So you’re planning to spend 1 day in Brussels and have no idea where to start? Then this walking itinerary is what you’re looking for! From the city’s best spots to the top things to do in 24 hours, you will find everything you need to make the most of your trip.
But every good trip requires a bit of organization, right? Especially when there’s so much to see in so little time! Even though that’s a rather short amount of time, the good news is that it’ll be enough for you to get a first impression of the city and check a few of its main landmarks and tourist attractions off your bucket list!
No time to waste! Discover the best things to see and do if you’re planning to visit Brussels, Belgium for the first time in one day or less. Let’s go!
Brussels: a self-guided walking tour
1st stop: the iconic Grand Place (and its many chocolate shops)
Even if you traveled all the way to Brussels only to spend 5 minutes at the Grand Place, it’d be 100% worth it. This architectural gem alone is a good reason to visit Brussels and should definitely be your top priority if you only have one day to spend here!
In the mood for chocolate?
There are quite a few chocolate shops around Brussels. And the best part is that you’ll get a free degustation in most of them (but shhh, I didn’t tell you)! Since you don’t have a lot of time, here’s a list of the main chocolate boutiques you’ll find around the Grand Place as well as their price range.
• €€€: Neuhaus (the original creator of the traditional Belgian praline)
• €€€: Mary
• €€: Elisabeth Chocolatier
• €€: La Belgique Gourmande
• €: Galler (their white chocolate/coconut bar is AMAZING)
Fun fact: Mary Chocolatier has been a Belgian Royal Warrant Holder since 1942. Who knows which praline is the Belgian King’s favorite?
2nd stop: Manneken Pis
Also known as “Petit Julien” in French, I think it’s safe to say that the Manneken Pis is the one and only world-famous…peeing boy! Can you think of any other country with such an odd national symbol? If that’s not an accurate representation of Belgium’s taste for surrealism and irreverence, I don’t know what that is! 😉
5 fun facts about the Manneken pis so you know what to expect
- The statue is only 55cm tall.
- The Manneken pis probably owns a bigger wardrobe than you and I combined with around 1000 costumes. Pee in public, but make is fashion!
- After several thefts over the centuries, the original statue is now kept in the Museum of the City of Brussels. The statue that is photographed millions of times each year is in fact a copy.
- Jeanneke Pis – his female counterpart – lives a few streets away on Impasse de la Fidélité, next to the famous Delirium Café.
- Oh and there’s also a peeing dog – Het Zinneke – located on Rue des Chartreux, 35.
If you still have room for a sweet treat, make sure to grab a Belgian waffle at Dandoy (Rue au beurre, 31) or at the Waffle factory (Rue du Lombard 30). If you’re curious, take a minute to learn the difference between Liège and Brussels waffles here!
What’s the best way to eat waffles, you’re asking? With chocolate or Strawberries? Or both at the same time? If you ask me, plain Brussels waffles with a bit of powdered sugar are simply the best!
3rd stop: Galeries royales Saint-Hubert
It’s already time for your 3rd stop of the day! What if I told you that you’re about to visit Europe’s oldest shopping arcade?
What can you expect from the Galeries royales Saint-Hubert? In a nutshell: more chocolate and waffles, luxury boutiques (mainly jewelry and designer bags) a couple of cafés, a cinema, and a stunning bookshop called Tropismes (definitely go inside and have a look from the 1st floor, you won’t be disappointed).
4th stop: Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
A stone’s throw away from the Galeries Royales, you will find the stunning Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. If you’re into photography and/or architecture, this beauty will not fail to amaze you!
I wouldn’t say that this is one of Brussel’s main tourist attractions, but since it’s on the way, I definitely recommend stopping by. It’s also usually pretty quiet, especially in the morning (a photographer’s heaven).
5th stop: Mont des Arts and Place Royale
If there’s one spot you simply can’t miss along with the Grand Place, it is definitely the famous Mont des Arts! Get ready for a stunning view, especially at sunrise and sunset (weather permitting… let’s not forget that this is Belgium after all).
If you’re planning to visit the Museum of Musical Instruments (left picture below), make sure to check the view from the top of the building as well!
6th stop: Place du Grand Sablon & Petit Sablon
Are you ready for more Belgian chocolate and pralines? Hum, I’m not even kidding.
I can also recommend Coco donuts. As a local, I’ve never eaten better donuts in Brussels. Make sure to try the Lavender or Rice Krispies ones and tell me about it! Just so you know, their donuts are made of brioche dough. This is not your regular industrial donut… this is much better (in my opinion)!
And here’s one of my top hidden gems in Brussels (left picture), located right next to Grand Sablon : Petit Sablon square.
7th stop: Royal Palace of Brussels
Welcome to the Queen and King of Belgium’s house! Well, technically this is not 100% true as the royal family actually lives farther away from the city center, in the Castle of Laeken.
The Royal Palace on the other hand is the King’s administrative residence as well as his main workplace. Most meetings with official representatives (whether Belgian or foreign) usually take place at the Royal Palace.
Good to know: every year during the summer, the Royal Palace opens its door to the public! The dates may slightly vary each year.
8th stop: The European Parliament
If you’d like to add a visit to the European Quarters to your Brussels bucket list, good news! You’ll be able to visit:
• The Parlementarium
• The European parliament hemicycle
• AND the House of European History
Make sure to book your visit online in advance. Better safe than sorry!
Once you’re done visiting the European parliament, you could spend some time relaxing in the neighboring Leopold Park (one of my favorite parks in Brussels). And in case you’re getting late afternoon munchies, Maison Antoine – which is located on Place Jourdan next to Park Leopold – makes some of the best French fries in Brussels!
9th spot: the Atomium (if you have some time left)
At this point, you will have walked most of the day around Brussels’ city centre If you’ve made it this far and have some time left, definitely take the metro and go check the Atomium. But keep in mind that it is pretty far away from the city center (around 35-40 minutes). In case you’re curious, it is possible to visit the inside of the Atomium and visit the current exhibition(s).
• Go from Trone/Troon (pretty close to the Royal Palace) to Heysel/Heizel
• Metro line: 6 (Roi Baudouin)
Follow the sign to get out of the metro station and you will quickly see it, peeking!
It looks like we’ve reached the end of your itinerary! You now know all the best spots to visit Brussels in one day as well as how to make the most of your trip to the Belgian (and European) capital!
I hope you found this post useful. If so, make sure to check my other posts about Brussels: