This winter, I went to Belgium to visit the famous Bruges Christmas markets, and I spent one day in Brussels during the trip. Even though I didn’t have a lot of time to explore the city, I saw most of the major sites and ate plenty of typical Belgian foods like waffles and mussels! Here’s how to spend one day in Brussels, including what to eat, and optional activity suggestions if you have more time in the city!
Getting to Brussels
Because I currently live in London, I found it was easiest to take the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels-South. Brussels is accessible by train from most western European countries, but it also has a large international airport with flights to and from most major cities every day. Once you’re there, you can use Brussels’ great public transportation network of metros, trams, and buses to navigate the city.
What to See During One Day in Brussels
Even if you only have one day in Brussels, you can still see most of the city’s major sights! Start your day at Grand Place before visiting the Manneken Pis, and then head to the Royal Palace or Atomium after lunch! These are the sights you can’t miss + some extra attractions to see if you have more time!
Grand Place: The Grand Place is perhaps the most iconic sight in Brussels. This large square in the city center is lined with beautiful, ornately decorated buildings, including the Town Hall and the Museum of the City of Brussels.
Manneken Pis (and Jeanneke Pis): Manneken Pis is perhaps one of the oddest, yet most popular, attractions in Brussels. Manneken Pis is a small statue and fountain of a little boy peeing. The statue is often dressed up in costumes according to the season (he was dressed as Saint Nicolas when I was in Brussels during Christmastime). Manneken Pis’s female counterpart, Jeanneke Pis, gets a lot less attention, but she’s located right by Delirium Cafe if you’d like to visit.
Royal Palace: The Royal Palace is the Belgian royal family’s official palace (although they actually live on the outskirts of the city). The building is beautiful, and there’s a
Atomium: Although I didn’t have time to visit it, Atomium is another popular landmark in Brussels. The unique silver structure was built for the 1958 World’s Fair, and it remains a popular tourist photo-op today.
Mini-Europe: At Mini-Europe, you can find miniature versions of European landmarks, built at a 1:25 scale. I didn’t have time to visit this attraction either, but this park is located next to the Atomium, so you could easily visit both of these attractions together. You can find miniature versions of Venice, London, and of course, Brussels, here.
What to Eat in Brussels
Brussels is an indulgent food destination, known for its great beer and Belgian waffles. You can enjoy these traditional dishes between sightseeing activities during your one day in Brussels. These are a few key dishes that everyone must try when visiting the Belgian capital!
Moules Frites: Mussels with fries, known in French as
Frites: Frites, or fries, aren’t just served alongside mussels in Brussels. This snack has a long history in Belgium. In fact, the country claims that poor Belgian villagers were the first people to eat fries! Today, you can find small fry shops throughout the city. Although mayonnaise is the condiment of choice for many Belgians, most shops offer a variety of fry dipping sauces. At these fry shops, you can also find a variety of fried snacks like croquettes and other meaty, cheesy, fried foods that are popular throughout the country.
Waffles: You can’t go to Belgium without trying a real Belgian waffle! Belgium is known for its Liège waffles, which have crystallized sugar baked into their delightfully crunchy crusts. You can get these waffles topped with chocolate, fruit, or whipped cream, or just eat them plain! Liège waffles are very different from your standard American waffle, and I think they’re so much better because they’re super sweet and crunchy!
Beer: Belgium produces some of the world’s best beers. One of the most popular breweries is Delirium, and you can try over 2,000 beers at the Delirium Cafe in central Brussels. Of course, every bar and pub in Brussels has a great selection of local beers, and many offer tasting flights so you can try a few local brews. I was surprised to learn that fruity beers are very popular in Belgium. Kriek lambic is probably the most popular fruit beer, and it is made with cherries, so it’s super sweet and fragrant.
Chocolate: Belgian chocolate is famous around the world, and you can find lovely chocolate boutiques throughout the city. If you visit Brussels during the winter, grab some decadent hot chocolate to sip while you walk!
One Day in Brussels: The Best of the Belgian Capital
Even though Brussels is sometimes overlooked in favor of nearby European capitals like Paris and Amsterdam, the city is still worth a visit. I wish I could have spent more time in the city, but I think you can see a lot in one day in Brussels. Because the city is relatively small, you can see several of the main sights, like the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis, in a short amount of time. I spent most of my day wandering around the city and indulging in Belgian foods like
Check out more of my city guides here!