First time in Brussels? Here is everything you need to know to spend two perfect days in Brussels. Know where to eat in the best restaurants and see the best Brussels has to offer with this detailed Brussels travel guide.
Brussels is Belgium’s capital and bilingual heart of the country with street signs written in both French and Flemish Dutch. Brussels might be home to the headquarters of the European Union but its most famous landmark (and favourite amongst locals) is a small statue of a boy peeing (Mannekin Pis). Beyond its many world-class musuems, Brussels is also a culinary hub that must be savoured. Start with a sweet Belgian waffle, enjoy moules-frites for lunch, try Waterzooi for dinner and wash it all down with a Belgian beer. Don’t forget to take home some delicious Belgian chocolate.
Are you ready to explore Brussels? Here’s how to spend 2 days in Brussels.
Looking for something in particular? Use this table of contents below to jump around using the links.
Table of Contents
- Map of Brussels Itinerary
- Top Things to do in Brussels in 2 Days
- Day 1 – Things to do in Brussels
- 1. Brussels Comic Book Route
- 2. Manneken Pis
- 3. Jeanneke Pis
- 4. Het Zinneke
- 5. La Grand-Place of Brussels
- 6. Brussels City Museum
- 7. Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
- 8. Brussels Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
- 9. Mont des Arts & The Whirling Ear
- 10. National Basilica of the Sacred Heart
- 11. Parc Élisabeth
- Day 2 – Things to do in Brussels
- Day 1 – Things to do in Brussels
- What to Eat in Brussels – Typical Belgian Food to Eat
- Where to Eat in Brussels
- How to Get to Brussels from the airport
- Where to Stay in Brussels
- Got more time? Here are more things to do and see in Brussels
This map shows you all the locations mentioned in this guide. Click on the pins for more information.
Blue Pins – Day 1 – Things to see in Brussels
Pink Pins – Day 2 – Things to see in Brussels
Green Pins – Where to eat in Brussels
Yellow Pins – Extra things to do in Brussels if you have more time
Tip: For a larger view of the map, click on the icon in the top right corner. If the icon is hidden and you’re viewing this on your phone, go to landscape mode. Technology, eh?
1. Brussels Comic Book Route
I’ve been to Brussels three times now and my absolute favourite thing to do in Brussels is still to scout out the street art murals that make up the Comic Book Route.
Belgium, especially Brussels, has a wonderful history and love for comic books and their creators. Did you know that Brussels was the birthplace of Tintin? To honour Belgium’s most famous comics the city of Brussels collaborated with the Belgian Comic Strip Center to install more than 50 large comic strips murals across the city.
These vibrant motifs show Tintin, Gomer Goof, the gauls Asterix and Obelix, Lucky Luke, Spirou and many others. Most of the murals are located inside the ‘Pentagon’, a local term used to describe the city centre due to its geometrical shape.
I’m mentioning this first on the itinerary because as you explore the city, you may want to take a few detours to see these incredible murals. Plus, hunting down these comic strips mural is a fantastic way to discover Brussels and explore some neighbourhoods that are less crowded by tourists.
How many can you find? Here is a complete list of the Comic Book Route.
The Manneken-Pis statue is one of the most, if not the most famous thing to see in Brussels. Literally translated, Manneken Pis means ‘little pee man’ in the local language, Flemish.
This small bronze statue of a little boy peeing boy was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder between 1618 and 1619. When the Manneken-Pis was first put in place, it played an important role is the distribution of drinking water.
When Brussels’ water network changed in the 19th century, Manneken-Pis slowly became a symbol for the people of Brussels representing their sense of humour and independence.
What many people don’t know is that the real name of the statue is Menneke Pis. In the local Brussels dialect, een manneke means a small man, whereas een menneke means a little boy.
During special events and festivities, this little boy peeing is dressed up in clothes in celebration. The current statue you see is a copy made in 1965, however, you can see the original in the Museum of the City of Brussels
Location: Corner of Rue de L’Etuve and Rue du Chêne, and Rue des Grands Carmes
Metro: Bourse and Gare Centralle
Jeanneke Pis is the female counterpart of Manneken Pis, which, as you can see is a little girl having a wee. See, I told you the Belgians have a sense of humour. This lesser-known statue was commissioned in 1987 to counterpoint Mannekin Pis. I actually prefer Jeanneke Pis over Manneken-Pis, she’s just so damn shameless and has a cute little grin on her face.
Location: Rue des Bouchers
Metro: Gare Centralle and De Brouckère
To create a trilogy, there is a third statue called Het Zinneke, which depicts the dog of Manneken and Jeanneke peeing next to the road just like his owners. As the legends goes, Manneken and Jeanneke trained their dog to pee the only way they knew how – in public.
Location: Rue des Chartreux 35, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
The best way to start off your trip in Brussels is by visiting the beautiful cobbled square known as La Grand-Place. La Grand-Place is without a doubt the heart of Brussels in every sense of the word. It’s the historical, geographical, and commercial centre of Brussels and an absolute must see.
La Grand-Place was almost completely destroyed after it was bombarded by the French army in 1965. There is a wonderful mix of architectural styles including baroque, neoclassical and neo-gothic. Some of Belgium’s most opulent examples of 17th-century architecture can be found in the square with many buildings decorated in gold gilt.
The most notable buildings include Maison du Roi (the King’s House), Hotel de Ville, Maison des Ducs de Brabant (Neo classic group of buildings formed by six guilds), Le Pigeon (where French novelist Victor Hugo was hosted), Le Renard, Le Cornet and Le Roy d’Espagne.
The most impressive building of them all is City Hall built in the Gothic style and with a tower that stands 96 meters tall.
Don’t miss the monument to local boy Everard t’Serclaes, famous for helping to successfully push Flemish troops out of the city and named a liberator of Brussels.
In 1388 Sweder d’Adcoude, Lord of Gaesbeek, sent his men to attack t’Serclaes, a move that sadly cost Everard his tongue and his life. Everard breathed his last breath in La Grand Place in the Maison de l’Etoile. To ensure your return to Brussels, be sure to rub the arm of his statue.
Located in La Grand-Place in the Gothic Revival Maison du Roi (“King’s House”) or Broodhuis (“Bread hall”), is Brussels City Museum. The museum gives a comprehensive overview of Brussels’ history, arts, crafts, archaeology and folklore. One room is dedicated to showing nearly 750 costumes of the Manneken Pis statue.
Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Closed on Mondays, January 1st, May 1st, November 1st, November 11th, December 25th
<18 years old: free
Located in the centre of Brussels is Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a two hundred meter long glazed shopping arcade with high-end specialized boutiques, auditoriums, cafés, restaurants and apartments.
Split into two major sections, this is the oldest commercial galleries in Europe opening in 1847. Today is it still one of the most elegant. Each gallery is a hundred metres long and covered by a high glass dome that naturally lights the arcade.
Up until 1892, the Café des Arts that was located here was a meeting place for painters and writers of the time including Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Edgar Quinet.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is definitely one of the highlights in Brussels and a great place sit in a cafe, sip on a Belgian hot chocolate and watch the world go by.
Location: 5 Galerie du Roi
Opening Hours: Shops close at different hours but are open every day from 9:00 til late.
Metro: Gare de Bruxelles-Central
What started as a small chapel in the 9th century, became a Romanesque cathedral in the 11th century dedicated to St. Michael and St. Gudula, the patron saints of Brussels. This impressive Brabant Gothic style church is built of local stone and its 49-bell carillon can be heard from miles away.
Due to its importance and location in Belgium’s capital, Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is often used for important ceremonies that are of national interest including royal weddings and state funerals. The “Treasure” of the cathedral is in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, guarded by a wrought iron gate originating from the 18th century.
Location: Parvis, Sainte-Gudele.
Monday to Friday, 07:00 – 18:00
Saturday, 08:30 – 15:30
Sunday, 08:30 – 14:00
Metro: Gare Centrale and Parc
Mont des Arts, meaning “hill / mount of the arts”, is a beautiful elevated public park that connects the lower, working-class part of the city with the upper, aristocratic part. Nearby is the Royal Library of Belgium, the National Archives of Belgium, and the Brussels Meeting Centre.
There are wonderful views over Brussels city from up here where you can see Brussels City Hall in La Grand-Place.
Also here is The Whirling Ear, a modern art installation that was created for the World Exhibition of Brussels in 1958. The Whirling Ear once stood in the middle of a basin with fountains in front of the US pavilion. After the exhibition, it was dismantled and stored for years before it was given new life and placed back in the city again.
Metro: Gare de Bruxelles-Central
The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart is more than just a religious building. This enormous Art Deco basilica plays host to exhibitions, conferences, a restaurant, a theatre, a Catholic radio station, and two museums.
Inspired by the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur in Paris, the basilica stands 90 metres tall and 167 metres wide making it the fifth largest church in the world.
The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart was built to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Belgium’s independence. Its most attention-grabbing feature is the enormous green dome.
Make sure you head to the terrace of the basilica for panoramic views over Brussels from 53 metres up. You can also access the museum and other semi-hidden parts of the basilica from the dome.
Location: 1 Parvis de la Basilique.Koekelberg.
Summer Opening Hours: 09:00 to 17:00.
Winter Opening Hours: 10:00 to 16:00.
Metro: Simonis (Leopold II).
Located in front of the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the largest urban public park in the centre of Brussels. Be sure to take a stroll along its beautiful promenades lined with trees and flower-beds or sit on the lawn and relax. The park even has an outdoor gym, a resting area and playground.
Day 2 – Things to do in Brussels (Pink Pins)
The Palace of Justice or Law Courts of Brussels is the most important court building in Belgium. This monumental building is said to be the largest building constructed in the 19th century, covering 260,000 square feet (24,000 square meters) and bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This angered locals for a long time and the word “architect” became a derogatory term.
The Palace of Justice is visible from almost the everywhere in the city plus there is an impressive view from the Palace itself in Place Poelaert. You’ll definitely want to head inside to see its gorgeous staircases.
Location: 1 Poelaert Square
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 08:00 – 17:00
Tram: Poelaert and Louise
The Brussels Royal Palace dates back to the 18th century and was once the residence of Belgium’s royal family. The royal family no longer live here choosing instead to reside in Laeken Palace on the outskirts of Brussels since 1931. Today, the palace houses the royal offices, some ministries, official meeting rooms and rooms for guest heads of state.
Location: Place du Palais, Paleizenplein.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30 – 17:00 last entry at 15:45, Open from 21st July to September
Admission: Free as part of an official guided tour.
The Parc du Cinquantenaire, literally ‘Park of the fiftieth anniversary’ is more than just a large public park, it’s a national landmark in Brussels. The park was built during the reign of Leopold II to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Belgium’s independence in 1880.
Covering approximately thirty hectares, the park features various spacious gardens, a large arch, and three museums including Cinquantenaire Museum, Autoworld (a collection of more than 350 cars from different eras), and the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces.
For epic views over Brussels and the European Quarter, head to the top of the arch via the entrance at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces. Admission is free!
Throughout summer the city holds numerous events in the park including concerts, club nights, festivals, drive-in cinemas, environmental days, aperitifs, and even the starting line to Brussels marathons.
Location: 11 Jubelpark
Metro: Schuman and Mérode
Tram: Place Saint Pierre
Located between the Palace of Justice and the Royal Palace is this cute little garden adorned with 48 bronze statues representing the ancient crafts once practised in Brussels. This garden was built in honour of Counts Egmont and Hornes who were executed during the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. because of their resistance. The pedestal is decorated with the coats of arms of the two lords.
Location: 11 Jubelpark
Metro: Porte de Namur
The Atomium stand 102 metres tall and is composed of nine spheres of 18 metres in diameter connected to each other by tubes with escalators. Inside the spheres are permanent and temporary exhibitions with the top-most sphere including a restaurant with wonderful panoramic views of the city.
The nine spheres of the Atomium represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. They symbolise the faith one had in the power of science and in nuclear power.
Initially, the Atomium was only meant to be dismantled after for six months but thanks to its huge popularity it was left standing and soon became a symbol of ideas of the future and universality.
Location: Atomium Square.
Opening Hours: Everyday from 10:00 to 18:00. The restaurant opens until 23:00.
Adults (18-65): €15
Senior citizens(>65): €13
Teens (>115cm-17): €8
Kids (≤115cm) : €0
Buy tickets online here
Located near the Atomium are the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, a complex of huge tropical, subtropical and cold greenhouses. The flora collections are a veritable feast for the senses. You’ll have to time your trip perfectly because the Royal Greenhouses are only open to the public for three weeks during Spring. This is an excellent and rare opportunity to see the wonderful architecture of Alphonse Balat, the mentor of Victor Horta, and the many plants in the greenhouses.
Location: Avenue du Parc Royal 61
Here are local culinary specialities to try in Brussels:
- Carbonade flamande: Stew made with meat, beer, carrot, onion and panela (brown sugar).
- Mitraillette: It consists of half a baguette with meat, sauce, salad and fries, all of it inside the bread!
- Fricadelle: Deep-fried sausage served with French fries.
- Waterzooi: Dish made of chicken or fish swimming in a vegetable broth (onion, leek, celery, carrot) and cream. Usually served with potatoes or rice.
- Lapin à la bruxelloise: Slow stove-cooked rabbit with Geuze, a typical Brussels beer that is brewed with sour cherries.
- Stoemp: Potato puree mixed with one or more types of mashed vegetables (it can be carrot, leek, spinach, Brussels sprouts…). Commonly served with sausages or pan-seared bacon.
- Chicon au gratin: This dish is made of endives wrapped in a slice of cooked ham and covered in béchamel; all of it oven gratinated.
- Faisan à la Brabançonne: Typical Belgian dish that’s made of young pheasant, butter, peanut oil, chicory (endive) and parsley.
- Moules frites: Cooked mussels and French fries.
- Caricoles: A speciality of Brussels, caricoles are sea snails cooked with chopped celery, parsley leaves, pepper seeds, ground pepper and a dash of salt.
- Pâté gaumais: Pie filled with pork marinated in white wine or vinegar with spices and local herbs.
- Belgian chocolate.
- Cramique: Raisin brioche.
- Speculoos: Crunchy chunky-textured biscuit made with brown sugar.
- Gaufres de Bruxelles: The Brussels waffle is a rectangular-shaped pastry that’s eaten warm and can be served with whipped cream and powdered sugar.
- And, of course, all Belgian beers.
Wondering where to eat in Brussels? I recommend dining in typical bistros for your best chances of trying the dishes mentioned above.
This is one of Brussels’ most emblematic restaurants, founded in 1893. The star of the menu is “moules frites”, the quintessential Belgian dish. These can come in a variety of sauces: marinara, white wine, tomato or garlic, just to name a few.
Location: Rue des Bouchers 18, Brussels 1000
In this brasserie restaurant, some of the best “Carbonades Flamandes” can be found, served with a beer picked from the great selection on offer.
Location: Rue du Lombard 25, Brussels 1000
La Roue d’Or
Traditional brasserie of Brussels, located next to the Grand Place, that serves “Waterzooi”, which originates from Ghent and has spread all over Belgium.
Location: Rue des Chapeliers 26, Brussels 1000
Typical restaurant housed inside an old 17th-century beer cellar. All the food is fresh from the same day’s market and an excellent place to try “Chicon au gratin”.
Location: Grand-Place 15, Brussels 1000
Belgian beer is as world-famous, probably more, as Belgian food. Belgium is the world’s number 1 beer producer and Belgians are said to drink an average of 100 litres of the stuff per year. Here, you will find all the most popular beers in Belgium.
Location: Rue des Chapeliers 9, Brussels 1000
From Sur Charleroi (CRL) to Brussels and back
Bus (shuttle bus)
The best way to reach Brussels from the airport is by shuttle bus. The company Flibco runs buses that connect Charleroi Airport with Brussels-Midi (on Rue de la France) every 20-30 mins. The journey takes 1 hour and costs 14,20 EUR one-way ticket costs £15 and the return ticket costs 28,40 EUR. These can be purchased at the terminal or onboard the bus. Buying a ticket online is slightly cheaper and will give you priority if the buses are busy.
Once you reach Brussels-Midi station, you can take the metro, tram or train to get to other stations in the city. On the way back to the airport, arrive at the bus stop 15 minutes before its scheduled departure to get a good spot in the queue.
Bus and train
From Charleroi Airport you can catch a bus to Charleroi Train Station and take a train to Brussels from there. The combined bus & train ticket to/from Brussels costs around 9,90 EUR (depending on train fares).
From National Zaventem (BRU) to Brussels and back
Train: Quickest and cheapest
The train is a good option to reach central Brussels from Zaventem. Trains stop at all the stations in Brussels and tickets start from 7,20 EUR . The journey only take 20 minutes. The train station is located on the lower ground floor of the airport. Check the latest times and prices here.
Bus: recommended for the European zone
The company De Lijn connects the airport with the centre of Brussels and the company STIB does with the European Parliament. The ride time is between 30 and 40 minutes and it’s the recommendable option for business travellers or tourists who live in the European district. Check the lastest times and prices here.
Whilst in Brussels, I stayed at Hilton Brussels City Hotel. The hotel was conveniently located near the metro and just a few minutes walk from Brussels-North railway station where the airport train stops. The hotel is quiet and has all the mod-cons you could want during your trip. There is even a sauna and a hammam as well as a bar which serves Belgian wines and beers. Check here for the latest prices at Hilton Brussels City Hotel
For an alternative accommodation option, I would also recommend renting out one of these apartments or rooms through Airbnb. Cute Airbnb options are popping up all over the city so you’ll find some really beautiful places at very affordable prices. If it’s your first time get US$35 (£25) off your first stay, when you book using my referral link.
- Mini Europe – Located next to the Atomium isMini Europe Park. Inaugurated in 1989, see over 350 reproductions on a 1 to 25 scale that represent 80 cities of the European Union.
- Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts De Belgique) – Explore the size museums that make up the Royal Museums. Not to be missed is the Oldmasters Museum with its famous “Rubens Room”, which houses more than 20 paintings by the artist and Magritte Museum with the richest collections of paintings by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte.
- Hergé Museum – Immerse yourself in the world of Tintin. Fans of Tintin won’t want to miss visiting Hergé Museum to see exclusive illustrations of the beloved detective and his dog Snowy. Even though the museum runs a shuttle service to the museum, this tour includes museum entry and round-trip transportation from Brussels for slightly cheaper.
- Belgium’s Cutest City: 10 Wonderful Things to Do in Bruges
- Ghent Day Trip Itinerary: Top 10 Things to See in Ghent in One Day
- Day trip to Antwerp from Brussels
I hope this guide has answered all your questions and helped you plan your two days in Brussels. If you still have any questions or concerns, please reach out and leave a comment below. I’d be happy to help where I can. If not, then I wish you a wonderful trip!
Merci / dank je (thank you) for reading! 😉
Planning a trip? Don’t risk it. I never travel without getting travel insurance. I used World Nomads for my trip to Brussels.
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