Brussels is the beautiful capital city of Belgium and home to the headquarters of the European Union. Although you might think the city is big, you can discover the main attractions in only one day. For our extended weekend in Brussels, we chose to stay at a hotel in the heart of the European Quarter, only 300 meters from The European Commission. From here, we took day trips outside the city and allocated one day to explore Belgium’s capital. So here is my one-day in Brussels itinerary, including top sights to see and things to try!
Getting around Brussels
The first option is using public transportation. The tram system is one of the biggest globally, so you can cover larger distances by using it. One way ticket is valid for one hour and during that time, you can change the means of transport: metro, bus or tram. Another option for discovering the city is hopping into a Hop On Hop Off Bus. By taking the bus, you can reach Mini Europe and Atomium(a gorgeous model of an atom considered one of the Brussels landmarks). The city’s main attractions are close to one other, so discovering Brussels on foot shouldn’t be an issue. Start with a short walk through Parc de Brussels, go inside the gorgeous St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, stroll the streets, have a coffee, and taste a Belgian Waffle at Manneken Pis. I’m a big fan of e-scooter, and whenever I have a chance, I use them on my travels. We found two e-scooters parked near the hotel this time, so we rented them and headed to the main attractions. We only exploited them for reaching different places, and we walked most of our one day in Brussels.
Parc de Brussels
After renting the e-scooter, we headed to Parc de Brussels, also known as Parc Royal. The ride took only a few minutes, but getting on foot would take almost 20 minutes. This beautiful parc stands between the Federal Parliament and the Royal Palace, once the King family’s official palace (the official residence is now the Royal Palace of Laeken). The last one serves currently as an administrative seat for the monarchy. It is open during the summer months only, from Tuesday to Sunday; however, if you visit Brussels during other seasons, you can admire this beautiful building from the park. We got the most out of our means of transport and strolled the pathways; therefore, we discovered two drinking-water fountains and the Royal Theatre, some gorgeous alleys, and few kiosks. After a last snap of the Royal Palace, we proceeded to Brussels Cathedral, only 500 meters away.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
Right in the heart of Brussels, between the upper and lower town, you’ll notice the famous Brussels Cathedral, the monarchy’s favored option for weddings and coronations. St. Michael and St. Gudula refer to the twin Roman Catholic cathedrals that dominate the charming Treurenberg Hill. It took almost 300 years to complete the building started in the 13th century. The exterior is charming as the cathedral is made up of a granite quarry. If you take a better look, you might find some resemblance to Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. The interior is also gorgeous, with baroque-style platforms and marble altarpieces, beautiful stained glass windows, and paintings. Make sure to look for the statues of the 12 apostles and the 4000 organ pipes. We spent some time indulging in this holly place and taking photos of the interior and exterior before walking to the city center.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
Heading to Grand Place, you’ll bump into the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, built in the 18s. The Galeries consists of an extended covered street with shops, cafes, and chocolatiers aligned on both sides. The combination of golden lighting and the high glass ceiling is gorgeous. If you are interested in shopping, it worths a quick stop. If your time allows you, take a guided tour at the Choco-Story Museum, just a few minutes’ walk from the Galeries.
Grand Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Opulent buildings dating from the 17th century surround the capital’s central square: the Town Hall and Maison du Roi(The King’s Residence). The Town Hall is the only remaining medieval building of the square and a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Look for the Archangel Michael statue overlooking the square on top of the 96-meter high tower. If you choose to go inside, keep in mind that guided tours are available each Wednesday and Sunday in three languages. Maison de Roi, also known as The Bread House, was held here for centuries due to the city’s bread market. Now the building is a history museum. If there is a place to be for one day in Brussels, Grote Markt is the one: most of the time crowded and overloaded but extremely beautiful. Among the many squares we have visited, this one stands out for its gorgeous design. We fell in love with the grandiose buildings’ intricate architecture immediately, so we took some time to admire everything.
Did you know that Brussel’s symbol is a 61cm bronze sculpture portraying a naked boy peeing into a fountain’s basin? Only 300 meters away from the Grote Markt, you’ll find this famous statue. Restrained in a little corner near a waffle kiosk, one could easily walk by. There are several stories about this little boy. One story says that the child disappeared during festivities, and he was searched for days. The parents found him urinating on a street corner. Another story says that a boy called Julen saw a burning fuse, and he promptly peed on it. Therefore, the municipality made a statue in his likeness. During important events, the statue gets dressed in real clothes. Can you believe that the statue has more than 900 outfits? You can witness its garderobe at Maison de Roi, in Grote Markt. On our stroll through the city, we bumped into the famous Manneken Pis. We didn’t expect the swarms of people gathering around the fountain and taking loads of photos.
And if there is a boy, it must be a girl as well. 600 meters far from Manneken Pis, on the east side of Fidelity Alley, you’ll find another sculpture called Jeanneke Pis. It was made to complement the city’s famous landmark, Manneken Pis. The 50 cm high statue represents a little girl sitting and urinating. If you’ve made it till here, go to Delirium pub right next to Jeanneke Pis and have a beer; there are hundreds to choose from.
Square of Petit Sablon
Just a few steps away from Notre Dame du Sablon sprawls the Square of Petit Sablon, one of Brussels’ most beautiful gardens. Surrounded by 48 bronze statues dedicated to medieval professions, the square is the perfect place for enjoying a coffee away from the city noise. The square was created in 1890 and dedicated to the memory of Counts Egmont and Hornes, executed because of their opposition to the Spanish invasion.
Notre Dame du Sablon
Another gorgeous Gothic cathedral in the heart of the city is Notre Dame du Sablon. It was supposed that the Madonna statue positioned inside has healing power; therefore, the church’s popularity increased over the years. Inside you’ll see only a copy of the Madonna as thieves stole the statue at some point, and now the location remains unknown.
As we craved more Brussels’ beautiful views, we headed to Ferris Wheel, related to the London Eye. The wheel goes 55 meters up in the sky and offers a gorgeous panorama of Brussels. The area near the wheel is considered a gathering place for young people and one of the city’s best viewpoints.
Marie Louise Square
Another beautiful park with a pond in the middle, Marie Louise Square, definitely makes a quick stop on your one-day in Brussels itinerary. The remarkable trees and the exotic red-eared slider turtles which have colonized the pond make the square charming. We bumped into this place by mistake while heading to our accommodation.
What to enjoy during one day in Brussels
Brussel is a combination of fine chocolate and waffles, fries, and beer. A must for every beer lover is to taste Belgian beer. And in Belgium, there is plenty of beer to be drunk. You can discover the Belgian beer culture at The Belgian Brewers Museum, take a beer tasting tour, or learn about the family-run business’s brewery process in a small shop. Purchase a beer from a shop with more than 500 types of beers or enjoy one in a historic cellar. The opportunities are countless when it comes to beer in Belgium.
Eating fries is another must during your visit to Bruges. There are many places where you can buy this Belgian specialty, but you should taste some around Main Square. Crisp on the outside and sublime on the inside. Just try some topped with SAMOURAI sauce! If you can imagine, people are waiting patiently in line to taste some. Brussel even has a Friet Museum, so head there if you are interested.
Belgium invented them as well, so make sure to try some. But buy the waffles from a street cart that makes them fresh in front of you. Remember, no waffle is complete without a delicious topping like caramel or dulce de leche!
One Day In Brussels Itinerary – Interactive Map
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