When it comes to exploring a city in one day, having a plan helps to make sure you hit up many of the cool and must-sees and with that in mind I am going to guide you through the best way to see Brussels in one day. Plus tips on how to get around, things to know, food spots and things to do at night so as to make the most of your one day Brussels itinerary. If you have more time in Brussels or in Europe you can also combine your visit with other cool cities. Make sure you read my post on how to visit Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris, with everything mapped out for you!
Multicultural city – Things To Know About Brussels
First, let’s start with a few things you should know about the capital of Belgium. Brussels is also the political capital of the European Union. It is said to be an international city, because around a million people reside in Brussels, of whom many are from different countries and very few are Belgians. Over time, as various cultures mixed, one of the most multicultural cities in Europe emerged.
You will recognize the multicultural character of the city perhaps mainly in the languages people speak. Official languages in Belgium are Dutch (57%), French (42%) and German (1%). Language is one of the most important facts of life in Brussels and Belgium. Brussels capital region is officially bilingual so all road sides and documents are written in French and Dutch. German is only spoken in the Ardennes area by 1% of the population.
Brussels is a city that combines the characteristics of a large city together with those that usually only small places possess. It appears modern, but with a classic touch; the streets of Brussels are full of history, charm and wonder.
Brussels Is Divided Into Two Main Parts
The city is divided into two parts. In the upper town, you will find the more affluent neighbourhoods of the Brussels’ (Avenue Louise, Royal Palace, European Neighbourhood, Sablon, Courthouse, Montgomery, Cinquantenaire Park, Uccle). A stately, quiet atmosphere. The lower town of Brussels, the ancient heart of the city, is home to its most famous area, the Grand Place. This is recommended for those looking to stay nearby the city centre and the Gare Centrale area (central station). For many of our trips, we have opted to stay on Louise Avenue as we found access to shops, cafes and easy walking distance to attractions with a stay at Grand Place also being a great option too.
The atmosphere of the streets surrounding the Town Hall is good, mainly touristic. Near the stock market (Bourse), there are two less touristy areas of great interest: Saint Géry square and Sainte Catherine, two areas with the authentic Brussels atmosphere. You will find the most recommended breweries and restaurants of the European capital mixed with a modern atmosphere. Nothing to do with the “butchers” street next to the Grand Place.
Best time to visit Brussels
The best time to visit Brussels is between March and May and September and October, the shoulder seasons; this is when room rates are cheaper and fewer crowds clog the top attractions. This city also experiences all four seasons, and rain is a possibility year-round.
How To Get Around Brussels
Free Walking Tour
If you would rather get familiar with the city and hear some useful information about the main attractions before you venture on your own, book a walking tour, there are also options for free walking tours. Although free, please don’t forget to tip generously. The earliest time at which you can do it is 10am, which would give you enough time to explore all the places during the rest of the day. This 2.5-hour Brussels Free Tour will show you all the top attractions in the old city. Local guides will take you to must-see spots such as iconic Grand Place, the Mannekin Pis and the birthplace of everyone’s favourite comic adventurer, Tintin among many others.
Of course, whether to go on this tour or not, is entirely up to you. We will list all of the most important attractions in the itinerary below, therefore do not worry about missing them in case you decide to choose the self-guided tour only.
When it comes to your visit in Brussels in a day, Brussels has an excellent, fully integrated transit network—Métro, tram, and bus—and the network operates daily 5am to midnight, after which a limited NOCTIS night-bus network takes over until 3am, heading out to the suburbs every 30 minutes.
Maps of the transport system are available free from the city tourist office on Grand-Place.
Buying your ticket: In the various metro stations and at the STIB information offices at many newsagents. Another way to do your one day sightseeing in Brussels is by exploring the city on foot.
- single ticket JUMP: 1.86£ (purchased outside vehicle) / 2.21 £ (purchased inside vehicle)
- 1 ticket STIB/SNCB : 3.71£
- card for 5 journeys JUMP : 7.05£ (+ MOBIB basic = 4.42£)
- card for 10 journeys JUMP: 12.37£ (+ MOBIB basic = 4.42£)
- 1-day card JUMP : 6.63£
- airport line – bus 12/21 – one way ticket: 3.98£ (1 journey purchased outside vehicle) / 5.30£ (1 journey purchased inside vehicle)
- airport line – bus 12/21 – 10 days: 28.30£
- airport line – train: one way ticket 7.60£ – return ticket 15,20£
The “1-day card” may be used on STIB vehicles as much as you like and when you wish during the same day.
To help you move around the city without stress, download the citymapper app and choose Brussels as your current location. The app will find the fastest route for you and show you what kind of transport you need to take to get to where you want to go.
- Pick-up: 2.12
- Rate I (in the 19 municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region): £1.59/km
- Rate II (outside the 19 municipalities): £2.39/km
- Waiting time: £36.50 per hour (the taxi meter automatically switches to waiting time when the taxi travels at a speed below 19km/h, for example, in traffic jams, at red lights, etc.)
- Between 10pm and 6am, a fixed charge supplement of £1.77 applies (the taxi meter has a clock and calendar which allows this supplement to be recorded automatically).
The Perfect Brussels 1 Day Itinerary
If you only have one day in Brussels, I highly recommend starting as early as possible. Grab all your essential travel accessories and put on some comfortable walking shoes and get exploring.
Morning – Start Your List Of Places To Visit Early
Grand Place and the surrounding buildings
The geographical, commercial and historical center of Brussels – real icon of the city and a must see in Brussels in one day. Also one of the busiest places and a square that you will probably encounter again and again when you are touring the city. If you have time, it may be a good idea to visit it in the day and at night, simply because the atmosphere is different here at different times of the day. Pay attention to the buildings that surround the square, and especially the Town Hall, which survived a French attack in 1695, while the rest of the buildings had to be rebuilt.
Another prominent building on the square is the Maison du Roi or La Casa del Rey. This was built in 1536 and, for many years, was the residence of the monarchs. Today it is the Museum of the City, which you are welcome to visit if that’s something that you are interested in.
Wander through the Royal Galleries, a gorgeous glass roofed arcade in the center of Brussels. Lined with big names, specialised boutiques, cafés and a theatre, the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert also has the distinction of being the first covered shopping arcade in Europe.
The famous Manneken-Pis
When it comes to what to see in Brussels in one day or even unmissable places, this little guy is a hit with visitors. The statue remains the emblem of the rebellious spirit of the City of Brussels. His wardrobe counts more than 900 suits. Manneken Pis has been a public fountain, a mascot and the hero of many incredible tales. He has received gifts from lords and kings and has been abducted and saved several times.
Art and Artisan Market on the Agora Square
The market is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from morning (10am or 11am) until 7pm. In the late 1980s, a few artisans and painters have created a small artisan market around the Charles Buls fountain (or Agora Square) to demonstrate that crafts are the expression of contemporary creativity, in line with the evolution of ideas, and techniques. Inspired by this ideal, they offered unique pieces, original and expressive, contrary to “soulless” industrial objects. With time, the market developed around a core of professional artisans. It is a perfect place to purchase something that will remind you or your friends and family about this beautiful city.
Afternoon – Day Time Exploring In Brussels
Tonton Garby – Brussel’s Best Kept Secret
Located on Duquesnoystraat 6 Rue Duquesnoy, this is a gem that will make you want to come back again and again. Absolutely the best place to eat cheap (up to 6€), offering fresh and delicious sandwiches. Quality of ingredients is outstanding. Sometimes there’s a queue in front of the local but it’s worth waiting. The owner is of food he’s serving and he’s happy to help you and talk to you. It may not look like much from the outside, but honestly, do not miss this place if you are in Brussels!
You can enjoy more than 2,000 beers from around the world. Delirium Café holds the Guinness World Records for the number of beers available for tasting: 2,004 record obtained in 2004. You can choose from the Trappists, famous Belgian Abbay, strong brown beers, fruits or lighter from Belgium and the world. And for lovers of different tastes, they offer unusual beers like chocolate, banana, with walnut Coco, spices, hot pepper, gingerbread and also, gluten-free beers.
Mont des Arts, Place de L’Albertine and the Garden
Have a look at the beautiful formal garden right in front of the square. Twin rows of trees lead down an avenue to a large fountain that shoots jets of water. You will find lots of people sitting on the stairs to the garden and kids skateboarding.
Beautifully landscaped square Place de L’Albertine encompasses the Museum of Music Instruments, Margritte Museum, the Royal Library and the Brussels Meeting Center. In the 19th century King Leopold II bought the hill to turn it to an art district. Several old buildings were demolished to make way for the project, that stood empty for years because of financial problems. Mont des Arts, that means Hill of Arts, offers some of the best views of Brussels. In addition, the neighborhood boasts a number of important cultural institutions such as the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Magritte Museum, the Musical Instrument Museum, and others.
As you can see, there is a variety of places you can choose to visit in this area, so feel free to choose according to your own taste and preferences. However, we highly recommend visiting places such as.
BOZAR Center for Fine Arts
Brussel’s multicultural hot-spot – be it an exhibit, a concert, a screening or any other cultural activity, this is where they will premiere. The Henry Le Bœuf Great Hall (2,200 seats) is a must-see in itself – a beautiful oval concert hall with marvelous acoustics. Not only is the centre well worth seeing but the area is wonderful to roam around, too!
The Magritte Museum is dedicated to showing the works of the famous Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. Centered in Paris, the surrealist movement began in the 1920s and incorporated an element of surprise and unexpected connections. Known for his humorous and witty images, Magritte challenged the viewer’s perception of reality. He is known for saying, “If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream.”
Spread over three floors and twelve rooms, the museum exhibits cover the major periods in Belgium’s history from 1830 to 2005, with special emphasis on the Belgian Revolution, World War I and World War II.
Brussels Royal Palace
Your 1 day itinerary in Brussels is incomplete without at least dropping by for a glance at this place. It was built at the beginning of the 19th century and, as is usual in this type of buildings, it has undergone renovations and extensions. The Royal Palace opens its doors to the public during the summer (around the 21st of July), Belgium National Day, until the beginning of September, coinciding with the return of the monarch to work. At that time, you can take guided tours of the interior of the palace.
Parc du Cinquantenaire
This vast ensemble of gardens punctuated by monuments and museums is dominated by a triple triumphal arch. It is one of the locations symbolic of Brussels. The Cinquantenaire Park is also where you’ll find the Great Mosque of Brussels built in 1880 by architect Ernest Van Humbeeck.
The European Parliament
The European Parliament is quite welcoming to visitors. The public can attend parliamentary sittings, receive audio-guided visits and organise group tours.
The Atomium – a must-see!
The Atomiun in Brussels is one of the most famous structures in Belgium. Created for the 1958 International EXPO by André Waterkeyn, it is much more than a production of its time – it is futuristic, scientific and maybe even a little bit strange. It stands 102 meters tall, made up of steel spheres. They say it is the unit proportion increased by 165 million of an iron crystal particle. 5 of the spheres are open to the public. In one of them, you will find a restaurant with beautiful views over the area. As you can imagine, it is a bit pricey, considering it is inside one of the most famous Belgian landmarks.
The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Observe the play of light through its windows and marvel at this monument’s grandeur. The cathedral’s treasure lies in the Holy Sacrament, and includes religious masterpieces, such as the Virgin and Child by Teutonic artist Conrad Meit and the painting of The Legend of Saint Gudula, by Michel Coxcie. Another beautiful part of the architecture is the collection of 16th, 17th and 19th century stained glass windows, which depict different religious passages.
Things To Do At Night In Brussels
The Palace of Justice of Brussels
Or Law Courts of Brussels is the most important court building in Belgium. The size of it is impressive – 160 by 150 meters and a total ground surface of 26,000 m² is located on the high Town of Brussels, the building is visible from most parts of the town. The best views of Brussels are found on Poelaert Square, where the main entrance to the building is located.
Important: it is currently under construction, however, you can still see the beautiful dome and feel the size of the whole building.
To finish off a one day in Brussels itinerary, below are recommendations on what to eat in Brussels and cool spots to hang out.
A gorgeous, small bistro serving exceptional French classics. It is a popular place among the locals, but it isn’t very touristy. Which is why the waiter may not speak perfect English, but it is worth putting in the effort to communicate through body language as this place is phenomenal. They also serve quality wine to accompany your meal. If you want something a little more unique, go here!
Le Bistro – Porte de Hal
A short walk from the town center and the midi station, in front of a sumptuous castle in an authentic setting, invites you to savour the many Belgian beers or eat a heavy meal (well-deserved after your long day) with friends,groups, alone, our with family at prices affordable to all. The brasserie – restaurant “Le Bistro” serves traditional Belgian dishes like mussels, Flemish beef stew, and many more.
A small and unassuming but incredibly cozy and welcoming. Every day except Sunday, blue note addicts come to hear those double basses, pianos and drums in this little space located close to Place Fernand Cocq. Wednesday is devoted to more Latino sounds. Open from 8 p.m.
Where To Stay To Stay In Brussels
There are plenty of options when it comes to hotels in Brussels, from budget to luxury. There are hostels, apartments and hotels to choose from.
Hostel Bruegel: Situated in Brussels and with Mont des Arts reachable within 400 metres, Hostel Bruegel features a restaurant, allergy-free rooms, free WiFi throughout the property and a bar. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The property is close to popular attractions like Brussels City Hall, Museum of the City of Brussels and Place Royale. Price Range £27 – £108
Studio Rempart: The host offers different kinds of studios, including a studio with a sofa bed and two-bedroom apartments with a terrace.
There is a wide variety of cafes and restaurants in the direct surroundings of remparts. The studio is located in Dansaert which is a trendy fashion neighbourhood. Sainte-Catherine Metro Station is a 2-minute walk. Price Range £68 – £168
Guesthouse Bxlroom: Bxlroom offers rooms and a suite in a former medal-making workshop, only 5 minutes’ walk from Grand Place. It features modern décor with industrial touches and an intimate garden. The former medal making workshop factory is converted into 3 styles of accommodation. All of the accommodation at Bxlroom benefits from a flat-screen cable TV and free Wi-Fi. Each of the rooms also has a private bathroom with a shower and toilet. The Manneken Pis Statue is 180 m from Bxlroom and Brussels-South Railway Station, featuring the Eurostar terminal, is just over a 20-minute walk away. The Magritte Museum is a 15-minute walk from the guesthouse. Price Range £114 – £170
There you have it, the perfect one-day itinerary for Brussels. So are you planning a first-time visit to Brussels or return trip and looking for tips on places to visit in Brussels in one day? Comment below.
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