Route and itinerary to discover the essentials of Brussels in 24 hours. It also includes tasting its typical fries, mussels or waffles
Despite its bureaucratic image as an administrative and political center, Brussels, considered the capital of Europe, is one of the continent’s major tourist attractions. Rich in cultural heritage, with a fascinating history and authentic architectural gems, Brussels is also a cosmopolitan city of charming neighborhoods where you can breathe art and eat luxuriously. You only have to visit the Grand Place and taste some fries – a gastronomic sin that originated in Belgium – or some mussels to realize it. But if you only have 24 hours to discover it, here is a tour with the essential things to see and do in the Belgian capital in one day.
Visiting the heart of Brussels, the Grand Place
Undoubtedly the starting point to begin your visit in Brussels is the Grand Place, the historic center World Heritage Site and heart of the Belgian capital, where you can breathe a unique atmosphere and a lot of history. The ‘Grand Place’, which was formerly a marketplace, impresses with its wealth of styles, although the buildings you can admire now date mostly from the seventeenth century… A real treat for the eyes! The Town Hall (‘Hotel de la Ville’, in French), an imposing 15th century building in the Brabantine Gothic style, with a unique asymmetrical facade, rich in sculpted ornaments and large windows, and topped with a tower over 90 m high crowned by a copper statue of the patron saint of the city, the archangel St. Michael, which also serves as a weather vane and, if the wind blows in the right direction, simulates the gesture of defeating the dragon. The Grand Place is the place to see and be seen. In addition to cafes and beer gardens, the Maison du Roi (now the city museum) is also worth a visit.
- How to get there: You can see the location here.
- Guided tours to the City Hall: See prices and schedules here
Find the Manneken Pis, the great symbol of Brussels.
This iconic bronze statue holds a lot of symbolic importance. Although do not expect to find more than it is, as it is barely half a meter high (55.5 cm to be exact). Its size, however, has not been an obstacle to it becoming one of the most recognized symbols of Brussels. The Manneken Pis, which in Belgian literally means “the little man who pees”, is surrounded by many myths and legends: one of the best known tells that during the wars between Belgians and Dutch, a boy was walking through the countryside and finding a bomb about to explode, urinated on the fuse and extinguished it, saving many lives. He also has the reputation of being the rebellious and often mischievous spirit of the people of Brussels. The statue can be found just 30 meters from the Grand Place. And by the way…he has a large closet, since during major events it has become customary to dress him in different outfits given by locals, fashion designers or authorities visiting the Belgian capital, in fact he has about 1,000 pieces, which can be admired in the GardeRobe MannekenPis, a museum opened in 2017.
Photo: Visit.Brussels- Jean Paul Remy/Eric Danhier
Visit the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
The construction of the cathedral of Brussels lasted 300 years and is dedicated to St. Michael and St. Gudula. With its Frenchified facade, crowned by two towers and its Brabantian Gothic style, it is one of the major tourist attractions of the Belgian capital. Its strong resemblance to Notre-Dame de Paris is evident. The temple, which stands out for its Renaissance stained glass windows or the imposing Grenzing organ with more than 4,000 pipes and four keyboards, is a must-see in the historic center, just a few minutes walk from the Grand Place.
- How to get there: You can see the location here
Breathe fashion at Les Galeries Royales Saint Hubert
Visiting Brussels without spending some time in Europe’s first indoor shopping arcades is unthinkable. Whether you feel like buying something or not, come to the Saint Hubert galleries, which opened in 1837 and have been a meeting place for intellectuals and artists of the city. Today nearly 6 million visitors visit this jewel of Brussels’ heritage, under whose glass roof coexist luxury boutiques, high jewelry stores, beauty stores, cafes and, of course, the best chocolate shops in the country! Belgium has a long tradition of producing fine chocolates and Brussels is its best showcase.
- How to get there: you can see the location here
Photo: Visit.Brussels- Jean Paul Remy
Don’t leave without tasting the french fries
To get your strength back, nothing better than ‘les frites’ (French fries), the star dish of the city and the country, although for Belgians they deserve the distinction of main dish and not just a side dish. They are eaten alone, with a variety of sauces and at any time of the day. They are also the main ingredient, together with mussels, of ‘moules frites’, one of the national dishes. But there is more: in the sweet chapter we have already talked about chocolates, and if you think it is not enough, there is always the option of a delicious waffle. Are you going to miss it?
- Maison Antoine, with more than 70 years of experience, it is one of the traditional places to enjoy french fries..
- Be Burger in case you feel like accompanying your fries with hamburgers.
- Delirium Café Bruselas to enjoy Belgian craft beer or taste more than 2,000 beers from all over the world as it holds the Guinness World Records for the number of beers available for tasting..
- Discover more brewery here
- Neuhaus is a good option to taste Belgian chocolates.
- Gaufres & Waffles or Gaufres de Bruxelles to treat yourself to a sweet treat by tasting authentic waffles in the Belgian capital.
The Grand Place, the cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, and the funny but tiny Manneken Pis are the must-see stops if you spend 24 hours in Brussels. But there’s more to see and do. A covered stroll through the royal galleries (Les Galeries Royales Saint Hubert) for luxury shopping and delicious fries and tasty mussels are the basis of Belgian anytime snacking, plus great chocolate – pure temptation!