Despite being the capital city of Belgium and home to the headquarters of the European Union, Brussels is actually pretty small. Therefore, spending one day in Brussels is the perfect amount of time to get a sense of the city and explore the main sights.
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!
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Table of Contents
Things To Know Before Visiting Brussels
Getting around Brussels
The first option is using public transportation. The tram system is one of the biggest in the world, so you can cover more considerable distances by using it. A one-way ticket is valid for one hour, and during that time, you can change the means of transport: metro, bus, or tram. BOOK YOUR BRUSSELS CARD HERE
Another option for discovering the city is hopping into a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus. You can reach Mini Europe and Atomium(a gorgeous model of an atom considered one of the Brussels landmarks) by taking the bus. BOOK YOUR HOP-ON HOP-OFF TICKETS HERE
Renting a car is another option to discover the capital of Belgium. I would suggest doing that if you plan to explore on your own and not opt for organized tours, walking, or public transportation. The city’s main attractions are close to one other, so exploring on foot shouldn’t be an issue for one day in Brussels. 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. But renting a car would be the best decision if you only have one day in Brussels and want to discover places like Atomium, Autoworld or Mini Europe.
Going on a guided walking tour is a great option if you have only one day in Brussels. Visit the historical center of Brussels, discover the city’s main attractions, and taste some traditional Belgian chocolates. Sounds good? BOOK YOUR GUIDED WALKING TOUR HERE
We are big fans of e-scooters, and whenever we have a chance, we use them on our travels. To our surprise, 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 to reach different places, and we walked most of our one day in Brussels.
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Best time to visit Brussels
Like many other European cities, Brussels is beautiful no matter the time of the year.
The summer months are great for discovering the city on foot, relaxing at one of the many terraces, and discovering the museums and cathedrals. But take into consideration that the weather can also get quite hot.
The spring and autumn months are still great as the holidays are off, the accommodation rates are low, and the number of tourists reduces drastically. However, pack an umbrella and a rain jacket if it rains.
Winter in Brussels is magical if you fancy rambling a Christmas Market right in the city’s heart.
Where to stay in Brussels
If you plan to spend one day in Brussels, overnighting in the city center is the best option. There are many options: big chain hotels, middle-class hotels, cozy and quiet home quests. If you come by car, you can forget it and enjoy a car-free stay in Brussels. There are plenty of restaurants, little shops, cozy coffee shops, and the best nightlife in the city center.
The Morning of Your One Day in Brussels Itinerary
Parc de Brussels
First thing in the morning, after renting the e-scooter, we headed to Parc de Brussels. Also known as Parc Royal, it stands between the Federal Parliament and the Royal Palace. The ride from our hotel took only a few minutes, but getting on foot would have taken almost 20 minutes.
We got the most out of our means of transport and strolled the Parc de Brussels pathways; therefore, we discovered two drinking-water fountains, the Royal Theatre, some gorgeous alleys, and a few kiosks.
Address: Brussels Park, 1000 Brussels
The Royal Palace was once the King family’s official palace (the official residence is now the Royal Palace of Laeken). Currently, it serves as an administrative seat for the Belgian monarchy.
It is open during the summer months only, from Tuesday to Sunday; however, you can admire this beautiful building from the Parc Royal if you visit Brussels during other seasons.
After a last snap of the Royal Palace, we proceeded to Brussels Cathedral, only 500 meters away.
Address: Place des Palais, 1000 Brussels
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, marble altarpieces, beautiful stained glass windows, and paintings. Make sure to look for the statues of the 12 apostles and the 4.000 organ pipes.
We spent some time indulging in the serenity of this Holy place, taking photos of the interior and exterior before walking to the city center.
Address: Place Sainte-Gudule, 1000 Brussels
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
Heading to the Old Town of Brussels, you’ll bump into the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, built between 1846 and 1847. The combination of golden lighting and the high glass ceiling is gorgeous!
The Galeries consists of an extended covered street with shops, cafes, and chocolatiers aligned on both sides. If you are interested in shopping, it is worth a quick stop.
Some of the oldest chocolate shops in Brussels are inside the gallery, so make sure to try some. If time allows, take a guided tour at the Choco-Story Museum, just a few minutes walk from the Galeries.
Adress: Galerie du Roi 5, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
The Afternoon of Your One Day in Brussels
Grand Palace (Grote Markt)
Grand Palace has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Town Hall and Maison du Roi (The King’s Residence), two opulent buildings from the 17th century, surround the capital’s central square.
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 is also known as the Bread House due to the bread market held here for centuries. The building is now a history museum.
If there is a place to be for one day in Brussels, Grote Markt is the one: most of the time, it is crowded and overloaded but extremely beautiful. This one stands out for its gorgeous design among the many squares we have visited. We immediately fell in love with the grandiose buildings’ intricate architecture, so we took some time to admire everything!
Adress: Pl. de Belgique 1, 1020 Brussels
Try Belgian Fries
Eating fries is another must during your visit to Bruges! You can buy this Belgian specialty in many places, but you should taste some around the Grand Palace. Crisp on the outside and sublime on the inside. Just try some topped with SAMOURAI sauce! Simply delicious!
Imagine that people are waiting patiently in line for more than 30 minutes only to taste some!
Brussel even has a Friet Museum, so head there if you are interested.
Did you know that Brussels’s symbol is a 61cm bronze sculpture portraying a naked boy peeing into a fountain’s basin? You’ll find this famous statue only 300 meters away from the Grote Markt. Restrained in a 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 the family searched for him for days. Finally, 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 figure has more than 900 outfits? You can witness its garderobe at Maison de Roi, in Grote Markt.
We bumped into the famous Manneken Pis on our stroll through the city. Of course, we didn’t expect the swarms of people gathering around the fountain and taking loads of photos.
Adress: Manneken Pis, 1000 Brussels
Savor Belgian Waffles
Now it’s time for an introduction to the waffles world! Belgium invited the waffles; at least, that’s what they pretend. Eating Belgian waffles is a must during your one day in Brussels, so don’t you even dare not to try one! However, choosing one is a challenging task with such a great variety of toppings!
There are plenty of places where you can try this Belgian specialty, but I would recommend getting them from a street cart that makes the waffles in front of you. Next to the Manneken Pis, there is a small shop making exceptional waffles. We tried them here, and we couldn’t be happier! We had to wait in line for a while, but the waiting was worth it! And no waffle is complete without a delicious topping like caramel or dulce de leche!
And if there is a boy, it must also be a girl. Six hundred 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.
Adress: Imp. de la Fidélité 10-12, 1000 Brussels
Notre Dame du Sablon
Notre Dame du Sablon is another gorgeous Gothic cathedral in the city’s heart. It was supposed that the Madonna statue inside had healing power; therefore, the church’s popularity increased over the years.
Inside, you’ll notice only a copy of the Madonna as thieves stole the statue at some point, and now its location remains unknown.
Adress: Rue des Sablons, 1000 Brussels
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, who were executed because of their opposition to the Spanish invasion.
Adress: SQUARE OF PETIT SABLON, 1000 Brussels
Evening of Your One Day In Brussels
We headed to the Ferris Wheel, related to the London Eye, as we craved more of Brussels’ beautiful views. 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.
Adress: Pl. Poelaert, 1000 Brussels
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. The remarkable trees and the exotic red-eared slider turtles that have colonized the pond make the square charming.
Address: Sq. Marie-Louise, 1000 Brussels
Experience the Belgian Beer Culture
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 drink.
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.
Visit 2 of Belgium’s most beautiful cities in a day on a guided tour of Bruges and Ghent. Benefit from round-trip transfers from Brussels and the services of a professional guide. See an abundance of medieval monuments and picturesque neighborhoods.
Interactive Map of Your One Day In Brussels Itinerary
Underneath, you’ll find a customized map that includes all the locations you will visit during your one day in Brussels. Just open up this article on your phone and click on the frame in the upper right corner of this map. The Google Maps app will open, and you can check all the details. I hope it helps!
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