Brussels can make a wonderful weekend break as it is small enough to allow you to see most of the main sights within a couple of days while still leaving you longing to return. The capital of Belgium is bursting with culture and charm thanks to its varied history, stunning architecture, European importance and foodie treats, that it will make you want to stay and indulge forever!
But how do you know where to start? What should be on your Brussels weekend itinerary? And how much can you realistically fit in within two days in Brussels? Read on to find out the perfect plan for a weekend in Brussels…
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How to spend a weekend in Brussels
A weekend in Brussels: Day One
If you’re just heading to Brussels for the weekend it’s likely you’ll want to arrive by plane or train on Friday night so you are able to really make the most of the few days you have available. Thankfully, flights and train journeys to the Belgian capital are fairly quick and easy from all over Europe, making a weekend trip totally doable!
If you’re flying to Brussels, please be aware that there are two main airports: Brussels Airport (BRU), and Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL) – this one is further outside the centre. The journey from Brussels Airport takes approximately 35 minutes while the journey from Brussels South Charleroi Airport takes about an hour.
If you’re traveling to Brussels via train, you’ll need to get off at Bruxelles-Midi, the main station in the city. Most Eurostar routes terminate at this station so you won’t have to worry about rushing to get off the train when you arrive. If you have lots of luggage you may want to use public transit to reach your hotel, but if not, you can walk into the city centre (approx. 25 minutes) and start seeing the sights straight away.
Brussels’ Grand Place is one of the most famous sights in the city so it is a great place to start your weekend trip. You’re likely to be backwards and forward to the square over the weekend but as it is so picturesque it is a lovely place to give you an insight in what’s to come over the next few days in Brussels! The whole of Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with intricate architecture, gold leaf detailing, interesting museums and an ever-changing array of events throughout the year. Therefore, whether you visit at day or night, summer or winter there is always something to see.
Check out here more free things to do in Brussels.
While you’re wandering around Grand Place, you might as well head three blocks away to meet the city’s famous mascot, Manneken Pis. This bronze sculpture of a little boy having a wee has become renowned the world over and although you could say his status is somewhat blown out of proportion considering his small 61cm stature, it would be amiss not to visit during a weekend in Brussels.
Once you’ve had your first fix of sight-seeing, you’ll be more than ready for dinner. Today is a good chance to enjoy a Belgian classic like moules-frites (mussels and chips) with some delicious white wine sauce! While there are restaurants in and around Grand Place, these are likely to be the most touristy, so wander back a few streets to find more local restaurants like those on Rue des Bouchers.
If you’re not too tired and want the night to continue, you might want to head to some bars to try some famous Belgian beer. Whether your try fruity or fragrant beers or prefer something hearty like a dark stout, pale ale or wiess bier, you’ll be sure to find something to take your fancy. Be warned though, Belgian beers are known for being stronger than the rest of the world’s beers so take it steady if you want to see some more sights tomorrow!
A weekend in Brussels: Day Two
It’s a good idea to start day two with a hearty breakfast or brunch so that you have plenty of energy to explore the city. While Brussels is a fairly small city, most of it will be seen on foot so you’ll need some stamina to pack it all in! Peck 47 in Brussels has some amazing sweet and savoury waffles dishes that are ideal for breakfast, brunch or snacks while discovering the city.
While you won’t be able to fit in all the sights and museums in Brussels in a day or two, you can still tick off plenty of the top sights and choose a select few galleries or museums to go inside. Thankfully, the stunning Brussels Stock Exchange building, Egmont Palace, Eglise Notre-Dame du Bon Secours, Jeanneke-Pis (Manneken Pis’ sister) and the Mont des Arts are all within a short walking distance.
Royal Palace of Brussels
Once you’ve wandered along Mont des Arts and Coudenberg, you’ll come to the Royal Palace of Brussels a majestic building in a large square. Throughout the summer months of July and August the palace is open to the public free of charge, and while this means there will be crowds, it is worth a visit. Alternatively, you can take a walk around the grounds before heading over to the Parc de Bruxelles. This is a gorgeous spot for a winter stroll or in summer it’s the perfect place for a picnic or an ice cream!
Chocolate and Waffles
If you fancy warming up after a morning sight-seeing, you might want to venture to Laurent Gerbaud or one of the many famous Neuhaus Chocolate shops to try another Belgian delicacy hot chocolate, truffles and (if you didn’t have them for breakfast or simply can’t get enough) waffles!
Parc du Cinquantenaire or European Parliament
Depending what time it is by now, you may be able to fit in a visit to Parc du Cinquantenaire and/or the European Parliament building to the east of the Palace and Parc de Bruxelles. Parc du Cinquantenaire is an impressive park, arch, garden and museum complex that offers something for everyone while the European Parliament building is a must for those interested in politics and current affairs.
By this point you may well be exhausted, so head back to your hotel for a rest and a freshen up before dinner. If you’re really shattered you may even just want to simply stock up on Belgian frites with their delicious array of toppings for a quick and easy meal! If you didn’t get enough of Belgian beer last night, then head to Delirium Café for a lively drink. They have over 2000 beers on the menu so there are plenty to choose from!
A weekend in Brussels: Day Three
If you manage to make it up early after your drinks in Delirium, you’ll want to take a bus or metro out to the Atomium in the north of the city. The Atomium is one Brussels’ most popular attractions, rising 102 metres from the ground. This landmark sculpture of an atom is as quintessential to Brussels as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and the Colosseum is to Rome, so it’s a must for your first time in Brussels. While you can just visit the park to see the sculpture, you can also go inside to the exhibitions inside each sphere.
Whilst you’re out at Bruparck, you might want to visit Mini Europe to see all of Europe’s top spots in one go! This miniature park features little models of most of the EU’s monuments, and is a quaint way to spend a morning.
After exploring the sights at Bruparck, hop back on the metro to get back into the city. Depending on what time your flight or train home are, you may or may not have time for some lunch and last-minute shopping, sight-seeing and souvenir purchases.
Old England Building
If you’re looking for a beautiful location to enjoy your last meal in Brussels, head to the restaurant at the Old England Building in downtown Brussels. This art nouveau former department store now features an incredible Musical Instruments Museum, but even if you don’t have time to explore the exhibits you can still head to the café restaurant on the top floor. This restaurant and terrace offer lovely views over the city, through magical arched windows and the simple food will fill you up for your onward journey home.
If you have extra time in Brussels, you may want to visit some of these attractions:
- Comic Strip Mural Walk
- Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
- Place du Luxembourg
- National Basilica of the Scared Heart
- Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
- The Great Mosque of Brussels
- The Royal Museums of Art and History
Where to stay in Brussels
This four-star hotel is a sleek, elegant city centre property that offers fantastic views across Brussels and is just 15 minutes from Grand Place. Not only does The Hotel Brussels allow you prime position within the city, but it features great on-site facilities such as a restaurant, spa and panoramic lounge. Therefore, if you’re visiting in winter and fancy an evening in, you have everything you need within the hotel! Each room features comfortable furnishings, a flat-screen TV, a minibar and Nespresso machine, as well as bathrobes and slippers that allow you relax in style.
While NH Brussels Grand Place Arenberg doesn’t have the catchiest name, the chic interiors, friendly staff and excellent location will all have you glad you chose this hotel in the heart of Brussels. The hotel is within five minutes’ walk of all the top spots and there are loads of bars and restaurants nearby, so it’s ideal for a first trip to the city. Plus, the hotel offers a daily buffet breakfast which sets you up nicely for a day exploring the city’s museums, galleries, sights and squares. Rooms here are especially spacious too with superior and suites having cosy lounge areas.
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It’s unlikely you’ll fit all of these into a weekend trip to Brussels, but it’s always good to have some ideas for next time!