Brussels Belgium is a city of both old and modern facades. This city is one of my favorite cities to visit in Europe. In fact I come to Brussels once in a year, for work, conference, or simply to enjoy a weekend break from the Netherlands. It is quite easy to go to Brussels either by train or by bus from the Netherlands. In less than 3 hours from Amsterdam, you are already in Brussels. I can say that Brussels is a very international city. Three languages are being spoken in this city: Dutch, German and French, in addition to English. However, majority are speaking French in Brussels since the city is already close to France. Brussels is also an important city in Europe since the seat of the European Parliament is situated here. Therefore you can find flags of many countries around the city.
Touring Brussels Belgium in one day is quite easy. You can visit Brussels when coming from Brugge, Antwerp or Ghent, or vice versa. These three Northern Belgian cities are also the popular cities to visit in Belgium. If you want to know more about these cities, you can read my blog about Antwerp (using this link), Brugge (this link) and Ghent (this link). Unlike Brussels, the most spoken language in the Northern Belgian cities are Dutch, since they are located close to the Netherlands. If you are staying in Brussels, there are various accommodations ranging from hostels, apartments, and high-end hotels to choose from. Funny enough, I have tried all these accommodations since I visited Brussels for seven times in seven consecutive years! The hostels, apartments, and hotels in Brussels can be booked via booking.com or hostelworld.com. For hotels, we have tried Radisson Blu and Hilton Brussels Grand Palace. These two hotels are either very close or located to the city center of Brussels. In this blog, I will give some recommendations on the places to visit for a one day trip in Brussels Belgium.
One Day Itinerary in Brussels Belgium
1. Grand Palace Brussels
The Grand Palace is the central square of Brussels and is enlisted as part of the UNESCO World Heritage. This square is surrounded by beautifully designed architectures such as guild houses, city hall, and the Maison du Roi (the royal household). The Grand Palace has been a witnessed to the dark side of history too. Several inquisitions, such as the burning of first martyr protestants and the beheading of counts Egmont and Hoorn, and the firing of cannon balls during the war of the League of Augsbourg were events in the Grand Palace. Nowadays, the Grand Palace is famous for flower events that is held every two years during August.
2. Brussels’ City Hall
The city hall of Brussels is the remaining medieval structure in the Grand Palace. The wings of this Gothic designed city hall were made in different time period, as part of the expansion plan. The east wing (to the left when facing front) was built in 1401 and 1421. The expansion of the east wing was built in 1444 while the west wing was built around 1452. The bombardment of the City Hall during the wars with the French has led to destruction of the Town Hall and its archives and art collections. This lead to the restoration of the City Hall during the 19th century.
3. Manneken pis
The mannekin pis, which has more than 900 suits and is adored during big events, is a famous emblem of Brussels. This fountain structure historically represents the distribution of drinking water in Europe since the 15th century. It also represents the survival of bombardment of Brussels during the 1695. The historical representations were then transformed into folklore and legends.
According to some, the mannekin pis represents a little boy who puts fire in his tinkle to save the city from being burnt. Other says it represents the two year old Lord Duke Godfrey III of Leuven, who was hung from the tree as a sign of good luck to his troops in fighting the enemies. While the other legend says that mannekin pis represents the son of a noble who peed in the witch’s house, made the witch angry and therefore turned the son into statues. Regardless of the story behind it, make sure to visit this bronze statue of the peeing boy in a fountain. If you are also interested with the female counterpart of the mannekin pis, you can also visit the “Jeanneke pis” which is very close to the Grand Palace.
4. St. Michael and St. Gudula cathedral
This medieval Roman catholic cathedral is dedicated to Saints Michael and Gudula, the patron saints of the city of Brussels. This Gothic style cathedral was built during the13th century and took 300 years to finish. This cathedral took the status as the main catholic church of Brussels. Since this cathedral is very close to the city center and opens between early in the morning and late in the evening, it is a good idea to combine your visit here with the Grand Palace.
5. Royal Palace of Brussels
The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the King and Queen of Brussels, yet it is not used as a royal residence since the royal family is living in the Royal Palace of Laeken located in the northern part of Brussels. The royal palace is located in the Brussels park and therefore can be combined when visiting this park.
6. Parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Park or Royal Park)
The Brussels Park is the largest public park in the city. The park area is around 13 hectares and is surrounded by palace buildings. In the past, it was used as a hunting ground by the Duke of Brabant. In addition to many sculptures, a few public buildings are also located in the park, such as the Royal Park Theater, Vauxhall of Brussels (meeting and concert venue), Vauxhall bandstand, and water basis.
7. Parc du Cinquantenaire (Jubilee Park) Brussels Belgium
The Parc du Cinquantenaire is a 30 hectare park that features the prominent Cinquantenaire Arch. Based on the name itself (Park of the fiftieth anniversary or jubilee park), the park commemorates the 50 years of Belgian independence during the time of King Leopold II. The park has many tranquil places to visit. If you are a family with children, bringing your kids in this park is a good thing since there are playgrounds for children ages between 3-7 years olf and from 7-12 years old.
8. Atomium Brussels Belgium
Atomium is a modern international symbol of Brussels and of Belgium. This is originally constructed for a Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. From the Grand Palace, it takes around 35 minutes by bus to reach Atomium. The atomium is one of the most popular attraction in Brussels and it serves as a museum, art center and cultural place.
When in Brussels, you should also not forget to enjoy some typical Belgian stuff. These include eating Belgian waffles and fries, enjoying your glass of beer especially during the warm weather, eating your Belgian chocolates, and of course, enjoying some Belgian delicacies such as Stofvlees (Braised beef) and Chicons au Gratin (Ham and andive gratin).