My Perfect Day in Brussels: Itinerary & Self-Guided Walking Tour

Belgium’s capital is not just about beer, waffles and chocolate. But that’s not a bad start.

By spending just one day in Brussels you will be able to soak up its UNESCO-listed architecture and the vitality for which this cosmopolitan city is famous. Make every minute count with this 1-day Brussels itinerary which includes the very best things to do in the so-called capital of Europe.

To help you along your way, I’ve included a map with directions which you can use as a Brussels self-guided walking tour. Brussels is known as Brussel in Flemish; the city is known as Bruxelles in French.

view of gothic buildings of brussels grand place seen through an arch

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Is One Day in Brussels Enough?

One day in Brussels is enough time to hit its highlights. These are scattered across a relatively small area and are clearly signposted. This is a walkable city.

However, if you are interested in visiting the city’s museums or the Atomium, or want to explore its famous Art Nouveau architecture, I recommend spending two or three days here.

Brussels is one of the best bases from which to explore Belgium by train.

1-Day Brussels Itinerary (Map + Self-Guided Walking Tour)

Whether you are visiting Brussels on a day trip or staying overnight, this itinerary will give you the jump start that you need. Simply tweak it according to your interests and available time.

To help you on your way, I have custom-made a map of the route that this Brussels itinerary follows. It covers a distance of three miles and includes stops for you to sample the food and drink for which this city is known.

Think of this as a free Brussels self-guided walking tour. For an interactive map with walking directions, or to send to your phone, click here or on the image.

map of the best things to see in Brussels in one day
Best Things to See in Brussels in One Day. Map data @ Google 2023


Start your day in Brussels with a tasty breakfast at Charli. This excellent bakery has a few seats to linger over your brioche and coffee and is inexpensive.

Address: Rue Sainte-Catherine 34

Whilst you are in the neighbourhood, visit Place St. Catherine. Named after the hulking Church of Ste-Catherine, this is at the heart of one of Brussels’s most fashionable districts.


Begin your Brussels sightseeing tour with the city’s mascot but manage your expectations.

Protected by a wrought-iron fence, this is a teeny weeny statue of a pissing urchin in a sort of shrine. Many origin tales and myths swirl around this little fella, but the most popular one posits that he was cast in the 17th Century to embody the irreverent spirit of the city.

statue of urinating urchin

Address: Rue de l’Etuve 31

Did you know that you can also visit Jeanneke Pis, Manneken’s more modern but equally playful sister? She hangs out on Imp. de la Fidélité.


This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of Europe’s most magnificent squares. The Grand Place was the hub of commercial life in the emerging city from the 12th Century and became Brussels’ civil and political centre from the 15th Century.

detailed sculpture of figures on a pillar with gable roof buildings in background

But what are those magnificent buildings lining the Grand Place?

With its 96m spire rising above the Grand Place like an exclamation mark, the Hôtel de Ville dominates the square. Much of the north side of the Grand Place is occupied by the 19th Century Maison de Roi.

gothic building in brussels grand place with soaring tower
Hôtel de Ville, Brussels

The west side of the plaza is home to the city’s gable-roofed guildhouses. On the eastern side of the Grand Place, the existing guildhouses have been subsumed into one façade.


Are you ready for the best waffle of your life? Then grab a pavement table at Aux Gaufres De Bruxelles.

I recommend the Belgian waffle with strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate.

waffle covered in strawberries whipped cream and chocolate
A good enough reason to spend a day in Brussels!

Address: Rue Marché aux Herbes 113

What about the Bourse?

La Bourse (Brussels Stock Exchange) frequently pops up on lists of things to see in Brussels. However, it has been undergoing renovation since 2020 and was shrouded in scaffolding when I visited in 2023. There are plans for it to reopen as a museum of Belgian beer.


Mont des Arts links the Lower Town and Upper Town of Brussels.


Literally meaning Hill of the Arts after a planned art museum that was never built, an imposing equestrian statue of King Albert I graces its lower end. From here, a landscaped garden and stone staircase lead to a terrace in the Upper Town.

Linger here for a few minutes to take in the views.


Known simply as St. Gudula by locals, this magnificent Gothic cathedral is dedicated jointly to St. Michael the Archangel and St. Gudula. Begun in 1215, this place of worship was 300 years in the making.

It’s safe to say that it is more striking on the outside than on the inside. However, it is worth venturing inside to take a peek at the wonderful stained glass windows and its elaborate carved oak pulpit. This depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden as the Virgin Mary and some cherubs helpfully stamp on the head of a serpent dragon.

Entrance is free.

exterior of gothic cathedral with 2 towers
expressive carved wooden figures of church pulpit

Why not take a more scenic route to the Palais Royal, the next stop in this Brussels itinerary? Veer away from the busy main road and walk through Parc de Bruxelles. Whilst this may not be the prettiest park that you will ever visit, its tree-shaded footpaths will be welcome on a hot day in Brussels.


The large but uninspiring Royal Palace is the official residence of the Belgian royal family. At its core, the Palais Royal is a clumsy conversion of 18th Century townhouses.

vast facade of palace building fronted by small landscaped garden

If you are visiting Brussels between July and September, you will be able to see inside the palace (entry is free). If you are not in town during these months, by all accounts you are not missing much.


Concealed beneath the 18th Century Hôtel Bellevue are the remains of the Coudenberg Palace.

Staring life as a fortified castle in the Middle Ages, it kept a careful watch over Brussels from Coudenberg Hill. Over 600 years it was transformed into one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe. 

After a devastating fire in 173, it lay forgotten underground. The charred ruins of the palace were pulled down and the ground levelled for the construction of the new royal district.

Today, the remains of the Palais du Coudenberg have been extensively excavated and can be reached from the Musée BELvue.


The small but perfectly formed Place du Petit Sablon is a delightful refuge from the busy city. Formerly a horse market, it was laid out as a public garden in 1890.

landscaped garden square

Take a closer look at the wrought-iron balustrade surrounding the garden. This is embellished with 48 bronze statuettes that represent the medieval guilds.

At the rear of the park, there are ten statues, illustrating life in 16th Century Belgium through its scholars and humanists (most of these will not be familiar to most people).


gothic church and a small landscaped garden
carved stone monument in front of vibrant stained glass window

Also known as the Church of Our Lady of Victories at the Sablon or Notre Dame du Sablon, this 15th Century church began life as a chapel for the guild of archers in 1304. However, its fortunes changed for the better in 1348 when a statue of Mary, said to possess healing powers, was brought from Antwerp. This humble chapel became a pilgrimage centre and was transformed into a proper church to accommodate its visitors.

And that statue of Mary? The Protestants chopped it up for firewood in 1565 but two carvings of a boat with passengers and its sacred cargo tell its story.


I’m not a big shopaholic but not even I would skip the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert.

wrought iron and glass domed roof of shopping gallery

Featuring magnificent glass-vaulted galleries – du Rio, de la Reine and des Princes – this has to be one of Europe’s finest indoor shopping arcades. Dating from 1847, it is certainly one of the first.

It’s a lovely place to stop for a coffee or a Belgian beer.


But perhaps it’s time for something a little more substantial. If that’s the case, then you are in luck.

Rues de Bouchers, which slices the Hubert Galleries in two, is Brussels’ best-known restaurant ghetto. The touristy restaurants are a little hit-and-miss but I had a very good meal at Aux Armes de Bruxelles, which had been recommended by my hotel.

When to Visit Brussels

The best time to visit Brussels is between March and May, and in September and October. Accommodation will be cheaper and there is less chance of rain.
Visit Brussels in summer and you can look forward to warmer days and nights and more festivals. But you can also expect a lot more visitors.
Although winter in Belgium can be grey and dreary, the twinkling lights and mulled wine of Brussels’ Christmas markets will lift your spirits. 

How to Get There

Brussels not only has an international airport, but it is also a terminus for Eurostar trains from London. This means that Brussels is an excellent day trip from London.

Thanks to its excellent train connections, Brussels is hard to beat as a base for a Belgium vacation.

If it is your first time in Brussels, its train stations can be confusing.

Brussels Midi / Brussels Sud /  Zuidstation

This gloomy station in a gloomy part of town is the main international hub, including that for Eurostar trains. To be avoided whenever possible.

Brussels Centrale / Gare Central / Brussel Centraal

As its name suggests, this is the most central of the city’s stations. This is not a place where you would like to linger but it is convenient.

Brussels Nord / Gare du Nord / Noordstation

Although many trains will pass through here, it’s unlikely that you will use this station as a departure point.

Most flights to Belgium’s capital land at Brussels International Airport, 14 km northeast of the city centre. From here, regular trains run to the city’s three main railway stations.

Budget airlines may land at Brussels-Charleroi airport, located 50 km south of the city centre. From here, there is a shuttle bus service to the city centre.

How to Get Around

If you stick with this Brussels itinerary, you shouldn’t need to use public transport. Many of its main attractions are scattered over a relatively compact area and are reachable on foot.

However, the user-friendly network of trams, buses and metro lines might be useful if you are staying out of the city centre or if you are visiting attractions further afield.

There is also the inevitable hop-on-hop-off (HOHO) bus service.


Where to Stay in Brussels

Although you can visit Brussels on a day trip, I recommend booking a hotel for at least one night. This will allow you to make the most of your day and enjoy the city’s bars and restaurants in the evening when the day-trippers have departed.

Here are my recommendations:

Splurge: Hotel Le Dixseptième

I stayed at this elegant boutique hotel in the heart of the city centre. It was a remarkably peaceful refuge, considering its location, with stellar service.

hotel room with bed with white linen
two armchairs in a hotel lobby


Mid-range: B&B Villa 36

This small 3-star guesthouse close to Brussels City Hall has attracted fabulous reviews. Breakfast is included in the room rates.


If You Have More Than One Day in Brussels

Here are a few suggestions if you are in Brussels for two days or more.


Belgium is a chocoholic’s dream destination and Brussels is the birthplace of this long tradition. Visit Choco-Story to learn more about the cultivation, production and marketing of chocolate.

man dressed in white chefs hat making chocolate

I visited Choco-Story as part of a mission to discover the best chocolate in Bruges and loved the interactive experience, not to mention the free samples.

Address: Rue de l’Etuve 41


Or perhaps you fancy being a little more hands-on? If so, why not join a chocolate-making workshop. Find out more here.


This small museum close to the Grand Place celebrates the life and times of the famous gravelly-voiced Belgian singer Jacques Brel.

On the recommendation of travellers I met when visiting Ghent, I rented the museum’s excellent Jacques Brel walking tour.

Address: Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés 11


Brussels is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture. This museum is housed in the former residence and studio of Victor Horta, one of the movement’s leading lights. Reservations are required.

Address: Rue Américaine 27


Belgium’s Musical Instruments Museum is partly housed in another of Brussels’ landmark Art Nouveau buildings. Over a thousand historical and modern musical instruments are displayed in four galleries, making it one of the largest collections of its kind in the world.

Address: Rue Montagne de la Cour 2


The Belgians love their comics and some of the finest examples of this art form are on display in the Comics Art Museum, housed in another Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta.

Address: Rue des Sables 20


street art of boy elephant and other animals on a wall in brussels

Brussels has street art with a theme. Since the early 90s, characters and authors of the Franco-Belgian comics have decorated walls in the city centre and Laeken district.

Download your comic strip walk map here.


If your artistic tastes veer more towards the traditional, spend a few hours exploring the works of Flemish artists at the Old Masters Museum.

Address: Rue de la Régence 3


This was one of the places that I wanted to visit in Brussels but I ran out of time. It is located in Magritte’s former home and is reportedly a Surrealist extravaganza.

Address: Pl. Royale 1


This famous Brussels landmark, located in the northern part of the city, represents a molecule blown up 165 million times. The Atomium was built for the World Fair in 1958 and although it never became the symbol of the city as intended, it is reportedly an enjoyable excursion.

Address: Pl. de l’Atomium 1



Located at the foot of the Atomium, Mini-Europe displays reproductions of monuments from around 80 European cities.

Address: Av. du Football 1


Is Brussels Safe for Solo Travellers?

The priority for female solo travellers is staying safe when travelling alone. Brussels is a relatively small city and its tourist area felt relaxed with locals and visitors enjoying its attractions, bars and restaurants.

There is a but though. As in many cities, petty crime, including pickpocketing, is not unusual and I found Brussels Centrale station unpleasant after dark.

In recent years, there has also been the threat of terrorist attacks.

As ever, a little bit of common sense goes a long way. Although Brussels has a low crime rate, remain vigilant. Keep your belongings close to you and use your hotel safe to store valuables.

Ready to spend a day in Brussels?

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope that you have a wonderful day in Bruxelles.

If you have found this itinerary helpful and are planning further travel in Belgium, take a peek at my other guides (I suggest starting with this 1-week Belgium itinerary).

Gorgeous Ghent is another terrific base for exploring the country by train. Belgium is synonymous with chocolate and Bruges is a honeypot for chocoholics.

Consider some of its lesser-touristed gems, such as Mechelen. I love Leuven, which is home to the oldest botanical garden in Belgium. Spend a day in Hasselt to sip gin at the Jenniver Museum or chase cherry blossom in Japanse Tuin Hasselt.

Happy travels!

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at or follow her on social media.