The Royal Quarter: where art and history share centre stage

14 June 2022

When you hear the name, regal images immediately spring to mind: if you like stately streets and majestic squares, you'll love the Royal Quarter.

Here, prestigious palaces and neoclassical facades adorn government buildings and embassies. But what makes the district really stand out are its numerous world-class museums and the atmospheric Brussels Park.

A neighbourhood packed with tales of kings and queens

If you walk from the Grand-Place to Central Station, you'll feel it in your calves. It really starts to climb here! Names such as Mont des Arts, Montagne de la Cour, Mont des Larmes and the Coudenberg tell you what your legs already know, you've climbed up to the upper part of the city. For centuries, counts and dukes looked down on the working-class areas around the Grand-Place. 

Whole libraries have been written about the Royal Quarter, and with good reason: this is where Brussels shone as a European centre of power, especially during the Renaissance. None other than Emperor Charles V made the city his capital. 

A painting of Charles V on the throne

The Royal Palace, the best known today, is in the distinguished company of the much older Coudenberg Palace and the Palace of Charles of Lorraine. That's right, only blue blood flows through this beating heart of the capital! 

If you are hoping to catch a glimpse of the Belgian royal couple in their dressing gowns, Then you're out of luck, the monarchs live in the Royal Castle of Laeken. For receptions and other ceremonies, however, you have come to the right place, provided you have the right connections. If you don't know the right people, however, you can always admire the glimmering and opulent palace rooms for free during the summer.

the royal palace surrounded by spring blossom

Museums galore

If only the stones could talk... History is made to be told! Fortunately, the Royal Quarter has several top-quality museums solution to tell it's stories. The Coudenberg invites you on an underground journey of discovery in the former palace of Charles V and the KBR museum in the Palace of Charles de Lorraine reveals the secrets of the Dukes of Burgundy. 

Looking for something more recent? The comparatively short history of Belgium is presented in easy-to-digest bite-sized chunks at the BELvue Museum. And thanks to the interactive Experience Brussels route in the BIP, you can become a Brussels connoisseur in no time! Still have a question? The staff at visit.brussels will be delighted to help you at the ground floor reception office.

Yearning to travel to other worlds? You can, no visa or vaccine passport required!

The cultural calendar at art temple Bozar is consistently high-profile. Make sure you treat yourself to one or more of their events and, in the process, don't forget to admire the building itself, a masterpiece by famous Belgian belle époque architect Victor Horta.

Music lovers can’t get enough of the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), which is housed in an impressive Art Nouveau building on the Montagne de la Cour.

Our top tip: explore the pinnacle of Belgian surrealism and lose yourself in the dreamy, outlandish scenes of René Magritte. The modern master, quite rightly, has his own museum, but make sure you book in advance, as you can imagine, it’s very popular.  

Old Flemish masters, turn of the century or modern art: take your pick. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are an art-lover's paradise with more than 20,000 masterpieces from the 15th to the 21st century.

Sometimes you have to choose, sometimes you don't: make sure you have enough time and make the most of the Brussels Card, which is a great way to maximise your museum-hopping.

Time for some relaxation

Want to be spoiled like a royal in this regal district? Here, the customer is king. Great places to eat are generously scattered in and around rue de Namur. What's more, most of the neighbourhood's museums have excellent restaurants. 

Perhaps you're looking for something with a view? The panoramic view from Mont des Arts is truly enchanting, whatever the time of day. Bozar's brand-new roof terrace, The Solar Rooftop, offers you another thrilling experience.

Would you rather just relax in a park? There's always room in Brussels Park. If you're feeling peckish, you'll also find a quick bite to eat and a fresh pint. As the sun sets, the atmospheric lights in the trees make it extra cosy. While you're here, be sure to stop by Kiosk Radio. This Brussels-based initiative continuously serves up top DJ talent. And if a party erupts there, your visit to the Royal Quarter really will be one to remember.

Getting there

  • Metro line 1, 5 - stops Gare Centrale - Centraal Station, Parc - Parc 
  • Trams 92, 93 - stops Parc - Park, Palais - Paleizen, Royal - Koning
  • Bus 71, 38, 95, 27