24 hours in Brussels, Belgium

24 hours in Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is often overlooked by travelers.  But when you explore this European city, you will see how easy it is to indulge in all its hidden beauty, food, history, and not to miss… chocolate.  Here is what you could do in a day spent in this cultural treasure.

Grand Place, Brussels

Breakfast

Why not start your morning with a true Belgian Waffle. Top it with strawberries, bananas, whipped cream, powdered sugar, Nutella, or anything you like.  There are waffle shops all around Brussels, but the best ones can be found on Rue de l’Etuve near Manneken Pis.  Try Le Funambule Waffles, this unassuming shop has been in business since 1867 and serve the most delicious waffles I have ever tasted.

Belgian Waffles

Morning

Take the morning to wander outside the center of Brussels.  Take the A1 line on the Brussels Metro and get off at Haysel/Heizal metro station.  Here you will find the giant pavilion known as Atomium.  This gigantic structure represents a unit cell of an iron crystal molecule.  Its size is 165 billion (yes, with “B”) times bigger than the real thing.  Jesus… Sure, standing under these giant spheres will make you feel like an atom.  Atomium was built for Expo’1958 in Brussels and it originally was intended to be a temporary structure, but its popularity kept it alive (similar to Eiffel Tower). Climb up to one of its spheres; the view is exceptional, and if there’s good weather, you could see all the way to Antwerp.

AtomiumNext to Atomium you will find Mini-Europe Park.  This “European replica” features miniatures of the famous monuments of Europe at a scale of 1:25.  Buildings include the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben, the Acropolis, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Brandenburg Gate, among others.

If you prefer to stay in the city center instead; then why not spend the morning visiting local sights like Saint Michael and Gudula Cathedral, located at Treurenberg Hill.  This is the most esteemed church in Brussels since St. Michael and Gudula are the patron saints of the city.  The cathedral has an interesting history that dates back to 1047.  In the 13th century it was renovated to it present-day Gothic style, but if you go down to the basement; you will see some of the remains of the original medieval structure.

After enjoying this cathedral, take a short walk towards Parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Park).  Walk from end to end along Rue Royale or enjoy this urban park through its many paths, fountains, and leisure spaces.  As you walk through the central path of the park, you will see at the end the grandiose Royal Palace of Brussels.  Entrance to the palace is free from July to September.  The beauty of the interior space truly dignifies what a palace is.

Lunch

Indulge in true Belgian cuisine –Chocolate.  Go to Wittamer at Palace du Grand Sablon.  This chocolatier has an on-site café.  And it is delicious.

Afternoon

Manneken PisAfter lunch, take a 10-minute walk along Cellebroersstraat and head over to Manneken Pis.  This popular Brussels icon takes the form of a little boy answering nature’s call in a display of irreverent humor.  What’s even more interesting is his wardrobe –over 700 costumes (not even I have that many clothes).  Every now and then he is dressed to celebrate a holiday or special occasion.

You will be surprised by how small this statue is, but if walk along Rue de l’Etuve towards the Grote Markt (Grand Place), you will see the Broodhuis (Breadhouse, also known as King’s House), where you will find the original Manneken Pis stone statue, which is three times larger than the bronze statue currently displayed on the street.  Here you will also see the Manneken’s “closet” on display.  Who would have ever thought that a little boy peeing would become the symbol of Brussels?

See the inauguration of one of his costumes on this video.  Sorry, it’s not in English; but I have to say… that kid has some pressure there!

Since you are at the Grote Markt, I’m sure you would undoubtedly have noticed the unique beauty and architectural detail of this square and its surrounding buildings.  Entering the Grote Markt through one of its unassuming alleys makes you feel like if you’re entering a place that has been preserved in time.

Grote Markt Buildings

The Grote Markt dates back to the 12th century.  In 1695, King Louis XIV of France bombed the area and destroyed all but one of the original buildings –the Town Hall.  Today, this building sits the mayor of Brussels and can only be visited with guided tours.

Brussels Town Hall at Grote MarktYou will definitely find something to do or see at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There are free concerts every weekend; and every two years, during the month of August, the whole square is filled with a carpet made of flowers.

Feel free to roam around the alleys that surround the square to find all sorts of interesting things like hundreds of chocolate shops (yes, hundreds), interesting Art Nouveau architecture, small typical shops, art stores, museums, Belgian beer shops, and more.

Dinner

All that walking will make you hungry.  Skip the overpriced taverns and restaurants surrounding Grote Markt and head over to Rue de Bouchers.  This street is filled with small seafood restaurants with competitive prices.  Or, wander around other streets and alleys to find hidden restaurants and cafes.  Try the Belgian Fries, they are delicious!

Night

After taking a break to rest your tired feet, you can decide whether a passive cultural night is for you or if the active party scene is what you crave for.  If you’re looking to have a relaxing night, head over to La Monnaie and enjoy the opera in this neoclassic theatre. Belgium’s 1830 war of independence broke out during a performance in this theatre; so, you never know what could happen here.

If an active and more sociable night is what you want, then head to A La Mort Subite (A Sudden Death).  This Brussels’ favorite serves their branded beer in a traditional setting that hasn’t changed in years.  For the party scene, head over to Discotheek Fuse, one of the most famous nightclubs in Europe; or to Louise Gallery, another well-known nightclub.

A La Mort Subite

Sleep

Brussels counts with a huge variety of accommodations that range from high-end hotels like Hotel le Dixseptième, to small and cozy places like 2GO4 Quality Hostel.  Brussels is easy to walk, so if you roam a bit you will find a good night rest in one of the many smaller guesthouses, independent hostels, or whatever “sleeping style” you like; close enough to all the main attractions.

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11 thoughts on “24 hours in Brussels, Belgium”

  1. This is a lovely day guide to Brussels – comprehensive and with beautiful photos. Personally, I enjoyed the architecture at the Market Square, and then a chocolate overdose at the chocolate museum next door.

    1. Thanks Arwa. The architecture of the Market Square is impressive. I was blown away with all its details and scale as soon as I stepped into it.
      And as for food… I couldn’t resist indulging with all that chocolate. Definitely an overdose for me too. It’s funny how many chocolate stores are there. You can only wonder, how wan they all survive with all that competition?! And the waffles… ugh, De-li-cious!

  2. Those waffles look delicious. I remember when I first saw Manneken’s statue I started laughing and my husband didn’s know what was going on as he was around the corner stuffing his face with waffles. He was like “What? What?” but couldn’t move away from the waffle shop. After a while he joined me and we started laughing together. We never imagined this big statue was actually so tiny.

    1. hahahaha… similar to my reaction… First stuffed myself with a yummy powder sugar waffle, then “What the…?! This is so tiny!”. I thought it was huge, but that statue is barely a foot and half tall and set in an unassuming corner. It was strange, but fun none the less. But, they all love it as it is. lol

  3. hi norbert … am so looking forward to our euro trip this november, we just have a day to spend in brussels and your narrative is one great help for us first timers. thank you.

    if i may, i would like to ask what train/bus do we ride to go to the town center from the train station of MIDI? we will be coming from london, and taking a day trip to brussels 🙂 thank you again, norbert for whatever else you can advise us with.

    great photos as well 🙂

    1. Thank you Alliet! Sure, well, there are many option to go from Gare du Midi (Zuidstation) to Brussels Center. You can take trams 3, 4, 33, 51 going towards the center (north) and stopping at Bourse (Beurs). You can also do the exact same thing by taking the subway (underground metro), lines 3 or 4 (four stops away) Or, for me this one is the easiest; take the railway from Midi towards Bruxelles Centraal (two stops away).

      I recommend you buy the one day pass for 4.20 euros, it is well worth it if you want to go around and outside the center. But, if you just want to stay in the center, you can walk it easily. 🙂

      Here is the Public Transportation Map for Brussels (it is a heavy PDF that can take a while to upload). Don’t get scared with all the lines, trams, metro, buses, and railways… at first it might look like a mess, but Brussels is really easy to navigate.

      Hope this helps. Let me know if you need more information.
      Cheers and Happy Travels!

  4. Places To Eat In Brussels

    A wide number of places are available to eat at in Brussels, where you eat really depends on your taste and budget. There are quite a lot of good cheap places that offer Belgiun menus that will not cost the Earth. If the restaurant type you are looking for is of the high end these exist in numbers, but be sure to have placed a prior booking and make sure you are dressed suitably. If you just want quick food there are the familiar names like Burger King exist, but if you are on the trail for something more real why not ask a local and see where they recommend. Part and parcel of visiting a city is to enjoy everything about it, including it’s food There is a wide variety of places to dine in Brussels. whether it is a café, restaurant or the food that can be bought and eaten on the street. Check out local guides and press for offers and ensure that you try something new.

    Recommended Places To Eat In Brussels

    1. Le Rabassier
    2. Tonton Garby
    3. Green Mango
    4. Le Wine Bar des Marolles
    5. Comme Chez Soi

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