Visiting Brussels, Belgium might not be on the top of your European travel list but it might surprise you to know that Brussels is actually one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
Brussels is a charming city filled with beautiful architecture, amazing food, great drinks, and some of the best chocolate in the world. Need I say more? It is definitely worth visiting Brussels, even if it is just for one day.
In this article, I am going to take you through a perfect one-day itinerary so you can get to see the best of the city during your one day in Brussels. Ideally, you would spend more than one day in Brussels, but if you can’t, chances are you will be coming back after this Brussels itinerary.
You might be asking why you should bother with Brussels over all the other cities in Europe you could visit, but there is a lot to discover while you explore Brussels that most travelers are unaware of.
We have touched on this above already, but let’s go into more detail about this awesome city.
The Art Nouveau architecture of Brussels is quite astonishing and no matter where you wander in the city, you are going to experience it. Add to this the plethora of museums that have amazing exhibitions and no queues and you’re onto a cultural winner.
There is more to Brussels too. There is a booming jazz scene that was once host to the likes of jazz legends like Miles Davis and Nat King Cole, and today there are many jazz clubs to spend your evenings in.
The city is also a legend when it comes to comics and is responsible for the likes of Tintin, The Smurfs, and more. You can see it all around the city as comic-book scenes are painted on many facades of the local houses – a bit like cartoon graffiti in the form of incredible street art.
To top it all off, you have amazing cuisine, some of the best chocolate and beer in the world, and a city drenched in history that was founded as long ago as AD 979.
It is safe to say that a trip to Brussels before you visit Bruges or anywhere else in Belgium, is an excellent idea and should be on everyone’s travel hit list.
Going from one spot to the next in Brussels is incredibly easy and this makes doing your one-day in Brussels itinerary super simple. The last thing you need is to spend all your time getting from one place to another instead of enjoying what Brussels has to offer!
Brussels is a very easy city to walk around compared to many major cities like London or Paris, and walking is, without doubt, the best way to see a city properly. The one-day Brussels itinerary below is laid out in a way to make walking from one great spot to the next very doable.
But, not everyone wants to be on their feet all day long so here are your other options including public transport.
The locals all bike around the city and you can rent a bike very easily in Brussels. It is the fastest way to move from one place to the next but it is not the most affordable.
The metro lines will get you all around Brussels very easily and efficiently. You can buy a ticket at any metro station and quickly be where you want to be. If walking all day isn’t your cup of tea then use a combination of walking and the metro during your one-day in Brussels itinerary.
Brussels is also home to an excellent network of trams and buses which you can use instead of the metro. You can either buy a ticket for a single journey or get a day travel card for all public transportation that costs just 7.50 euro.
To enjoy your Brussels one-day itinerary to the max you will want to be there at the best time of year. You can visit year-round and might be thinking that the summer months of July and August are best but the summer is actually not that great a time to be in Brussels.
If you visit in summer you will be paying more for your flights, accommodation, transport, tickets to sites, and even the prices at restaurants go up. Also, you will be contending with thousands more tourists which makes the experience a lot more stressful and crowded.
The best time of year to spend one day in Brussels is during the months of May, June, September, and October. During these months you will have warm weather, more affordable rates, and a much quieter city to explore.
Brussels is also a great place to visit during winter, especially before Christmas as the city comes alive with Christmas markets, stunning lights, and lots of festivities, but it will be a little chilly.
The one day in Brussels itinerary below is designed to be very walkable and each section links to the next in terms of distance, except for the first stop which you can choose to leave out or not. But, I would recommend seeing it as it is a great way to kick off the day.
Atomium is based a little outside of Brussels city center and you will want to take a bus or the metro from your hotel. Google Maps is an excellent app to use to find the fastest way of getting there.
Atomium sits inside one of the largest parks in Brussels, so grab a coffee and a pain au chocolat once you arrive at the station and enjoy a stroll through the park.
Once you arrive at Atomium, you will see a replica of an iron crystal that is blown up 1650 billion times. It is a stunning sight to see, especially if you have any scientific interest and it is great for kids also.
The structure is huge and sits 335 feet high, and you can climb to the top of it to see one of the best views of the city. There is no better way to start your one-day in Brussels itinerary than seeing the city in its biggest picture before you start to explore.
Once you have taken in the views, it is time to get on public transport for the last time and head to the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It takes just 30 minutes and one chance to get from Atomium to Grand Place. Take metro line 6 from Heizel to Beekant station and change onto line 1 or 5 to De Brouckere station and then walk for 2 minutes.
Known as the crown jewel of Brussels, the medieval Grand Place square is something to behold. Chances are you have seen pictures of it before but when you stand next to the Grand Place, its size and intricacy are going to blow you away.
The Grand Place, also known as Grote Markt, was originally built 600 years ago but it was burned down and rebuilt to its former glory after 1695. The Grand Place is made up of three different buildings which include the Brussels town hall, King’s House, and the Grand Place houses.
The Grand Place is a showcase of the best architecture in Belgium with stunning facades covered in amazingly detailed carvings and more. You can visit the inside of the Grand Place if you like but tickets are limited and you will need to book in advance.
The square of the Grand Place/Grote Markt is also very lively and plays host to lots of different festivals throughout the year so chances are you will find something interesting to see there too.
Your next stop on your one-day in Brussels itinerary is Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert which is a one-minute walk away from Grand Place.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is an indoor shopping center that one simply has to see on a Brussels day trip. It offers the best shopping in the city center with luxury shops selling everything from the top Belgian chocolates to jewelry and more.
If you are not into shopping, a quick stroll through, past the windows of the shops will be enough but you probably should at least buy some Belgian chocolate.
If you love shopping, you can spend hours here but don’t spend too long as there is lots more to see on your day trip.
When you are done looking at all the amazing items at Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert it is time for the next stop of your one-day in Brussels itinerary, St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, just a 6-minute walk away.
St. Michael and St Gudula Cathedral are iconic landmark in Brussels and are the hosts to all the Royal Weddings in Belgian. Building began on these incredible structures way back in the early 1200s and took more than 300 years to complete.
They are actually twin cathedrals and come together to create the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mechelen. The cathedrals are the perfect example of Brabant Gothic style architecture and are stunning from the outside and in.
When standing outside the cathedrals, you can see why they took 300 years to complete as they overshadow your presence thousand times over. But, the true beauty lies inside with the stained glass windows dating back to the 16th century that light up beautifully in the morning sun.
You’ll also find numerous statues inside, baroque pulpits. marble altarpieces, a huge organ, and lots more. It is free to enter the cathedrals but you will have to pay to enter the archaeological site.
Once you are ready to leave the cathedrals, it is time to dip into some art at the
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium which is just a 10-minute walk away from the cathedrals.
This is a complex of museums made of six museums that are home to more than 20,000 pieces of artwork from painting to sculptures and drawings that span from the 15th century all the way through to the 21st century.
If you are into art, then you could spend days exploring each museum and all it has to offer. I would, however, recommend picking one and spending about an hour inside so that you can continue with the rest of the stops on your one-day in Brussels itinerary.
To save time while visiting the museum, book your tickets in advance online as by doing so you won’t have to queue.
If there is any kind of food Belgium is famous for outside of chocolate, it is without doubt Belgian waffles and french fries. You have to try Belgian fries and a Belgian waffle at some point during your one day in Brussels and chances are by this point, you will be a little peckish.
The best waffles are said to be found on Rue Neuve 23/29 at a local stall by the name of Vitalgaufre. The waffles are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and you can choose from a range of toppings from fruit to cream and Nutella.
It is a 15-minute walk to the best Brussels waffles and on the way, pick up a cone or two of fires. They are crispy, light, and chances the best fries you will have ever had. You can also choose from a range of toppings from gravy to mayonnaise.
Once you have your fries and waffles, start heading towards Brussels Park for a picnic if you haven’t devoured your waffles and Belgium fries already.
A short walk from the waffle stand is Brussels Park, the next stop on your one-day Brussels itinerary.
Brussels Park is a royal park and was once a hunting ground of the Governors of the Spanish Netherlands and the Dukes of Burgundy. It was also a place where battles took place in 1830 during the revolution, so it is an important historic landmark.
The park is a lovely place to walk around with well-laid out paths, beautiful trees, and stunning fountains, and is excellently landscaped. Take in the fresh air, find a quiet spot to sit and relax, and take a blanket with you to enjoy a picnic if the weather allows.
You will also see great statues of Greco-Roman mythology while walking around along with the Théâtre Royal du Parc, Guinguette Royale, a bandstand, and more. You can also stop on Kiosk Radio for a drink under the trees and even dance if you return in the evening.
Across the road from the southern end of the park and Kiosk radio is the next stop on your Brussels day trip, the Royal Palace of Brussels.
The Royal Palace of Brussels is an incredible building that showcases neoclassical architecture at its best. Standing in front of it, you can not help but be taken aback by its beauty and magnitude.
It is the official palace of the Belgian royal family but it is no longer where they reside. Today, it is used as the official palace of administration for the royals instead. The royals now reside at Laeken Palace, aka the Belgium Royal Palace just outside Brussels.
If you happen to visit the city between July and early September, you can go inside this grand palace and its gardens. The gardens are absolutely spectacular and will likely be the highlight of your visit.
Once you are ready to leave the grand palace it is a 15-minute walk to the next stop of your Brussels day trip, Manneken Pis.
Manneken Pis is right in the city center and you can skip it if you would like to as it is nothing very special. But, it is quite a hilarious sight to see and an iconic piece of Brussel, so I think it deserves a look.
Manneken Pis is a statue of a small boy peeing into a fountain, which I find quite humorous, especially as it is an icon of the city. You don’t need to spend more than a minute or two giggling here before moving on to the Comic Strip Walk.
As I mentioned in one of the earlier sections, Brussels is a bit of a comic center for the world and you can see comic stars painted on the buildings as you stroll around.
The Comic Walk is designed to take you past all of them as you explore the city but it takes around 4 hours to complete the whole thing. Now, you won’t have 4 hours to do it all in your day in Brussels but you can see the best section of it, section 3.
Start at Rue des Bogards 19, just a 3 minute walk from Manneken Pis and then onto Rue du Chêne 12, followed by Rue de l’Etuve 27-57, Rue du Marché au Charbon Kolenmarkt 21, Rue de la Chaufferette 1-25, Rue de Bon Secours 18-4, and finally Rue des Six Jetons 25.
Walking this route shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes and along the way, you will see eight of the best comic murals in Brussels.
Once you have done the comic walk, it is a 15-minute stroll through the city center to the ancient Marolles Flea Market.
The market has been around since the 1850s and is the most visited flea market in Brussels. You will find more than 400 different stalls selling vintage goods and it is a great place to do some souvenir shopping and pick up some vintage bargains.
The atmosphere here is very much alive and the vibe is a lot of fun, spend as much time as you like here as your one-day in Brussels itinerary is almost over.
There is no better way to end a day trip in Brussels than sampling some of the most delicious beers the city center has to offer.
There is no shortage of excellent beer houses in Brussels and you can find them everywhere. I would recommend going to Moeder Lambic Fontainas, a 15-minute stroll from the market.
Moeder Lambic Fontainas is in the city center, and has a huge range of beers for you to choose from, the vibe is great, and you can order cheese and charcuterie boards to nibble on while you are drinking.
Since you are only in Brussels for a day trip, it is important to stay in the heart of town so you don’t lose time traveling from your hotel to the center.
If your budget is big then there is no better place to stay than Grote Markt which is in the heart of the city. For more affordable options, look for a hotel in Old Town close to Manneken Pis and the cathedrals.
From either location, you will be within walking distance of all the restaurants, nightlife, cafes bars, and sites.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!