Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour, Brussels (Self Guided)

The main Royal site in Brussels is the statue of Godfrey of Bouillon, which actually represents the center of the Royal Square. Also known as the Royal Place, the Royal Square is surrounded by the Royal Palace, the Royal Museums and the Royal Library. All these served as the official residence to the King of Belgium. Enjoy this two hour tour to visit the Royal places in Brussels.
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Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Royal Sightseeing Walking Tour
Guide Location: Belgium » Brussels (See other walking tours in Brussels)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km
Author: audrey
Royal Theater

1) Royal Theater

The Royal Theater building is located on the edge of Brussels Park, facing the Parliament building. Constructed in 1782 by two brothers, the theater has had an interesting history. It was originally founded as a drama school and performance space for young actors and served as an annex to the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie. Actors could gain their skills at this theater before performing at the highly-regarded Monnaie. Interestingly, the theater was dark from the period of 1807 to 1814 due to Napoleon’s decree on theaters, which essentially limited theater performances to a set number of venues. Other incarnations included vaudeville, comedies, opera, operetta, and classic theater productions put on by Parisian or Dutch actors. During World War I, the theater served as the entertainment hub for the German troops that were occupying the country. It was not until after World War I that the theater gained a strong Belgian identity. The theater has experienced several remodels through time, including an extensive renovation in 2000. Fortunately, these renovations have maintained the fine architectural characteristics of the building.
Royal Park

2) Royal Park (must see)

The Royal Park, also known as Brussels Park, is the largest public park in the City. It is surrounded by key buildings, including the Royal Palace of Brussels and the Belgian parliament building. The park serves as a cultural hub of the city and free parties, concerts and events are organized in the park in the summer. In 1830, the Royal Park was the site of a significant event that led to Belgian independence. The revolutionary army clashed with the Dutch army in the park to send the message that the Belgians wanted to break their union with Holland and the Dutch king. The revolutionists succeeded and on September 27, 1830, the new state of Belgium was created.

The Royal Park sits where the medieval court of Brabant was located. The palace dated back to the 11th century. Different park spaces have since occurred in this location. During Austrian rule, the park resembled a little forest in the city with hills and valley. Later the Austrian empress Maria-Theresia changed it into a classical style park to be enjoyed by the rich citizens of the city. Later, the park was leveled and reconstructed following very geometric plans developed by Guimard and Zinner. Classical statues were added and later important cultural buildings were constructed, including the Waux-hall music venue.

Why You Should Visit:
Biggest park in the center of Brussels (besides Cinquantenaire) with lots of architectural landmarks to feast your eyes on in every direction.
The national parade route is along the park and over the summer, there's also a big annual music festival that takes places right by it.
There is a good playground for kids in the middle and cute little cafes serving small bites and local craft beer.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Palace

3) Royal Palace (must see)

The official palace of the King of the Belgians is the Royal Palace of Brussels. It is in this location that the King exercises his duties as Head of State. It serves as the location where he grants audiences and deals with national affairs. However, the Royal Palace is not the residence of the royal family; rather, they live on the outskirts of Brussels in the Royal Castle of Laeken. The palace is situated in front of Brussels Park and is separated from the park by a long square called the Place des Palais. The present-day appearance of the palace dates back to around 1900; however, the palace grounds were once part of a very old palatial complex from the Middle Ages, called Coudenberg Palace.

One of the most famous pieces of the palace is located in the Mirror Room. The room features a unique ceiling and central chandelier that are adorned with wing cases from millions of Thai jewel scarab beetles. Called Heaven of Delight, the fresco took artist Jan Fabre and his team of 29 young artists over three months to complete. The fresco includes various shapes that glow in a changing greenish-blue color depending on how light hits the surface.

Why You Should Visit:
During the time (short window from late July to early September) the Royal Palace is open to the public, entry is free and you are allowed to take pictures.
From the salon room through the passageway, the back halls to the prestige ballrooms, attention to details is rewarded – and that's from the floor up to the ceiling.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10:30am-3:45pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Godfrey of Bouillon Statue

4) Godfrey of Bouillon Statue

This imposing statue was erected in the Royal Square in 1843. It depicts Godfrey of Bouillon on a horse and was designed by Eugène Simonis. Known for being one of the leaders of the First Crusade, Bouillon was a Frankish knight born in the Brabant region of France (which is now part of Belgium). The First Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1096 and was meant to liberate Jerusalem and aid the Byzantine Empire. Both of these places were under attack from Muslim forces. Godfrey felt compelled to participate in the Crusade and wanted to pull together a group of knights to fight in the Holy Land. By taking out loans or selling his land outright, he was able to gather thousands of knights. He died in Jerusalem in 1100. There are differing reports of the cause of his death, from getting shot with an arrow, to contracting an illness, to getting poisoned. Godfrey of Bouillon’s legacy continues on through his appearance in classic written texts. For example he was named the hero on Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. In The Divine Comedy the spirit of Godfrey is seen by Dante in the Heavens of Mars. Mark Twain gives a mention of Godfrey’s sword in “Innocents Abroad.”
Sight description based on wikipedia
Church of Saint-Jacob

5) 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
Royal Museums of Fine Arts

6) Royal Museums of Fine Arts (must see)

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are situated in the capital Brussels in the downtown area on the Coudenberg. There are four museums connected with the Royal Museum, and two of them (the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art, Brussels), are in the main building. The other two (the Museum Constantin Meunier and the Antoine Wiertz Museum) are dedicated to specific Belgian artists, are much smaller, and are located at different points in the city.

The Royal Museum contains over 20,000 drawings, sculptures, and paintings, which date from the early 15th century to the present. The museum has an extensive collection of Flemish paintings, among them paintings by Bruegel and Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens. The museum is also proud of its "Rubens Room", which houses more than 20 paintings by the artist.

Why You Should Visit:
An easy choice for an afternoon in Brussels, the combination of The Old Masters Museum, Modern Museum, and Magritte Museum is a veritable steal for the cost of admission and although at times clustered, the variety and expanse of the collection is something that needs to be seen. Not free, but inexpensive and the extra charge for the audio guide is worth it. You can buy entry to all the collections or just one.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm;

Tue-Fri: 10am-12pm, 12:45-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Belgian Film Archive

7) Royal Belgian Film Archive

The Royal Belgian Film Archive maintains one of the richest collections of cinema in the world. This is a must see for the cinophile. The Archive is dedicated to showing, preserving and restoring movies. The Royal Film Archive had its beginnings in the 1930s. Henri Strock, André Thirifay, and Piet Vermeylen started a Brussels-based film club in 1931, called the Club de l’Ecran. In 1937, they expanded their efforts and established the bilingual (French and Dutch) Cinémathèque de Belgique. This organization went on to become the present-day Royal Film Archive. The Archive houses an astounding number of materials, with over 280 million meters of film and 44,000 titles. In addition, the library has 37,000 books, 2,400 journals and over 70,000 files of press clippings dating back one hundred years. For each movie that comes out, the Archive gets four copies. One is held, along with the negatives in the archive, and the remaining three are used or lent out for noncommercial viewing. The collection grows by approximately 2,000 films per year. Up to five different films are shown daily, three with sound and two with an accompanying piano player. The biggest challenge facing the museum is securing ongoing funding and support to maintain the film archive.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Library

8) Royal Library

The Royal Library of Belgium is a key cultural institution in Belgium with a long history. The library’s history dates back to the Dukes of Burgundy in the 800s, though it has occupied different areas through time. Its current location in the Mont des Arts area puts in adjacent to many of the important cultural institutions in Brussels. The library’s collection is eclectic. For example, the library maintains historically-important collections, including the Fétis archives. Fétis was an influential figure in Belgian music and was a computer, music teacher and critic. The library also serves as a depository for any book published in Belgium or a book published abroad by a Belgian author. In addition the library has over 200,000 maps, atlases and globes. Old books, printed as early as the 15th century, are housed in the library, as well as 35,000 manuscripts, including codices from the Middle Ages. A special Medal section is dedicated to the preservation and study of coins. The Center for American Studies is also housed in the library. The Institute is affiliated with four universities (University of Antwerp, Free University of Brussels, University of Ghent, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and students can earn a Masters degree in American Studies.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert

9) Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert (must see)

The Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert are an excellent example of a covered shopping gallery that dates back to 19th century. Seven of these shopping galleries were built in Brussels in between the 1820s and 1830s. The St. Hubert Gallery is one of three that still survive today. The architect for the gallery was Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar and it officially opened in 1847. The two primary sections of the gallery are called the King’s Gallery and the Queen’s Gallery. They measure 8 meters (26 feet) wide and 213 meters (699 feet) long. A smaller section was dubbed the Prince’s Gallery.

The concept of a gallery, such as St. Hubert, dates back to Paris in the 1780s. King Louis XIV, who was having financial problems, rented portions of his garden to shopkeepers. They constructed little shops to sell their wares. These little shops attracted many people and they became a de facto meeting place. Later, this concept of a shopping/gathering place evolved into the covered galleries, which were intended for richer classes. Today the St. Hubert Gallery has luxurious boutiques and shops as well as cafes and restaurants that offer dining in the gallery corridors. One particular standout is the Neuhaus confectioners shop, which opened in 1857.

Why You Should Visit:
Only a small gallery but grand architecture; lots of shops that look expensive but are pretty well priced.
High-end chocolate does cost but if you want to indulge this is the place to find a good selection.

Go to the top floor of "Le Pain Quotidien" for a view from the upper side.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Monnaie Theater

10) Royal Monnaie Theater

The Royal Monnaie Theater is the primary opera house of Belgium and has the reputation of being one of the finest opera houses in Europe due to the leadership of the past and current music directors. As it stands today, the Monnaie Theater is actually the third theater to grace this site. The first theater in this location was the Theater of Gio-Paolo Bombarda, which was built by Venetian architects between 1695 and 1700. Prior to having a theater, the site was home to the mint. La Monnaie actually translates to “the mint”, a place where money is made. The Gio-Paolo Bombarda stood for over 100 years. In 1818, it was replaced by the theater of Louis Damesme. That theater was active for over 30 years, before it burned to the ground in 1855. Following the fire, the building was reconstructed within 14 months. The interior of the theater and the foyer were decorated in a mix of Neo-Baroque and Neo-Renaissance styles, which emphasized heavy decor like gilded decorations, red velvet, brocade and dramatic chandeliers. Since that time, additional renovations and additions have occurred to bring the theater to its current state. Today, the theater seats 1,700 people.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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.
Central Nightlife Tour Part 2

Central Nightlife Tour Part 2

Brussels' nightlife is represented by the variety of its clubs, among which are not only out and out discotheques, but also clubs that host world-famous DJs and live music. Brussels has some of the most fashionable night clubs in Belgium, such as Fuse, Bazaar and Havana. Take this walking tour to visit the most famous venues located in Central Brussels, all within a pleasant walking distance.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 km
City Center Gift Shops

City Center Gift Shops

It would be a pity to leave Brussels without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Brussels, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit. All shops are located within a pleasant walking distance, in Central Brussels.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 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
Central Nightlife Tour Part 1

Central Nightlife Tour Part 1

Brussels' nightlife is represented by the variety of its clubs, among which are not only out and out discotheques but also clubs that host world-famous DJs and live music as well. Brussels has some of the most fashionable night clubs in Belgium. Take this walking tour to visit the most famous venues located in Central Brussels, all within a pleasant walking distance.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 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
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

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

Belgium is world-renowned for its beers and Brussels is the best city to sample the huge variety of flavors. We'll show you the best places to buy them and to drink them. We'll even show you a family brewery where the liquid gold is produced right in front of your eyes! This tour is meant...

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.