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How to Spend the Perfect One day in Brussels Itinerary

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Last Updated on 8th August 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

Capital city of Belgium and situated right in the heart of the pint-sized country, Brussels is a popular entryway onto the European continent thanks to its international airport and super-fast train links to a number of different countries. Here’s your ultimate guide and itinerary for how to spend one day in Brussels.

The official languages of Belgium are Flemish (a dialect similar to Dutch) and French, though you can easily get by with English. In Flemish, Brussels is known as Brussel and in French the city is known as Bruxelles.

brussels guidebrussels guide

What is Brussels known for?

Beer, waffles, and politics: Brussels is known for a wide array of things, making it the perfect city break to suit a number of tastes and budgets.

The EU Commission and European Parliament find their headquarters in Brussels and those who wish to know more about how the EU operates can even take guided tours of the Parliament buildings.

As well as being one of the best spots in the world to enjoy beer, Brussels is home to the Brussels style of waffle, a rectangular shaped carb which is often served with a smattering of sweet toppings such as fruit and melted chocolate.

FREE BRUSSELS: Looking for budget things to do in Brussels? here's your ultimate guide to the best and top free attractions and free things to do in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, EuropeFREE BRUSSELS: Looking for budget things to do in Brussels? here's your ultimate guide to the best and top free attractions and free things to do in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, Europe

Another foodie highlight of Brussels is its chocolate. Some of the top chocolate shops in Brussels include Neuhaus (the inventor of the praline) and Elisabeth (which is close to Grand Place).

FREE BRUSSELS: Looking for budget things to do in Brussels? here's your ultimate guide to the best and top free attractions and free things to do in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, EuropeFREE BRUSSELS: Looking for budget things to do in Brussels? here's your ultimate guide to the best and top free attractions and free things to do in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, Europe

Those who prefer savoury foodstuffs should make a point to sample some fries while in Belgium. After all, while they’re often referred to as ‘French fries,’ this fast foodie staple was actually invented in Belgium!

maison du roimaison du roi

Is one day enough time to visit Brussels?

If you want to have the time to truly discover a number of things that Brussels has to offer, then you’ll want to set aside at least two or three days in the city, especially if you want to head out of the city centre to visit the Atomium and see a handful of museums.

However, if one day is all you have in Brussels, then it is more than sufficient to get a brief overview of the city and enjoy some of the top attractions.

After all, the centre of the city is pretty easy to get around on foot (wear comfortable shoes) and there are a variety of handy public transportation methods available, including trams and buses. You can even pay by contactless card, making getting around that much simpler. Find more details here.

If you’re spending more time in Belgium (and we highly recommend that you do if you’re able to), check out our suggestions for the perfect 3 days in Belgium.

mont des arts district brusselsmont des arts district brussels

One Day in Brussels Itinerary and guide

Spy Manneken Pis

The most famous of all of the peeing statues in Brussels is that of Manneken pis (because, yes, there are several pee themed statues scattered across the Belgian capital), about whom several myths and legends have arisen over the centuries.

The bronze was created by Jerôme Duquesnoy and was erected in Brussels city centre in 1618 or 1619. Today Manneken pis has since become emblematic of Brussels itself, making it one of the most popular attractions in the city.

It’s best to start your day here as, even if you visit early in the morning, there’s often a gaggle of people attempting to capture a selfie with Brussels’ beer sized mascot.

Often, the little statue is dressed in various costumes and if you want to see some of the past outfits for yourself, you can visit the GardeRobe Manneken Pis.

manneken pismanneken pis

See Grand Place

After snapping a photo of Manneken Pis (honestly you don’t need more than a few minutes to see the statue as it isn’t incredibly interesting and it’s also very small), you can make your way along rue de l’Étuve to reach Grand-Place.

As one of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe, it’s no surprise that Grand Place is one of the most popular spots to visit in Brussels. As such, it’s best to head here as one of your first stops of the day so as to see the best of the impressive architecture without the crowds.

grand place panoramagrand place panorama

In the winter, this is where there are several beautiful Christmas trees on display, as part of the Brussels Christmas Markets. Some of the greatest highlights of Grand Place include the City Hall and the Maison du Roi.

La Maison du Roi now houses the Brussels City Museum, where you can learn all about the history of Brussels, as well as wider Belgium.

The museum takes around an hour and a half to visit. One of the top things to see in the museum is the original Mannequin Pis (because the one you just saw is actually a replica from the 1960s).

Secrets of Brussels. Looking for the most unusual things to do in Brussels Belgium? here's your ultimate guide to hidden gems and secret spots in Brussels!Secrets of Brussels. Looking for the most unusual things to do in Brussels Belgium? here's your ultimate guide to hidden gems and secret spots in Brussels!

Visit the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries

After visiting the Grand Place, you should head to the nearby Royal Passages, which are filled with chocolate shops, boutiques, and even a bookshop (Tropismes) where you can purchase books about Brussels.

Constructed between 1846 and 1847, the shopping arcades in Brussels actually pre-date those found in Milan and St Petersburg. Perfect to wander down during a rainy day, there are also a number of delectable chocolate shops where you can purchase souvenirs or alternatively a tasty treat for yourself.

The Royal Saint-Hubert GaleriesThe Royal Saint-Hubert Galeries

Mont des Arts

For those who enjoy discovering a city from a bird’s eye perspective, a hike up to the Mont des Arts district of the city is an absolute must. The walk from the city centre takes around ten minutes

Also known as Kunstberg (or Art Hill in English), the historic area features the likes of the Royal Library of Belgium, and the Congress Palace of Brussels.

Spy the View from Mont des ArtsSpy the View from Mont des Arts

Visit Brussels Cathedral

One of the grandest buildings still standing in Brussels today is that of Brussels Cathedral. This ecclesiastical structure dates all the way back the 9th-century, when a chapel to St Michael likely existed on site.

The church you see today was built between the 11th and 15h-centuries, with the twin towers on the front façade having been constructed in 1485. For a nominal fee, you can also pay to visit the crypt.

FREE BRUSSELS: Looking for budget things to do in Brussels? here's your ultimate guide to the best and top free attractions and free things to do in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, EuropeFREE BRUSSELS: Looking for budget things to do in Brussels? here's your ultimate guide to the best and top free attractions and free things to do in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, Europe

Go on a food tour

If you would prefer to sample both sweet and savoury snacks and learn more about Belgian food over the course of a single tour, then you might consider booking a Private Food Tour with 10 Tastings. This tour includes the chance to try a cheese platter, mayo and fries, and more. Find out more details here.

Palais de Bruxelles (Royal Palace of Brussels)

If you happen to be visiting Brussels during the summer, then you can pay to visit the Royal Palace of Brussels for free. The official home to the Monarchy of Brussels, this grand building was built between the 18th and 20th-centuries and highlights include sumptuous rooms and ornate furniture.

Palais de Bruxelles (Royal Palace of Brussels)Palais de Bruxelles (Royal Palace of Brussels)

Seek out hidden gems

If there’s one thing you should know about Brussels is that, in spite of its status as a capital city, there are a number of off the beaten path gems, if only you know where to look. Some of the more secret spots in Brussels include the Belgian Museum of Freemasonry and the Museum of Fantastic Art in Brussels.

Zinneke Pis (Het Zinneke)Zinneke Pis (Het Zinneke)

Discover the beer scene

End your day the right way by getting to know all about Belgian beers. The two most famous types of beers from Belgium are the Trappist beers and the Abbey beers. Trappist beers are particularly unique in that they can only be called such if they are brewed in Trappist monasteries.

There are further stipulations in such that the beer must be brewed in the monastery, a monk must have some sort of say in the production, and the money from the sale of the beer must be used either for the monastery or for a social programme.

craft beercraft beer
Master1305/ Shutterstock

Where to stay in Brussels

Though Brussels is a capital city, it is rather compact, meaning that almost all of the major tourist attractions are typically just a short walk away. If visiting during the Christmas market season, be sure to book your accommodation well ahead of time as places tend to fill up fast!

brussels streetbrussels street

Latroupe Grote Markt: There is no two ways about it: Brussels is quite a pricey city so wherever you stay may well cost more than you are used to. However, one of the more affordable options in town is the Latroupe Grote Markt, which has amenities such as free Wi-Fi and a bar on-site. Check prices and availability here.

Aparthotel Adagio Brussels Grand Place: Those in search of mid-range accommodation when in Brussels should check out this three-star establishment. Highlights include baggage storage and breakfast for an extra fee. Check prices and availability here.

Juliana Hotel Brussels: For an extra luxurious stay during your time in Brussels, consider checking out this five-star hotel. Located on the neoclassical square of Place des Martyrs, this accommodation boasts a spa, indoor pool, and bar onsite. Check prices and availability here.

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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A Francophile at heart, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She splits her time between Paris and London and travels as much as she can! Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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