There is so much to do in Brussels in a day that you could easily stretch it so much longer. As you may know, Belgium is probably best known for its beer, waffles, pomme frites and chocolate.
This day itinerary is crafted to get your fill of all these delights whilst seeing all the sights in the Belgian capital.
The best thing about a day trip to Brussels is that most touristy sights are within walking distance of each other and you will be able to maximise your time here. Unless you end up drinking too many strong Belgium beers.
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Things You Should Know Before Going To Brussels
With a day trip, it’s easy to get caught up in the tourist traps or not know the low down of the city. Here are a couple of things you should know when visiting.
Money: Euro is the currency.
Train Stations: There are 3 train stations in Brussels Nord, Brussels Centrale and Brussels Midi, make sure you check where you arrive and depart from. Occasionally, people turn up to the wrong ones and miss their trains.
Airports: There are two airports in Brussels; Brussels Airport (the closest airport) and Brussels South Charleroi Airport (the furthest airport where cheaper airlines generally fly into).
National Languages: There are 3 national languages in Belgium. Depending on where you are travelling, you will find there will be a dominant language for that area. French and Flemish are mostly spoken in Brussels but they also speak German in areas of Belgium.
Explore the Lovely Neighbourhoods: I highly recommend wandering around the cute cobblestone streets of Sablon, St Gilles and Les Marolles.
Visit the Quirky Museums: Museum of Musical Instruments, the Royal Museum of Army and Military History, Autoworld, and the Belgian Comic Strip Museum. If you plan on seeing a few museums pick up a Brussels Card as this will give you access for a set price.
Find the Best Views: In my opinion, there is nothing better than a panoramic view of a city. Here’s where you get the best views in Brussels:
- 5th Floor of the Royal Library of Belgium.
- 10th Floor of the Museum of Musical Instruments.
Be Careful Where You Eat on Rue de Bouchers: It is a street full of pushy waiters trying to get you to eat there with inflated tourist prices and subpar food. I have a fantastic restaurant recommendation later in the article that is worth eating at but do be careful!
Find the Less Busy Chocolate Shops: A lot of the chocolatiers have shops outside of the Galeries; these won’t be as busy and better options to visit. Open Google Maps and type in the chocolatier you wish to visit. You will be able to take your time, try the chocolates and get a lot better customer service.
Avoid the 1 Euro Waffle stands!: These will likely be very mediocre waffles and disappoint you! Later in the article, I recommend the waffle company I like to visit but do your research so you can get the best possible waffles.
Make the Most of Lunch Specials: Lots of restaurants offer lunch specials which is a great way to save money and get a good meal! Consider this over splurging for dinner.
What to do in Brussels in One Day
I have designed this day in Brussels itinerary to fit in all the main sites on a logical walking route. Plus it is totally adjustable to your interests and I’ve added some other restaurants, chocolatiers, pomme frites and drink places for alternative options.
Parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Park)
Starting your day off at Parc de Bruxelles (Brussel Park) also known as “Parc Royal”. It’s the largest urban park in Brussels and a great way to start the morning with a nice stroll.
In the 1770s the whole area of Court was completely changed. Thanks to Guimard who drew the new design for the park and Zinner the gardener. The park was transformed with sculptures, fountains and footpaths.
Palais Royal de Bruxelles (Royal Palace)
From the park, you will see one of the cities most magnificent landmarks, the Royal Palace. The facade you see today is from the 1900th was instructed to be built by King Leopold II. Architect Alphonse Balat designed new rooms like the ‘Grand Staircase’, ‘Throne Room’ and the ‘Grande Gallerie’.
It’s no longer home to the King and Queen of Belgium and is now used for Head of State duties.
There is only a short window that you can visit inside the Palace. Between the 21 July (the national bank holiday) until the beginning of September. The Palace opens from Tuesday until Sunday at 10:30 am and closes at 5 pm.
Place Royale is quite photogenic so grab a quick photo and admire the picturesque place.
It’s a public square surrounded by Neoclassical buildings, lined with gardens and at the centre of the square is a statue of Godfrey of Bouillon, (the leader of the first crusade in 1096) mounted on his horse. The main building you’ll notice is Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg and it has a magnificent view of Palais de Justice.
Mont des Arts – Views and Museums
Mont des Arts translate to the hill/mount of arts which means you must come here for the views and art.
The area was converted into the arts’ quarter by King Leopold II at the end of the 19th century. They sourced various architects and urban planners to create a space to accommodate different cultural institutions.
You’ll find historic sites like the National Archives of Belgium, the Royal Library of Belgium and the Museum of Music Instruments. If you love views then make sure you use the tip at the beginning of the article!
The public park has a chilled ambience, during the summer it’s great to have a drink and spend an afternoon here whilst enjoying the views.
Cathédrale Saint-Michel et Sainte-Gudule (St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral)
The Cathedral is built in Gothic style architecture and took over 300 years to build. From 1047 until the eighth century the cathedral was called St Michael, it was renamed St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral when the relics of the martyr of St Gudula were brought to the cathedral.
Even though it was built centuries ago, only in 1962 was it given cathedral status.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries)
The Galeries are elegant are shopping arcades, you will find three that are connected together’ Galerie de la Reine, Galerie du Roi and the Galerie des Princes.
Inside are little shops selling jewellery, chocolate shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars. The main attraction is the beautiful ceiling. It is a little touristy but it’s free and a wonderful place to browse and enjoy the architecture.
If you love a bookstore then you must check out Bortier Gallery (on rue de la Madeleine). They have a fantastic range of second-hand books.
Lunch at Aux Armes de Bruxelles
Most of the restaurants on Rue des Bouchers are often poor quality and your general tourist places, however, there are always some great places around if you know where to go. As one of my friends used to live in Brussels she had the perfect place to recommend and one that locals would visit on Rue des Bouchers which is called Aux Armes de Bruxelles.
Rudy Vanlancker has brought back Aux Armes de Bruxelles to its former glory. His goal to make the restaurant to be the most beautiful brasserie in the downtown area.
You’re guaranteed food that tastes great, in a traditional Belgian style and friendly staff.
Alternative spots to grab food in Brussels:
- Madame Chapeau in St Jacques is famous for Brussels seafood.
- Les Brassins in Ixelles for the rabbit stew.
- Soleil d’Afrique in Matong for the vibrant food and cocktail.
- Rue de Flandres off Place St Catherine for Asian cuisine.
- Pin Pon is a converted fire station into a hipster vibe brunch spot.
Try some Belgian Beer at Delirium
Délirium Café is located near Aux Armes de Bruxelles, it’s down a little passage called Impasse de la Fidélité. The sister Jeanneke Pis of the Manneken-Pis is also here opposite the entrance. Grab a quick photo before entering Délirium Café.
It’s no wonder beer lovers from around the world love this place. You can taste more than 2000 beers from around the globe. Delirium Café holds the Guinness World Record for the most beers offered!
The Belgium Delirium Café offers a range of beers from over 60 countries, that’s about 2000 beers including beers from Belgium! Make sure you try one of Delirium’s delicious beers whilst you are there.
Do be careful with Belgium beers as they are generally around 7% – 9%. We always opt for half beers when we are in Belgium due to the strength.
One of my favourite things to do when travelling is learning! If you want to know more about Belgium Beer, I highly recommend taking a tour. This will be a few hours, sampling different beers and visiting some of the top bars in Brussels. Find out more information about the tour on Get Your Guide.
Grote Markt (Grand Place)
Grand Palace is the central square with lovely guild houses and the town hall, the designs are breathtaking and you could spend hours staring at the details.
A panorama of the square should be taken by anyone visiting Grand Place. You will be able to see all the wonderful buildings in the city square.
Buildings worth mentioning:
- Hotel de Ville (Town Hall): Southeast of the square is the Town Hall. The building is Brabantine Gothic architecture and the oldest building in the square. Looking up at the tower you will see the archangel Michael staring at you from the 96m tower which was constructed in the fifteenth century. Guided tours do run in the building in Dutch, English and French on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.
- Maison du Roi: Currently this is the Museum of the City of Brussels (Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles) that features artworks from the sixteenth century and some of Mannekin Pis’ wardrobe (the peeing statue you will see on your tour)! Before it was the museum this was the King’s House and owned by Charles V, ruler of the Spanish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.
- Maison des Ducs de Brabant: You can’t do anything else but look at the beautiful exterior of the six houses. The buildings are known as “Ducs de Brabant” due to the statues of dukes that adorn the walls. If there was a photo opportunity, that would be it. The place is always crowded and there is no good time to take a photograph, but try anyway.
- Le Pigeon: The artists’ guildhall was where Victor Hugo lived during his time in exile from France.
- Guild Houses: The Grand Place is lined on each side with a number of guild houses and a few private houses. They are mostly reconstruction in 1695 after the bombardment. The facades are based on Italian Baroque with some Flemish influences and include pilasters and balustrades.
It is the perfect place for a photo opportunity so make sure you get your cameras ready. If you do come here earlier in the day i.e. before 8am the square will be lined with rubbish bags etc so just be warned you might have to get creative with your photography.
During the Christmas holidays, you will see a truly magical sight. The Grand Place is full of festive events and markets. Brussels holds other festivals in the square as well such as the famous colourful flower carpet they lay every two years.
Eat Some Waffles at Maison Dandoy
Now that you’ve got a bit more walking out of the way it’s time for some of the best waffles in Brussels! Jean-Baptiste opened the first Maison Dandoy shop in the heart of Brussels in 1829 so it’s ingrained in the history of the city.
They have a pop-up waffle shop just around the corner from Grand Place. I had the best waffles topped with strawberries and chocolate!
Maurice Vermersch of Brussels created the waffle we all know and love. The lovely crispiness on the outside and fluffy waffle insides, with the deep square pockets imprinted in from the iron. He introduced these to Americans in 1964 World’s Fair in New York City and this is when they became popular. The name changed from Brussels waffles to Belgian waffles as he thought most Americans didn’t know where Brussels was.
There is also another waffle you can try, the Liege waffle. It’s extra sweet as it contains pearl sugar in the dough, causing a delicious caramelised crust. Think of it like a really dense brioche bun but in a waffle.
And if you haven’t had enough sweet, there are more! Maison Dandoyare is most famous for its speculoos. The biscuits are made with butter, brown sugar and then moulded into handcrafted wooden moulds. There are all sorts of flavours you can try! These make the perfect gift to take home or a snack while you’re travelling around.
Comic Strip Walk
Started in the 1990s to pay tribute to the characters and authors of the Franco-Belgian comics. Some of the comics you can see are ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, ‘The Smurfs’ to ‘The Adventures of Astérix’.
This can be an outing in itself, however, if you only have a day then there are a few in a little cluster before you head to your next destination.
Do look out for them when you are walking around though! I’ve added some additional ones on the map too but visit Brussels has a whole guide on the Comic Strip Walk.
Manneken Pis Statue
Manneken-Pis statue is often referred to as one of the worst tourist attractions but since you’re here you might as well see it. Basically, the statue is a naked boy peeing into a fountain.
They love to dress the statue in costumes, they get creative too! Anything from Elvis, Dracula, Santa Claus just to name a few. He actually has over 1000 outfits which are pretty impressive for a statue.
And if you are wondering what the legends are surrounding the Manneken Pis Statue, then these are my favourite three:
- The little boy tried to put a fire out and thus saved the city.
- During a battle in Ransbeke the boy was in a bucket in some trees and peed on the enemies and made them lose the battle.
- Or… The boy peed on the witch’s house and decided to turn him into a statue.
Try Some Belgian Chocolates
Belgium has some of the best chocolate in the world, especially its chocolate pralines. You can’t visit unless you sample some chocolate goodies. You will find both good and bad chocolatiers in the heart of Brussels so make sure you do your research before choosing one.
For those who are chocolate addicts check out independently owned Elisabeth, Artisan Chocolatier Mary or Neuhaus.
There is a shop just located around the corner from Manneken-Pis statue on Rue de l’Etuve. It was started by Jean Neuhaus who was a Swiss with Italian roots when he decided to layer the medicines he was giving people with a fine layer of chocolate.
His grandson in 1912 invented the Belgian praline. Basically, he evolved his grandad’s idea, instead of filling the chocolates with medicine it had the delightful filling of pralines. Then continuing the inventions Louise Agostini, Jean Neuhaus Jr.’s wife created the ballotin which is the beautiful chocolate box that is iconic today.
This independent boutique named Elisabeth sells some of Belgium’s best sweets. The owner travels all over the country to taste famous Belgian delicacies as well as long-forgotten local cuisine. From Cuberdon noses to Frederic Blondeel’s to tasty chocolate truffles, you’ll find something to buy here.
One of the most famous chocolate shops in Brussels is Artisan Chocolatier Mary. The first shop opened in 1919 and has always been busy. The original boutique on Rue Royale has an array of pralines and hand-rolled truffles that you have to try!
If you want to splash out, go to Pierre Marcolini. It’s also about 15-20 minutes’ walk from Grand Place and is a nice area to wander with more shops, cafes and bars.
Alternatively, sign up for a chocolate workshop at Zaabär. They hold regular courses on learning to make chocolate and makes for a great day out! Or sample gourmet chocolate with a tasting tour. Discovering the best chocolatiers in the city. Find the tour here on Get Your Guide.
Ready for Another Drink? Try Poechenellekelde or Goupil le Fol
Poechenellekelde has a unique atmosphere with lots of puppets dangling from the ceiling and they have an excellent range of Belgian beers. As you are in Belgium you must also try a lambic beer. It’s a sour fruity beer unique to Belgium.
I highly recommend pairing a lambic with a cuberdon which is a cone-shaped Belgian candy. On my beer tour in Ghent my tour guide introduce this to me and it was an amazing pairing!
Nearby is a quirky little wine bar called Goupil le Fol (cash only). The bar specialises in cherry wine, blackberry and raspberry wine, nut wine and liquors. The interior is very quirky! The wine was so delicious, too easy to drink and way stronger than it tasted.
Alternative spots to grab a drink in Brussels:
- Café Belga.
- Moeder Lambic.
- Brussels Beer Project.
- La Brocante.
- Lord Byron.
Finish the Day off With Fries
After a few drinks, the best way to end the day is with some pomme frites! Always a great idea to soak up the alcohol and prevent a hangover. Even if you haven’t spent the day drinking these are a must to try anyway!
In World War 1, there was a misunderstanding that Belgiums speak French and the American soldiers, therefore, thought they were in France. So when they stumble across these delicious deep-fried potatoes they called them French Fries.
The pomme frites are Bintje potatoes that are cut into thick pieces and double-cooked in beef tallow. They first cook the fries at a lower heat and then deep fry them at higher heat just before serving.
Most of the best Fries are found outside the centre of Brussel but Kirstie Will Travel recommends trying Café Georgette. They come in cute newspaper wrappings, leave the skin on the fries and have some of the best sauces.
Do beware if you’re a vegetarian then most pomme frites are not vegetarian friendly as it’s cooked in beef drippings.
Other places to add to your list is:
- Fries Food Truck in Place Flagey
- Maison Antoine
- Friterie du Miroir
How to Get to Brussels
Brussels is easy to get to by multiple transport modes. Here are some options:
Brussels by Plane
The nearest airport to the city is Brussels Airport, which is around 25 minutes drive from Grand Place. There is also Brussels South Charleroi Airport which tends to have the cheaper flights (Ryanair), but it is just over an hour away.
Brussels Airport has direct trains that run every 15 minutes and takes 17 minutes to travel into Central Brussels.
Brussels South Charleroi Airport needs you to get a train and bus. Take any bus on line A and you’ll arrive at Charleroi-South station which will take you to the centre.
Day trip to Brussels by Rail
It is super easy to do a day trip to Brussels from London by rail, just catch the Eurostar. The Eurostar runs regularly, getting you from London to Brussels within 2 hours. Trains also run from Paris, Amsterdam and Luxembourg.
Brussels by Bus
Bus companies run various routes to Brussels from cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Paris.
Where to Go Next in Belgium?
Belgium has so many great places to visit! Make sure you check out this 3 Day Belgium Itinerary that covers Brugges (so-called The North Venice) and Ghent. Both are wonderful historic cities and perfect to visit whilst you’re in Belgium.
So, fellow adventurers, as you can see on what to do in Brussels in a day trip and it is so easy to get around. If you would prefer to do Brussels in a day in a guided tour then the City of Brussels gives you some options.
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.