Brussels is an amazing city and while there is a ton to see, 24 hours in Brussels is totally possible. These 12 places to visit in one day will definitely keep you busy, but you won’t regret a single thing.
Brussels will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s where I studied abroad and my true love affair with travel began. Even though I studied abroad five years ago, I’ve been back to Brussels a number of times and each time I think I fall in love with it more.
Brussels gets a lot of tourism, but it’s certainly not as popular as other cities like London, Paris or Barcelona. Personally, I think its one of my favorite European cities and I could easily go back over and over again.
If you’re looking for more things to do, check out this awesome guide of weird and unusual things to do in Brussels.
24 Hours in Brussels
There are so many things to do in Brussels so get ready, grab your camera and let’s get to it!
12 Places to Visit in One Day
The first time I saw Grand Place I was overwhelmed by its beauty. The gothic architecture, the cobblestone, the spire that juts up into the sky, it just felt magical. This should be your very first stop when you star the clock on 24 hours in Brussels.
The origins of Grand Place go back as far as the 10th century and it’s also an Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s not hard to see why. There’s nothing quite this amazing in all of Europe, in my opinion.
This small bronze statue is a famous landmark in Brussels and frankly, it’s incredibly weird and you should definitely go. It’s just down an alley right off of Grand Place so it’s easy to get to.
The statue dates back to the 14oos and has a solid history of continually being stolen. In 1817, having been stolen numerous times, it finally was broken into 11 pieces, but thankfully a welder was able to piece it back together.
In 1965 (I’m telling you, this story is neverending), the statue was stolen once again, broken off at the ankles, and found in the Charleroi Canal. It was once again restored, but this time the city had the good sense to keep it locked up. So now, the original (if you can even call it that) can be found in the Museum of the City of Brussels and what you see on the street is an identical replica.
A must-see if you’re in Brussels for one day.
This odd building is often forgotten when people come to visit Brussels, but it shouldn’t be! Built for the 1958 World’s Fair, this giant structure is in the shape of an atom and you can go inside and enjoy the views stretching across the city and Belgium.
It costs €12 to go up to the top of the Atomium and the views are really quite lovely. However, if you’re not sure you can justify that price for just some views, you also get entrance to multiple exhibitions within each of the spheres of the atom.
There’s an exhibit on the building of the Atomium from the design process through the actual construction, exhibits on Sabena, the national airline of Brussels from 1923 to 2001 as well as some about Brussels history.
Do take note since you’re on a time constraint (24 hours is a lot of time but it’s not endless!) that the Atomium is a little outside of the city center. It will likely take you about 30 minutes to get there depending on where you start.
I come to this museum every time I’m in Brussels and I never tire of it. It’s totally free and it’s really interactive, making it much more fun than your average museum. You’ll get an audio guide and I strongly recommend that you take it because without it you won’t actually get to learn anything, as you have to touch your guide to each part to learn about it.
There are photos from various European countries dating as far back as a century, history of the European Union, videos on how laws are passed, screens where you can listen to interviews with individuals from different European countries and even an interactive map on the floor that teaches you about each European country.
If there’s one place to visit in your one day – it’s this.
This little square by the Justice Court and at the start of Avenue Louise has some of the best views in all of Brussels. There’s a little glass elevator that can take you from the square down to the lower level of the street (Brussels is quite hilly in this area).
Seeing as this view costs you nothing and is near other sights you’d probably want to see, there’s no reason to not wander over and have a look. You’ll be able to see the spire from Grand Place and even the Atomium off in the distance.
Conveniently right in front of Place Poelaert is the Justice Court, a building that seems to have been under scaffolding since forever. Construction started back in 1866 and was built by Joseph Poelaert (see the connection now?).
Damaged by the Germans in WWII, most of the building was restored, but in 2003 they began a further restoration. However, it has yet to be completed. It’s currently the largest courthouse in the world.
Built in 1847 as a monumental avenue, this street is beautiful and highly expensive. You’ll find Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and more. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s a great street to simply window shop. If you’re there in nice weather in spring or summer, the chestnut trees that line the street should be in full bloom.
Jardin du Mont des Arts
This is another one of my favorite views in Brussels, located near the Royal Palace looking out at Grand Place. The square itself is very pretty and in nice weather, it’s a lovely area to just relax by.
For me, this is one of the most iconic Brussels views and I could honestly sit there forever just looking at it. The spire from Grand Place perfectly in the center, surrounded by beautiful buildings and a lovely, Royal-like garden. It’s pretty magnificent.
The Royal Palace
The official residence of the royal family, the Royal Palace is right in the center of the city. Construction began in 1783 and it’s a beautiful building you can admire while walking around. It’s typically open for a few days in the summer for you to tour, but if you’re only spending 24 hours in Brussels you may not have the chance.
This neighborhood in the center of Brussels is teeming with activity but has two sights in particular that stand out. While Brussels has many parks and green spaces, Square du Petit Sablon is a very quiet one and I love the secluded feel to it.
My favorite thing to do in cities is to find quiet little green spaces away from all the hustle and bustle that makes you completely forget where you are, and this little park is certainly one of them.
The second must-see sight here is Èglise Notre-Dame du Sablon. I do tend to think all churches look more or less the same, but this one in particular stands out to me. I think what makes it seem so impressive is this gorgeous church just hides away right smack in the center of the city, right one the street, but still manages to blend in.
Brussels has so many parks and it’s what makes it such a livable and awesome city. While there’s no Tiergarten or Central Park equivalent, the number of parks means you’ll never be bored and you’ll be spoiled with choice.
Park Leopold, named after the former king, and Parc du Cinquantenaire are my two favorites.
With only 24 hours in Brussels, you’ll probably just have to pick one park but grab some delicious food (i.e. fries) and you can have your self a mini picnic.
Where to Eat and Drink with 24 Hours in Brussels
No list about Brussels would be complete without talking about all of the delicious things you can eat and all the many things you can wash it down with. Of all the reasons to visit Brussels, this is by far the biggest one. From the amazing frites to Belgian waffles and Belgian chocolate, you may just gain 10 pounds while visiting.
Drinking in Brussels
Let’s not forget about amazing Belgian beer. My personal favorite for trying beer is Delirium and Little Delirium. Delirium has more than 2,000 beers available and the entire place is decorated with beer memorabilia. It’s not just about the drinks, it’s about the experience.
A La Mort Subite is another amazing drinking establishment that transports you back in time to the 20s with creaking stairs and walls filled with yellowing photos.
Au Daringman is another really cool drinking establishment in Brussels because it’s one of the few brown cafes still remaining. They’re called this because the years of smoking tabacco have stained the walls a brownish tint. Lovely, right? We like to call it old world charm.
Fries, Waffles, Chocolate and other Eats in Brussels
You can get fries and waffles from pretty much any vendor throughout the city – they will be delicious and cheap.
Never spend more than €2 on a waffle because €2 seems to be the going rate and you don’t want to get ripped off. If you go somewhere like the Waffle Factory you are going to pay more, but your waffle isn’t going to taste any different than the ones you can buy at kiosks in the street. You’ll find the majority in the narrow alleys off Grand Place – same with frites.
Looking where to eat delicious chocolate in Brussels? For starters, you should head to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. Then you can buy delicious chocolate from Neuhaus or Leonidas as they’re the most popular in the city. Also, be sure to check out Pierre Marcolini as well.
Where to Stay with 24 Hours in Brussels
If you plan to stay overnight with your 24 hours then you may be wondering where the best areas to stay in the city are, especially for first-time visitors.
I mention this little-known neighborhood first because this is where I lived and I can highly recommend it. No, it’s not right smack in the middle of everything, but it’s got fantastic links to the city center (only 10 minutes away), beautiful streets and far fewer tourists.
You’ll also pay a lot less if you stay in Ixelles.
A more upscale neighborhood, Sablon is famous for its winding streets and cute cafes. It’s the perfect place to be if you’re looking for something central and with personality, but without the high price tag of some of the other far more upscale neighborhoods.
Sort of the business neighborhood of Brussels, this is the perfect location if you’re traveling to Brussels for work. It’s still well connected to all the must-see sights, but will likely be more central for where you need to be. It’s also just got a totally different vibe to the rest of Brussels that’s worth experiencing.
This multicultural area of Brussels is popular among the younger generations and, dare I say, a hip place to be. I don’t know, I’m not young any more guys, I don’t know what kids say these days.
This is probably the most expensive neighborhood on the list with the street lined with stores like Prada and Louis Vuitton. This is a great area to be if you’re looking for the luxurious side to Brussels combined with historic architecture.
The central area for Brussels night life, this is the perfect neighborhood for visitors looking to have a bit of fun while still being centrally located. I can say with certainty, almost every night during the 6 months I lived in Brussels, this area is where we went. There is more than enough to keep you occupied for a year, let alone 24 hours.
Notable Mentions for One Day in Brussels
Bruxelles Central train station with its amazing architecture. This is also the best place to grab trains to other amazing cities in Belgium. For example, check out this Brussels and Bruge itinerary.
If these 12 places to visit in Brussels in one day don’t convince you to go to this magical land of food and drink and amazing architecture, I’m not sure what will. Have you been? What are your favorite reasons to visit Brussels?