48 Hours In Brussels: 2-Day Belgium Itinerary To See, Eat & Explore

48 Hours In Brussels: 2-Day Belgium Itinerary To See, Eat & Explore
Adelaide
Adelaide  
Contributing Writer
Published
| 5 min read

Brussels is an unofficial international city and expatriate oasis, due to the almost 45,000 EU and NATO personnel working in the city. For travelers, this is fantastic, because it is accompanied by a warm and open spirit. Brussels is also a foodie city, with 148 restaurants per square mile, so come hungry, come curious, and come willing to explore.

Each Brussels neighborhood has its own feeling and charm — you will get the most out of your visit if you walk around and get a feel for the different areas. St. Gilles is a hip district with distinctive architecture and an artsy feel. There are great spots that are usually only frequented by locals. Even if you don’t have much time, or it’s freezing, windy and rainy, take a stroll through the neighborhood. One of Brussels’ most well-known and talked about attractions is the Manneken Pis (peeing boy statue); similar to the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, it has been stolen, it gets dressed up, and is a source of entertainment. However, if you are on the lookout, Brussels is full of unusual statues that are just as interesting and worth photographing. Keep your eyes open for the unusual, it is all around you.

The sights of Brussels

Town Hall at Night

Brussels is an easy to walk city, which is an excellent way to see everything. The must-see of Brussels are the Grote Markt / Grand Place (remember that there is both a Flemmish and French influence in Belgium). The Grand Place is a stunning square, which also includes the Gothic Brussels Town Hall. It is spectacular enough that you should see it twice, once during the day to see the detail and once at night to see it in lights. The Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the market square is cobbled, bringing Medieval images immediately to your mind. From March to October, there is a daily flower show in the market square and concerts and light shows at night. Every two years, during the third week of August, Belgian begonia cultivators decorate the Grand Place with a flower carpet, rumored to be 750,000 begonias and 3,200 square feet (297.28 square meters) of dramatic plant-artwork. 2016 is the year, mark your calendars!

The Mont de Arts (Hill of the Arts) is near Parc de Bruxelles (the Brussels Park), and offers perhaps the best view of the city. Since you are on the top of a hill, you can easily see the tower of Brussels Town Hall in the Grand Place. If it is sunny (it was not when I was there) you can see the Koekelberg Basilica and even the Atomium can be seen. Come here for the stunning view and take in some surprising statues as well. The Mont de Arts is located within easy walking distance of other indoor tourist attractions. If it is rainy and you need to dry off: the Musical Instrument Museum, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the Royal Palace, and Cathedral of St. Michael and Saint Gudula.

Coudenberg is castle ruins now underground. It offers tours to discover what is left of the palace of Charles V. The palace caught on fire in the mid 18th century, and eventually became part of the construction for the archaeological site. Current excavations are showcased during the tour and it is well worth it for anyone who dreamed of being Indiana Jones as a child or as an adult. Tickets are 6 EUR (about 8 USD).

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula or ‘Collegiale Sint-Michiels- en Sint-Goedele-co-kathedraal’ in Dutch and Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Koekelberg Basilica) are must see locations, even if you only walk by the outside and don’t enter. The Cathedral was named after the patron saint of Brussels. Saint Michael is the Guardian of the Catholic Church and, as mentioned earlier, also the patron saint of Brussels ever since the Middle Ages. In Catholic writings, Saint Michael the Archangel is the defender of the Church, fighting Satan and helping lost souls in their final hours. The Cathedral is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture and has the stained glass windows to match. The Basilica on the other hand, is Art Deco and looks more like St. Petersburg than Brussels. It is worth a visit for the unusual style.

The tastes of Brussels

Mont de Arts
Source: Adelaide March

Waffles, beer, and chocolate are what most people think of when they think of Brussels. Brussels was also the first city to invent chips or french fries. If you are up for stepping off the tourist path, Rue de l'Enseignement has a variety of excellent Brussels restaurants. The Bier Circus claims to have 500 different beers offered. The waiter will hand you a menu that looks more like a book, you may just want to ask what he or she recommends and try that. You likely will not be led astray.

Rue de Bouchers is known for atmosphere, you take a mini journey back in time, when the shops had decorated doorways, stepped gables, and cafes and restaurants displayed mounds of seafood atop a fortress of ice. The street has delicious restaurants at most price points, and it worth straying off the tourist path. Two of the most well known restaurants are Chez Leon and Aux Armes de Bruxelles.

If you are specifically looking for waffles, be wary of the tourist area waffle shops. Belgians rarely drench their waffles in chocolate with crazy toppings. The best and most authentic, as recommended by local Belgians to me, were from Maison Dandoy. These were a taste sensation and worth the visit. The Waffle Factory, also got rave reviews, but was not as authentic. Similarly, Leonidas is where Belgians buy their chocolates from, but the fancy chocolate is from Maison Dandoy, Fredric Blondeel, or Pierre Marcolini.

Leuven

Leven Main Square
Source: Pixabay.com

Although not technically in Brussels, this charming city about a thirty minute train ride from Brussels Nord, is coated in old world European charm. Dedicate 8 hours of your 48 hours in Brussels and you will leave feeling enchanted and fulfilled. Leuven’s beauty is other-worldly. Arrive at the train station, wander down the pedestrian footpath immediately in front of you. Shopping will be omnipresent, but if you look closely enough, you’ll see the University Library (far prettier than most libraries). Shortly thereafter, you will arrive at the main square. The Cathedral is the obvious attraction and impossible to miss. The stunning architecture will leave you breathless, no matter what your beliefs. Have lunch in the shadow of the Cathedral, then wander down the student bar street and see City Hall. Along the way, take care to notice the sculptures in interesting poses and imagine the life stories the sculptures tell. A return ticket is about 5 EUR (6 USD).

Dance in the rain

No matter what, Brussels offers enough attractions to fill your weekend. Maximize your time and make the most of it. Do remember that the weather can be a bit unpredictable, the wind will be enough to over turn your umbrella. Dress warm and try to ensure you are adequately layered for a day of running around Belgium’s capital. You won’t regret it.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Adelaide’s lifestyle is defined by wanderlust and she is a self-proclaimed “experience-junkie”. She adopted a nomadic lifestyle, fueled by the desire to see new places and experiences all the world...Read more

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