How to Spend 24 Hours in Brussels
Fluffy waffles, quirky sights, world-class fries, grand squares, artisan beer, quaint cobblestone streets, funky street art, museums galore, and the pièce de résistance: the world’s best chocolate! Twenty-four hours in Belgium’s compact multicultural capital will enchant you and leave your taste buds begging for more.
EARLY MORNING: WELCOME TO BRUSSELS
Kick-off your day with a breathtaking view from the Mont des Arts, overlooking museums, gardens, and even the spire of City Hall in the distance.
For those who prefer guided tours, consider New Europe’s Sandeman’s top-rated free tour (remember to tip your guide!). While we did not take one this trip, we have enjoyed Sandeman’s tours in other countries.
Choose your adventure this morning. Music aficionados should check out the Art Nouveau Musical Instruments Museum with over 7,000 instruments. For those who adore blue Smurfs and red-headed Tintin, follow the Comic Book Route or head to the Belgian Comic Strip Center. Political junkies can tour the European Parliament. Surrealist art lovers should drop by the Magritte Museum. With over 100 museums, your crew is sure to find something that sparks their interest.
LUNCHTIME: EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH TOWN
If you’re self-proclaimed foodies like us, consider a “traveling lunch,” sampling Belgian delights en route to some must-visit sights.
Start at the heart of the city at the architecturally-stunning Grand-Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a 360-degree spin around this beautiful square surrounded by elaborate guildhalls, the City Hall, and the Brussels City Museum. Perhaps your visit will coincide with one of many Grand-Place festivals, including a flower carpet of over 500,000 begonias or the Christmas Sound and Light show (a highlight for us!). Check out this same square illuminated at night!
A few steps away, you’ll find the famed Maison Dandoy which has been making waffles since 1829. We compared waffles styles: the caramelized buttered sweet Liege style versus the fluffy Brussels style (our favorite!). Your hardest decision of the day will be selecting among delectable toppings such as whipped cream, strawberries, hot chocolate sauce, and other sweets.
As you window shop through the luxurious Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert arcade, pop into some high-end artisan chocolatiers, such as Neuhaus and Mary (if you’re lucky, you may even score some free samples!).
It’s time for an up-close and personal visit with Brussels’ most famous son, the one and only, Mannekin-Pis. Depending on the day, this diminutive bronze dude may be “au natural” or decked out in one of his hundreds of costumes. A few steps from the city’s mascot, you will find Elisabeth, a welcoming chocolate boutique known for collaborating with Belgian artisans.
AFTER LUNCH: JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD
With satiated bellies, we hopped a metro to Mini-Europe. This kitschy family-friendly attraction boasts over 350 models at a 1:25 scale, highlighting famous European landmarks with great photo-ops! (We even fooled our relatives into thinking we took a detour to Paris by sending a picture in front of the “Eiffel Tower”!).
LATE AFTERNOON: VISIT THE ICON
Next to Mini-Europe, look up to see Brussels most visited monument, the Atomium. The Atomium’s nine gleaming spheres represent an iron crystal magnified a whopping 165 billion times. There is so much more to this futuristic-looking iconic architecture than meets the eye! Left standing after the ‘58 Expo, this symbol of Belgium includes an engaging museum explaining the Atomium’s unique history, a rotating special exhibit, and spectacular views. You will delight in navigating the other-worldly tubes and spheres. We timed our visit, so we toured the Atomium in daylight, reached the lookout at sunset, and then exited seeing it brilliantly lit up at night – it’s magical!
After a jam-packed day, it’s time to relax and refuel! Grab a table with a beautiful view at the centrally-located Sentro Lounge & Bar in the modern Hilton Brussels Grand Place Hotel. Our dishes from Head Chef Vincent Masson’s kitchen were a creative blend of European cuisines. Highlights of our meal included perfectly grilled scallops with risotto and monkfish accompanied by seasonal Belgian produce. Sentro also serves artisanal locally-raised cuts of meat. Save room for their delectable dessert menu!
AFTER-HOURS: GET DELIRIOUS
With over 200 breweries, this city takes its beer culture seriously! Brussels’ history of brewing beer dates to the Middle Ages, and its beer culture is even on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. We checked out the mind-blowing menu of over 2,000 beers at Delirium Village.
WHERE TO STAY
The luxurious Hilton Brussels Grand Place Hotel is a welcoming oasis in the middle of this bustling city. Hilton Brussels is the perfect base for your vacation. You can walk everywhere or simply hop on the metro, as it’s steps away at the train station. This elegant Hilton has spacious family suites with one-and-a-half bathrooms (a rare find among European hotels). We enjoyed our time spent in the executive lounge and taking a breather in the airy lobby. This Hilton boasts a bountiful breakfast buffet, a 24-hour fitness center, a Godiva Café Chocolat, and a helpful staff.
Lisa’s family was provided with discounted and/or complimentary tours, a hotel stay, and one meal so that she could review them for your information. Lisa chose the above tours and restaurants based on solid reviews.