After speaking at the Destinations for All World Summit on Accessible Tourism, I took part in two days of guided tours around Brussels. These intense days’ purpose was to learn more about the accessibility of Brussels and its tourist attractions.
Even though the charming capital of Belgium is challenging for wheelchair users in many areas, there are definitely some accessible places to discover! So, here comes a list of beautiful sights to visit in wheelchair-accessible Brussels. You will also find tips on how to get around and where to stay!
1. Grand Place
Let’s begin with the most famous landmark of Brussels – the Grand Place. The impressive central square is surrounded by beautiful, historical buildings like the Town Hall and the King’s House (also Breadhouse). As you can see in the picture, there is cobblestone everywhere. It is surely a bumpy ride, but you definitely won’t regret visiting the picturesque Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.
2. Manneken Pis
It is just a very short stroll from Grand Place to the famous Manneken Pis sculpture (about 300 m). The tiny bronze sculpture of a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin is one of Brussels’ most visited tourist sights. To tell you the truth, I was pretty astonished when I saw how small the sculpture actually is! We were lucky to see the Manneken Pis wearing a suit. Manneken Pis has a wardrobe of more than 900 costumes, and the statue is dressed up several times per week. Once the little Manneken Pis was even sitting in a wheelchair as a dedication to the Belgian Paralympic Committee. You can see most of the costumes at the Garderobe Manneken Pis Museum, which is unfortunately not wheelchair-accessible (10/2018).
3. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium – Place Royale
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is a collection of six museums in total. All museums except for the Meunier Museum and the Wirtz Museum are located around Place Royale. The main entrance to the Magritte Museum and Fin-de-siècle Museum is wheelchair-accessible. Wheelchair users who would like to visit the Old Masters Museum and/or the Modern Museum have to use the accessible entrance located at Rue de la Régence, 1A (just around the corner). A wheelchair symbol invites you to ring the bell. The museums are fully wheelchair-accessible. As part of the museum’s initiative “Made to Measure Museum,” trained staff also offers guided tours in sign language and tours for visually impaired visitors (so far in French and Dutch only).
4. Museum of Natural Sciences
The Museum of Natural Sciences, sometimes also referred to as the Dino Museum, has a lot to offer for science-interested visitors. The dinosaur collection is indeed stunning, consisting of 30 almost complete Iguanodon skeletons. The museum is entirely wheelchair-accessible thanks to a platform lift, ramps, elevators, and display tables on a good height level for wheelchair users. I especially loved the incredible Gallery of Humankind.
5. House of European History
Just a short stroll downhill leads to the House of European History in Park Leopold in the European Quarter. The tour takes you through an outline of European history. The renovated building is fully wheelchair-accessible, and there is no entrance fee. All visitors have to pass a security screening upon entering the building. A regular visit takes an average time of 90 minutes, but you could spend way more time in the accessible House of European History.
6. Day trip to Louvain-La-Neuve
Another great thing to do is spend a day at Louvain-La-Neuve (French for New Leuven), about 30 km southeast of Brussels. Louvain-La-Neuve is an entirely pedestrian city and home to the University of Louvain. You won’t find cars inside the city itself. The student city was designed to be accessible for everyone, and I agree that the city is pretty wheelchair-accessible. However, some areas of Louvain-La-Neuve are quite steep. While power wheelchair users will be okay, manual wheelchair users might struggle. At Louvain-La-Neuve you can explore the wheelchair-accessible Hergé Museum and the Musée Universitaire de Louvain (Musée L). The Hergé Museum is dedicated to the life of the Belgian artist, Hergé, creator of the comic strips ‘The Adventures of Tintin and Snowy.’
Getting around by taxi in wheelchair-accessible Brussels
A good way for wheelchair users to get around Brussels is by taxi. During my stay, I tested the accessible taxi fleet of the company Taxi Verts. The accessible taxis are equipped with a ramp and a strap system to prevent the wheelchair from moving. One taxi also had a swing-away head and backrest, which made me feel very safe in my manual wheelchair. I would consider the taxi prices as rather high. The rate for the accessible taxis is 1.70 EUR per km. I didn’t use the bus system, but I learned that most Brussel buses have a ramp for wheelchair users.
Wheelchair-accessible hotel in Brussels
I stayed at the wheelchair-accessible hotel Aloft Schuman in the European Quarter of Brussels. The hotel offers several wheelchair-accessible rooms with roll-in showers. The in-room accessibility is quite good, but the space between the sink and the room separator might be a bit too narrow for long power wheelchairs. Also, wheelchair users have to use a platform lift to get to the breakfast buffet. The staff was friendly and helpful, and I enjoyed our stay at the Aloft Schuman in Brussels.
If you would like to read more about Brussels, check out fellow wheelchair traveler Stacey’s article “Exploring Brussel’s Grand Place in a wheelchair.”