Brussels in One Day: The Best Itinerary, Map, Guide & Tips

This post may contain affiliate links, from which we earn an income.

How to Spend One Perfect Day in Brussels

The capital of Europe is famous for its historical architecture, comic book culture and delicious waffles. While having some impressive sights and museums, Brussels also has a quirky side.

After all, not every city’s most famous landmark is a statue of a peeing boy! You could spend days exploring everything the city has to offer, but if you only have one day in Brussels, this itinerary will show you the city’s highlights.

Brussels in one day

Are you planning your trip to Brussels last minute?

Be sure to book your accommodation and tours in Brussels ahead of time to ensure availability! Here are our top picks!

  • Top Hotels in Brussels:
  1. Luxury: The Dominican (right in the centre and absolutely fab!)
  2. Mid-Range: Hotel des Galeries (perfectly located & our fave)
  3. Budget: Urban Yard Hotel (bags of character at a great price)
  4. Hostel: MEININGER Bruxelles City Center (best hostel in town)
  • Top Activities & Tours in Brussels:
  1. For all the best things to see in the city, grab this Brussels city highlights tour
  2. Book the Brussels hop-on-hop-off bus to see all the top attractions
  3. Get your skip the line Atomium ticket to avoid the queues
  4. Explore Belgian beer with this beer tour and tasting experience
  5. Take a day trip to Bruges and Ghent and see more of Belgium in less time!

Things to See & Do in Brussels

Interactive Map

ROUTE: Galleries Royales Saint-Hubert – Grand-Place – Mont des Arts – Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral – Atomium – Place St. Catherine

How to use this map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.

Brussels Itinerary Notes

  • The best way to see Brussels is on foot, as most of its main attractions are within walking distance of one another. There’s just one exception in this one-day itinerary: the Atomium, which is easy to reach using the metro transport system. 
  • If you don’t want to walk, the Brussels hop-on-hop-off bus will take you to all the main attractions, allowing you to pick and choose what to see and save your legs!
  • Or, if you prefer to have your day organised for you, check out our recommended Brussels city highlights tour and place yourself in the hands of a local expert.

Morning

Start your day at the Galleries Royales Saint-Hubert

Located in the heart of Brussels, these beautiful glazed shopping arcades were designed by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer and built between 1846 and 1847.

The Galleries Royales Saint Hubert were one of the first shopping arcades in Europe, and they’re one of Brussels’ most remarkable pieces of architecture. When you enter the galleries, you’ll notice that they’re home to many chocolate shops, cafés, restaurants and apartments.

Ornate Victorian shopping arcade with glass roof and people window shopping

Wander Around the Grand-Place

Next, make your way to the Grand Place, one of Brussels’ most famous landmarks. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is actually the city’s central square or Grote Markt. It’s surrounded by beautiful guild houses and other impressive buildings, mostly dating from the 17th century. 

The most important building here is the Town Hall, the Grand Place’s largest and oldest building. It has a statue of Archangel Michael at the top and can be visited on a guided tour. Another important building is Maison du Roi, French for the King’s House. The Duke of Brabant owned this building, which now houses the Brussels City Museum. 

To the right of the King’s House is a row of private mansions and guild houses that are not as well-known as their neighbours but nonetheless just as interesting. The Pigeon House, or Le Pigeon, was owned by the painters’ guild and, for a time, was home to the French writer Victor Hugo, who lived there during his exile from France in 1852. 

The adjacent Chaloupe d’Or, or Golden Boat, was the headquarters of the tailors’ guild and is topped by a statue of St. Homobonus of Cremona, their patron saint. It is now home to one of the square’s bars, which serves waffles, fries, and mussels, all foods this gastro-city is famous for. 

large city square in Europe lined with ornate historic buildings and lit up for the night

See the Manneken Pis

Just a five-minute walk from the Grand Place, you’ll find Manneken Pis, the famous (yet very small) bronze statue of a urinating little boy. It was designed by Jérôme Duquesnoy the Elder in the 17th century, but the current statue is a replica dating back to 1965. The original statue is kept in the Brussels City Museum in the Grand Palace. 

There are many legends behind Manneken Pis. One of the most famous ones tells the story of the two year old Duke of Godfrey III of Leuven. The troops of this duke were battling against the troops of the Berthouts when the duke was put in a basket and hung in a tree to encourage the troops. From here, he urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.

bronze statue of a small boy set in an ornate alcove with people taking photographs

Climb up to Mont des Arts

Located between the lower and upper parts of Brussels, the Mont des Arts offers fantastic views over the city. You’ll find a statue of King Albert I on a square right before ascending the Mont (which means mountain in French) and a beautiful garden on the slope leading up to it.

As its name suggests, the Mont des Arts is surrounded by museums and cultural centres. You’ll find the Musical Instruments Museum here, a music museum with thousands of instruments housed in a stunning Art Nouveau building.

formal flower beds with a statue of a man on a horse and a tall spire in the background

Visit the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

The Gothic St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is one of Brussels’ most important landmarks. It started out as a small chapel in the 9th century and became a Romanesque church two centuries later. However, it was only in 1961 that it was baptised a cathedral.

This is where Royal weddings, funerals, and coronations are held. Inside its rather sober interior, you’ll find beautiful stained-glass windows.

woman wearing a hat looking up at the twin spires of a large cathedral

Afternoon

Check Out the Atomium

Next, take the metro to Heysel and make your way to the Atomium. This unique landmark was constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, Expo 58.

The Atomium represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times and stands for faith in the power of science. The Atomium was not intended to be a permanent landmark, but it became so popular that the authorities decided to keep it. 

It’s possible to visit the Atomium’s interior, and it’s easy to book a skip-the-line ticket in advance or combine the tickets with the nearby Design Museum and Mini-Europe. Inside, you’ll find a permanent exhibition of Expo 58 along with a temporary exhibition that changes once a year.

As you make your way to the top of the Atomium, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view over the city, making this attraction one of the best things to do in Brussels in a day.

Visit Place St. Catherine

After visiting the Atomium, it’s time to head back to the centre of Brussels. Take the metro to the St. Catherine metro station. The large St. Catherine square was once the central fish market.

The main attractions of this lively area are the gothic 19th-century St. Catherine Church and the Black Tower. The latter is a remaining part of the 13th-century city walls. You’ll love this neighbourhood’s numerous sea food restaurants if you like seafood.

Evening

Get to Know Brussels Beer

Belgium is famous for its beer, with over 1000 different beer brands produced in Belgium. Belgian beers are usually ales, not lagers, with an emphasis on malts and many fruity yeast flavours.

Belgian beer is often ‘spontaneously fermented,’ meaning that it is open to the air, allowing local yeasts to take up residence in it, a bit like sourdough bread. This is what creates each beer’s unique flavour and taste.

Delirium café holds the Guinness World Record for the types of beer available for tasting. Whether you’d like to taste some fruit beer, Trappist beer (beer is brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery under the control and responsibility of the community of monks, whose revenue is devoted to social service) or a more unusual kind of beer, you’ll most likely find exactly what you’re looking for at this popular café. Delirium Café serves more than 2,000 types of beer from all around the world! 

Don’t forget to visit Jeanneke Pis while you’re there. This fountain of a urinating little girl is Manneken Pis’ counterpoint. It’s located right across the street from Delirium Café.

If you want to learn about the history and variety of Belgian beers and how they’re brewed, as well as taste some of the finest beers with a local expert, this highly-rated tour and tasting experience will do just that!

Head to Cafe Toone

If beer isn’t your thing, you could head to Café Toone instead. This is an authentic Brussels café with a puppet theatre on the second floor.

It’s one of the oldest cafes in the city and its puppet theatre decoration is quite remarkable. Don’t forget to check out Jeanneke Pis on your way to Café Toone!

Where to Eat in Brussels

Belgium has become something of a foodie destination in recent years and is known not only for its yummy Belgian waffles and fries, but also for its fine praline Belgian chocolate and superb seafood. Moules-frites is a popular dish which combines the delicious crispy fries made here with freshly caught mussels from Zeeland in the neighbouring Netherlands

Head to ‘t Kelderke for some traditional Belgian cuisine. They serve Flemish specialities in a 17th-century cellar restaurant on the Grand Place, and you won’t be ripped off.

If you’re a lover of seafood, the restaurants around Place St. Catherine are the place to go. Restaurants like Noordzee/Mer du Nord and Restaurant François are famous for their fresh fish dishes. 

For great spaghetti, head to Bavet, a restaurant close to Place St. Catherine. Here, you can choose from the menu or create your own spaghetti dish by adding the ingredients that you love the most.

Other Belgian Travel Ideas & Guides

Top Five Brussels Travel Tips

  • Brussels has three main railway stations: Brussels Midi, Brussels Central and Brussels Nord. This can be quite confusing to first timers in this city. Most tourist attractions are located around Brussels Central Station.
  • Keep your eyes open for comic book street art while you’re wandering around the streets of Brussels. There are over 50 murals decorating the city. These are part of a project that began in the early 90s as a tribute to famous Belgian comic book artists, and you can follow the comic book route, which starts in La Patrouille Des Castors, or take a guided street art walking tour.
  • Don’t eat at Rue des Bouchers. This little street in the city’s centre is locally known for its pushy waiters, high tourist prices and mediocre food.
  • Watch out for pickpockets. Brussels is safe to visit but just like in most capital cities, petty crime is common. Always keep an eye on your belongings, especially if you’re taking the metro.
  • Visit the Grand Place early in the morning of your day trip to Brussels to avoid the inevitable crowds.

Do you have just a little longer to spend in Brussels?

If you have another half day in Brussels, or perhaps even two days in Brussels, add these attractions to your itinerary:

Discover Brussels’ Museums

Brussels has lots of museums. From art museums like the Magritte Museum (one of the six Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium), the Bozar and the Art and History Museum, to quirkier museums like the Belgian Comic Strip Museum and the Museum of Original Figurines.

Visit the Royal Palace

Visit the 18th-century Royal Palace if you’re in Brussels after the 21st July when tradition opens the palace until the 25th of August every year. The Royal Palace of Brussels is the administrative office of the Belgian royals but is not used as their residence, which is the Royal Palace of Laeken on the city’s outskirts.

Take a Day Trip

Take a Brussels day trip to Bruges and Ghent, two of Belgium’s most beautiful medieval cities. Packed with Flemish art and architecture, one day in Bruges and Ghent will give you enough time to explore these atmospheric cities.

Explore the Marolles Flea Market

Located on the Place du Jeu de Balles, the Marolles flea market is held every morning. The market is held in the Marolles district, which is full of antique shops, galleries, and pubs. You’ll find anything on this market, from junk to antiques.

Visit the European Parliament

In the European Quarter, you’ll find the European Parliament, which can be visited on a self-guided tour, and the impressive Berlaymont building, which is the headquarters of the European Commission.

Brussels Practicalities

When to Visit Brussels

This city of Brussels can be visited all year round. However, some months may be better than others, depending on your personal preferences. 

Winter

Brussels can get quite cold during the winter months of December to February, and it might freeze. There are many grey and rainy days at this time of year. On the brighter side, there will be fewer tourists, and prices will be lower. 

Spring

The spring months of March to May are ideal times to visit Brussels. Temperatures start to rise, flowers bloom, and there aren’t too many tourists. However, Belgian weather can be unpredictable in spring, and there might still be a lot of rain during March and April. 

Summer

The weather is at its best from June to August, but this is also the time of year when tourists flock to the city, and prices are higher. Brussels is exceptionally crowded during July and August due to Belgian school holidays. 

Fall

Autumn (September to November) is another great season to plan a trip to Brussels. There won’t be as many tourists as during the summer months, and temperatures will still be pleasant.

Getting to Brussels

Brussels Airport is a large international airport just 6.5km from the city centre. It welcomes direct flights from across the world and is also on the Eurostar network, connecting with London and Paris daily.

You have several options to get into downtown Brussels from Brussels airport;

  • Train: Belgian Rail has a direct train every ten minutes from Brussels Airport to Brussels Central train station in the city centre, close to our pick of Brussels hotels. Tickets cost €12.70 one way, and the journey takes around 17 minutes.
  • Bus: De Lijn operates two bus routes from Brussels airport to the city centre: Line 272 and Line 471. Line 272 takes 30 minutes and makes more stops within Brussels city centre. Line 471, which is more direct, takes only 18 minutes. The cost for both buses is €3 one-way.
  • Taxi: Grab a cab which will cost around €50 and take about 20 minutes.
  • Transfer: For a great way to start your Brussels trip book a private transfer from the airport with Intui directly to your accommodation in the city center – it’s more cost-effective than you think! Intui works with a wide range of local operators to bring the best options and prices for your transfer.

Are you visiting Brussels as part of a longer trip? A Belgian road trip is the best way see this small but fascinating country, and our guide to road tripping in Belgium has all you need, including maps, routes, highlights and tips, to help you plan the perfect trip.

Where to Stay in Brussels

Luxury: With an air of fabulous but slightly OTT style, The Dominican is located in the centre of historic Brussels, on the site of an ancient Dominican Abbey. Rooms are supremely comfortable, breakfast is a feast, and the service is polished. It’s a great choice after a perfect day in Brussels.

Mid-Range: The Hotel des Galeries is perfectly located on a corner between Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a grand and elegant shopping arcade, and the pedestrianised Rue des Bouchers. Stylish and contemporary in decor, the hotel retains some antique pieces in a nod to its heritage. The service is personal and the bathrooms to die for – an ideal place to lay your head after a seeing Brussels in a day.

Budget: The Urban Yard Hotel offers a blend of contemporary comfort and urban sophistication in what were two Art Nouveau townhouses. Rooms are decorated with individual character, and public areas are designed to be restful and relaxing. It’s in an accessible location with great transport links, just a 15 minute walk into the city centre.

Hostel: MEININGER Bruxelles City Center is centrally located on the Canal Bruxelles-Charleroi. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and the price point is great, making it a great hostel option in Brussels.

Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when visiting Belgium. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, many activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.

Are you looking for more one day city itineraries? Check out these top posts…

Prague One Day Itinerary + Map, Tips & Guide

Rich in culture, history and stunning architecture, the City of a Thousand Spires is one of Europe’s most fascinating places. Today, the vibrant Czech capital thrives as a part of the EU and attracts tourists from around the globe. You could spend weeks exploring the city and still leave things undiscovered, but if you only have 24 hours, this one day Prague itinerary and guide will show you all the highlights.
Read More Prague One Day Itinerary + Map, Tips & Guide
Amsterdam in One Day

Amsterdam One Day Itinerary + Map, Tips & Guide

Amsterdam is a city packed with eclectic culture and life. There is a little bit of everything, be it architecture, cuisine, history or nature. In our Amsterdam travel guide, we’ll share an itinerary for a day in Amsterdam, highlighting the top attractions and hidden gems that you won’t want to miss. You’ll find information, tips, and recommendations for visiting Amsterdam, with an interactive map, organized to make the best use of your one day in…
Read More Amsterdam One Day Itinerary + Map, Tips & Guide
belfast in a day

Belfast in A Day: Itinerary, Map & Tips

Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, is a vibrant and historic city that has something to offer for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for a fun day out, Belfast has plenty of activities to keep you entertained. In this one day in Belfast guide, we’ll take you through an itinerary of how to spend a day in Belfast, highlighting the top attractions and hidden gems that you won’t…
Read More Belfast in A Day: Itinerary, Map & Tips
one day in Venice

One Day in Venice – Itinerary, Map, Tips & Guide

We don’t think there could be an easier city to explore in a day than Venice, also known as La Serenissima. This incredible city is the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region and is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. In our one day Venice itinerary, you’ll find information and tips for visiting all the most important must-see Venice tourist attractions, with an interactive map, organised to make…
Read More One Day in Venice – Itinerary, Map, Tips & Guide

Love it? Pin it!

Brussels in one day
Brussels in one day guide
Scroll to Top