The capital of Belgium and Europe is the perfect destination for a city break. Although you can’t see everything in just 2 days, this handy 2 days in Brussels itinerary captures some of the highlights that you absolutely can’t miss. So if you want to know the best things to do and the best places to eat during a weekend in Brussels, read on!
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Sophie Cordery.
Top tips for spending 2 days in Brussels
If you live in the UK and want to visit Brussels, why not consider travelling by train or bus? The Eurostar from London takes less than two hours and I even took a Megabus when I was trying to save money!
Brussels is ideal, especially for those who haven’t been abroad before, as they speak English widely and it’s quite similar to London. Like all major capitals, it can be expensive but some simple planning can go a long way. As well as reading this 2 days in Brussels itinerary, you could buy a Brussels Card for 24, 48 or 72 hours. It gets you free access to all included museums as well as discounts to sightseeing attractions, shops, restaurants, bars, guided tours, and public transport. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some ideas for your first day in the city.
Day 1 of your 2 days in Brussels itinerary
Early morning: Breakfast at Peck 47
Address: Rue du Marche aux Poulets 47, Brussels 1000 Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 513 02 87
You’re going to need to get plenty of fuel because you’ll undoubtedly have a busy day ahead! If you begin with Grand Place, then you’re in luck as there are a plethora of cute cafes nearby where you can kick off your 2 days in Brussels with a hearty breakfast.
Peck 47 has lots of vegan and vegetarian options on its menu so there’ll be something for everyone to tuck into. Another great breakfast spot is Arcadi which does amazing omelettes and is conveniently right next to Jeanneke Pis. (Keep on reading if you want to find out what that is!) And if you want another snack later, the restaurants and cafes in the area serve some tasty Belgian waffles.
Late morning: Grand Place
Address: Grote Markt, 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 513 89 40
Now you’ve had something to eat, it’s time to head to the central square of the city. The Grand Place is surrounded by opulent buildings including the Town Hall and the Brussels City Museum where you can discover how Brussels emerged from two World Wars to become Europe’s capital. The Grand Place is the iconic picture of Brussels that you see on postcards because it’s absolutely stunning.
Every two years in August, there’s an enormous flower display in the square which attracts huge numbers of tourists. If you miss the Chelsea Flower Show, Brussels’s Flower Carpet is the next best thing! The square also lights up at night so check it out if you have the energy for an evening stroll.
As you’re wandering the streets around the Grand Place, you’ll find the Comic Book Route which is a path that takes you around various central districts and celebrates the city’s connection with comics. You’ll see large murals of characters like Tintin and The Smurfs and there’s even a Comic Strip Centre. The closest mural to the Grand Place is on Rue de l’Etuve which is on the way to the Manneken Pis.
Late morning: Manneken Pis
Address: 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Just a five-minute walk from the Grand Place lies the Manneken Pis, a famous bronze statue of a little boy that pretty much every single souvenir shop sells copies of. According to legends, when enemies surrounded Brussels, a little boy found a fuming fuse connected to some gunpowder which he urinated on and managed to save the city. Sometimes, you’ll find him wearing an outfit and he apparently has a wardrobe of over 1000 different looks!
If you’re really pressed for time, you can leave it off your 2 days in Brussels itinerary because it’s, well, just a statue. But it’s symbolic and it’s one of the most famous things to see in the country. (There’s also a statue of a girl called Jeanneke Pis and another one of a dog called Zinneke Pis, in case Manneken Pis wasn’t enough.)
Midday: Have a beer at Delirium Café
Address: Impasse de la Fidélité 4, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 514 44 34
If all the walking around leaves you feeling thirsty, pop into Delirium Café to rehydrate. It holds a Guinness World Record for the number of beers available with literally thousands on offer! If you’re like me and don’t particularly enjoy the taste of beer, I’d suggest trying Kriek which they traditionally brew in Brussels.
Kriek is made from sour cherries and smells like sweets but if you prefer raspberries, ask the bartender for ‘Framboise’ instead. For beer fans, there are several companies that offer beer (and chocolate) tours so you can top up your alcohol intake and learn something new at the same time. Win-win. There’s even a beer museum next to the Grand Place in case you want another excuse to return.
Midday: Lunch at Tonton Garby
Address: Rue Duquesnoy 6, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone number: +32 484 29 02 16
Time for lunch! Tonton Garby is Brussels’ best kept secret and it’s only a five-minute walk from Delirium! Cheese lovers will be in heaven here. A weekend in Brussels is practically incomplete without trying their impressive selection of sandwiches. The Trip Advisor reviews speak for themselves and it’s definitely a top lunch spot. The staff also take the time to suggest various options so you won’t go hungry if you end up here!
Early afternoon: European Quarter
Well worth a visit, the European Quarter is made up of lively squares including:
1. Place du Luxembourg – this is the place to go on a Thursday night as it’s where all the staff from the EU institutions meet for post-work drinks.
2. Place Jourdan – you can find Maison Antoine here which won a contest for being the best place to get fries back in 2018. Decide for yourself if it deserves the title!
3. Place Shuman – the centre of the Quartier Leopold which is Brussels’ main business and financial district.
4. Place Jean Rey – named after the President of the European Commission, it’s also full of trendy shops and local businesses.
Brussels is truly the heart of Europe. If you want to take a nostalgic moment, book a free visit to the Hemicycle, the Parlamentarium or the House of European History to learn about how European democracy and cooperation function. You can listen to talks, check out the exhibitions and even follow plenary sessions. If you visit in early May, you may also get to experience Europe Day celebrations where the EU institutions open their doors to the public. Just remember to bring your ID as security is tight!
However, the European Quarter is so much more than just administrative offices. It also features a great selection of museums, theatres and parks. For example, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences has the largest mammoth skeleton ever found in Belgium! If you want to eat here instead, The Restaurant by Pierre Balthazar is next door and even made it to the Michelin Guide.
Late afternoon: Royal Palace of Brussels
Address: Rue Brederode 16, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
After you’ve admired the European Quarter, head to the Royal Palace of Brussels. Although it’s only open for a short period during summer, it’s still nice to gaze at from outside the gates.
You can also take a peek inside the Museum of Musical Instruments next to the Palace which is a little pricey at €10 per adult. That being said, the permanent collections are free on the first Wednesday of each month so if you happen to be there at this time, then why not pop in? If you fancy seeing more Belgian palaces, you’ll also find Palais de Coudenberg and Palais d’Egmont nearby.
Late afternoon: Brussels Park
Address: 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 279 61 00
Known as the Royal Park for many years, this was the first public park in Brussels. I love parks as they offer a quiet spot to escape the craziness of city life. So if time permits, add ‘kicking back in Royal Park’ to your Brussels 2 day itinerary. Plus, it’s way cheaper to order food on the go and relax on a bench which is never a bad thing for your wallet.
I also have to give a quick shoutout to Cinquantenaire Park which car and military enthusiasts will love, thanks to a couple of museums there. The park is dominated by a huge arch monument at one end. Climb to the top of it for free and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views across Brussels and the European Quarter. If you’re in need of a light snack at Cinquantenaire, visit Berlaymont Café which serves delicious local cuisine.
Early evening: Dinner at Le Pêcheur
Address: Rue de la Fourche 33, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone number: +32 487 73 02 62
After a jam-packed start to your weekend in Brussels, you’re going to want a filling dinner. If you want something traditional, opt for ‘moules-frites’ aka mussels and fries, Belgium’s national dish. Le Pêcheur is about a ten-minute walk from Brussels Park and is reasonably priced. It specialises in seafood so where better to sample some mussels? But if you’re more of a lobster than mussels connoisseur, The Lobster House is next to Le Pêcheur and also gets great reviews without charging customers a fortune.
Day 2 of your 2 days in Brussels itinerary
Early morning: Breakfast at Exki
Obviously, breakfast options depend on where you’re staying but here are a few more suggestions in the centre. Exki does healthy self-service meals, perfect if you’re in a rush to head out and start the day. There are a few branches dotted around as well so you won’t have to walk too far to find one. Yuka Espresso Bar is also a great option for coffee and cake and it’s close to the Manneken Pis statue so you should be able to locate it easily.
Late morning: Atomium
Address: Square de l’Atomium, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 475 47 75
Just outside of the city is the Atomium, nine connected spheres that represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. The Atomium was built for the 1958 World Fair and soon became an icon of the city. It was supposed to be destroyed afterwards but it became so popular that it stayed for good. It’s also an iconic symbol of Brussels so even if you don’t buy a ticket, grab a few photos outside!
Midday: Lunch at the Atomium
Address: Square de l’Atomium, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 479 58 50
In the top sphere of the Atomium, there’s a restaurant with panoramic views and telescopes to help you see even further. I haven’t eaten here so I can’t say what the food’s actually like but the views do look spectacular.
If you’re getting sick of seafood and fries, Tommy Pub and Lounge is roughly fifteen minutes away and has lots of Romanian dishes on offer. However, if you don’t fancy walking that far, Salon 58 is next to the Atomium and its interior decor makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a forest. It’s quite expensive for lunch but the location makes it super convenient.
Early afternoon: Laeken Park
Address: 1020 Brussels, Belgium
The Atomium is on the outskirts of Laeken Park, somewhere you absolutely have to visit during your weekend in Brussels. The park was laid out in the “English style” between 1876 and 1880 by landscape architect, Edouard Keilig. It’s a great spot to take photos of the Atomium from a distance and you can also spend some time at the other sites like the Japanese Tower and the Chinese Pavilion.
The Royal Greenhouses, built by King Leopold II, are open to visitors for three weeks a year and contain a number of rare and valuable plants. FYI, Laeken Palace is also located here, but don’t confuse it with the Royal Palace. It’s the official residence of the royal family and for obvious reasons, isn’t open to the public.
Early afternoon: Mini-Europe
Address: Avenue du Football 1, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 474 13 13
Next to the Atomium is Mini-Europe and you can buy a combined ticket to see both. If you don’t have the time or budget to interrail around Europe, look no further! Mini-Europe will let you see the continent’s most eye-catching landmarks in just a few hours. From Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower, this whistle-stop tour has got it all. Or just about all. There are over 350 monuments selected for their architectural quality and their European symbolism. It’s well worth adding this attraction to your Brussels 2 day itinerary!
Late afternoon: Planetarium of Brussels
Address: Avenue de Bouchout 10, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 474 70 50
A short walk from the Atomium you’ll find The Planetarium, a magical place to discover the beauty of the starry sky. It’s one of the oldest and largest planetariums of Europe, making it an integral part of Belgian heritage. Tickets cost €7 or you can also buy combined tickets to this and Mini Europe. But this is one of the many places included in the Brussels Card so it’s worth a visit if you’ve paid for the privilege anyway.
Late afternoon: Waterloo
Address: Route du Lion, 1420 Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium
For anyone heading from Brussels to Charleroi Airport, Waterloo lies between the two and could be an interesting way to finish your weekend in Brussels itinerary. Of course, you can also catch a train or bus from the centre as well. Waterloo is a place full of history and the first thing you’ll see as you approach the battlefield is the impressive Lion’s Mound, the famous hill with a lion statue on top. You have to climb up 226 steps to reach the top but once you’re there, the views are incredible.
At the foot of Lion’s Mount is the Waterloo Battlefield Visitor Centre, also known as Waterloo Memorial 1815. There are also many other sites in the area so you definitely won’t get bored. In fact, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the time so you don’t get carried away and miss your flight!
Dinner at Little Paris or Charleroi Airport
Address: Chaussée de Bruxelles 89, 1410 Waterloo, Belgium
Phone number: +32 2 354 84 57
Finish off your Brussels 2 day itinerary with some yummy grub. There are plenty of places to eat in Waterloo such as Little Paris which also made it to the Michelin Guide for its French cuisine. You might not have expected Waterloo to have options like that but foodies won’t be left disappointed.
South Charleroi Airport also has convenience shops, beer bars, Italian restaurants and more. If you’ve depleted your holiday budget, you can grab a cheap bite to eat at Burger King or enjoy a final serving of Belgian fries at Fritapapa before heading home.
That brings me to the end of my 2 days in Brussels itinerary. It’s a seriously beautiful city that I have many fond memories of. If your trip lasts a little longer, why not visit somewhere like Antwerp, Ypres, Bruges or Ghent? You could even extend your Brussels 2 day itinerary to take day trips to Germany, The Netherlands and Luxembourg if you want to cross off a few more places. The trains are easy to navigate and the staff inside the stations speak English in case you need some assistance. Enjoy your weekend in Brussels!