on a Sunday so you can also go to the antique market outside the church!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-6:30pm; Sat-Sun: 9am-7pm; Free entry
Sight description based on wikipedia
Church of Saint-Jacob

4) Church of Saint-Jacob

Historically, this site supported a medieval abbey church. However, the original church was destroyed in the mid 1700s in favor of a new church that would be more consistent with the overall urban planning efforts that were underway by Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine. The new church location was proposed so it would be in line with rue Montage de la Cour. The current church was constructed over a 14-year period, from 1776 to 1780, with the addition of the nave, transept, choir and sacristy constructed in the years 1785 and 1786. Following its consecration, it was used as both an abbey and parish church. During the French Revolution, the abbey was suspended and the church became a Temple of Reason and later a Temple of Law. Temple of Reason was a temple for a new belief system created to replace Christianity during the French Revolution. The church was put back into Catholic control in 1802. The building features neoclassical architecture, though some of the neoclassical appearance was diminished with the addition of a 19th-century bell tower and placement of colored frescoes on the pediment by artist Jean Portaeles. The building is topped with three sculptures depicting Saint Andrew, Saint James, and Saint John. The interior of the church is rather simple compared to that of other churches built at this time; however, it does have some notable features including large paintings located on each side of the transept. These were painted by Portaeles and are called The Crucifix and the Spear Blow, on the left, and the Cross of Salvation, on the right. The vault of the cupola is decorated with octagonal caissons full of roses.
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

5) St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (must see)

The dramatic St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is located at Treurenberg Hill. The presence of a church at this location dates back to the beginning of the 11th century. In 1047, Lambert II, the Duke of Brabant, had the relics of St. Gudula transferred to this site. The original St. Gudula church was constructed in a Romanesque style; however, a renovation in the 13th century resulted in a Gothic style appearance. Glimpses of the 11th-century church can be seen through glass viewing areas set into the floor. The western facade of the cathedral was completed in the late 1400s. The large staircase leads to three gates by which visitors can enter. The interior is dominated by twelve pillars and detailed stained-glass windows accentuating the Gothic style. The window at the bottom of the nave, The Last Judgment, is illuminated from within in the evening. A dramatic baroque pulpit depicts Adam and Eve being chased out of paradise. It was created by Verbruggen in 1699 and has ornate detail. Ongoing renovations occurred throughout much of the 20th century. The renovations were completed in December 1999, just in time for the marriage of the Belgian Crown Price, Philippe, to his bride, Princess Mathilda. The south tower includes a carillon composed of 49 bells, which are often played during Sunday concerts.

Why You Should Visit:
Some monumental architecture but also stands out for the stained glass windows and the relatively new organ perched above everyone's heads to maximize the acoustics.

When you first walk in, take a leaflet which provides info about the cathedral's origin and details. This way, you'll have more appreciation for what you're looking at.
There's no admission fee to the cathedral but there is a tiny fee if you want to see the archaeological site beneath the existing floors inside the church.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Saint-Nicolas Church

6) Saint-Nicolas Church

The charming Saint Nicolas Church is located amid old houses behind the Bourse and is one of the oldest churches in Brussels. The church dates back over 1,000 years, but very little remains of the original building. The 14th century Gothic style façade covers the lines of the original 11th century Romanesque façade. In the Middle Ages, the church has a tall belfry that served as the city watch tower. However, it collapsed unexpectedly in 1714. The records note that the collapse killed one man and one pig. In 1695 the church was burned completely during the French bombing of Brussels. A remnant of this remains in the form of a cannonball lodged in one of the chapel pillars. The inside of the church holds The Virgin and Child painting by Rubens, as well as a Vladmir Icon dating back from Constantinople in 1131. Additionally, relics of the Martyrs of Gorkum can be observed. The martyrs depicted are Catholic priests that were executed during tumultuous religious times in the late 1500s. Through the years, there were movements to tear down the church to make way for vehicular traffic. However, the new traffic plan was not developed and the Saint Nicolas Church was spared. Equally remarkable is that the old houses surrounding the church have been preserved as well.
Church of Saint Jean Baptiste

7) Church of Saint Jean Baptiste

The Church of Saint Jean Baptiste (St. John the Baptist) is a lovely church tucked away in a quiet part of Brussels. The church is an excellent representation of the French-Baroque style of the 17th century and contains a lot of Italian influence in the church facades. The church was designed by Luc Fayd'herbe, who was a student of Rubens. Heads of winged angels decorate the arch junctions above the large arcades. The interior contains an ornate pulpit as well as a collection of paintings by Van Loon, a noted 17th century Brussels painter. Baroque ornamentation also dots the interior of the church. For hundreds of year, the Beguine convent stood near the church, but it was removed in the 19th century. During the Beguine’s most robust years, it held up to 1,200 nuns. In 2001, a fire struck the church and caused damage; however the church has been carefully restored. The church provides services in both Dutch and French and is open Monday to Saturday for visitors.

Walking Tours in Brussels, Belgium

Create Your Own Walk in Brussels

Create Your Own Walk in Brussels

Creating your own self-guided walk in Brussels is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Chocolate Shops Tour

Chocolate Shops Tour

Belgium is considered one of the best producers of chocolate. Its capital, Brussels, offers you the opportunity to taste more than 2000 different types of chocolate. There is a plethora of chocolate shops in Brussels which offer chocolates of all shapes, sizes and colors imaginable. Go ahead and take a look at Brussels most visited chocolate shops in this tour.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 km
Manneken Pis Surroundings Walking Tour

Manneken Pis Surroundings Walking Tour

Seen as the emblem of Brussels, Manneken Pis is a statue in the center of the city. The famous statue is surrounded by the city's fanciest points of interest, such as the Brussels Regional Parliament building, the Church of Our Lady and the Stock Exchange building. Take this three hour tour to visit the popular Manneken Pis and its wonderful surroundings in the center of Brussels.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 km
Leopold Quarter Walking Tour

Leopold Quarter Walking Tour

Built in 1837, the Leopold Quarter is a popular district in Brussels and features some of city's most significant buildings, like the Paul-Henri Spaak building, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Antoine Wiertz Museum. The district is also home to the popular Leopold Park and Jean Rey Square. Check out this next three-hour tour and enjoy the best sites of the Leopold Quarter in Brussels.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 km
City Center Museums

City Center Museums

Known as the cultural capital of Belgium, Brussels has a large number of museums located in the heart of the city. Brussels is famous for such museums as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Magritte Museum, the Museum of Brussels, the Museum of Musical Instruments, etc. This tour includes the most popular museums in Brussels City Center, all within a pleasant walking distance.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
City Center Orientation Walk

City Center Orientation Walk

Brussels is a major European capital with a remarkable history and cultural heritage. It features a large number of architectural sites, museums and world -famous specialty shops. Take a walk and discover the main landmarks of Brussels such as the world-renowned Grand Place and the Royal Palace.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 km
The European Quarter Walking Tour

The European Quarter Walking Tour

Along with Luxembourg and Strasbourg, Brussels is one of the de facto capitals of the European Union. The city's European Quarter hosts some of the most important buildings of the European Union, such as the Berlaymont building, the Justus Lipsius building and the Paul-Henri Spaak Building. Take this two-hour tour and discover the European Quarter of Brussels.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

What to Buy in Brussels: 15 Ideas for Travelers

It's no secret that Brussels is not all about JCVD muscles and EU headquarters. Small country as such, Belgium abounds in signature items, such as beer, chocolates and... the peeing boy. All of these have made prime Belgian souvenirs for years. Now you can explore the Brussels gift scene in...
Belgian Beer Tour of Brussels

Belgian Beer Tour of Brussels

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Brussels for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Brussels has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money getting around Brussels and visiting the city's multiple highlights, you may want to resort to the Brussels City Card.

Among other conveniences, this card allows its bearer to explore Brussels's top attractions, tours, restaurants, bars and clubs, and selected shops either completely free of charge (41 museums) or with great (up to 50%) discounts. The card provides 24-, 48-, or 72-hour passes to these locations, plus free ride on the hop-on hop-off bus and public transportation (optional) thus putting Brussels at your fingertips! Reduced rates for children and students also apply at participating venues.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Brussels hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: NH Brussels Carrefour de L’Europe, Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo, Hotel Novotel Brussels Off Grand Place.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Brussels, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close, with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, as a guided tour of Brussels typically costs from around US$20 up to US$50+ per person:

- Take a 3-hour guided walk around central Brussels to discover the city's historic locations, learn about its legendary men and women who made history, delve into the origins of Brussels, and acquaint yourself with the Belgian capital's contemporary culture and gastronomy;

- Embark on a must-see tour of real Brussels exploring the city's top attractions through the eyes of a local guide revealing a flip side of the well-known locations, plus discovering a few secret spots only the locals know about, away from the trodden tourist paths. En route, you may give yourself a treat to the authentic Belgian cuisine at a local eatery, not forgetting the world-famous Belgian chocolate, plus indulge yourself in some other local delights along the way.

- Appreciate Belgian gastronomy in its diversity – chocolate, waffles, beers, fries, and more – on the Food and Beer walking tour of Brussels offering a unique chance to savor a variety of local foods, drink local beers and unleash your sweet tooth onto the delicious local chocolate, whilst listening to a great deal of fun stories associated with each of these delights!

- Come and see what's made Belgium an international beer superpower on a 2.5-hour beer tasting tour of Brussels led by a local expert. Here, you will learn to tell a difference between the Belgian and foreign-made brews plus acquaint yourself with some of the 1,000+ craft beers made in this country.

- Pedal your way across Brussels on a 3.5-hour guided biking tour to discover the city's beauty manifested in its top landmarks, breath in the local atmosphere, plus enjoy along the way some of the best fries and beer (optional) the city has to offer.

- Explore the artistic side of Brussels on the tour following in the footsteps of renowned Belgian artists who left their mark in the field of Surrealist painting and Art Nouveau architecture. On this tour you will see some of the city's hidden gems, visit independent galleries and more, led step by step by a knowledgeable local guide.

Day Trips

If you have a half or full day to spare whilst in Brussels, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Ghent and Bruges, Antwerp, Maasmechelen, or Waterloo. For as little as US$10+ to US$100+ you will get a chance to acquaint yourself with the UNESCO World Heritage city of Ghent's medieval architecture, learn about Bruges's Viking and Middle Age history, get to see Antwerp - the hometown of Peter Paul Rubens and one of the largest harbors in the world, shop till you drop at Maasmechelen Village with over 100 international boutiques offering big-name brand clothing at reduced (down to 40%) prices, plus visit the site of one of the most significant battles in the history of Europe that saw the ultimate defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. All these trips start and end at your hotel and you'll be carried by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or minivan, accompanied by an English-speaking tour guide.