Brussels has no lakes, rivers or beaches (boo!), just a bunch of ponds and a despondent-looking man-made canal that gets very little airtime. But countless cool city fountains make up for the lack of natural water features, providing a nice watery backdrop to your lunchtime time-outs, nocturnal strolls and romantic rendez-vous. Combining architecture, engineering and sculpture, fountains are an interesting urban phenomenon that originally had a practical purpose beyond decoration and as a place for city kids to splash about: they were once used as a water source and for bathing, though the Romans were already very aware of their potential as eye-catching decorative urban furniture. We’ve picked the 20 that we think beautify the city landscape, as well as those with interesting back stories or lovely lunch backdrops… plus the odd fountain that allows for a quick summer dip.

Best for WOW

1. Square Montgomery

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Montgomery_Detail

Constructed in 1997, this massive circular fountain is located in the middle of a busy roundabout whose many lanes can make it difficult to cross without getting hit by a bus. But the beauty and impressive size of this watery gem more than make up for it. Opposite the fountain stands the statue of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery for whom the square and fountain are named. Pro-tip: Car-free days essentially are the only time you’ll be able to get up-close-and-personal to what could easily be Brussels’ largest waterfalls.

Square Montgomery / Montgomeryplein – 1150 Brussels

2. Parc de Bruxelles

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20 of Brussels' best fountains ParcRoyal_Detail

Parc de Bruxelles, that lovely green city oasis next to the Royal Palace, is not only good for jogging, biking and, erm, cruising, it’s also host to one of Brussels’ most impressive fountains. Built in 1855, the fountain, as well as the pathways and the overall layout of the park, are a nod to the influence 18th century freemasons had on the city.

Rue Royale Koningsstraat – 1000 Brussels

3. Parc Cinquentenaire

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Cinquantenaire_Detail

Inaugurated at the 1880 National Exhibition, the picturesque fountain in this 30-hectare park is undoubtedly one of its outstanding features. Especially splendid when viewed with the triumphant Cinquantenaire arch in the background.

Parc Cinquantenaire / Jubelpark – 1000 Brussels

4. Square Marie Louise

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20 of Brussels' best fountains SquareMarieLouise_Detail

The gorgeous, large-scaled fountain in Square Marie Louise was built by Gédéon Bordiau in 1880. Located in the middle of one of Brussels’ six remaining ponds and surrounded by greenery and beautiful Art Nouveau architecture, it’s good for afternoon strolls and chilling out on a bench. Bring some bread for the ducks and pigeons.

Square Marie Louise / Marie Louiseplein – 1000 Brussels

Best for history

5. Place du Petit Sablon

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Sablon_Detail

It has to be said: the fountain at Petit Sablon is a bit of a tourist trap. But if you manage to catch it without the sightseers, it can be a nice place to take a break from busy city life; the press shop across the street provides the newspaper and the benches provide the seating. Inaugurated in 1864, the statues around the fountain are dedicated to Counts Egmont and Hornes who were executed for refusing to submit to Spanish rule. The tiny but beautiful park is also surrounded by 48 statues representing 48 medieval guilds.

Rue de la Régence Regentschapsstraat – 1000 Brussels

6. Manneken Pis!

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20 of Brussels' best fountains MannekenPis_Detail

You can’t really do a thing on fountains in Brussels without mentioning the Manneken Pis. Sculpted by Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619, this little bronze boy, eternally peeing in his little corner, is one of the city’s most well-known landmarks and attracts hordes of curious – and probably quite disappointed – tourists. A nice place for photobombing unsuspecting photography amateurs.

Rue de l’Etuve 31 Stoofstraat 1000 – Brussels

7. Agora Square

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20 of Brussels' best fountains MarcheAuxHerbes_Detail

Built in the early ’80s by H.Lenaerts, the fountain at Agora Square, located just a few steps from Grand Place, is dedicated to Charles Buls, a Belgian statesman and former mayor of Brussels. He successfully defended the old parts of the city against the architectural plans of Kind Leopold II and it’s thanks to him that UNESCO favourites Mont des Arts and the Grand Place were protected from his interference.

Square Agora / Agoraplein – 1000 Brussels

Best for lunch breaks

8. Botanique

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Among the high-rise office blocks and congested multilane intersections is a surprising find: a green oasis attached to the premises of Botanique, a place that was once the home to the city’s botanical gardens before it was turned into a cultural center. Grab some lunch at Botanique’s restaurant and pig out on one of the many benches with a lovely view of the fountain.

Rue Royale 236 Koningsstraat – 1210 Brussels

9. Place Stéphanie

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Stéphanie_Detail

The rectangular stone wall surrounding this fountain is an inviting seat when you need a break from all that shopping in Avenue Louise’s fine upscale boutiques. A lack of greenery and parks in the area means the fountain is a popular place for outdoor dining, and this little corner of the city’s got plenty of places to buy a rejuvenating sambo.

Place Stéphanie / Stefaniaplein – 1000 Brussels

10. Monts des Arts

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The park below Mont des Arts, designed in a geometric pattern by landscape architect René Péchère, features a whole load of little fountains sculpted by J. Dupon and G. Devreese in 1958. Trees provide shade in the summer, making the park benches a popular lunch spot.

Monts des Arts / Kunstberg – 1000 Brussels

Best for water games

11. Place Flagey

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Flagey_Detail

On hot summer days the fountains on Place Flagey, which shoot up at irregular intervals from the concrete beneath, are a welcome relief for neighbourhood kids and big people alike and you can enjoy the spectacle from one of the many oversized benches and surrounding terraces. Fun fact: minister Pascale Smet tried to cancel the weekly Sunday market to make sure the fountains would not be damaged.

Place Flageyplein – 1050 Brussels

12. Place de l’Albertine

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Albertine_Detail

Half-round Place de l’Albertine is located just at the bottom of the magnificent Mont des Arts, with a statue of Queen Elisabeth in its center installed in 1980. Later several triangular water fountains were added in 2009, especially to the joy of Brussels’ little ones.

Place de l’Albertine / Albertinaplein – 1000 Brussels

13. Place Dailly

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Built in 2004, this is one of Brussels’ youngest fountains. Located in Schaerbeek’s spacious and lively Place Dailly, it’s dedicated to former mayor Eugene Dailly and it’s a big hit with kids in the summer. Mamas and papas can watch their little ones from the many benches or the fountain’s steps – all while munching on a fabulous Turkish pizza from around the corner.

Place Daillyplein – 1030 Brussels

Best for after-work drinks under the sun

14. Place du Vieux Marché Aux Grains

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20 of Brussels' best fountains OudeGranmarkt_Detail

This fountain is shaped like a 25-metre brook. Built in 2000, it’s located in the middle of Place de Vieux Marché aux Grains with its numerous bars and terraces, a particularly popular spot with the city’s Flemish set.

Place de Vieux Marché aux Grains / Oude Graanmarkt – 1000 Brussels

15. Bar Fontainas

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Fontainas_Detail

Brussels is full of fountains spouting drinkable water and the small metal structure in front of the hip and gay-friendly Bar Fontainas is one of them. If you prefer sipping on something stronger, you’re invited to hang out on the bar’s lovely terrace.

Rue du Marché au Charbon 91 Kolenmarkt – 1000 Brussels

16. Place du Jardin aux Fleurs

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Built in 2002 by Luc Schuiten, the Belgian architect known for his vertical gardens, this flower fountain offers a nice twist on the watery attraction theme: the pillar in the middle of the fountain is covered in greenery and flowers and lights up at night like a street lamp. A truly charming hangout spot.

Place du Jardin aux fleurs / Bloemenhofplein – 1000 Brussels

Best for architecture and design

17. Palais de Congrès

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Built by Roger Jacob, the fountain in front of Palais de Congrès consists of nine columns and is a true architectural gem. You can either hang out on the grass in front, or else on the steps above where you’re in for a fine panorama of the city.

Mont des Arts / Kunstberg – 1000 Brussels

18. Porteuse d’eau

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Barrière_Detail

This St Gilles fountain, the brainchild of architect and sculptor Alban-Chambon, was erected in 1898. The magnificent bronze statue that graces the middle was created by Julien Dillens, who was inspired by a girl transporting water from the Bocq river. Unfortunately, the statue has been replaced by a replica; the original had to be put away in a museum thanks to decay.

Barrière de Saint-Gilles / Bareel Sint Gillis – 1060 Brussels

19. Prince de Liège Square

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20 of Brussels' best fountains Dauphins_Detail

This neighbourhood treasure was born of the imagination of Marie-José Aerts and features a playful dolphin sculpture in the middle. Since 1995 it’s decorated Prince de Liège Square in Anderlecht and is a nice spot for some chilled-out people watching.

Square Prince de Liège – 1070 Brussels

20. Anspach

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20 of Brussels' best fountains QuaiAuxBriques_Detail

The Anspach Fountain is dedicated to former Brussels mayor Jules Anspach and was built in 1897. It used to be in Place de Brouckère but can now be found at Quai aux Briques where it was moved in 1973 when Brussels built itself a metro system. Architecturally impressive, it’s got a large central column, a bunch of statues and a wide water basin.

Quai aux Briques / Baksteenkaai – 1000 Brussels