Brussels is an amazing city and while there is a ton to see, 24 hours in Brussels is totally possible. These 11 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 have extra time, you can see Brussels in a weekend, adding an extra day.
24 Hours in Brussels
There are so many things to do in Brussels so get ready, set, go!
11 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 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 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.
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 itself 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.
Food And Drink
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.
And 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.
Notable mention: 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 11 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?