The postcard-perfect Grand-Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed for its gothic town hall and Maison du Roi, but equally admired for the guild houses that provide the elegant setting. As the city's centre of gravity, the square plays a role in major events such as Brussels Jazz Weekend (24-26 May), Belgian Beer Weekend (6-8 September), a Christmas sound and light show, and the historic annual Ommegang parade (26-28 June). In 2019, it will host the Tour de France’s Grand Départ on 6 July, and startling floral displays during Flowertime (14-18 August). You’ll have to wait until 2020 for the spectacular Tapis de Fleurs that blooms across the square every two years.
This Gothic masterpiece has for centuries presided over the square, its tower a veritable skyscraper at 96m (315ft). Statues of the dukes and duchesses of Brabant adorn the façade while inside the civic spaces display historic tapestries, paintings and sculpture. Guided tours run on Wednesdays and Sundays (€6, under-12s free).
Facing the Hôtel de Ville is the Maison du Roi, rising like a wedding cake through colonnaded tiers. These days it's home to the City Museum. The current exhibition (on until 29 December) celebrates 20 years of the Grand-Place's World Heritage Site designation, including a VR experience of the original medieval square and its bombardment in 1695.
This most famous of fountains is tucked nearby, down rue de l'Étuve. This small bronze statue of a boy urinating has become a jokey emblem of the city. On certain days he sports one of his more than 1,000 outfits – from samurai warrior to Elvis. View the costumes at the nearby GardeRobe on rue du Chêne.
This sunny, brunch-obsessed all-day café has a penchant for the perfect poached egg. It's also a great place to tuck into one of Belgium's many culinary specialities – the scrumptious waffle.
A short walk from the Grand-Place, by the Sainte-Catherine Church, this bijou café is run by artisan jam makers Pipaillon. There's coffee and sweet treats, of course, but also tapas and light lunches, with sides of in-house chutneys and tapenades.
Health-conscious and ethically minded, The Sister is all about Buddha bowls, wellness soup and superfoods. There's an impressive menu of tasty vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, plus a huge range of beers from local microbreweries.
The city's historic reputation for fine lacework, and Belgium's more recent contribution to cutting-edge global fashion, are both celebrated at this contemporary museum. €8 (free under-18s).
This trio of lofty arcades was built in 1837, topped with a spectacular vaulted glass roof. They are considered among the oldest and finest in Europe, and a top spot for luxury shopping.
Brussels's centre for the beaux-arts, or 'Bozar', is always a safe bet for a lively mix of theatre, concerts, film and exhibitions. Plus the building is by renowned Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta.
From the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Midi/Zuidstation, take Metro line 3 or 4 to Bourse, a few streets away.
Image credits: © Alamy; © Alamy; © Getty; © Virginie Gineste; © Alamy; © Peck 47; © Pipaillon; © The Sister; © Musée Mode & Dentelle; © Alamy; © Yannick Sas