Brussels is a city that will leave you speechless with its amazing infrastructure, delicious waffles, chocolates, and french fries. Even though Brussels is the biggest metropolitan area, one day in Brussels is more than enough time to explore the main things to do and see in Brussels; such as drinking beer, eating delicious food and visiting the Grand Palace.
➳ Find all: Hotels in Brussels
If you are a first time visitor, doing a long layover in Brussels or want to spend a getaway weekend this Brussels one day itinerary is ideal for you. In this guide we share our favorite things to do in Brussels. If you have more than one day in Brussels, do not worry we have added plenty of activities to do that can keep you busy for a day or two.
When is the best time to visit Brussels?
It all depends on what you expect to see in Brussels in one day. If you are thinking about going for the flower carpet then you have to visit in August, but if you are more into Christmas markets then November and December are the best months to be in Brussels. There are other festivals worth attending as the Zinneke Parade and the Ommegang. No matter the month, Brussels with always have something for you to enjoy. If you want to avoid the heat or colder weather travel during the Spring or Fall.
How to get to Brussels?
You can get to Brussels by plane, train and bus. Like any other European city, Brussels has a fantastic public transportation system. No matter if you use the metro lines, trams, or buses, all of the public transportation uses the same card. You can buy the tickets at the GO machines inside the metro stations.
If you are flying to Brussels, more likely you will land at Brussels Airport. From there, you can take a 35 minute IC train ride to Bruxelles-Midi central train station for €7 to €9. If you are traveling by train get off at Bruxelles-Midi. The city center is only a 25 minute walk from the train station.
➳ Read More: Best things to do in Brugge
Our trip from Paris to Brussels was much quicker and cheaper by bus, compared to plane or train. A train would have been faster, but France has ridiculous surcharges for all trains to and from Paris. It was only a four hour bus ride, but for some reason the route included three rest stops, for coffee, breakfast and gas. We took the iDBUS, which cost 15 euros per person, and guaranteed you could put one checked bag under the bus. The bus was alright, not that comfortable of seats and lacking in legroom, but you can’t beat the price.
Where to stay in Brussels?
We stayed at the Hotel BRXXL5, a new hip concept in the hostels world. We had a reservation for two beds in a four bedroom. Luckily for us, the room had been renovated since the reservation system was created. Three beds for two of us. You can’t complain with hotel conditions for hostel prices.
While you cannot expect this sort of glitch in the reservation system, I still highly recommend the hotel. It has a game room, TV room, full kitchen, restaurant/bar, and even a tattoo parlour! Central Station is only a 2 minute walk from the hotel. One day in Brussels doesn’t require to stay at a hotel, but if you end up staying an extra day, BRXXL5 is the best option!
Important Travel Information:
- Currency: Brussels, like the rest of Belgium, uses the Euro. The majority of places in Brussels take credit card, but it is always smart to carry some cash in case of emergencies.
- Budget: Expect to spend between 20 to 50 euros per person per day excluding hotel.
- Language: In Belgium there are 3 official languages; Dutch, German and French, but the majority of the people speak English as well.
Best of Brussels: Brussels Card
The Brussels Card offers free admission to 39 attractions and museums in Brussels. It also includes wide-ranging discounts for numerous restaurants, stores and pubs!
This option includes unlimited access to Brussels’ public transport: STIB/MIVB trams, buses and metro. If you are only staying one day in Brussels, make sure if it is the best option depending on what you want to see. Get your Brussels Card Here.
What to do in Brussels Tourist Map:
In this map we have added all the stops you must see in Brussels as well as all the things to do in Brussels in a day. Make sure to download the map on your Google Maps so you can access it even when you are offline.
What to do in brussels for a day:
Porte de Halle (Halle Gate)
The Halle Gate is our first stop in our one day in Brussels itinerary. This medieval fortified city gate is also a museum, where you can climb the battlements for a beautiful view of the city. If you are interested in learning more about the history of the city, this is the place to be! The museum belongs to the Royal Museums for Art and History in Belgium. The museum is open from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM from Tuesday to Friday, and from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday & Sunday. Admission is €7.
Manneken Pis Statue
Our second stop after dropping our bags at the hostel was the Manneken Pis Statue. There are many legends about the origins of the four hundred year old peeing boy statue, but the most important thing is it world known for being a little statue of a boy peeing.
The statue is also known for his 900 plus outfits and costume collection. Several times a week, the little boy features a different outfit, normally based on historical event on that day.
Make sure to check the schedule online or on the railing in front of the statue itself.
➳ Fun Fact: Brussels has three “pis” statues in the old town.
Grand Place (Grote Markt)
The Grand Place is a large market square and a must see in Brussels. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 because “the nature and quality of its architecture and of its outstanding quality as a public open space […] illustrates in an exceptional way the evolution and achievements of a highly successful mercantile city of northern Europe at the height of its prosperity.”
If you only have one day in Brussels make sure to visit the Grand Place, take a selfie with the Manneken Pis Statue and visit the Town Hall.
On one side of the Grand Place is the Brussels Town Hall. The gothic style building looms over the square, with its vast beauty for all to enjoy.
The Town Hall was original built in in the early 1400’s, but has gone through several transformations and expansions throughout its 600 year history.
There are tours available on Sunday and Wednesday. The tour times depend on what language they are in, so it is best to check out the Town Hall website for the most up to date information.
Museum of the City of Brussels
Across the square from the town hall is the Museum of the City of Brussels. While its architecture is not as vast and grandiose as the town hall, it is just as beautiful of building.
The museum is home to the majority of the collection of suits or costumes for the Manneken Pis Statue. There is an entire room dedicated to the statue, its history, and its outfits.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00AM to 5:00PM, and on Thursday it is until 8:00PM. Tickets cost €8/adult, €4/students, and free for children.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Our next stop was the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Due to the architecture, every angle that you view the outside of the church provides a vastly different perspective and photograph. You can spend some time getting a wide variety of architecture photos.
While the church is open daily, make sure to check the website, as they ask visitors to please avoid (or attend) mass times.
Royal Palace (Palais De Brussels)
The Royal Palace of Belgium does not serve as the home for the royal family, rather as a place to entertain guests, visitors and heads of state from around the world.
At the palace you can see many of the grand rooms used to entertain dignitaries along with historical information of the royal history. The most famous room is the Mirror Room with the artwork ‘Heaven of Delight,’ consisting of thousands of beetles attached to the ceiling.
The palace also has rooms of royal artifacts and art from throughout the kingdom’s history. You would be surprised how many medals the royalty creates for themselves.
The Royal Palace is open only during the Summer from 10:30AM to 4:30PM, Tuesday to Sunday. If you are spending one day in Brussels in summer make sure to take the free tour of the palace. For exact opening dates, please check their website.
Our last stop for the day was the Congress Column. The column was built in 1890s as commemoration to the National Congress of 1831 which created the Constitution of Belgium, establishing the country as a parliamentary monarchy.
At the base of the monument is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in honor of both the First World War and Second World War, along with an eternal flame.
It is not much more than a simple memorial and photo op.
Royal Palace of Laeken (Chateau de Laeken)
The Royal Palace of Laeken, the residence of the Belgian royal family, is located a little bit outside of the city of Brussels, near the Atomium. It is the White House of Belgium, you can take a picture from outside the gates of its beautiful grounds.
Next to the royal palace is the Chinese Pavilion. It is part of a larger Museums of the Far East. You can partially see the building from the street, but at this point, that is it!
Unfortunately at this point the building is closed indefinitely for safety concerns. Check their website for any updates on a potential reopening date.
One of the most well known landmarks in Belgium is the Atomium. The Atomium was built as the main pavilion and icon of the 1958 World Fair of Brussels. It represents an elementary iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times!
Five of the eight spheres has different museum exhibits and one is a restaurant! The Atomium is open daily from 10am until 6pm. Tickets are €11/adults, €8/teens, and €6/children.
If you are looking for a nice dinner with a fantastic panoramic view of the city, the Atomium Restaurant is the place to go.
Botanic Garden Meise
The Botanic Garden Meise is outside of town, and is one of the largest botanic gardens in the world. It is home to over 3 million specimens.
If plants float your boat, this is one of the best gardens to visit in the world. The gardens are open year round with hours depending on the season.
Winter(15th October – 14th March) it is open from 9:30AM to 4:30PM. Summer(15th March – 14th October) it is open from 9:30AM to 5:30PM. Tickets are €7/adults and free for children!
The Parlamentarium is the visitors’ centre of the European Parliament. It is right at the heart of the Parliament’s Espace Léopold. The interactive centre provides a fun and educational experience in any of the the 24 official EU languages, utilising audio guides.
The centre focuses on every aspect of the EU, from its history and formation, to the global impacts it has today. I would suggest the Parlamentarium for every visitor to Brussels.
The Parlamentarium is open daily from 9AM to 6PM, except it opens on Monday at 1PM. Entrance is free, so there there is no reason not to go! No worries, there is also a cafe and gift shop at the end, the EU can always use some more money.
The National Basilica of Sacred Heart can be seen from many parts of the city. The large art deco towers and beautiful cupola stand out in the city landscape.
While we just went to the outside of the building to take some photos, you can also go up to the top of the basilica for a breathtaking panorama of Brussels. The lookout is open during the Summer from 9AM to 5PM and during the Winter from 10AM to 4PM.
Belgian Comic Strip Center
The Belgian Comic Strip Center is an amazing place for anyone young to old, who has any interest in comics.
The museum starts with the history of comic strips, along with the evolution of the art form. There is a wide range of examples, covering many genres, no matter your interest. If you are concerned about your kids, there is a vast Smurfs collection!
The most iconic collection for me was The Adventures of Tintin, by Hergé, which was being expanded to twice the size when I went.
The museum is open daily from 10AM to 6PM. Tickets are €10/adults, €6.50/youth under 25, and €3.50/children under 12.
Mont Des Arts Gardens or Kunstberg
The Mont des Arts is one of the most beautiful parks in the city and as stop you must do on your one day in Brussels itinerary. The historic square offers amazing views of the Brussels.
What beers should you try in Brussels?
To simplify life, Belgium is known for its beer. There are an endless number of flavors and breweries to try from the country. There are three great, but different, ways to enjoy and taste a wide variety of local beers.
Bars: Going to any bar or restaurant in the city is the easiest way to try a variety of beers, on tap and bottled. This is the more expensive way to try new flavors, but you are also paying for the atmosphere and the ability to not sit alone in your room drinking. I would suggest buying a flight or sampler of beers, which is normally five or six small glasses of different types of beer they have on tap, for one convenient price.
Breweries: Within the city there are several breweries with tours and associated tap houses or stores. This is the perfect place to see how beer is made and everything that goes into the process. Many of the tours include tastings in the ticket price, but if you have already done many brewery tours, it might not be worth it.
However breweries do have a unique atmosphere. I would suggest the Cantillon brewery for a trip back in time with a traditional brewery where nearly nothing has changed over the last century.
At home: Head to the nearest convenience store or tourist shop, they are all full of a wide variety of beers. Beer is obviously much cheaper at the store versus a bar, The only downside is many of the bottles are at room temperature, so you will need to let them chill for a few hours.
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