This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.
Are you wondering how to spend one day in Brussels? You’re in the right place!
If you find yourself in Brussels for a day, there is plenty to keep you occupied. This vibrant city is full of things to see and do, and you can easily fill up a day just wandering around and taking it all in.
We visited the lovely city of Brussels while studying abroad in Ireland, and there were definitely parts of the city we loved. It’s a great place to stop at for a first-time visitor to Belgium!
Below, find out how to spend one day in Brussels.
How to Get to Brussels
The main airport serving Brussels is Brussels Airport (BRU), and flying there is the most popular way to get into the city. Once you arrive at the airport, you can take a train, bus, or taxi to get to wherever you are staying.
Other ways to get to Brussels include by bus, train, or car. The trains in Europe are high speed and make it super easy to get from place to place. Plus, they are very reliable. We got to Brussels via train from Luxembourg and loved it.
I personally wouldn’t recommend buses in Europe; they’re cheap, yes, and great if you’re on a budget, but they make it really hard to get to a place when you want to. We took many buses around Europe, and only one of them was on time.
Some of them we waited hours for, and one of them was canceled last-minute, resulting in us having to spill extra on a train. That actually happened to us for the original bus that we were supposed to take to get to Brussels.
How to Get Around Brussels
There are several ways to get around Brussels, Belgium. The most common way is by car or public transportation.
We used public transportation mostly for our one day in Brussels and definitely recommend it. There is a day pass you can buy for unlimited journeys in one day!
If you’re just visiting for the day, driving is probably not the best option. Parking can be expensive and difficult to find in the city center. Traffic can also be heavy, especially during rush hour.
A few of the other ways to explore Brussels is on foot or by bicycle. There are plenty of pedestrian-only streets and paths, and the city is relatively flat, making it easy to get around.
There are also a number of bike-sharing programs, which make it easy to rent a bicycle for an hour or two if you want to be active!
Best Places to Stay in Brussels
There are a few great places to stay if you are seeing Brussels in a day. Of course, as you might imagine, it’s a lot more worth it to stay more central so that you won’t have to waste as much time getting from place to place.
Below, find a few places to stay in Brussels, depending on your budget.
First up is Sleep Well Youth Hostel, a great place to stay if you are visiting Brussels on a budget. This property isn’t far from the Grand Place or the train station, so it’s fairly centrally located. There are also lots of fun amenities, like a bar, board games, and even a ping pong table.
ibis budget Brussels Airport
So, this hotel isn’t as centrally located as other hotels in Brussels, but it is where we stayed in Brussels. We love staying at the ibis budget locations no matter where we stay because we know what to expect. These hotels are clean, simple, and have just what you need for a good night’s sleep.
If luxury is more your style, stay at Steigenberger Wiltcher’s for your one day in Brussels. This property is near some of the city’s best shopping and has larger rooms. On-site, there’s a swimming pool, continental breakfast, free wifi, and a spa.
One Day in Brussels Itinerary
Wondering how to see the best of Brussels in 24 hours? Here’s our suggested itinerary!
Have breakfast at a local cafe
Start the morning off right by grabbing some breakfast at your hotel if they include it with your stay or head to a local cafe. There are many great spots for breakfast in Brussels, like Le Pain Quotidien Galerie de la Reine, Woodpecker 47, or Kaffabar.
If you’re anything like us, you could also just start the day with waffles. We grabbed ours for a few euros at a food truck, and I’ll be honest, they were the best waffles we had ever had.
Visit the Atomium
The Atomium is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, and it’s the perfect first place to visit after breakfast with one day in Brussels. This steel structure was built for the 1958 World’s Fair and stands super tall.
Visitors can take an elevator to the top of one of the balls for panoramic views of the city. There are also several exhibition spaces inside the balls, where you can learn about science. A small fee has to be paid to go inside, but it’s worth it for the view alone.
If you’re visiting Brussels with kids, they’ll also love the nearby Mini Europe, where they can see miniature replicas of famous European landmarks! It’s honestly fun for adults, too.
Walk around Parc du Cinquantenaire
The Parc du Cinquantenaire is one of the largest parks in Brussels. It is located in the center of the city and covers an area of 30 hectares. The park is home to French inspired gardens and serves as a remembrance of the 50 year anniversary of the independence of Belgium.
There are also several monuments and statues scattered throughout the park. The most notable monument is the Arc de Triomphe, which features a chariot. It’s impossible to miss this arch because of its large size in the middle of the park.
Stop by the Royal Palace of Brussels
Next, head over to the Royal Palace of Brussels.
The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official workplace and administrative office of the King and Queen of Belgium. Located in the center of Brussels, this lavish palace is a great place to visit if you’re interested in Belgian history and culture.
When visiting the Royal Palace in the summer, be sure to go inside. The doors are open to the public just during the summer months, and it’s free to enter. We, unfortunately, visited in the early spring, so we were only able to see it from the outside.
After you go inside the palace, be sure to see the outside grounds. The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens that are extremely well manicured.
Go inside the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula
Next, make your way to this church. It’s one that we happened to wander into because it started to rain when we were seeing Brussels in a day, and we were amazed at its beauty.
You should definitely visit the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula. It’s one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the city and is definitely worth a visit.
The cathedral was built in the 16th century and is a Gothic-style cathedral. It’s located not far from many other great landmarks in the city. The cathedral is open to the public, and there are often tours available.
Eat Belgian fries at Fritland
By now, you’re probably ready for some lunch. You could either find a sit-down restaurant or if you wanted to keep moving like us, stop by Fritland.
This iconic fry shop has been serving up some of the best fries in the city, and trust me when I tell you it doesn’t disappoint.
There are so many must-try foods in Belgium, and fries are one of them. Be sure to order them with curry ketchup for a treat!
Keep in mind that there is usually a long line to wait in to order, but it’s worth it.
Peruse the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert
After lunch, head over to the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert. This is one of the most beautiful places in the city, and you’ll definitely want to spend some time here. The gallery is full of shops.
We recommend going into a chocolate shop here so you can try some Belgian chocolate!
This place is also very picturesque, so take the time just to walk around, get lost, and take it all in.
Find Jeanneke Pis
There are quite a few iconic statues in Brussels, and Jeanneke Pis is one of them. It’s located right by the shopping center, so be sure to head over and check it out.
Everyone who visits this 1980s statue leaves coins, so don’t forget to bring some with you! It was built to be Mannekin Pis’s counterpart.
Marvel at the Grand Place
One of the most iconic places to visit with one day in Brussels is the Grand Place. It’s a historic square, often referred to as the heart of the city, and is one of the most breathtaking landmarks. This area is surrounded by tall, ornate buildings with gold detailing.
It’s up to you whether you have the time to go into any of the shops are not, but if you didn’t have waffles in the morning, there are some great waffles around this area because it’s so touristy.
Snap a photo at Mannekin Pis
Your last landmark of the day is Mannekin Pis. This is one of the most photographed statues in all of Brussels for a reason! It’s a statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain and many locals love this quirky statue.
They have many different outfits for the little boy, so he’s always dressed for the season. We visited on St. Patrick’s Day, so he had his little Irish outfit on!
There are always tons of people crowded around this statue, so you may have to take some time until you are able to move to the front and snap your own photo.
Eat dinner at a local restaurant
Finish the day off by grabbing dinner at a local restaurant. There are quite a few right by the Grand Place, or you can head back to your hotel before grabbing dinner and calling it a night because you’re probably exhausted!
Some great restaurants if you do want to stay near the Grand Place include ‘T Kelderke, The Brothers Brasserie, and La Rose Blanche. Truthfully, no matter where you eat, the food will be great.
This post was all about how to spend one day in Brussels, Belgium. We hope you enjoy your trip!
Want to keep reading? Check out these posts next: