We visited Brussels for my birthday, and took the Eurostar from London. It was a really easy journey and much better than flying as it took roughly the same time but was much more comfortable and there was no waiting around at an airport! It also meant we could travel at night after work, meaning the next day we had a full day to start exploring and didn’t waste any time travelling (or using any annual leave either!).
We arrived in the snow (as with so many of our European adventures) and explored the main areas of the city in the 2 days we had. It wasn’t a city that left its mark on me like Budapest or Berlin, but it was great to explore.
Brussels is the capital city of Belgium, and is most famous for being the home of the European Union and having amazing chocolate. Interestingly, Belgium is a country with more than one official language – with French, Dutch and German all widely spoken. In Brussels, a lot of people speak all 3 plus English so it’s a very multi-lingual city.
There is loads to do in Brussels, and here were my 10 favourite things to do in the city, all doable in a weekend break of 2 days.
1. The Grand Place
The most famous square in Belgium – I recommend starting your visit to the city here. It really was grand. Trying to get photos without anyone in was almost impossible (it was heaving, even in February) but it was quite a sight. I particularly liked the gold detail on the buildings.
Within the Grand Place are multiple guildhalls, the city’s Town Hall and the Brussels City Museum. There are also a lot of restaurants, but I don’t recommend choosing them as a place to eat unless you’re willing to pay extortionate prices for sitting on the square.
2. Parc du Cinquantenaire
At this point of our visit, it was really snowing, and we didn’t have waterproof shoes with us. This park was beautiful and would have been a lot better if I didn’t have ice cold slush in between my toes (gross). The snow made for some pretty pictures though!
The buildings are home to the Royal Military Museum, The Art and History Museum and Autoworld Museum. I personally liked the first and thought it was well worth a visit.
This crazy structure was built for the first post war world fair in Brussels, and proved so popular it was never taken down! It’s now the most popular tourist attraction in Brussels. You can go up for the views, and even also eat at the restaurant in one of the balls! The site is a bit far out from the main centre, but you can combine with a visit to Miniversum next door, or the park on the opposite side.
4. Mannekin Pis
The Mannekin Pis is a famous statue of a boy doing a week. It’s one of the most famous attractions in Brussels, and there is even a museum dedicated just to his various outfits. He’s a Brussels institution, but I have to admit he was so small that he totally underwhelmed me.
5. Galeries Royales St Hubert
This is a really swish shopping arcade with amazing chocolate shops. Perfect for an upmarket souvenir from your visit to Brussels. Brussels also has great shopping all over, so save up and spend half a day exploring the arcades and shopping streets.
Chocolate shop in the Galeries
6. Waffles, chocolate and frites
You can’t visit Belgium and not have a Belgian waffle or Belgian chocolate. Frites are also a Belgian speciality. There are so many places to try these, but we loved Waffle Factory, Movenpick and Fritland.
7. The churches and cathedrals
Brussels has some really grand churches. My favourite was St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, as well as Notre Dame du Sablon. The Cathedral is a tribute to the patron saints of Brussels, and is one of the finest examples of Brabantine Gothic architecture.
Notre Dame du Sablon (L) and The Cathedral (R)
8. House of European History
Probably in the top 3 museums I’ve ever been to (and we’ve been to a lot). It tells the story of a broken Europe, a Europe coming together post war, and a Europe again on the brink. It was a fascinating look through the history of how and why the EU came to be, and what it stands for now. With Brexit going on at home, it was an eye opener and made me think long and hard about what’s important to me.
9. Sensi Concept Store
The most bizarre meal I think I’ve ever had. This is a Sicilian restaurant which we stumbled upon whilst lost. We wanted a quick meal but ended up in there for 4 hours! We sat in what felt like someone’s dining room and were served about 10 courses from croissants to meat stew to lasagne to cooked peppers! All served with a lot of beer and a few complimentary limoncellos. We didn’t enjoy every course but had such a fun experience that we won’t forget, and I recommend it as a fun trip for anyone.
10. Royal Palace of Brussels
This Palace is the home of the King and Queen of Belgium, however it isn’t used as the royal residence. You can’t enter the palace, other than in the summer time when it officially opens, buy you can visit the BELvue Museum which tells the story of Belgium’s history. You can also see the Palace from the outside and go to the garden view point out over the Grand Place.
So there are my top 10 for 2 days in Brussels – to fit them all in will be 2 full on days, but it’s worth it to see all this city has to offer.
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you’re planning to visit Brussels, have any questions, or what you thought of Brussels yourself in the comments below. Stay safe and happy travelling!