©Analia Glogowski/Lonely Planet



Coudenberg Hill (now Place Royale) was the site of Brussels’ original 12th-century castle. Over several centuries this was transformed into one of Europe’s most elegant and powerful palaces, most notably as the 16th-century residence of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Around the palace, courtiers and nobles in turn built fine mansions. The vast complex was destroyed in a catastrophic 1731 fire, but beneath street level the basic structure of the palace’s long-hidden lower storeys remains.

Whole stretches of the medieval street layout are now discernible, though little atmosphere remains. The subterranean site is entered from Musée BELvue and you emerge near the Old England Building.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Brussels attractions

1. Musée BELvue

0.01 MILES

Take a chronological audio tour through the airy stuccoed interior of this former royal residence to explore Belgium’s history from independence to today,…

3. Old England Building

0.06 MILES

This 1899 former department store is an art nouveau showpiece with a black facade aswirl with wrought iron and arched windows. The building contains the…

4. MIM

0.07 MILES

Strap on a pair of headphones, then step on the automated floor panels in front of the precious instruments (including world instruments and Adolphe Sax’s…

5. Musée Magritte

0.08 MILES

The beautifully presented Magritte Museum holds the world’s largest collection of the surrealist pioneer’s paintings and drawings. Watch his style develop…

6. Palais Royal


These days Belgium’s royal family lives at Laeken, but this sturdy 19th-century palace remains its ‘official’ residence. One unique room has had its…

7. Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts

0.11 MILES

This prestigious museum incorporates the Musée d’Art Ancien (ancient art); the Musée d’Art Moderne (modern art), with works by surrealist Paul Delvaux and…

8. Parc de Bruxelles

0.19 MILES

Brussels is well endowed with outlying forests and parklands, but in the inner city it's a different story. The largest central patch of greenery is Parc…