Brussels in a day – What to do in Brussels for a day

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Brussels is the capital of Belgium and it is the number 1 place to visit for tourists in Belgium. This small, but beautiful capital has a lot to offer and if you plan your stay well, you can do a lot in Brussels in a day.

To help you plan your itinerary for one day in Brussels, we wrote this guide with the best things to do in the city.

All sights in this article are free to go visit, except for the entrance to the Atomium. But you can also go watch the outside of the Atomium for free. 

In this article, we provide you with 11 top things to see in Brussels city center and 1 highlight just outside of the city. 

We’ll also offer you a few awesome options to choose where to eat in Brussels! We got some lunch and dinner spots, and also a place to eat one of the most iconic snacks!

So let’s take off!

These are the top tourist highlights in Brussels:

The Grand Place

This beautiful square in the center of the city is one of the first places you should visit and it can’t be left out of any Brussels itinerary.

The square is surrounded by buildings dating back to the 15th and 16th century and it is beautiful all day round. 

When making your way through the city, you’re likely to pass the Grand Place a few times during the day.

We especially recommend returning to the Grand Place after nightfall to see the square magically lit up!

Panoramic View of Grand Place in Brussels
Panoramic view of the impressive Grand Place at night, in Brussels.

La Bourse de Bruxelles

The official stock market building of Belgium can be found near the Grand Place.

The building itself is quite impressive, but it’s mostly the stairs in front of the building which are a popular meeting place in the heart of the city. 

When setting up a date or a meeting with friends, the stairs of La Bourse are the place to meet and you’ll see people waiting for other people or old friends seeing each other after years all day long.

Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert

This gallery holds some of the poshest stores and coffee houses in town, so we usually didn’t have the budget to visit these. But the gallery itself is a splendid sight!

The gallery is actually split up in three parts: the King’s Gallery, the Queen’s Gallery, and the Prince’s Gallery.

This sight is also pretty close to the Grand Place!

Saint-Hubert-Royal-Gallery
The Saint-Hubert Royal Galleries are an ensemble of glazed shopping arcades in Brussels, Belgium.

Cathedrals

Well, there are quite a few cathedrals and churches to visit in Brussels.

These are the most worthy of your time:

  • St Michael Cathedral
  • St Nicholas Church
  • Cathedral of Ste Catherine

Squares

Brussels also has a few beautiful squares you will probably cross when walking through the city. These are the most notable squares:

  • The Grand Place (of course!)
  • Place de le Monnaie
  • Place de l’Agora (super cozy small square with the occasional market)
  • Grand Sablon Square

The Sablon and the Notre Dame du Sablon

Yes! That’s one more church! The Notre Dame Du Sablon church is famous for it’s stained-glass art.

We love the square a little more than the actual church! The Sablon is a beautiful square in the center of Brussels, not too far from the famous Marolles.

On the Grand Sablon Square, you can find dozens of artsy and hipster bars and cafes, with the occasional antique store wedged in between.

The Sablon is a very nice place to grab a drink in between sightseeing.

Belgium, picturesque Sablon district of Brussels
Belgium, the picturesque Sablon district of Brussels

Manneke Pis

You were probably waiting for this one, right?

Manneke Pis is a tourist highlight in Brussels and you haven’t been there if you don’t have the iconic picture of the tiny pissing man in the center of Brussels.

Once you see it, you might be slightly underwhelmed though, since it is pretty tiny!

But it is fun to visit nonetheless. 

For special occasions, the tiny man is dressed up accordingly and the little statue is always surrounded by people taking pictures of it.

Manneke Pis in Brussels
Manneke Pis in Brussels

Rue de Bouchers

The Rue des Bouchers is a must-visit place in Brussels.

This small street is located in the city center and there are tons and tons of restaurants there. They’re literally lined up next to each other and you can feel the heat from the restaurants when it reaches the narrow walkway.

The actual part where you can walk is narrow and you can check out the dishes in each restaurant while you walk through.

Rue des Bouchers is a great place to feel the cozy Brussels atmosphere.

Brussels street art

Spread all over the city, cartoon street art brightens up the streets.

You can find a variety of cartoos all through the city, but my favorite is the one in the Rue Du Marché au Charbon, which is LGBTQ+ related!

Read more about LGBT+ travel to Belgium.

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The official website of Brussels has a map with the different locations of the comics and pictures.

Tintin Mural painting with street cafe and tourists in Brussels
Tintin Mural painting with street cafe and tourists in Brussels

The shopping street - Nieuwstraat

The Nieuwstraat is the main shopping street in Brussels.

It has all the major stores and chains. So if you like to go shopping while in Brussels, this is the street to go to!

The Marolles

The Marolles is a pretty off-the-beaten-track place in Brussels. You can find it within walking distance from the Grand Place and you won’t meet too many tourists here.

There’s an open-air flea market at the main Square of this district every day before noon.

If you have some extra time, it’s a fun place to visit for a few hours or just go check it out for a few minutes.

Things to see just outside of the city center

Atomium

If you only have one day in Brussels, the Atomium is one to consider.

It is an iconic building with its 9 shiny balls resembling an atom, but it is a bit out of the way and it will take you some time to get there.

The Atomium is located in the nearby town of Laeken, where you can also find the Royal Palace of Belgium.

Unless you really HAVE to see it, I wouldn’t make the detour to see the Atomium.

Admission to the Atomium is 15€ and you can book your ticket here.

Where to eat in Brussels?

That’s quite an important question, right?

We got some great places and some delicious local food for you to try!

Brussels Waffles

These are more of a snack than an actual dish, but you can’t leave Brussels without having them!

Traditional Brussels waffles are light and airy, topped with whipped cream.

We recommend going to the Waffle Factory, Rue du Lombard 30, where you can eat some of the very best Brussels waffles.

La Rue des Bouchers

La Rue des Bouchers is a great place to have lunch or dinner.

It might feel a little touristy or crowded, but it remains an iconic place in the city to get a decent and locally made meal.

Le Cercle des Voyageurs

For dinner, we recommend going to the Cercle des Voyageurs restaurant near Manneke Pis. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and they serve delicious food!

Budget food in Brussels

On of my favorite places to get lunch or dinner in Brussels is the Rue du Marché au Fromages.

It’s a street where you can get (not so local) kebab, pita, and other street food. 

You can either choose to get real street food and walk on, or sit down in one of the restaurants and get a full plate of food for a good price.

That’s Brussels in a day

All of these sightseeing spots should be more than enough to fill up an entire day!

If you’re having trouble connecting the dots or deciding which sights to see first, we recommend joining a walking tour or another tour in Brussels to make the most of your visit to this beautiful city!

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Brussels in 1 day
Brussels in 1 day

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