One Day in Brussels: An Expert’s Guide to Brussels in a Day
Looking to spend one day in Brussels? Brussels Belgium is a great spot to spend any amount of time. Keep reading to find out how to make the most out of Brussels in a day.
Known as the place for waffles, chocolate and fries, Brussels is one of Europe’s most popular European city escapes. Rich in beautiful architecture, countless cultural spots, an incredible food scene and of course the best chocolate shops in the world, Brussels is a city waiting to be discovered.
Spending even one day in Brussels is worth travelling here for. With the city being compact and walkable Brussels is perfectly doable in just one day, even for first time visitors.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about spending one day in Brussels including all the places to see and all my top tips.
*This ‘Brussels one day itinerary’ guide contains affiliate links meaning I might make a small profit if you choose to book at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep providing you with top-quality content for free.
Getting to Brussels for a Day
Planning to travel to Brussels from elsewhere in Belgium or abroad? There are many ways that’ll get you into central Brussels quickly and easily.
If you’re flying into Brussels you’ll land at Brussels Airport (Zaventem) which is located northeast of the city. From the airport, you can take the train to the city center. The IC train runs from the airport to Bruxelles-Midi station in the center of the city. From here you can also continue by metro.
Check the best deals on flights below:
From most destinations within Belgium, mainland Europe and the UK, taking the train is probably the best option to get to Brussels in a day. You’ll most probably arrive at Brussels Centrale, Brussels Midi or Brussels Nord.
From here you can transfer onto the metro easily to continue to your final destination or hotel.
To book train tickets within Europe I always use Omio. They have the best deals in Europe and allow you to compare train and bus ticket prices. Find train or bus tickets with Omio here.
From London to Brussels day trip: Take the Eurostar from London’s St Pancras arriving in Brussels Midi. Check train tickets via Omio here.
From Amsterdam to Brussels day trip: Take the Thalys or NS International trains from Amsterdam Centraal to Brussels Midi. Check train tickets via Omio here.
From Paris to Brussels day trip: Take Thalys trains from Paris Gare du Nord. Check train tickets via Omio here.
From Cologne to Brussels day trip: Take Thalys or Deutsche Bahn services from Cologne Hbf. Check train tickets via Omio here.
Taking a bus to see Brussels in a day is also a good option however they normally do take a lot longer than train services. Bus services run from most other cities in Belgium as well as Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne and more. Check bus tickets via Omio here.
I wouldn’t rent a car to get around Brussels. Most sites are very centrally located and the center is very much walkable. For anything else, the public transport system works really well.
If you do drive into Brussels, the best thing to do is to find a safe place to park and leave your car there for the day.
Getting Around Brussels
Getting around Brussels in a day is quick, easy to work out and all in all a pretty hassle-free experience. The metro works like most other European metro systems and the lines and directions are easy to work out.
You will, however, want to save yourself time when it comes to buying tickets. Buying individual tickets each time you travel is a hassle so make sure to opt for the STIB public transportation card (valid for 24 hours, or more should you choose to stay longer). You can buy these at a machine once you arrive at the station.
A great idea is also getting the Brussels: City Card with STIB Public Transportation which for 24, 48 or 72 -hours gives you access to all public transportation as well as access to over 49 museums and attractions including the René Magritte Museum, Belgian Chocolate Village and the Design Museum Brussels.
You can also opt for the Brussels Card with Hop-On Hop-Off Bus here.
Brussels is a very walkable city. Most of the time you will find yourself just strolling the streets as they really are beautiful. For this reason, make sure to also prioritise wearing comfortable shoes.
Is 1 Day in Brussels Enough?
You might be thinking about whether one day is enough in any European capital and the truth is that for Brussels it can be.
Brussels is a small and compact city and most of the places of interest are located in the compact city centre. Just going on a self-guided walk through the centre will allow you to do many of the things Brussels has to offer in just a day.
If you’re looking to spend time in museums, visit the inside of palaces and move slowly, a day in Brussels might not be enough- you might want to turn this into a 2-day Brussels itinerary. However, if you’re more interested in walking the streets, getting a general overview of the sites, sample some of the best chocolate in Brussels and taste some local beer then visiting Brussels in a day is quite doable.
How Can I Spend One Day in Brussels?
There are many different ways to spend one day in Brussels from simply just strolling the streets, visiting the most iconic spots or just relaxing and spending your time eating waffles and chocolate.
Here are the 12 most popular places to visit when exploring Brussels in a day.
➤The Grand Place (Grote Markt)
➤Galeries Royales Saint Hubert
➤ The Royal Palace
➤Rene Margritte Museum
➤Mont des Arts
➤St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
➤ Law Courts of Brussels
➤ Belgian Comic Strip Walk
How to Make the Most of One Day in Brussels?
One day in Brussels isn’t really too much time but there are quite a few ways to make the most of your time in the city. If you’re just taking a day trip to the city or if you’d like to relax a bit and have things organised for you then you might want to take a tour.
Tour companies such as Get Your Guide and Viator can organise a Brussels day trip for you from cities like Paris or Amsterdam. This takes much of the trip planning out of your itinerary and just makes things easier.
To maximise your time you might also want to use the famous HopOnHopOff Bus that will take you around many of the city’s sights including the Botanical Garden and the Grand Palace. You’ll also learn heaps at the same time. Pre-book your ticket here.
If you plan on staying the night in Brussels, you’ll also want to book a hotel in the city center. There are many affordable options and it will make it much easier for you to get around effortlessly. Check out all the best hotels in Brussels Center.
Top Things to Do in Brussels in a Day
There are many things to do in Brussels in a Day ranging from luxury, and historical shopping arcades to some pretty awesome museums. If you only have a day in Brussels then I would recommend starting early to get the most out of your day.
Below I’ve listed all of the best things to do in Brussels but I probably wouldn’t recommend attempting to see all of these on a 1 day itinerary, even though I found I did do most of these myself. Perhaps pick and choose the sights, attractions and experiences that sound the best to you and prioritise those.
Visit the Grand Place Brussels
Start your day at the Grand Place. The Grand Palace or Grote Market is one of Europe’s most beautiful squares so it’s only right you start your one day Brussels itinerary here.
The Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a large square that’s surrounded by stunning period architecture and ornate gold. Some of these buildings date back to the 1300s. The main highlights to look out for and the most impressive buildings are the Brussels Town Hall, King’s House and Guild Halls.
The most remarkable building is the Gothic town hall or Hôtel de Ville de Bruxelles is an elaborate 15th Century town hall. Opposite the stunning town hall, you’ll find the King’s House, another beautiful Gothic structure which now houses the Brussels City Museum and the various Manneken Pis costumes.
The other beautifully designed buildings around the square look like ornate gingerbread houses, whose gold accents glimmer in the sun on a bright day.
The square also has a number of bars and restaurants which are very much geared at tourists. While the view is unbeatable you might want to avoid these for something a little more authentic later on.
Stroll Around the City Centre
One of the best ways to see a city center, and Brussels is no exception is by strolling around. Brussels city center is amazingly small and compact and you’ll be able to see a lot of places in this guide by just walking around.
Start at the Grand Palace and move north walking to the famous Rue des Bouchers and the Galeries Royal right next door. Make sure to explore all those small, cobblestone alleyways around the city.
You can then loop around through the city center towards Mont des Arts and up to Sablon.
Even if you decide to walk around the city for an hour or two you’ll still end up seeing quite a lot. You might even discover some new hidden gems too.
If you’d prefer more information as you stroll around the city center why not opt for a guided tour instead? Check out this guided tour here to learn more about Brussels. You can also opt for a Private Tour with a Local
Do Some Shopping at Galleries Royal Saint Hubert
The Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert is one of the most luxurious and historical places to shop in Brussels. With its marble columned walls and pretty glass ceiling, you’ll struggle to find a prettier shopping arcade in this part of Europe.
The ornate shopping center is full of gorgeous cafes, swoon-worthy shops and a wide range of all the best Belgian chocolatiers. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything you might want to spend some time just browsing the lovely shop windows and taking photos. This is, however, a great place to shop for some chocolate- a perfect gift to take home.
Visit the Royal Palace of Brussels
The Royal Palace of Brussels is one of the most iconic and grand buildings in Brussels. Spend an hour of your one day in Brussels here admiring the architecture and visiting the ex-residence of the King and the Belgian Monarchy.
Inside you’ll find many grand halls that are used to receive important guests, offices and prestigious rooms used by the palace staff. Note that the Royal Palace is only open to visit in the summer from the end of July until the end of August. Visits are free of charge.
When visiting outside this month, you’ll just have to admire it from the outside.
Attend a Chocolate Workshop or Do a Chocolate Tour
Brussels is the ideal city to taste and learn more about chocolate. With a rich tradition and heritage based around chocolate making, coming to Brussels in a day and not tasting it might mean missing out on the world’s best chocolate.
Belgium is famous for its pralines, singular chocolates that consist of a filling wrapped in milk, dark or white chocolate. There are also single block bars to try and buy as well as other sweets like chocolate-covered waffles, nougat, marzipan and candied fruit.
For more on chocolate, read Best Chocolate in Brussels: 7 Top Chocolatiers Not to Miss
To learn more about chocolate in Brussels and the whole bean-to-bar process you can take a chocolate workshop or do a chocolate tour. They are also really fun and unique experiences. Here are some of the best chocolate tours and workshops in Brussels:
2.5-Hour Belgian Chocolate Making Workshop – One of the best tours in the city, this workshop will teach you how to make more than 30 Belgian chocolates from scratch and you’ll make your own pralines and mediants before taking them home.
1-Hour Belgian Chocolate Workshop: If the above seems too long, then opt for this similar tour for just one hour and create your own chocolate.
Brussels Chocolate Tasting Tour – For those that prefer a chocolate-themed city tour and tasting this is the tour for you. Discover the best chocolate shops in the city and taste a variety of amazing Belgian chocolate.
Discover more below:
Snap a Photo with Manneken Pis
Perhaps the most famous peeing boy in the world, Manneken Pis is located just a few blocks from Grand Place. This small bronze statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain is a Brussels icon.
There are many stories surrounding the urinating boy but it’s thought to originate in Medieval times when it was associated with supplying drinking water through the fountains of Brussels. The little statue stood on a column and poured out water into a stone dish.
The statue we see today on the fountain is actually a replica from 1965. The original is now kept at the Brussels City Museum to avoid vandalism- the statue was repeatedly stolen throughout its history.
There are also a couple of variations of this statue around Brussels too. You can now also see Jeanneke Pis, a squatting, urinating woman and Het Zinneke, the peeing dog.
The statue is probably not the most amazing thing to see in Brussels but you’ll probably want to quickly snap a picture of it as you stroll around the city center.
Have a beer at The Delirium Cafe
One of the most well-known and iconic beer bars in Brussels, the Delirium Cafe is a must for beer lovers. A day in Brussels wouldn’t be complete without a glass of beer, even non-alcoholic beer counts.
In the afternoon head straight to Delirium Cafe where you’ll find over 2,000 local and international beers. The place is huge and split into a few different sections. I’d suggest heading for the Belgium beer section to sample some of the best local beers.
If beer isn’t your thing you’ll be pleased to know they also have an incredible selection of vodka and other spirits too.
Walk Through Mont des Arts
Mont des Arts is a nice hill and garden located just outside the city center but within easy walking distance of everything.
Surrounded by art museums and institutions- hence its name- this is a great place to come for a quick stroll or to watch the sunset in the evening. While not very high, the view of the platform and stairs at the top is pretty.
There’s also a perfectly manicured garden here that really reminded me of a mini Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. It’s a lovely spot to sit and rest for a while or enjoy a coffee.
Visit the Law Courts of Brussels
Probably the largest and most impressive neoclassical building in Brussels, the tall dome of the Brussels Law Courts can be seen from quite a distance.
This courthouse is giant and inside you’ll find the most important courts in Belgium.
The architecture really is splendid especially in the courtyard just before entering the building. It’s possible to go inside to view the architecture on occasion so make sure to see if it’s open for visitors.
Stroll Around the Musical Instruments Museum
The Musical Instruments Museum is housed in the historic Old England Building located just at the top of Mont des Arts.
Even if musical instruments aren’t your thing, the building is worth a look at least from the outside. It’s a stunning example of Art Nouveau architecture on one side and neoclassical on the other. This strange combination of architectural styles on one building is quite rare to see.
If you do decide to enter you’ll find a display of antique and modern musical instruments, a great thing to do in Brussels in a day for music lovers.
Admire Surrealist Art at the Rene Magritte Museum
If art is your thing and you have time, make sure to visit the museum of one of the most iconic surrealist arts, René Magritte. The museum is home to the Belgian artist’s most famous works including the Man in a Bowler Hat, (if you’ve seen the movie The Thomas Crown Affair, you’ll know this one), The Pilgrim and The Invention of Life.
While mostly focused on the work of Magritte you can also see the work of some other Belgian artists, especially those involved in Surrealism.
Visit St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
This stunning cathedral is the national church of Belgium. Parts of the church, the original chapel of St. Michael date back to the 9th Century while most of what we see today goes back to the 13th Century.
It’s built in a unique Brabant Gothic style which perfectly infused the northern European Gothic style with elements of Romanesque.
Architecture buff or not, this church really is worth visiting at least for a moment to escape the rain. You’ll be struck by the solidness of its architectural style and grandeur. The cathedral is free but you can pay €1 to see the original foundations of the church.
See the Atomium
One of the most unique structures in the world, the Atomium is a relatively new structure to the Brussels skyline. The Atomium is literally a building that looks like a series of interconnected electrons that resemble an atom.
Inside the super cool structure, you’ll find an exhibition space, a viewing platform and a panoramic restaurant. Make sure to also buy your tickets for the Atomium online before visiting to beat the queues- this is quite a popular attraction, especially at the weekend.
Buying your Atomium entry here will also get you free entry to the Design Museum too.
It’s important to note that the Atomium is not located in the centre of the city and rather in the Brussels suburbs. To get here from the centre take metro train number 3 and change at Van Proest or Heembeek for the number 7 tram to Heisel.
Take a Walk Around Sablon
Sablon is a really lovely, upscale neighbourhood just outside the main city center of Brussels. It’s also worth a stroll and an hour of your time to explore the lovely streets and picturesque corners.
Sablon is also full of some really lovely cafes ideal for a coffee and an afternoon treat. While walking around the area make sure to not miss Our Lady of Victories, a lovely Gothic Church from the 15th Century.
Right opposite the church you’ll find Place du Petit Sablon, a lovely, perfect manicured square with a fountain in the middle. It’s a super picturesque spot to relax or just walk through.
Where to Stay in Brussels
As mentioned previously, if you are planning to spend the night in Brussels you’ll want to book a hotel in the city center so that you’ll be closer to all the main sights. This will maximise the time that you have in the city. Here are some of my favourite places to stay in Brussels.
Cocoon Brussels – Sleep in an actual bubble right on this Grand Place with this beautiful and unique accommodation option. These studio apartment rentals are minimally furnished with all the vibes and some of the best views right onto the Grand Place. Make sure to check out the apartment with the cocoon bed. Check rates and availability here.
Juliana Hotel Brussels – One of the most luxurious hotel options in the city, this beautiful, classical hotel is fit for royalty. Fully equipped with great service, a swimming pool, spa, gym and a delicious breakfast, there’s no better place to stay. Check rates and availability here.
Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre – One of the most stylish hotels in the city center, this is the perfect option for design-focused travellers. This hotel features beautifully designed spaces and rooms, clean and comfortable rooms and beds and great staff and service. A great value stay for Europe. Check rates and availability here.
Check the map below for more great places to stay in Brussels.
Where to Eat
Amongst all of the spots to indulge in frites, chocolate and waffles, Brussels does have some pretty amazing health-focused cafes and restaurants to eat at. One day in Brussels is nowhere near enough time to even begin sampling the amazing cuisine the city has to offer but you can at least try.
Here are some of the best cafes, healthy food-focused restaurants and the best vegan waffle in Brussels.
The Best Cafes/Coffee Shops
Maison Dandoy – One of the most iconic cafes in Brussels that’s very Instagrammable. The waffles and sweet treats here are what to order.
My Little Cup -One of the coolest coffee shops in Brussels. Really good speciality coffee.
Bouche Speciality Coffee – Right across the street from the Rene Magritte Museum, they serve divine, quality coffee and some sweet bites.
Chicago Cafe – One of the best brunch spots in the city. Simple, natural ingredients that taste great. Don’t miss their ‘Oriental Vegan Brunch’.
Veganwaf‘- The only vegan waffle spot in Brussels this independent shop is inside a small shopping mall. Grab a waffle with chocolate sauce and banana and head to the Grand Place to eat.
The Best Restaurants
Yummy Bowl – One of the best plant-based/veggie restaurants around, this great spot specialises in bowls with different themes. Healthy, hearty and fast but get there quick it’s really popular.
Pois Chiche– The best middle-eastern spot in the city serving classics like falafel and hummus but also cauliflower shawarma and moutabal. Vegetarian and very vegan-friendly.
Le Botaniste – A lovely local plant-based restaurant serving a range of dishes from Thai-style curries to pasta.
Wellness in Brussels
What Brussels is known for, doesn’t exactly scream wellness. I mean, chocolate, waffles, beer and fries aren’t exactly featured or recommended in large amounts on any healthy lifestyle plan. But, when in Brussels it doesn’t hurt in indulge a little.
There are however many other ways to counterbalance all that chocolate. While you probably won’t be seeking a place to move or get pampered with only a day in Brussels, here are some options if you end up extending your trip.
The Best Wellness Spots in Brussels
Brussels Yoga Loft – Grab their Intro Offer and enjoy unlimited yoga classes, workshops and events for a three-week period. Come to any one of their three locations and start your time in Brussels with a yoga flow.
Ô Siam – Head to this urban spa for massage and wellness treatment. They also have a bed & breakfast. It’s perfect for those in one day in Brussels wanting to stay the night in a wellness-focused environment. They have a Turkish Hamman, Jacuzzi, Finish sauna, infrared sauna and light therapy cabin. Choose two treatments for two hours and just indulge. Find out more here.
Aspria Louise– Aspria is one of the best health clubs in Brussels and this location in Louise is worth checking out. You can book treatments at their spa, stay in their hotel for a wellness-focused stay or join the club if you plan on staying in Brussels longer. Find out more here.
Top Tips for Your One Day in Brussels
↠ Belgium, like most of the EU uses the Euro. If you’re coming in from the US, the UK or outside the Euro-zone make sure to change a bit of money beforehand so you have some Euros in cash with you. Otherwise, you can easily withdraw cash from a local ATM with decent fees.
I personally found that credit cards and Apple Pay were excepted pretty much anywhere. I used my card the entire time when in Brussels.
↠ Weather in Brussels can change in an instant and in general it is a rainy city. Make sure to pack waterproofs i.e. a rain jacket and have it handy if needed. An umbrella is also a good idea.
↠ Make sure to stay centrally! If you only have one day in Brussel you don’t want to be wasting time travelling in to the center. Brussels is a very affordable city when it comes to accommodation, compared to other Western European capitals. It is possible to find something within your budget in the center.
↠ One day in Brussels isn’t exactly a lot but make sure to focus on enjoying your time there. Try not to focus on running around and visiting too many attractions. Instead, focus on enjoying a few good ones instead. My personal highlight was just walking the incredibly pretty streets and admiring all the lovely buildings.
When to Visit
↠ The best time to visit Brussels is during the shoulder season. The shoulder season is the months of May and June and September and October. The weather tends to be quite mild and favourable just prices are still pretty low and crowds aren’t high. I visited in early June and I couldn’t have had a better stay, well, apart from a bit of rain.
Ready to plan your one day in Brussels? Let me know your comments or questions below, I’d love to hear from you.
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