How to Spend a Perfect Day in Brussels

One day in Brussels itinerary

One day in Brussels itinerary – the most complete guide on how to see the best of Brussels in 1 day (including where to stay and what to eat).

One day in Brussels itinerary

Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and the European Union. It’s a multicultural city known for its waffles, beer and varied architecture.

Located on the border of the Flemish and the French regions of Belgium, the city is bilingual. Every street name is written in two languages – French and Dutch. In addition, most of the people also speak English fluently.

How many days in Brussels

How many days to spend in Brussels? From 1 to 2.

To tour the must-see attractions like Atomium, Grand Place and Manneken Pis, 1 day is enough. However, to explore some of the museums, you’ll need one more day.

I’d suggest you not to spend all your time in Brussels, but take a day trip to Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp. The three cities are quite beautiful with a lot of medieval charm.

How much time I spent

My trip to Belgium was for 3 whole days. As my flight was to Brussels, I decided to use the city as a base to explore the country. I spared a day for Brussels and took two day trips to Bruges and Ghent.

For 1 day sightseeing in Brussels, I managed to explore all the must-do sights. This also includes tasting waffles, Belgian fries, lots of beer and some chocolate shopping.

It’s a 4-star hotel with spacious and comfy rooms. Plus I find the location perfect – less than 200m away from the Grand Place.

Where to stay in Brussels for sightseeing
Warwick Grand Place – Best for families
An elegant hotel less than 200m away from the Grand Place.
8.5/10 Rating – See hotel images and 5,680+ guest reviews

Hotel Sandton – Best for couples
A 4-star modern hotel located just next to the cathedral and the Central Station.
8.8/10 Rating – See hotel images and 2,300+ guest reviews


RealtyCare Flats Grand Place – Apartment
Spacious apartments with excellent facilities within a 5min walk to Grand Place.
9.0/10 Rating – See apartment images and 340+ guest reviews


Find more awesome hotels in where to stay in Brussels.

How to save money on your Brussels itinerary

The Brussels Card is a great way to save some money (especially on museums).

The card includes:

  • free entry to 39 museums
  • free use of the public transport system (STIB)
  • discounts on tourist tours and attractions (including Atomium and Mini-Europe)
  • discounts at restaurants and shops

The card is for you if you:

  • have at least day and a half or two to spend in Brussels
  • plan to visit several museums
  • plan to use public transport a lot

One day in Brussels itinerary

How to tour Brussels in a day? Where to find the best waffles, chocolate and beer? This Brussels one day itinerary will give you the best experience of the city in 24 hours.

Morning – Atomium and Mini-Europe

Breakfast

08:00 AM – 09:00 AM
Start the day with breakfast at Boulangerie Charli or Kaffabar.

Boulangerie Charli is the perfect place for a quick breakfast with croissant and a cup of coffee. Their pain aux raisin and croissant aux amandes are really good.

Boulangerie Charli

For more substantial breakfast, visit Kaffabar.

Mini-Europe

09:30 AM – 11:00 AM
Mini-Europe is a miniature park that features reproductions of monuments from all over Europe. There are more than 350 buildings represented from over 80 countries. A great way to see the best of Europe in one place!

Although located a bit out of the city centre, you can easily get there using the underground. Just follow the instructions below (after breakfast at Boulangerie Charli):

  • Take metro line 1 (direction Gare de l’Ouest/Brussel-West) from Sainte Catherine/Sint-Katelijne to Beekkant – 3 stops. Another option is to take metro line 5 (direction Erasme/Erasmus) from Sainte Catherine/Sint-Katelijne to Beekkant – 3 stops.
  • From there transfer to line 6 (direction Roi Baudouin/Koning Boudewijn) from Beekkant to Heysel – 8 stops.
  • Mini-Europe is about 300m away from the last metro station.

Visit Mini-Europe before Atomium, as it opens half an hour earlier (except in the winter, when it opens at 10:00 AM). Moreover, there are fewer people immediately after opening, so the photo opportunities are better.

Mini-Europe

Atomium

11:10 AM – 12:00 PM
Atomium is one of the must-see attractions in Brussels. It was constructed for the World Fair in 1958 (Expo 58). The structure wasn’t meant to last longer than 6 months. However, it soon became very popular and one of the city’s major sights.

Atomium represents an elementary iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times. There is a museum devoted to Expo 58 inside of the Atomium. A lift takes you to the top of the construction, where you can find exceptional views and a restaurant.

Atomium

Lunch

12:00 PM – 02:00 PM
Go back to the city centre (and take off at Sainte Catherine/Sint-Katelijne metro station). For lunch, you can choose between Chicago Café and Noordzee Mer du Nord.

If you’re a seafood lover, Noordzee Mer du Nord is the best choice. Yet, keep in mind, that it’s a street eatery and there is no indoor seating area.

If it’s cold outside or you need to rest after a half day of sightseeing, then Chicago Café is the place. The toast with smoked salmon and the one with beefsteak are really good.

Chicago Café

After lunch, stop for some waffles at Vitalgaufre. They serve the best waffles in all Brussels. We ordered the chocolate one and strawberry one. They both tasted phenomenal!

Vitalgaufre

Afternoon – The Old Town

St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

02:00 PM – 02:30 PM
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is a stunning example of the Brabant Gothic style. The construction of the church started in the 13th century and finished 300 years later in 1519. Its impressive interior is decorated with breathtaking stained glass.

St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

02:40 PM – 03:10 PM
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a marvellous shopping arcade from the 19th century. This is also the place to go if you look for some good chocolate. One of my favourite chocolate shops here is Neuhaus Galerie de la Reine.

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

Friterie Tabora

03:10 PM – 03:30 PM
You can’t spend a day in Brussels without tasting the famous Belgian fries. And the best place to do that is Friterie Tabora. The fries are served with sauce by your choice and come in two different sizes. I just loved their cheese sauce. Yet, if you want to sample the traditional version choose mayonnaise.

Friterie Tabora

Grand Place

03:30 PM – 04:00 PM
Grand Place has been the beating heart of the city for centuries. It’s the city’s central square and one of the must-see places. The square is surrounded by the gorgeous guild houses, the City Hall and the King’s House.

guild houses

King’s House

The City Hall is the most impressive building in the Grand Place. You can visit it only with a guided tour every Wednesday and Sunday.
Wednesday (1 PM: French, 2 PM: English, 3 PM: Dutch)
Sunday (10 AM: Dutch, 11 AM: English, 12 PM, 2 PM: French, 3 PM, 4 PM: English)
You can buy tickets from the tourist office at Grand Place.

City Hall

If you’re visiting the city in August, don’t miss the flower carpet. It’s a grandiose event that takes place once every 2 years. A huge carpet from begonias is installed on the Grand Place.

In December, a Christmas tree is erected here. In addition, there is a Northern Lights show from 05:00 PM to 10:00 PM.

Manneken Pis

04:10 PM – 04:30 PM
Manneken Pis is the city’s most popular attraction. It’s a small fountain that represents a peeing boy, hence the name. Manneken Pis has its own wardrobe and you can see it dressed in a different costume several times a week.

However, don’t expect something big. The bronze fountain is really small – only 61cm tall.

Manneken Pis

Try some Belgian beer

You can’t finish the day without trying some of the famous Belgian beer. For a unique selection of beers visit Moeder Lambic Fontainas or Delirium Monasterium.

Moeder Lambic Fontainas offers a huge variety of Belgian and foreign beers. I tried De Ranke Père Noël, which was awesome. You can also order some charcuterie and cheese boards. The atmosphere was very chill with nice music.

Moeder Lambic Fontainas

Yet Delirium Monasterium has a beer list that contains over 2000 different beers!

Dinner

Finish this one day in Brussels with a dinner at Nuetnigenough or C’est Bon C’est Belge.

Nuetnigenough is a small restaurant that offers traditional wholesome food with a nice beer selection. We had the Flemish beef stew and veal meatballs with Stoemp, both excellent.

The only bad thing is that they don’t accept reservations and the service was rather slow. So show 5min before the opening time to be sure that you’ll get a table. We went soon after they opened and there was already a 40min queue.

Nuetnigenough

C’est Bon C’est Belge is typical Belgian restaurant with excellent food and nice atmosphere. We ordered the Belgian tasting menu, that includes several popular meals. The Flemish stew and the meatballs were one of the best I tried in Brussels.

C'est Bon C'est Belge

Things to do in Brussels in 1 day – more ideas

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is a must-see attraction if you’re visiting the city in the summer. It is open only from 21 July until September.

This 19th-century palace served as an official residence of the royal family until 1831. After that Leopold I moved the royal court at Palace of Laeken.

Royal Palace

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History

It’s one of the largest military museums in Europe. The exhibits present 12 centuries of history through military equipment and machinery. Don’t miss the panoramic view of the city from the terrace on top of the Cinquantenaire gallery.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

If you’re an art lover, this museum is a must-do. The exhibits feature more than 20,000 artwork from 15th to 21st century.

Museum of Natural Sciences

Museum of Natural Sciences features the largest dinosaur collection in Europe.

Train World

If you love trains, Train World is a must-see. This interactive museum has an extensive selection of trains, including the oldest steam locomotive conserved in Belgium.

Buy your Train World ticket in advance here.

Halle Gate

Halle Gate is a fortified city gate from the 14th century. It is the only gate that survived from the medieval city walls. Nowadays, the fairytale fortification houses a museum. Don’t forget to take the audio guide, as most of the descriptions are in French.

Arcade du Cinquantenaire

Arcade du Cinquantenaire is a gorgeous triple arch, commissioned by Leopold II of Belgium.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Basilica of the Sacred Heart is one of the largest Catholic churches in Europe. You can climb to the top of its beautiful green-coloured dome for panoramic views of the city.

Church of Our Lady of Laeken

King Leopold I built the church in memory of his wife, Queen Louise-Marie. She is buried in the crypt along with other members of the Belgian royal family. The adjacent cemetery is known as the Belgian Père Lachaise.

Church of Our Lady of Laeken

Church of Our Lady of the Sablon

It’s a gorgeous Gothic church from the 15th century.

Church of Our Lady of the Sablon

Het Zinneke

There are three peeing statues in the capital of Belgium. Het Zinneke is the second one. It represents a life-size peeing dog. It’s nothing remarkable, but if you’re in the area, you can take a look (especially if you like dogs).

Het Zinneke

The third statue is Jeanneke Pis (the peeing girl).

Getting around Brussels

The city is pretty walkable, so you’ll probably won’t use much public transport. However, to go to Mini-Europe and Atomium, you’ll have to take the subway.

I used the STIB-MIVB Single fare ticket (€2,10 for a single ride). You can buy it from a ticket machine from every metro station. This ticket is contactless card valid for the entire STIB network (except the Bourget-Brussels Airport section). It’s one and the same for all public transport.

Plan your journey around the city using the STIB journey planner.

Further reading for your trip

Find more self-guided tours in DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Belgium.

Visitors often combine Brussels with:

  • Bruges – a charming medieval city only 1 hour away by train.
  • Ghent – a small medieval city with a gorgeous castle (a 40min journey by train).
  • Antwerp – a medieval port city with a stunning cathedral (a 50min journey by train). Check out the best hotels in Antwerp city centre.
  • Paris – the capital city of France (1h 30m journey by train). Find out how many days to stay in Paris.

If you’re planning to rent a car, compare the car rental prices in Europe.

How would you spend 1 day in Brussels?
Pin for later

best of brussels 1 day in brussels

 
About the author
Avatar Milena Yordanova
I'm a travel blogger based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Travelling has always been my passion and I love to discover new places and cultures. I want to show you how easy it is to organize your vacation all by yourself.

Subscribe to my newsletter and get once a month a full itinerary of my upcoming trips (including expenses, hotels, restaurants and a map).

One Reply to “How to Spend a Perfect Day in Brussels”

  1. Thank you for this detailed Brussels guide! We followed your recommendations and booked the Belgian Beer Tasting Experience. It was awesome! Our tour guide, Charlie, was extremely knowledgeable about the beer and history.

Leave a Reply


Disclaimer: Some links in this article contain affiliate referrals. If you click on the link and purchase any service, I may receive a small commission (no extra cost to you).
My Vacation Itineraries is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.