If you’re currently planning your Brussels itinerary, then you’ve come to the right place! One of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Belgium’s capital is lots of fun to explore but all too often overlooked. After just 2 to 3 days in Brussels though, its delicious frites, waffles and chocolate will have you questioning why you’re not staying even longer!
Besides quirky street art and comic books, Brussels is known for its beautiful historic centre, brilliant beers and important European institutions. With incredible architecture, outstanding museums and, of course, Bruges and Ghent lying nearby, this underrated gem certainly has something for everyone to enjoy.
How Many Days in Brussels?
While you could, at a stretch, see many of its main sights in half a day, the longer you stay in the ‘Capital of the EU’, the more it reveals. How many days to spend in Brussels is a tough question as it is its staggering diversity and different neighbourhoods that make the city truly special to explore.
More than just the main sights, 2 days in Brussels allows you to venture outside the centre, live local life and experience more of its exciting nightlife scene. You could also fit in some more museums, parks and a stop at the Atomium.
Most visitors who spend 3 days in Brussels also visit either Bruges or Ghent on one of those days. Must-see cities, their gorgeous historic centres lie just short train journeys away with both boasting lots of attractive architecture and a wealth of impressive landmarks.
Getting To & Around Brussels
Thanks to its central location in Europe and multicultural population, Brussels is incredibly well connected to the outside world. Once you’ve arrived, you can either explore its compact centre on foot or use its extensive public transport network.
Most visitors from far-flung countries usually arrive at Brussels Airport which lies just a short bus, train, taxi or private transfer ride from the centre. While the latter is more convenient but costs around €50, the two public transport options are much more affordable.
If you’ve booked a cheap flight to ‘Brussels South’, you’ll need to factor in an hour-long bus or shared taxi journey. This is because the airport is actually located just outside Charleroi in Wallonia. You can also organise a private transfer here.
Many people also arrive by train at its three central stations: Gare du Nord, Gare Central and Gare du Midi (Zuidstation in Dutch). From here you can catch regular trains to other cities in Belgium as well as Lille, Paris, London and Amsterdam. You can view train schedules here.
These are also unfortunately some of the only places in Brussels where you need to be a bit wary about your possessions.
While the centre and surrounding neighbourhoods are very walkable, you can always pay for buses, metros and trams using your regular bank card. Just tap it against the grey machine and remember to validate each time.
2 to 3 Days in Brussels Itinerary
The first day of this Brussels itinerary focuses on the city centre and its main sights. You can organise a walking tour here to learn more about the history of the city.
On your second day, you can then delve a little deeper into what makes it unique before heading to either Bruges and/or Ghent the next. Keep an eye out for its colourful comic strip centre murals as they pop up almost everywhere.
As you wander about the capital’s streets, you’ll hear tons of languages being used wherever you go. At the last count, over 180 nationalities reside in this city and 100 or so languages are spoken. This can understandably be a bit confusing for visitors on their trip to Brussels.
While French is the most common language used in shops, bars and restaurants, you can now use English almost everywhere. Pockets of Dutch-speakers can also be found here and there with the language dominating daily life in Bruges and Ghent in Flanders.
Day 1 – Central Brussels Highlights
The Grand Place
The first place that people head is of course the Grand Place which is undoubtedly the city’s most iconic sight. One of the most beautiful squares in the world, its uneven cobblestones are surrounded by grand, gold-decked guildhalls that mostly date to the late 1600s.
At all times of the day, the spectacular square is full of visitors strolling about, chatting and snapping photos of its flamboyant Town Hall.
It also hosts countless festivals and cultural events with an immense flower carpet coating its cobbles in August of every even year. It is also home to the Brussels City Museum and is absolutely one of the top places to visit in Brussels.
Just a short walk away is another of Brussels’ must-see sights: its famous statue of a small peeing boy. While the Grand Place always leaves people impressed, many tourists are left a bit confused at just why huge crowds congregate in front of the cheeky character each day.
Others find the 55.5-centimetre-high sculpture hilarious with the tiny bronze figure also often dressed up in one of his thousand or so different costumes. Next to Manneken Pis are some great waffle stands and lace shops to stop by before continuing with your sightseeing.
Not too far away is one of the oldest and most popular neighbourhoods in Brussels. Known as Les Marolles, its charming buildings now house lots of antique shops with the gorgeous Chapel Church and gigantic Palace of Justice also being located here.
Each day until 2 PM, there is a fun flea market for you to rummage through at Place du Jeu de Balle. After looking through all its old books, clothes, African masks and jewellery pieces, you can enjoy a hearty stoemp or croque monsieur at La Clef d’Or.
Just a stone’s throw from the messy market is the chic and sophisticated Sablon part of the centre. As well as the shops of famed Belgian chocolatiers Pierre Marcolini and Neuhaus (you can organise a chocolate workshop here), its cobbled streets and squares are lined by fashionable boutiques and elegant townhouses.
After picking up a box or two of tasty chocolates to take home, you can marvel at the superb facade of the Church of Our Blessed Lady of Sablon. Alongside the refined fifteenth-century church is a lovingly landscaped garden which contains 48 statues of various political figures, artists and intellectuals from the city’s past.
Mont des Arts
As the evening draws in, make your way to the nearby Mont des Arts for a stunning sunset. One of the only viewpoints in Brussels, it looks out over a picturesque garden and the Town Hall’s tall spire rising up dramatically in the distance. Taking in this lovely view is one of the best things to do in Brussels.
If you have a bit more time on your hands, you can also wander around the corner and take some pictures of the Royal Palace of Brussels (home to the Belgian Royal Family).
Both the Royal Museums of the Fine Arts and Musical Instruments Museum are also well worth checking out here if you have the chance.
As Belgium is known for its beers and Delirium has over 2,000 different kinds for you to try, you simply have to include the world-famous bar on your 2 days in Brussels itinerary.
Although it and the alley in front are always crowded and noisy, the atmosphere is intoxicating and you’re sure to make some new friends. If you want to learn more about Belgian beer, you can do a beer tasting.
If you need food beforehand, the century-old Chez Leon serves all the classics such as horse steak, stoofvlees and moules marinieres.
For a quieter drink in a traditional setting, Au Bon Vieux Temps, A La Becasse and Goupil Le Fol are all good bets. Other lively nightlife spots to hit up nearby are around Saint-Gery and Place Sainte-Catherine.
Before heading back, grab a packet of frites drenched in andalouse sauce at Fritland and see the Grand Place majestically lit up at night.
Day 2 – Discover Different Sides of Belgium’s Quirky Capital
On your second day in Brussels, wake up earlyish (if you can after the strong Belgian beers!) and head to the Atomium on the northern outskirts of the city. Originally erected for the 1958 World’s Fair, the unique landmark makes for some amazing photos with the views from the restaurant up top being just as good.
A perfect example of the unusual art found scattered all around the capital, its nine stainless steel spheres represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. From the popular yet far-out attraction, you’ll need to take a forty-minute metro journey to our next stop of the day. You can pre-book tickets here.
Parc du Cinquantenaire
One of the largest green spaces in town, Cinquantenaire Park is always packed with people exercising and enjoying the outdoors. While ambling about its leafy confines, you can admire its epic-looking triumphal arch that was built to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Belgian Revolution.
Lining the massive monument on either side are two huge buildings that house several great museums. While Autoworld contains around 250 classic cars, the Museum of Military History displays old tanks and medieval armour.
If you want to ‘complete’ Brussels in 2 days or a weekend in Brussels, you’ll probably have to pick just one between them and the adjacent Art and History Museum.
The European Quarter
Unlike the rest of Brussels which is full of arresting Art Nouveau buildings designed by Horta and Hankar, the European Quarter is characterised by gleaming, glass office blocks. On the way here from Cinquantenaire, you can always stop off for more frites at the famous Maison Antoine in Place Jourdan.
After filling up, either the House of European History or the Parlamentarium will teach you all about the EU and its hugely influential institutions. Free and interactive, they lie right next to the European Parliament which you can even take tours around if you reserve online.
On Thursday nights, MEPs, interns and lobbyists alike pour into Place du Luxembourg outside and drink the night away, creating a festival-like atmosphere in the process.
Matonge and Saint-Boniface
Although it is located right next to the European Quarter, Matonge couldn’t be more different. Home to most of the city’s Congolese population, it has a distinctly African vibe with little local shops selling cassavas, plantains and exotic fruits spilling out onto the pavement.
Other than shopping, seeing its street art and soaking up the lively atmosphere, you can sit and enjoy a tasty chicken mafe or tilapia dish at Au Soleil d’Afrique. Just a couple of streets away the city changes again with typical Belgian restaurants like Ultime Atome and Le Clan des Belges lying before Saint-Boniface Church’s fine facade.
While it’s impossible to see all of Brussels in 3 days, these dynamic neighbourhoods hint at its almost unrivalled diversity.
Flagey and Saint-Gilles
After another successful day sightseeing, it’s time to hit up some more of Brussels’ cool bars and nightlife spots. Flagey is a very popular place to head with Cafe Belga’s outdoor terrace always full of people drinking.
If you want to avoid the crush of dancers inside, Le Pantin and L’Amere a Boire are both more intimate and offer an extensive list of beers. Each Sunday morning, a farmers’ market takes over the large square outside.
A bit further away than Flagey is Saint-Gilles which is now one of the trendiest districts in the city. Lining its parvis are dozens of lively bars with Cafe Maison du Peuple and Brasserie de L’Union being two of the most popular and long-running.
Here you can enjoy everything from strong Chimays and Tripel Karmeliets to fruity krieks and gueuzes only made in Belgium.
Day 3 – Day Trip to Bruges and/or Ghent
Although you could spend weeks exploring the city, most people with 3 days in Brussels also fit in a trip to Bruges or Ghent on either their second or third day. As they are not huge cities, you can stop by both and see most of their main sights if you are a bit organised and leave early in the morning. You can organise a guided tour here.
Invariably described as a ‘fairytale town’ and the ‘Venice of the North’, Bruges is renowned for its enchanting cobbled streets and canals lined by medieval buildings. Due to its beauty, even visitors who only have 2 days in Brussels usually head here on their second day.
While it can get crowded (especially in summer), its well-preserved centre is definitely worth visiting with the Grote Markt acting as the heart of the old town. Towering over it and the rest of the city is the enormous Belfry of Bruges – one of its main landmarks.
Built in the thirteenth century, it reaches 83 metres in height with the top of the tower offering amazing views of all the fantastic old Flemish buildings and restaurants full of people below.
From here, it is just a minute’s walk to the Basilica of the Holy Blood on Burg Square. Aside from gazing in awe at its gorgeous Gothic Revival architecture, you can examine a precious old relic that is said to contain a cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ.
Right next to it is the stunning City Hall – yet another of Bruges’ incredible architectural gems that seem to appear almost everywhere. After snapping some photos of its ornate facade, a visit to the nearby Groenige Museum will take you through six centuries of fine Flemish art.
On the way back to the train station, make sure to stop by some local lace shops and amble along by some canals. Even if you only end up having four, five or six hours in the city, you’ll still see a lot as everything lies so close together and all its buildings look so beautiful.
Although it is larger and livelier than Bruges, Ghent arguably has fewer ‘must-see’ sights and a smaller centre so you don’t ‘need’ to spend so long here. Once you arrive, simply hop on a tram towards Eindhalte and get off at Korenmarkt in the historic centre.
From St. Michael’s Bridge, you can bask in divine views of the city’s three soaring towers, all lined up one behind the other before you.
After visiting St. Nicholas’ Church and the Belfry of Ghent, clamber up to the top of the largest of the three, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, for sweeping panoramas over the whole centre below. It also houses ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ – an impressive altarpiece made by Jan van Eyck in 1432.
Afterwards, you can visit the city’s twelfth-century castle ‘Het Gravensteen’ or sit with all the locals alongside the Graslei. You can also take relaxing and romantic river cruises along this part of its canals which provide an even better look at the elegant architecture on either side.
Before bringing your 3 days in Brussels (and Ghent and Bruges!) to a close, try and find the cosy Dulle Griet for one last Belgian beer.
Out of its 500, choose ‘Max Van Het Huis’ for your most memorable drink yet. As the glass is so special, you have to give up one of your shoes as collateral which is then hoisted to the ceiling. Just don’t forget to retrieve it before making your way back home!
Where to Stay in Brussels
Motel One Brussels – This centrally-located hotel is perfect for those on a mid-range budget visiting Brussels. There are a number of clean and comfortable rooms to choose from, a buffet breakfast and on-site bar available and a great location for exploring the city. Click here to see their availability
Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre – Those on the hunt for a luxury stay in the Belgian capital will love this plush hotel. There are a range of sophisticated rooms to choose from, an excellent breakfast available to guests, a number of lovely amenities and a fantastic, central location perfect for exploring the best of Brussels. Click here to see their availability
Appart’City Confort – If you’re after the convenience of your own apartment but still want the comfort and amenities offered by a hotel, then this is a great choice for you. They have a range of flats on offer and great services for guests to enjoy. Click here to see their availability
MEININGER Bruxelles City Center – This hostel is a good option for those looking to save a bit of cash when visiting Brussels. Offering both dorms and private rooms, they have a great location and good self-catering facilities, as well. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Brussels hotels!
So there you have it, the perfect Brussels itinerary! In just 2 or 3 days, you can see all the city’s main sites, venture off the beaten path and even see Bruges and Ghent too.
Are you planning to visit Brussels? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!