Brussels is an interesting city: on the hand it might seem a little dirty at times, but on the other hand it has a beautiful charming city center. Even though the city isn’t as popular as Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, it is really worth a visit. One day in Brussels is just enough time to see all the highlights. If you are wondering what to do in Brussels, continue reading for a guide with my best tips for things to do and see, where to eat and how to get there.
The Atomium is a very nice place to start your day for several reasons. Not only is it located outside the city center, meaning it is quite useful to start there and then work your way towards the centre, but it also gives you the opportunity to get a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Inside of the Atomium you can visit fascinating expositions about the construction of the building, and on your journey getting there, you will, depending on your route, of course, drive past the Castle of Laeken, an impressive building and the home of the Belgian king and his family.
And then we haven’t even really talked about the shining icon of Brussels, the Eiffel Tower of Belgium: The Atomium. The 102-meter high building, constructed in 1957, was built, just like the Eiffel Tower, for the World Exhibition.
Grote Markt (Grand Square):
Grand with a capital G. Belgians definitely know how to build impressive Grand Squares. Previously, I had been stunned by those of Bruges and Ghent and this one didn’t disappoint either. The most striking building (even though it has plenty of competitors) is, without a doubt, the Town Hall. I remember that a few years ago, there used to be very impressive light shows every evening during the Christmas season, but I’m not sure if this is still the case today. On the square, most buildings have Gothic architecture, which is something I personally find very cool, because it seems to hint of a dark history… or something like that. Bonus: In the street towards De Beurs you can find countless bonbon shops. You should obviously visit all of them.
Manneken Pis is definitely one of the most over-hyped tourist attractions in the world, but oh well. It’s a tiny, naked guy, it’s famous throughout the world and it is located in Brussels. That’s why you should still visit it. Thank God, Manneken Pis, in contrast to a certain half-fish/half-woman creature in a Scandinavian country, can be found in the city center itself. From de Grote Markt, it’s only a five minute walk.
Near Manneken Pis, you can find ‘a Manneken’ I like a lot more: Tintin. I always used to be more of a Guust Flater and Suske & Wiske fan when it came to Belgian comic books, but the gigantic colorful fresco, next to the fountain of the urinating boy, is very cool to see. Not only does it remind you of a part of the cultural heritage of Belgium, it is also very nice to see the contrast between this fresco and all the old and beautiful buildings around it. (Now you can all guess what my personal bond with Tintin is! *hint* Google *hint*)
De Beurs (The Stock Exchange):
Even though it was closed during my stay in Brussels, I was very impressed by The Stock Exchange (called De Beurs) and its pillars and statues of lions. It almost looks Roman, which I didn’t think fitted with Belgium and therefore found fascinating. I saw a fashion blogger sitting on the stairs whom was being photographed by her boyfriend, and all the passers-by could see her underwear. LOL. Anyway, back to De Beurs, which is no longer in operation as the Stock Exchange ever since it was very damaged in a fire about twenty years ago. A pity, because given the magnitude of the building it would be quite suitable if the financial future of the country was decided there. But oh well, the magic disappears. In the future, the building should house a rooftop bar. By the way, the area around De Beurs is great for shopping.
The Royal Saint Hubert Gallery:
What more can a tourist ask for than a luxuriant, indoor shopping street decorated with golden ornaments that immediately makes you feel like you are shopping with Princess Sisi herself? Nothing, I can tell you that. I felt like a kid in a candy store. The marble walls, the expensive brands,… I loved it and so did my family. With a nostalgic sigh, they told me that the gallery reminded them of Naples. I, on the other hand, was reminded of Milan. The gallery is a wonderful place to shelter from the rain, to window shop and to marvel at the architecture. Truly royal!
Turn left halfway through the gallery and you end up in a street full of restaurants. My personal rule is that whenever a waiter approaches me on the street, I will definitely NOT eat at that restaurant. I like to decide where to eat by myself and to do so in peace. However, it is definitely nice to walk through it and look around. Even though it is very touristy, it still makes you feel like you’re walking through an old, narrow passage and all those restaurants and terraces do seem cozy. Personally, I wouldn’t dine here, because I suspect that their food isn’t great. They all pretty much sell the same pricey paella.
Hotels in Brussels:
If you’re looking to spend a weekend in Brussels, I would like to give you some addresses for a nice overnight stay.
The rooms at Bed & Breakfast All-in One are all decorated in a unique way. The hotel is located close to de Nieuwstraat, at the edge of the city center. In summer, you can enjoy the sunshine on the terrace of the hotel. Breakfast can be booked. Check current prices here.
What are your tips for what to do during a day in Brussels?
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