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Chocolate shops, beer, delicious food, astonishing architecture, museums, parks, and plenty of other fun things to do and see – what more does a traveler need when going on a city break? That’s what you’ll get in the lovely Belgian capital. Though two days in Brussels don’t sound like a lot of time, fear not. It is an extremely walkable city, so it is possible to achieve a lot, even in only 48 hours.
2 DAYS IN BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – WHERE TO STAY
Brussels is a compact city, so most of the accommodation is within easy reach of the main attractions and the city center.
2GO4 Quality Hostel Brussels Grand Place: Located only a minute away from the main square, the Grand Place, this hostel offers dorms with a private bathroom and lockers, shared kitchen and lounge, and free coffee and tea all day long. Browse prices and availability here.
Hotel La Grande Cloche: Housed in a 19th-century building, this central hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms, 24/7 reception, optional breakfast, and an on-site restaurant and bar. Read more about it and check availability.
The Dominican: This 4-star boutique hotel offers a fantastic location, an excellent breakfast, an on-site restaurant and bar, and of course – clean and comfortable deluxe/executive rooms and suites. Browse the latest prices here.
BRUSSELS CARD – WORTH IT OR NOT?
The user-friendly 48-hour Brussels Card offers free access to almost all the museums, as well as discounted tourist attractions, restaurants, chocolate shops, walking tours, and much more. BUT should you get it?
If you’re not changing anything on this itinerary, I don’t think you need to buy it. However, if you take some of the suggestions I added (in the ‘other things to do’ section of this post) and visit some more museums, you should definitely get a Brussels Card that will save you money and let you visit them for free.
You can purchase your Brussels Card in advance online here (either print the voucher or store it on your phone until you exchange it for the card itself in one of the offices in the city). If you buy an add on transport (STIB) card, you can also travel free for 48 hours on any mode of public transport. Get your upgraded Brussels Card here.
Looking for more European city break itineraries? Check out:
TWO DAYS IN BRUSSELS – DAY ONE
STOP 1: BREAKFAST
What would a European city break be without some relaxing morning time at a local cafe? Be the first to reach the cozy JAT Cafe in the Royal Quarter, for a simple yet tasty breakfast of coffee, juice, eggs, bagels, and more.
Address: Rue de Namur, 28.
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 8:30 AM – 4 PM, Saturday 10 AM – 4 PM.
STOP 2: ROYAL PALACE
Thereon, you can stroll down to the well-manicured Parc de Bruxelles to admire the statues and enjoy sweeping views of the Royal Palace and the Palace of the Nation (which is also close to the 11th-century Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula).
The Royal Palace lies just across the street, and if you’re visiting in summer, you’ll be happy to know that it opens its doors to the public from July 21st to August 25th each year (excluding Mondays). On these dates from 10:30 AM till 3:45 PM (last entry, closure at 5 PM), you can visit the palace for free.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is also the administrative office of the king, will remain etched in your mind for long. Enjoy the decor of the Empire Room and other classically decorated chambers in the palace.
STOP 3: OLD ENGLAND BUILDING (MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS MUSEUM) AND LUNCH
Exit the palace and head to the beautiful Old England Building (Rue Montagne de la Cour, 2) to see the most extensive collection of musical instruments in the world. Take the elevator to the tenth floor and enjoy a fabulous all-you-can-eat buffet lunch at the rooftop cafe.
Price: €10 (Free with the Brussels Card, which will also give you one free coffee with your lunch).
Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Saturday – Sunday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
STOP 4: GRAND PLACE
The next stop is one of the most stunning squares in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Grand Place. It’s surrounded by architecturally mesmerizing buildings, including the city’s Town Hall and the Brussels City Museum.
The symbol of the civilized city of Brussels is the 17th-century bronze statue of a boy – Manneken Pis, which you will come across in most souvenir shops. The original is located not very far from the Grand Place (on the corner of Rue de l’Étuve and Rue du Chêne) and depicts a chirpy little fellow peeing away merrily.
Super fun fact: The statue is dressed on fixed dates, and his wardrobe actually contains more than 900 pieces, some of which you can see in this unique museum.
STOP 5: EXPLORING THE CITY CENTER
Once you are done gawking at the pissing statue, you will notice the city center has some walls displaying comic strips. The sides of the buildings are adorned with over 60 such paintings of famous comic characters like Tin Tin, Asterix & Obelix, and more (check them all out here).
Going street art hunting while wandering the city center’s streets is an absolute must when exploring Brussels in two days.
STOP 6: SHOPPING
Next, you can walk across to Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (Galerie du Roi, 5), the first shopping arcade in Europe, dating back to 1847. This stunning gallery is sure to take up the rest of the day.
STOP 7: DINNER
To end your epic day one in style, savor a delicious Belgian dinner at Le Marmiton (Rue des Bouchers, 43), adjacent to the shopping mall. Be sure to make a reservation online.
TWO DAYS IN BRUSSELS – DAY TWO
STOP 1: BREAKFAST
Depending on where you’ve chosen to stay, here are a few fantastic places to have your morning coffee:
- OR Coffee (can’t believe someone named their cafe after me): Rue Auguste Orts, 9.
- Kaffabar: Place Rouppe, 1.
- My Little Cup: Rue de la Croix de Fer, 53.
STOP 2: PARC DE LAEKEN
After a tiring first day, it’s time to have a relaxing outing and unwind on day two. You need to first take the Metro/tram to Laeken, a suburb of Brussels, to reach the iconic Parc de Laeken. Tram number 3 goes from the city center to De Wand station, which is located near the park.
Established more than a hundred years ago, Parc de Laeken is a huge open green area with a large number of attractions such as the Japanese Pavilion, the Château de Laeken, and the Royal Greenhouse (€2.5 entry).
STOP 3: LUNCH
There aren’t many restaurants in the area (unless you don’t mind some extra walking), so head to Salon 58 (Avenue de l’Atomium, 6), which offers a unique setting and views of the park.
STOP 4: THE ATOMIUM
The grandest of the crowd pullers in Brussels is undoubtedly the Atomium, so restrict most of your day two for it. Ironically, it was supposed to be dismantled after the initial use, just like the Eiffel tower of Paris, but with its increasing popularity over time, it was decided to let it stand.
The Atomium provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. Originally constructed in 1958 for the world expo, the building currently houses a museum and art center and is one of the most visited attractions in Europe.
Price: €16. You must get your ticket in advance online because the ticket office is temporarily closed.
Opening Hours: Thursday – Monday 10 AM – 6 PM.
STOP 5: MINI EUROPE
Located just below the Atomium, Mini Europe should be your next stop. It is the only park that showcases the entire continent in just a couple of hours. Hear the chimes of Big Ben as you pass through London and soak in the charm of Venice, complete with mandolins and gondolas.
There are over 350 models of excellent craftsmanship that depict animated important events with sound and visuals, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, and many more that you can’t find anywhere else.
STOP 6: DINNER
As I’ve mentioned, this area is not packed with restaurants like the city center, so for great food, walk a few minutes from Mini Europe and get to La Divine Moustache (Romeinsesteenweg, 750).
OTHER FUN THINGS TO ADD TO YOUR 2-DAY BRUSSELS ITINERARY
If you want to mix things up and change this itinerary a bit, check out these suggestions for other things to do in Brussels in 2 days.
TAKE A WALKING TOUR OR TWO
I didn’t always like walking tours, because I prefer exploring a city on my own. BUT over the last couple of years, I’ve tried quite a few unique tours and had great experiences, so now, I always try to find some interesting themed tours. Here are a few highly-rated ones in Brussels:
Belgian beer tasting tour: We all know that Belgian beers are some of the best in the world, so this is a must-have experience. Check out this 2.5-hour tour that includes 4 tastings, this 3-hour tour that includes 6 tastings, or this 4-hour tour that includes 8 tastings and some of the city’s landmarks.
Belgian chocolate-themed tours: If Belgium is not the place to indulge yourself with mountains of chocolate, I don’t know which country is. Check out this chocolate tasting tour, this chocolate making workshop, and a 4-hour combo tour of chocolate tastings + workshop!
Free alternative Brussels tour: Explore the unique Marolles district with a guide.
Free Art Nouveau tour: Discover some of the city’s most beautiful buildings.
VISIT A FEW OTHER MUSEUMS
This city is home to some amazing museums, so here are a few interesting suggestions you can add to your 2-day Brussels itinerary (all can be visited for free with the Brussels Card):
- Comics Art Museum and MOOF Museum: Two super fun and quirky museums dedicated to comic artists and characters.
- Choco-Story: Who doesn’t love a good old chocolate museum? You can buy your ticket online, at the museum itself, or get a Brussels Card and visit for free.
- Jewish Museum of Belgium.
- Magritte Museum: Holds the famous Belgian artist’s largest collection in the world!
- The Beer Museum of the Belgian Brewers: Showcasing the history of Belgian beer.
- Toy Museum: An impressive collection of about 25,000 toys, when the oldest one dates back to 1830 (not gonna lie – there’s something a bit creepy about old toys).
- Museum of Natural Sciences (one of the museums in Europe that also offer virtual tours).
- Halle Gate: A medieval fairytale-like building that houses a history museum and offers panoramic views over the city.
WANDER AROUND THE CITY’S MARKETS
I just love wandering around local markets when I’m traveling. Even if I’m not buying anything, I like seeing the local produce and doing some people watching (not in a creepy way, obviously). Here are a few markets to check out in Brussels:
- Market of Midi (Boulevard du Midi): Only operating on Sundays from 7 AM till 1 PM, it is the 3rd largest market in Europe!
- Jeu de Balle Square’s Flea Market: Open every day from 7 AM to 2 PM.
- Grand Sablon Antique Market: Operating on weekends only.
VISIT A FEW OTHER PARKS AND GARDENS
From the Botanical Garden of Brussels to Stuyvenberg Park to Cinquantenaire Park, there’s no shortage of green areas in this beautiful city.
WHERE TO EAT IN BRUSSELS
Quality dining is a specialty in Brussels. Having said that, it is important to know where the prices are fair and preferred by locals to steer clear of tourist traps. Rather than looking for a particular dish, choose an area that has a good atmosphere and offers different cuisines.
For the best Belgian, French, or Italian food, the Place du Chatelain area along Rue du Page has a mix of some lively restaurants. Another great place to dine out is on the road adjacent to the church of St Boniface. Here you will find a line of diners waiting for their turn, especially during weekends from evening onwards. Small restaurants serving food and beverages can also be found around Palace Stephaine.
Mussels and fries are the firm Belgian favorites and must be tried, along with a local glass of beer. Belgium produces over 400 different varieties, suitable for every palate, even for those who don’t relish the drink.
To give you an idea of costs, a meal in a standard restaurant will cost you around €16 whereas a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant is around €60. Don’t forget the local brews averaging €4.
GETTING FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY CENTER
Compared to other European airports, the Zaventem International Airport is just 12 km from the city and brings you to the city center in less than thirty minutes. Trains leave the airport every ten minutes from 5 AM to 12 AM and take just 18 minutes till Brussels Central Station. Keep time reserved for the trip from the station to your hotel. Tickets can be purchased online or at the platform itself for €18.20.
Private taxis are also available for around €45, but be sure to look only for licensed taxis, which can be identified by the yellow-blue license marks.
Your cheapest option is taking the bus, either on route 272 or 471, which brings you to the city center in around thirty minutes, depending on the traffic density, and costs around €3.
*The photos in this post are from Unsplash.
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