Getting the most out of one day in Brussels

 In Belgium, Blog, Go exploring

Brussels is the deliciously multicultural and vibrant capital of Belgium. The city has a lot to offer; one could easily spend a week discovering the many touristic attractions, hidden gems and diverse cuisine. If you only have one day in Brussels, better make the best out of it! Lace up your bootstraps, it’s time for an adventure into the heart of this European metropolis.

As time is of the essence, it will not be possible to visit all the attractions in the city – there are simply not enough hours in a day to pack everything into your Brussels Itinerary. In case you are a little curious and debating whether to extend your time, check out this full weekend itinerary to city.

Weekentrip to Brussels - The Atomium
The Atomium

Preparing your Brussels daytrip

Discounts for tourist attractions in Brussels

During your one day trip to Brussels you will most likely want to pop into at least one of the main museums of the city. You might also want to optimise your time and jump on public transport to dart between the tourist attractions in Brussels.  To make things easy for tourists, the city has created a Brussels Card which can be purchased for 24h.

The Brussels Card offers you discounts to museums, includes public transport tickets and a lot’s of practical information that will surely come in handy for your one day in Brussels. The card can be purchased online, or in the main tourist office of the city.

What to wear in Brussels

Visiting Brussels in a day requires a little preparation when it comes to clothing. You see the city is lined with cobblestones  and tends to get a lot of rain during the year.  Therefore when thinking about what to wear in Brussels consider lacing up your most comfortable shoes and bringing a rain jacket or umbrella.

While there are plenty of activities you can do when it is raining in Brussels, if you only have visiting Brussels for one day the majority of the time will be spent outside walking around to get a feel of the city.

What to do in Brussels when it rains - The Royal Theatre
The Royal Theatre - Copyright GRSH

What to do in Brussels in one day

In order to cover the basics for your Brussels day trip, you might want to stick to the centre of town. Granted, this part of town is considered the most “touristy” for locals but rest assured, it really is worth exploring! The centre of Brussels contains ample amounts of jaw-dropping architecture, museums and some nifty eateries where you can get indulge in traditional Belgian cuisine (at non-touristy prices).

Your day starts off with a splash of color at the Magritte Museum. The museum contains – not surprisingly – the largest collection of paintings by the Belgian master of Surrealism René Magritte.  Learn all about Surrealism and the life of the famous Magritte. Purchase your tickets online, prices start at €10 for adults.

Visiting Brussels

Next up on the itinerary is a coffee (or other beverage) with the best view in town. From the Magritte Museum walk 5 minutes towards the museum of Musical Instruments (MIM). This Art Nouveau building has a little secret, a wonderful rooftop restaurant with one of the best views over Brussels. In case you have not had breakfast yet, try out the delicious brunch offer or settle for a beverage. To access the rooftop restaurant, you will need to walk into the museum and take the elevator all the way to the top floor, the entrance is free!

A weekend in Brussels - Mont Des Arts
Mont des Arts in the early morning

Time to stretch those leg again, your Brussels day trip continues with a walk through Mont des Arts. One of the most photographed squares in all of Brussel. Mont des Arts is surrounded by the Royal Library of Belgium, the national archives, a meeting centre and Plein Public (This venue is pretty good for an aperitif in the evening while catching the sunset).

Depending on how you would like to spend your one day in Brussels, there are two options for your next location. Option one is to take in some more culture at the Centre of Fine Arts in Brussels (Bozart).

2 days in Brussels - Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert
Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert

The second option is to continue walking towards the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert. One the way, stop to have a little browse in the Galerie Bortier bookstore.  Walk into the Gallery of Saint Hubert and feast your eyes upon the grand 19th century architecture. The gallery contains some of the best Belgian chocolate shops in Brussels and also houses a cinema and theatre. Make sure to look for the Art Nouveau chocolate store (Corne Port-Royal), all be it just for the architecture as the chocolate itself is overpriced.

Next up is the most lavish square in all of Europe – The Grand Place of Brussels. One could easily spend a full day taking in all the gold guild houses and many statues but as you only have one day in Brussels we will have to make it a blitz visit.

Weekend in Brussels - Grand Place
Image credit Jonathan-Ricci (unsplash)

The Grand Place of Brussels has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1998 and continues to inspire both travellers and locals to this day. Most of the buildings around the square date back to the 18th century when the Grand Place was rebuilt with money from the guilds. Note how harmonious the building style is, this is in part thanks to strong city regulations back in the day!

Aside from the opulent guild houses, have a look at the Brussels City Town Hall (guided tours are available on specific days of the week). Now swirl around and gaze upon the impressive King’s building. These days the King’s building is home to the Brussels city museum.
Walk around the square and the little streets leading on to the square. Have you noticed they all carry the name of a food item (butter, cheese,…)? This is a remnant of the olden days when the Grand Place was used to trade between vendors and locals.

Visiting Brussels - Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis - Copyright Frederic Paulussen (unsplash)

It is time to go and see one of the city’s most popular – yet deceptively small – tourist attraction. Walk 5 minutes from the Grand Place to see the famous Manneken Pis (Little Julien). He is impossible to miss as there is permanently a line of tourists taking selfies, much to the chagrin of locals trying to pass by on their commute to work. There are a lot of stories concerning the origin of Little Julien, but the most likely one is that he is a homage to the city tanneries that were here during the Middle Ages. Back in the day the urine of kids was used to process the leather (a fun fact you can now share with friends).

Food in Brussels - The Brussels Waffle
A delicious waffle - Copyright Blue_jean (unsplash)

Your Brussels day trip continues to a lesser known part of the city. Explore the Fontainas neighbourhood filled with little shops and plenty of local bars and restaurants – might as well indulge in a local beer or two, right? If you are in the market for a typical Belgian waffle head over to Maison Dandoy.

If your feet are still going strong, walk over the Saint Gerry neighbourhood. Go on the hunt for the Zinneke Pis, walk to traditional cobblestoned streets and end up the former Brussels stock exchange (La Bourse).

Brussels weekend
French and English are widely spoken. Image credit Guido Hofmann (unsplash)

End your one day in Brussels at Place Sainte Catherine, a popular hangout for the locals. During the summer the square is lined with terraces and the sidewalks around the little stream are filled with locals hanging out and catching up over a drink. Try grabbing a beer at Bar des Amis or get a glass of wine with a little something to nibble at the Noordzee. Choux des Bruxelles on the square offers one of the best Flemish Carbonnade of the city and is a 2-minute walk away.

If you are planning on staying in Brussels, and looking for the perfect spot to spend a night on the town consider bar hopping at Place Sainte Catherine or shake out your dancing legs at the Madame Moustache club.

Where to stay in Brussels

Planning to spend one night in Brussels? These hotels are all centrally located and have a strong sustainability agenda making for the perfect place to stay in Brussels.

  • Warwick Brussels: A beautiful 5-star hotel with views of the Grand Place from their rooftop terrace. Located 3 minutes walk from the Grand Place.
  • The Hotel Brussels: A sustainable hotel with the highest public views over the city. The hotel produces green energy and only uses locally sourced food. The location is right on the main shopping artery of the City: Boulevard de Waterloo
  • Stanhope Hotel: A luxury 5-star hotel with a full team dedicated to sustainability. With it’s impeccable location, beautiful building and dedication towards sustainability it is hard to say no to this property.

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  • […] One of the advantages of Europe is how easy it is to travel between countries. Say you are looking for a day trip from London, why not hop on the Eurostar from London St Pancras to be whisked away to exotic Brussels? Ok, granted perhaps Belgium is not the single most exotic location but there are lots of things to do in Brussels in a day! […]

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