This one day in Brussels itinerary will show you how to see the best of Brussels in 1 day (including where to stay, what to eat and what day trips to take).
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.
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 show you the best of the city in 24 hours. Find a detailed map of this itinerary here.
The Historic Centre of Brussels is walkable and you can see it in a day. However, I recommend adding an overnight stay to your itinerary. Atomium and Mini-Europe are outside the city centre, so you’ll have to start your day very early if you want to see everything.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
If you plan to visit Brussels on a day trip from Bruges, skip the Atomium or Mini-Europe (or both) and explore the Historic Centre only.
For an overnight stay, check out these lovely hotels in the Historic Centre.
An elegant hotel less than 200m away from the Grand Place. Good-sized rooms with huge comfy beds and tea making facilities.
A 4-star modern hotel located next to the cathedral and the Central Station. A great base to explore the Historic Centre and for day trips.
Spacious apartments with excellent facilities within a 2min walk to Grand Place.
See whether your hotel is in a good area in the article where to stay in Brussels.
Morning – Atomium and Mini-Europe
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 raisins and croissant aux amandes are really good.
For more substantial breakfast, visit Kaffabar.
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!
You can book tickets in advance here.
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 photo opportunities are better.
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.
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.
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!
What else to see in Brussels in the morning
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.
There are three peeing statues in the capital of Belgium. Het Zinneke is the most popular one after Manneken Pis. 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).
The third statue is Jeanneke Pis (the peeing girl).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 anything big. The bronze fountain is really small – only 61cm tall.
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.
Yet Delirium Monasterium has a beer list that contains over 2000 different beers!
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.
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.
What else to see in Brussels in the afternoon
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 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.
Church of Our Lady of the Sablon
It’s a gorgeous Gothic church from the 15th century.
If you have more than one day in Brussels
If you have more time, check out these tourist attractions.
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.
Museum of Natural Sciences
Museum of Natural Sciences features the largest dinosaur collection in Europe.
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 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.
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
Best time to visit Brussels
For sunny and pleasant weather, visit the city from May to September. The high season is between June and August. To avoid the crowds, visit the city in late spring or early autumn.
Every other summer, the Flower Carpet event takes places in the middle of August. The next event will be from 13 to 16 August 2020.
Winters are wet and chilly with short daylight hours. Nevertheless, December is a great time to visit Brussels because of the Christmas markets.
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.
Getting around in 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.
How to get to Brussels
Brussels is easily accessible by train from Bruges, Ghent or any major European city. The Central train station is less than a 5min walk from the Historic centre. The Brussels Midi train station is about 2km from the Grand Place. You can check timetables and book tickets online at SNCB official site.
If you’re arriving by car, it’s best to choose accommodation with available parking. There is no free parking in the city centre during the day. You can find here a list of car parks in the city centre.
For renting a car, check out Sixt Car Rental. They are very popular in Europe and offer the lowest rates.
There are two international airports – Zaventem Airport and Charleroi Airport.
Zaventem Airport (BRU) is located 12km northeast of the city. The easiest way to get to the city centre is by taking the direct train from the airport to the Central Railway station. The airport train station is under the departures and arrivals halls, at level -1. There are up to 6 trains an hour and the journey is about 20min. You can also travel by bus (more info here).
Charleroi Airport (CRL) is about 50km south of the city. The easiest way to get to the city centre is by taking the shuttle bus. Besides Brussels, there are direct shuttle buses to Bruges and Ghent as well.
The shuttle bus runs every 30min and the journey is about 1 hour. Keep in mind that there is only one shuttle every 30min. So if you’re not lucky enough to be at the beginning of the queue, you’ll have to wait for the next shuttle. The shuttle bus stops at Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel Zuid.
It is advisable to book your tickets online as early as you can. The price starts from €5 (if you book early enough) and goes up to €14. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this before my trip, so I paid the full price of €14. If you decide not to book online, the ticket costs €17 at the ticket desk.
Cities to combine with Brussels
It’s a charming medieval city only 1 hour away by train. It’s a perfect destination for a day trip. For best experience follow my itinerary for one day in Bruges.
If you plan an overnight stay, check out the best area to stay in Bruges.
Ghent is a small medieval city with a gorgeous castle. The fastest way to get there is by train (40min journey). It will take you about 1h by car. Ghent is ideal for a day trip.
Antwerp is a medieval port city with a stunning cathedral. It’s a 40-50min journey by train. If you plan to stay overnight, check out the best hotels in Antwerp city centre.
It’s the capital city of France (1h 30m journey by train). There is a lot to see, so it’s best to spend at least a few days. Find out how many days to stay in Paris.
Practical information about Brussels
Belgium is a part of the Schengen Agreement (the European border-free area). So you don’t need a Belgium visa, but rather a Schengen visa. If your country is part of the Schengen Agreement, you’ll need only a valid passport or ID card.
You can check at iVisa if you need a visa and what type exactly. What I loved about iVisa is that they offer an easy and fast process to obtain a visa online. The application takes no more than 5 minutes!
The official currency of Belgium is Euro. Although credit cards (mostly Visa and Mastercard) are widely accepted in Brussels, you’ll need cash. Some places accept card transactions only over a certain value. Smaller restaurants or shops may take only cash. Also, American Express is not popular and not accepted in most of the places.
Belgium has three official languages – French, German, and Dutch. Brussels is located in the Walloon Region of the country (the French-speaking part of Belgium). However, most of the people are fluent in English, too. If you want to learn some French, check out this French phrasebook (it’s one of the best rated).
Belgium operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz. The associated plug types are C and E.
If you’re from the US, this is the only travel adaptor that you’ll need.
If you’re from the UK, this is the best-rated travel adaptor.