Brussels is the capital of Belgium and holds the title of the capital of Europe as well. In my opinion, a bit exaggerated name as I soon realized that Brussels does not necessarily reflect all Europe. But since it is a city that hosts the headquarters of the Institutions of the European Union, which you can find in the European quarter, it is the title that the city will stick with.
I lived in the surroundings of Brussels for several months and I can claim that even though it is impossible to see all of it in a day, a day is still enough to see a lot and make your trip worth stopping in the city. What you can do is make sure that you do not skip the things that you’ve mostly heard of, because only a day in the new city means going for (what some might call it) cliché.
I would divide the day into three parts: sightseeing part, museum and culinary experience.
1. Take a short Sightseeing Walk
There are beautiful places in Brussels that must be visited. I would recommend you to put on your tennis shoes and start walking already in the morning. The road should take you through the following places:
A square that is surrounded by the Town Hall, Guild houses and King’s House (today’s Museum of the City of Brussels), is one of the most beautiful parts of the city and a popular touristic spot. The architecture with the gothic elements of the buildings create a dramatic appearance and especially at night, the place turns into a magic of lights.
Not far away from Grand Place, you will find the most famous fountain in Brussels with 55,5 centimeters tall boy from the 17th century. On special occasions, he is dressed in uniforms and by now he owns more than 900 outfits, that come from all over the world. If you would like to find out more about the history of the tradition and look at his wardrobe, click here.
How to find it: From the Grand Place, it should not take you more than 5 minutes walking. Take the street Rue Charles Buls and continue straight on Rue de l’Etuve. Manneken Pis will be on your left.
Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
With its spectacular architecture, a long hall with arcades, the symmetrical lines of the rooftop, so much chocolate and macarons, stores with fancy gloves and hats in all colors, this is a shopping mall that you would like to visit. You can find out more about it here.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
Five to ten minutes walking to the east from the galleries you will meet the glory of Brussel’s cathedral, called after St. Michael and St. Gudula, who are the patron saints of the city of Brussels. With its high massive towers, it will greet you from the distance and when entering check at the list near the door where you can find out which important events occurred in the cathedral, from royal weddings and important visits. It will make you feel like a part of its history.
Through the Brussels Park to the Royal Palace
Near the Cathedral you will enter the Brussels park, a nice green area that gets alive especially in the summer months. At the South of it, you will find a Royal Palace (you will recognize it, it makes you feel very small 🙂 ). Today it is an administrative residence of the King of Belgium (yes, Belgium is a monarchy, you can read more about it here).
Atomium was constructed in 1958 for the World Fair and it became one of the most known symbols of Brussels. It is a popular touristic and photography spot. However, it is not only a symbol or a monument, it offers permanent and temporary exhibitions, which ones you can find out on the website of Atomium.
How to find it: Take the metro number 6 (direction Koning Boudewijn, Roi Baudouin) and step down at the station Heizel, Heysel. Five minutes walk and you will arrive.
2. Choose a Museum
I would recommend not to put your day in a major rush and pressure since you will absorb a lot of information for a day. I absolutely encourage you to visit one shorter and fun museum.
A brewery or a chocolate museum could be a good example (since Belgium is a paradise of both). I visited Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate which in total took me around 45 minutes with degustation. The information about the production of chocolate was fresh, nice, interesting but not overwhelming. At the end, there was a presentation of the pralines production and the final degustation ( and I could eat as much chocolate as I wanted to 🙂 ).
Considering how you like to organise your time and if you stay for more than just a day, you can as well visit Atomium, Mini Europe, Museum of the City of Brussels, a Strip Museum in The Belgian Comic Strip Center (Belgium is very known for strips!), temporary exhibitions and many more that will take more of your time. You can as well visit the Tourism Information desk on Grand Place and get more information about the events in the city and temporary exhibitions.
3. Your Culinary Tour
Oh, the Waffles … I could not believe I had lived all of my life without them. I found most of the waffle-baking places near Manneken Pis. My best combination is with chocolate and cream and whoever gives me a judgemental look loses my friendship.
Belgian chocolate has a reputation for a reason. The center of Brussels is full with chocolate and sweet stores so make sure you take time and enter. It is some sort of museum as well. Try something new, I promise that you will not regret it.
French Fries come from Belgium (not France, Belgium). They are a symbol. They are a gift too, to all of us. 🙂 When walking through the center of the city I am sure you will notice at least one place where you can order a portion.
Belgium is a country of beer and there are so many that not even Belgians know their exact number. There are nice places to sit for a drink near the Grand Place, on Rue des Brasseurs and Rue du Marché aux Fromages. If you feel more loud and young I would suggest a very outgoing place called Delirium. The price of the beer is in average 4 euros or more, it is usually served in bottles of around 33cL and the amount of alcohol rises up to around 10,5% as well. I never crashed into one that I would not like (well, only once, because it was pink). Look at the menu and ask the waiter for help. I suggest to relax with the beer at the end of the day and when the dark falls go back to Grand Place to see how it looks like at night.
You can as well visit the restaurant if you wish, but I am not going to lie … They are expensive. If I needed to boost up my immune system I stopped at EXKI (grab&go restaurant that first opened in Brussels by three friends) where everything is fresh, natural, clean and cozy and offers a variety of freshly prepared snacks for nice prices.
Enjoy your Brussels! 🙂