Oh, Brussels! This gem of a city, tucked right in the heart of Belgium, swept us off our feet with its enchanting blend of history, culture, and cuisine. Not too big, not too small, it’s just right for a family day trip.
We were initially drawn to Brussels, lured by whispers of its legendary waffles, piles of chips, the melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, and the magnificent Grand Place. And, let me tell you, we weren’t disappointed!
We decided to venture into this multilingual city—known as Brussel in Flemish and Bruxelles in French—for a day, hoping to immerse ourselves in a culture steeped in history and brimming with diversity.
And what an adventure it was! We discovered something special around every corner, something that kept us falling in love with the city over and over again. Our son, especially, was absolutely thrilled. It was as if we stepped into a real-life comic strip, with modern art standing tall beside historic architecture.
Throughout the day, we revelled in the city’s vitality, soaking up the atmosphere of its streets and squares, taking in the stunning UNESCO-listed architecture, and yes, binging on its delicious food. It didn’t take long for us to fall head over heels for Brussels.
But it wasn’t just about the sights and the food; it was the warm welcome we received, the easy conversations with locals (most of whom speak English fluently, by the way), and the sheer ease with which we navigated through the city that really stole our hearts.
Ever since we returned, we’ve been itching to share our adventure with you and all the things to do in Brussels in a day. 24 hours in the Belgium capital was enough for us to create a lifetime’s worth of cherished memories. Now, we invite you to step into our shoes, to experience the city through our eyes, hopping from one incredible spot to another, all within one single day.
So, buckle up and join us on this unforgettable journey through Brussels—a city that may be small in size but is undeniably big in wonders!
A VERY QUICK OVERVIEW OF OUR 1 DAY BRUSSELS ITINERARY
Are you in a rush? Do you need just a basic outline for a 1 Day Itinerary and aren’t interested about reading the detailed information? Then check out the brief outline of our one day in Brussels Itinerary below:
10.30 AM – PARC DU CINQUANTENNAIRE
11.30 AM – THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
12.00 AM – PALAIS DE BRUXELLES
12.15 AM – PARC DE BRUXELLES
12.30 AM – CATHEDRAL OF ST. MICHAEL AND ST. GUDULA
1.00 PM – ROYAL SAINT-HUBERT GALLERIES
1.15 PM – WAFFLES AT MAISON DANDOY
1.45 PM – RUE DES BOUCHERS
1.50 PM – JEANNEKE PIS
2.00 AM – GRAND PLACE
2.15 PM – LA MAISON DU ROI
3.15 PM – BRUSSELS STOCK EXCHANGE
3.30 PM – MANNEKIN PIS
3.45 PM – MONT DES ARTS
5 PM – LE BOTANIQUE
6 PM – BELGIUM CHIPS AT MAISON ANTOINE
Leaving already? We would highly recommend that you have a read through the rest of our Brussels Itinerary, where you will find great information based on our own experience and tips on what to do in each location.
HOW TO VISIT BRUSSELS IN 24 HOURS
Brussels can be navigated seamlessly even with just 24 hours in hand. If we managed to do it with our energetic toddler in tow, then so can you. All it requires is some forethought and careful planning to ensure that your daytrip runs as smoothly as possible.
Firstly, preparation is key! Whenever you are on a very tight schedule, it is crucial that you use your time efficiently.
Whilst most of Brussels main attractions are located in close proximity of each other, we would recommend that you have at least a rough itinerary in mind, so that you don’t end up doubling back on yourself. That would be such a waste of time! Much better to use that extra half an hour to savour Brussel’s famous waffles.
A strategic plan will also ensure that you don’t unintentionally miss out on any key sights.
Thankfully we have done all the hard work for you! Whether you are visiting Brussels on a day trip or staying overnight, our itinerary should give you the jump start that you need. Simply tweak our guide according to your interests and available time.
We would also advise that you stay somewhere central. We can’t emphasise this one enough… if you only have one day in Brussels, you don’t want to waste your time getting in and out of the city centre before you can start exploring. Also, whilst most of Brussels is very safe, some of the outer neighbourhoods aren’t as friendly to tourists.
And if you are planning to visit Brussels by car (like we did), make sure you factor in traffic jams, because Brussels has a lot of them!
Furthermore, we would strongly recommend booking entrance tickets in advance wherever you can. This will shorten the amount of time you spend in queues. This is especially important if you are travelling with young kids and want to avoid toddler meltdowns.
Lastly, leave some room for magic. There is no need to plan everything out to the nth degree. Brussels is a beautiful city, that is well known for its effortless charm. You can easily have a great day by simply meandering through the city centre.
And there honestly is no need to get stressed about seeing all its attractions, as you are almost guaranteed to stumble across most of them anyway.
In fact, if we are being completely truthful, some of Brussels’s top attractions may not quite live up to the hype. Take the Manneken Pis, for instance. Although we have included it in our itinerary, this was mainly because of its location on a well-trodden path, rather than its one-of-a-kind allure.
Instead of darting from one sight to another, we advise that you savour Brussel’s unique atmosphere at a relaxed pace. Revel in its delightful culinary offerings and perhaps visit a museum or two when the opportunity presents itself.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN BRUSSELS? IS ONE DAY TRULY LONG ENOUGH?
If you are reading this blog post, then you’re probably wondering if one day in Brussels is enough? Honestly, it depends on what kind of traveller you are.
If you’re the type who likes to take it slow, to absorb every detail in the city’s many museums, wants to enjoy leisurely meals at sit-down restaurants, or hunt for the perfect souvenir in local shops, you might find that spending a single day in Brussels won’t quite cut it.
If this description resonates with you then we would suggest that you would benefit from spending two to three days in the Belgium capital to fully relish the experience. This is especially the case if you intend to venture out of the city centre to see the Atomium or if you’re a museum aficionado with a deep love for art and history. In this case a few extra days certainly wouldn’t hurt.
But if you’re the kind of adventurer who’s constantly on the move and doesn’t require much downtime, one day in Brussels could be just perfect for you. Brussels is smaller than some of its more well-known European counterparts like London or Paris. This means you can move around the city quite swiftly without wasting much time in transit.
The city center is compact and walkable (just make sure you’re in comfortable shoes). Plus, Brussels has a host of convenient public transport options, including trams and buses, which even accept contactless card payments. (You can find more information about getting around Brussels at the bottom of this blog post.)
This makes one day the perfect length of time for a walking tour of Brussel’s historic city centre, with plenty of time to see some of Brussel’s most popular landmarks like the Grand Place and Manneken Pis. So don’t fret if you only have one day! It’s more than enough to get a decent taste of the city and enjoy some of its top attractions.
Even if your base is in another major city like Paris, London, Amsterdam, or Luxembourg, a day trip to Brussels is very feasible thanks to its excellent train connections.
For us, one day in Brussels felt just right. While there are many interesting sights to see, Brussel’s doesn’t have an overwhelming number of must-visit attractions. The true charm of Brussels, in our opinion, lies in its stunning architecture and enchanting medieval streets. After wandering around, indulging in the local cuisine, and picking up a couple of souvenirs, we felt we’d captured the essence of Brussels.
In the end, whether one day is enough really depends on your travel style. But we found that, even with just a day to spare, Brussels offered an unforgettable journey full of memories.
OUR SUGGESTED ITINERARY & THINGS TO DO IN BRUSSELS IN A DAY
PARC DU CINQUANTENNAIRE
We would recommend that you start your day in Brussels at the Parc du Cinquantenaire, a little green oasis located in the European Quarter of Brussels. Don’t worry about finding the park, the archway at its centre is simply impossible to miss.
The Parc du Cinquantenaire or “Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary” was originally commissioned by King Leopold II to celebrate Belgium’s 50th year of independence in 1880.
To our delight the park’s grandeur is still very much intact. The iconic triumphant arch and beautiful gardens are a photographer’s dream come true. So, don’t forget to bring your camera!
The park seemed to be loved by the locals too and was filled with joggers, cyclists, and dog walkers. And if you’re visiting in summer, you’re there’s a good chance you’ll come across a fun festival or exciting event.
In fact, when we visited locals were busy setting-up a marathon in the park, which was fun to watch but did make photographing the famous archway rather challenging.
If you have enough time, make sure to take in the gorgeous views from the top of the arch. You don’t even have to climb stairs! A short elevator ride will take you up to the top of the arch and access to it is currently free.
Finally, if you are planning to spend more than one day in Brussels, you might want to visit one or even several of the museums located within the park, these include:
- Halle Gate, the only gate that survived from Brussels medieval fortifications and which now houses a museum
- The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History
- Autoworld, a museum dedicated to automobiles
- The Royal Museums of Art and History
- Museum of Natural Sciences, which features the largest dinosaur collection in Europe
- Tain world, an interactive museum with an extensive selection of trains, including the oldest steam locomotive in Belgium.
Just remember to check the opening times of the museums before you plan your visit.
THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Our Brussels adventure had many delightful surprises, but one of the standout experiences was visiting the European Parliament. This stop isn’t just for the politically inclined or history buffs – it’s an eye-opening experience for everyone, even for our little tot!
The European Parliament is not only an icon of democratic decision-making but also an architectural marvel. The parliament’s buildings, such as the Paul-Henri Spaak Building with its distinctive dome, are quite a sight. Don’t miss capturing this spectacle with your camera!
If you have a bit of spare time do consider popping into the Parlamentarium, the Parliament’s visitor centre. This modern, interactive museum takes you on an immersive journey through the history and workings of the European Union.
Families will appreciate that it is very child friendly. Even toddler will be captivated by the colourful exhibits and the interactive touch screens. While the kids might not grasp the nuances of European politics, the diversity and unity represented by the European Parliament is sure to leave an impression on young minds.
Do note that the main language of the exhibits is English, but they offer headsets for translation in all 24 official EU languages. And the best part? Entry is absolutely free!
We would also recommend planning a visit when the Parliament is in session. We didn’t manage it ourselves due to our travel dates, but it’s an open invitation to watch democracy in action – a truly powerful experience.
PALAIS DE BRUXELLES
Our Brussels escapade wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Royal Palace of Brussels or the ‘Palais de Bruxelles’. Nestled in the heart of the city, this stunning architectural gem was a treat to our eyes.
Standing in front of the palace, we were in awe of its grandeur. Built in the Neoclassical style, the palace’s imposing façade with its regal colonnade and sweeping grounds instantly make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale. Our toddler’s imagination ran wild, and he excitedly looked for “princes” and “dragons”.
Here’s a fun fact: the Royal Palace is even more spacious than Buckingham Palace in London! It’s not a residence for the royal family though. Instead, it is mainly for state functions.
If you want to see the inside of the palace bear in mind that it is only open to the public during the summer, usually from the end of July to September. And because we visited in Spring, we sadly had to miss out.
But we are told that the palace’s lavish interiors are truly breathtaking, from the grand staircase to the elaborately decorated rooms. The palace also houses a collection of contemporary artworks. A perfect blend of tradition and modernity.
In fact, the magnificent Mirror Room which is adorned with a shimmering beetle shell ceiling by contemporary artist Jan Fabre, must be one of the highlights of any visit to the Palais de Bruxelles.
The best part though is that the entry to the palace and the art exhibition is completely free, making it an enriching experience accessible to everyone.
PARC DE BRUXELLES
If you’re a first-time visitor to Brussels with kids in tow, there’s one place you simply can’t miss – the Parc de Bruxelles. Lucky then that it is located right between the Palais de Bruxelles and Brussel’s city centre, so you might as well walk through it.
Stepping into park, you’ll be greeted by a haven of lush greenery, historic statues, and tranquil ponds – a welcome break from the city’s bustling streets.
The two playgrounds in the park were an immediate hit with our little one. And we were relieved to find out that they were well-maintained and safe, perfect for a toddler with plenty of energy to burn off!
As much as the park is a fun playground, it’s also steeped in history. The park dates back to the 18th century and you can find historic monuments scattered throughout the park, adding another interesting layer to your visit.
Finally, to our toddler’s delight, the park was also home to a bevy of quirky cat statues at the time of our visit. Honestly, this was a completely unexpected highlight of our trip to Brussels.
To mark the 40th anniversary of Le Chat (a comic icon created by Philippe Geluck), the park hosted 20 bronze statues, each one a unique representation of the anti-hero cat. Each statue stood three meters high, weighed two tons and was thoroughly entertaining (well they certainly got some chuckles from me). Over the past few months, the statues had been exhibited in several European cities – from Paris to Geneva and Monaco – and we were lucky that our visit of the park just happened to coincide with their return to Brussels, the birthplace of Le Chat. By the time we encountered them, they had been admired by some seven million visitors!
CATHEDRAL OF ST. MICHAEL AND ST. GUDULA
In the heart of Brussels, amidst its bustling streets and charming cafes, you’ll find a tranquil sanctuary that’s as much a testament to divine faith as it is to human craftsmanship – the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.
Note, Saint-Michel and Saint-Gudula are the Brussel’s patron saints.
As we approached the cathedral, we were struck by its grandeur. The soaring spires, intricate stone carvings, and imposing Brabant Gothic facade hinted at the stunning beauty that awaited us inside.
Once inside, the cathedral’s sheer magnificence had us spellbound. The towering columns, beautiful stained-glass windows, the elaborate oak pulpit that depicts Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden, the organ pipe with over 4,000 pipe, and the intricately carved statues all create an atmosphere that’s nothing short of divine.
Our toddler was particularly fascinated by the colourful rays of light streaming through the windows, giggling as he tried to catch them in his tiny hands.
Remember that this is an active place of worship, so be mindful of any ongoing services. We used this opportunity to teach our little one about quiet respect, a valuable lesson in any setting.
While the cathedral is definitely a place of worship, it’s also brimming with stories from history. From its beginnings in the 10th century as a small chapel to its transformation into a grand cathedral in the 11th century, every corner of this place has a tale to tell.
We highly recommend taking a guided tour if you have some spare time to fully appreciate its historical and architectural significance. And for a nominal fee, you can also visit the crypt, if you are a history buff.
Final fun fact, this is also where all of Belgium’s royal weddings tend to take place.
ROYAL SAINT-HUBERT GALLERIES
If you’re planning a trip to Brussels, don’t miss out on the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. This architectural gem, packed with history, culture, and mouthwatering waffles, turned out to be one of our favourite spots in the city.
Nestled in the heart of the city, the galleries are easy to reach. If you are following our itinerary, it should only take you five minutes to walk here from the cathedral.
Built between 1846 to 1847, this famous shopping arcade actually has a longer history than its counterparts in Milan and St. Petersburg.
The moment we stepped into the galleries, we were transported to a world of opulent charm. The grand arching glass roof, the gleaming shop windows and the timeless elegance had us enchanted. Our toddler was just as mesmerized, especially by the sparkle of the countless chandeliers.
This is a good time to indulge in some retail therapy and perhaps buy some souveniirs or gifts to take with you. There is even a bookshop (Tropismes) where you can purchase books about Brussels.
Amidst the high-end boutiques and charming antique shops, we discovered a gem that was not just a feast for the eyes, but for the taste buds too – Maison Dandoy. Known for their legendary waffles, this place is a must-visit. Trust us, the aroma of freshly baked waffles wafting from Maison Dandoy is irresistible!
We ordered a couple of their signature Brussels waffles, and they were pure heaven! Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and just the right amount of sweetness.
Our little one was particularly thrilled with his waffle. In fact, he was quite a sight to behold, his mouth grinning from ear to ear smeared with melted chocolate – a moment of pure joy that was on our family whatsapp group.
Do try their speculoos biscuits too, they make great take-home gifts.
But it’s not just about shopping and eating at the galleries. The place is steeped in history and culture, being one of the oldest shopping arcades in Europe. As we strolled along, we could sense the stories that the elegant walls and floors might tell if they could talk.
RUE DES BOUCHERS
If you still have room for more food after the stuffing yourself with waffles, then makes sure to head to rue des Bouchers next. A mecca for food lovers and a carnival for the senses, this bustling street offers a taste of Brussels like no other.
As we entered the street, we were greeted by an enticing aroma of cooking and the lively chatter of patrons and vendors. It was love at first sight, or should we say, first whiff!
Rue des Bouchers, often referred to as Brussels’ ‘stomach’, is lined with an array of restaurants and food stalls, each promising a culinary delight that’s harder to resist than the next.
While the street is famous for its seafood, we found that there’s something for every palate – from succulent mussels and golden frites to exotic cheeses.
But Rue des Bouchers isn’t just about food. As we strolled down the cobblestone street, we couldn’t help but admire the beautiful buildings adorned with colourful signs and twinkling fairy lights. It felt like we had stepped into a page from a storybook, with our toddler starring as the little adventurer.
We recommend taking your time to explore this street. Indulge in the delicacies, chat with the friendly locals, and simply soak in the lively atmosphere. We also found that many restaurants have highchairs and kid-friendly menus, which was a plus for us.
Nestled down a side street from Rue des Bouchers, tucked away in a corner, you should discover Jeanneke Pis. This cheeky little statue turned out to be a delightful surprise.
As we rounded a corner and spotted Jeanneke Pis, we couldn’t help but chuckle. Here was a little girl, forever frozen mid-squat, mirroring her more famous counterpart, Manneken Pis. Our toddler found her absolutely hilarious and insisted on posing for numerous pictures with her.
Despite her naughty depiction, Jeanneke Pis is more than just a quirky statue. She symbolizes the rebellious spirit of Brussels, a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously and loves a good laugh. Besides, she’s a good-luck charm too! Tossing a coin into the fountain around the statue while making a wish is a fun tradition, which our little one absolutely loved.
GRAND PLACE OR GROTE MARKT
No trip to Brussels is complete without a visit to the legendary Grand Place. This magnificent square pulsates with history and culture. It is an architectural gem and undoubtedly the beating heart of the city. It is also easily one of the most beautiful places in Europe – all the more reason then to include it in your day itinerary.
As we stepped into the square, we were instantly awestruck by the grand buildings that surrounded us. The square is enclosed by a range of Gothic and Baroque masterpieces, and their intricate detailing is a real feast for the eyes. Standout features such as the lofty Town Hall spire, the regal King’s House, and the ornate and brightly coloured guild houses combine to create an enchanting tableau that could have sprung straight from a fairy tale book.
The Grand Place dates back to the 14th century, when it was built to mark Brussels’ blossoming significance on the European stage. To add to its laurels, in 1998, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And after the Grand Place was officially recognized on the UNESCO List, the Administration of the Brussels-Capital Region issued several mandates to safeguard the interiors of this monumental site.
The Grand Place, however, isn’t just a visual treat. It’s a vibrant, buzzing place teeming with life and activity. Our son was particularly captivated by the street performers and musicians who added a vibrant element to our visit.
From the lively morning flower market to the atmospheric evening light shows, free summer concerts and the Meyboon Procession, there’s always something happening on this square. In fact, I will forever fondly remember the beer festival we attended on the Grand Place for my Hen Do. And if you are visiting Brussels in Winter then you will be delighted to hear that yes there is a yearly Christmas Market too.
Finally, if you haven’t eaten anything yet, then you might want to consider indulging in some Belgian culinary delights at this point. The square is surrounded by cafes and restaurants that serve everything from Belgian fries, chocolates, and yes, waffles. Just be warned though that since the Grand Place is a tourist hotspot, prices here might be a bit more expensive than in other parts of Brussels.
LA MAISON DU ROI
Depending on how many other things you want to see in your 24 hours in Brussels, you might have just enough time to pop into the King’s House (la Maison du Roi). This is the one thing Gary was desperate for us to do, so for us it was a non-negotiable.
Despite the name, no king has ever lived here. Instead, it houses the Museum of the City of Brussels, an absolute gem that takes you on a fascinating journey through Brussels’ rich history. If you’re travelling with your little ones like us, you’ll find that it has plenty to engage and inspire young minds.
Located right in the Grand Place, La Maison du Roi is impossible to miss. Its stunning Gothic architecture, with intricate stone carvings and statues, stands out in the bustling square. It was love at first sight for us, and our toddler was equally captivated by the grand building, pointing out the golden statues on its façade.
Once inside, we were treated to a rich tapestry of Brussels’ past. The museum houses an impressive collection of maps, important documents, art, artifacts, paintings, photographs and scale models of the city at different points in history. Our little one was particularly excited about the interactive displays and the beautifully crafted models of the city.
One of the highlights of the museum is undoubtedly the authentic Mannequin Pis. It’s worth noting that the one you’ll come across in the city is actually a copy dating back to the 1960s. The museum also houses a small part of the statue’s impressive costume collection from. The rest of it can be found in a separate museum that is entirely dedicated to the peeing boy.
Apart from the exhibits, we also appreciated that this museum is not all too big, making it manageable to explore with little people.
BRUSSELS STOCK EXCHANGE / BOURSE DE BRUXELLE
Strategically located between the Grand Place and Sainte Catherine, the Bourse is a magnificent edifice that’s hard to miss. The grandeur of its neoclassical architecture had us stop in our tracks. Our toddler was immediately taken with the building’s striking sculptures, especially the lions guarding the entrance.
While we couldn’t enter the building as it’s not open to the public, it’s worth mentioning that the Bourse de Bruxelles is more than just an architectural beauty. It’s also a vibrant and happening place. The wide steps leading to the entrance serve as a popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike. This offers a fantastic opportunity for people-watching, an activity that our little one seemed to enjoy.
When you think of Brussels, the quirky image of the Manneken Pis, the famous little bronze statue of a peeing boy, often springs to mind. On our recent family trip to Brussels, we, too, were intrigued and decided to check out this much-hyped icon.
Located a stone’s throw from the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis was admittedly much smaller than we had imagined, especially given its worldwide reputation. Its tiny stature, though amusing, didn’t quite match up to the grandeur that its fame might suggest. But it did possess a peculiar charm that made us chuckle.
Probably the most interesting thing about the Manneken Pis are the different costumes created specifically for it. His outfits change several times a month, and we happened to see him dressed as a general complete with a little sword. Our toddler found this highly amusing, and it certainly sparked a lively discussion among us!
However, to make the most of your Manneken Pis visit, it’s best to take it in as part of the larger experience. The square where the statue is situated is quite vibrant, with a plethora of shops selling chocolates, waffles, and an assortment of Manneken Pis souvenirs. Our son was eager to bring a mini replica home, a quirky keepsake from our trip.
A piece of advice, though: be prepared for crowds. The area around the Manneken Pis can become quite congested, particularly during peak tourist season. An early morning visit would therefore be advisable if you are keen to avoid the rush and get a good, unhindered view.
MONT DES ARTS / KUNSTBERG
Perched between the Royal Palace and the Grand Place, the historic Mont des Arts is an urban complex and a garden that offers a fantastic vantage point over the city’s Gothic spires and rooftops. Urbanely speaking, the Monts des Arts main role is to link the Lower Town and Upper Town of Brussels.
In English, ‘Mont des Arts’ directly translates to ‘Hill of the Arts’. At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find a striking statue of King Albert I seated atop his horse. Starting from this point, a beautifully designed terraced garden guides you up towards the Upper Town.
Upon reaching the top of the garden’s terraces – and after climbing several sets of stone stairs – we were rewarded with a panoramic view of Brussel’s that took our breath away. Our son, too, was awestruck by the vastness of the cityscape unfolding in front of him.
Aside from the impressive view, the area is also brimming with cultural institutions like the Royal Library of Belgium, the Carillon of Brussels, the Musical Instruments Museum and the Brussels Museum of Fine Arts. We didn’t manage to visit the museums this time due to our tight schedule and our son’s growing impatience, but they’re definitely on our list for the next visit.
What was perfect for our family was the small but beautifully manicured garden, a true joy to explore. With its symmetrical flowerbeds, calming fountains, and whimsical sculptures, it offered a serene environment for a leisurely stroll. Our toddler loved chasing the pigeons and watching the water erupt from the fountains.
And we were delighted to sit down for a bit to relax and enjoy the tranquillity that the garden offered amidst the bustling city. By the way, this is also a great spot for lunch if you don’t fancy eating in a restaurant.
Although Le Botanique is located on the edge of the city centre, we would still recommend you try and include it in your Brussels Itinerary, time permitting.
As its name suggest Le Botanique was originally Brussel’s main Botanical Garden. These day it’s also been transformed into a cultural complex and music venue, all while maintaining the stunning greenery and charm of its past life.
The gorgeous glass and metal orangery can be seen all the way from Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. It is a true landmark in the Brussel Cityscape. Whilst the striking structure is an obvious nod to the Botanique’s bygone era, it now hosts a variety of cultural events, including concerts and art exhibits.
Whilst we didn’t get the chance to catch a live concert (not quite toddler-appropriate), we’re already eyeing their schedule for our next Brussels adventure.
Full of intriguing plants and open spaces to explore, our son had a blast running around, chasing butterflies, and soaking in the fresh air.
Finally, i you arrive here early in the day then we did, make sure to pop into the charming cafe situated inside the orangery.
FRITES AT MAISON ANTOINES
When it comes to the perfect end to a bustling day in Brussels, we discovered that nothing quite hits the spot like the city’s famous frites (chips or fries). And where better to indulge in this quintessential Belgian delight than the legendary Maison Antoine?
Located in the lively neighborhood of Place Jourdan, Maison Antoine has been serving some of the best frites in town since 1948. We’d heard about its famed status and, as a family of food lovers, we couldn’t resist the allure. So, as the sun began to set on our first day in Brussels, we found ourselves in the snaking queue at Maison Antoine, eagerly awaiting our turn.
As soon as we bit into our cone of piping hot frites, we knew we’d made the right decision. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and expertly salted, these frites were pure comfort food. Our little one, a self-proclaimed chip connoisseur, could hardly contain his delight.
But what really set the experience apart was the vast array of sauces on offer – over 30 in total! We opted for a classic mayonnaise and a slightly spicy Andalouse for a bit of a kick. Our son, being the adventurous eater he is, insisted on trying the Samurai sauce and, despite the heat, he loved it!
The great thing about Maison Antoine is its casual and welcoming atmosphere, which made us feel right at home. With its bustling queue and the friendly chatter of locals and tourists alike, it was a slice of genuine Brussels life that we felt privileged to be part of.
There’s something about sharing a cone of delicious frites under the city lights that really wraps up a day of exploration perfectly. For us, Maison Antoine wasn’t just about the food, it was about the shared experience and the memories made.
So, if you’re planning a day in Brussels and wondering how to cap off the experience in the most authentically Belgian way, we can’t recommend Maison Antoine enough. But remember, take it from us and our little Samurai sauce fan – don’t be afraid to try something new!
MAP OF THINGS TO DO IN BRUSSELS IN A DAY
We understand that planning a day in a new city can be quite a task, especially when you’re traveling with a little one. Having recently navigated the charming streets of Brussels for the first time with our toddler, we thought it would be handy to share this interactive map that we created based on our own itinerary!
This interactive map (which you can find linked here) is more than just a guide. Think of it as a shared adventure, as it traces the exact path we took. From the awe-inspiring Grand Place to the delightful treats at Maison Antoine, each pin on the map is a memory we made and an experience we’re thrilled to share with you.
The map covers less than six miles – an easy and enjoyable stroll, even with our energetic toddler! And best of all, it includes our hand-picked spots to grab a bite or a drink. Believe us, nothing revives the spirits (and little legs!) quite like a Belgian waffle or a cone of crispy frites.
We hope that navigating Brussels with our interactive map will feel like having a local friend guiding you through the city, minus the hassle of keeping up with a group tour. Feel free to follow it at our own pace, lingering at spots your particularly interest in, and even making impromptu detours.
Using this map, we hope your family can explore Brussels with the same ease and joy we did. It’s a wonderful city with so much to offer, and we’re excited to be part of your journey. Remember, this isn’t just about ticking off landmarks. It’s about experiencing Brussels in all its beauty, just as we did, one step at a time.
Click here or on the image to access our interactive map. Enjoy your walk-through Brussels – we can’t wait to hear about your own adventures!
WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK IN BRUSSELS
We’d be remiss if we didn’t dedicate a little section of this blog posts to the mouthwatering delights we encountered in Brussels. Trust us, even with a toddler in tow, Brussels turned out to be a foodie heaven that tickled our taste buds in ways we didn’t even imagine.
Belgium’s capital is famous for its culinary offerings, and we were lucky enough to try quite a few of them. Waffles drizzled with chocolate, aromatic mussels, fries served in a paper cone – we were spoilt for choice.
So pull up a chair and join us as we relive our gastronomic journey through the cobblestone streets of Brussels. Bon appétit!
WAFFLES IN BRUSSELS
If you think you know waffles, wait until you try them in Brussels! Trust us, you have not truly experienced a waffle until you’ve tasted one in the country of its birth. There’s something truly magical about biting into a warm, crisp waffle in the midst of exploring this beautiful city.
In Belgium, there are two main types of waffles: Brussels and Liège.
Brussels waffles are what you might typically picture when thinking of a waffle – large, rectangular, and light with deep grid pockets. They are often served dusted with confectioners’ sugar, and you can choose to add a dollop of whipped cream or a handful of fresh fruits if you wish.
On the other hand, Liège waffles are smaller, denser, and sweeter, with an almost caramelized exterior due to the pearl sugar in the batter that caramelizes as the waffle cooks. The shape is more irregular, less perfect than their Brussels counterparts but equally (if not more) delicious.
During our day in Brussels, we made it a point to sample both varieties (purely for research purposes, of course), and honestly, we can’t pick a favourite. Our toddler, however, was a firm fan of the Liège variety. The sweet, slightly sticky exterior had him hooked from the first bite.
Now, where to find these delectable treats? There’s no shortage of waffle houses in Brussels, but a couple stood out for us.
Firstly, ‘Maison Dandoy’, located near the Grand Place, is an institution in itself. Their Brussels waffles are crisp, airy, and subtly sweet – pure perfection. And don’t get us started on their speculoos spread; it’s heaven on a waffle.
For the best Liège waffles, head to ‘Vitalgaufre’. These waffles, with their caramelized sugar glistening on the most golden crust, were simply irresistible. Our son still talks about “the yummy waffles” from there.
Waffles in Brussels are not just breakfast or dessert; they’re an any-time-of-the-day treat. So, whether you’re team Brussels or team Liège, don’t miss out on indulging in this iconic Belgian delight while exploring the city. After all, what’s a trip to Brussels without a waffle (or five) in hand?
One can’t discuss a visit to Brussels without giving Belgian frites the spotlight they so rightly deserve. Now, if you’re thinking “Oh, you mean French fries?”, let us assure you, Belgian frites are a whole other story.
Belgian frites are typically cut thicker than your standard French fry and are fried not once, but twice. This double-frying method gives the frites a wonderfully crisp exterior, while the inside remains soft and fluffy – the perfect contrast.
Our first encounter with these golden beauties was during our stroll through the vibrant streets of Brussels. The aroma of freshly fried potatoes wafting through the air was enough to lure us in. Watching our toddler’s eyes light up as he dug into his cone of frites, generously slathered in mayonnaise (the Belgian way), is a memory we will cherish.
Now, the question is, where to find these glorious golden sticks of happiness in Brussels?
Our top recommendation would undoubtedly be ‘Maison Antoine’. Located in Place Jourdan, this friterie has been a local favourite since 1948. The queues might be long, but believe us, the wait is worth it. Maison Antoine offers a plethora of sauces to choose from. We went for the classic mayo and a slightly spicy Andalouse, while our little one enjoyed the Samurai Sauce.
Another friterie that won our hearts was ‘Frit Flagey’ in Place Flagey. Their frites were crispy, golden, and served piping hot, and the tartare sauce was a delight.
Remember, frites are not just a side dish in Belgium, they’re a way of life. So when in Brussels, do as the Belgians do – enjoy your frites in a traditional paper cone, with a generous dollop of your favourite sauce, while you soak in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city. It’s a simple pleasure that is quintessentially Belgian, and one you shouldn’t miss.
There’s a reason Brussels is globally acclaimed for its chocolate, and we can confirm that this reputation is absolutely well-deserved. From chocolateries on every corner to divine chocolate-dipped waffles, the city is a chocoholic’s dream come true.
We couldn’t resist popping into ‘La Belgique Gourmande’. This delightful spot was a treasure trove of Belgian chocolates and confections. The range of flavours is absolutely impressive – from classic pralines to experimental flavours like wasabi or pink peppercorn! Our son loved their chocolate lollipops, and we confess we couldn’t resist their decadent chocolate truffles.
Pierre Marcolini is a boutique chocolate shop that is as classy as its name suggests. Their exquisite selection of fine chocolates was irresistible. We were particularly charmed by their ‘Malline Découverte’, an assortment of chocolates that offers a tour of flavours from around the world.
For something a bit more interactive and fun for the whole family, we recommend a visit to the ‘Choco-Story Brussels’. This chocolate museum offers an immersive dive into the history of chocolate, the process of making it, and even has chocolate making demonstrations where you get to taste the product!
Another must-visit spot is ‘Neuhaus’. As the inventors of the Belgian praline, this shop is a chocolate institution. The beautiful packaging makes it a perfect gift to take home, though we won’t judge if you decide to enjoy it all yourself!
For the ultimate chocolate splurge, we would recommend ‘Mary Chocolatier’. A favourite of the Belgian royal family, Mary’s offers an incredible range of delectable pralines. They are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Lastly, make a stop at ‘Frederic Blondeel’, where you can sip heavenly hot chocolate while your toddler relishes their chocolate-covered marshmallows.
Exploring Brussels’ chocolate scene isn’t just about indulging your sweet tooth – it’s an essential part of experiencing Belgian culture. Whether you’re a casual chocolate fan or a committed chocoholic, this city’s chocolate offerings will leave you craving more. And remember, in Brussels, calories don’t count when it comes to chocolate!
DISCOVER THE BEER SCENE
As lovers of local culture, we couldn’t help but acknowledge the renowned beer scene of Brussels during our visit, even though we didn’t personally partake in any tastings. With a bustling toddler in tow, our itinerary was a tad more chocolate and park-oriented. However, for the beer connoisseurs out there, we did some research and have a few recommendations that come highly recommended.
Kick-start your beer adventure at the ‘Brasserie Cantillon’, a family-operated brewery preserving the tradition of Lambic beer since 1900. We heard rave reviews about their insightful tours that dive deep into the unique brewing process of Lambic beer.
Next on the list is ‘Moeder Lambic’, known for its expansive beer selection. While we couldn’t personally experience it, we were told that their knowledgeable staff is always ready to guide beer enthusiasts. Plus, if you’re travelling with children, they have a great play area for the kids.
‘Delirium Café’ is a must-visit on every beer lover’s list. The café has a Guinness World Record for offering the most types of beer—over 2000! While we didn’t sample, the lively atmosphere and the extensive beer collection are legendary.
‘Beer Mania’ is a unique beer shop-cum-bar housing over 400 types of Belgian beers. The owner, Michael, is said to walk his guests through the diverse beer varieties, turning each visit into an informal beer masterclass.
Lastly, ‘Bier Circus’ offers a selection of traditional and craft beers. It’s been lauded for its warm atmosphere and delicious food menu, which includes kid-friendly options, perfect for those visiting with family.
While our own journey through Brussels was more cocoa and waffles, we know that for many, the rich brewing tradition is a major part of the Belgian experience. So, to all beer enthusiasts – Op uw gezondheid, to your health! Enjoy the vibrant beer scene that Brussels has to offer.
GO ON A FOOD TOUR
Our journey through Brussels was dotted with mouthwatering bites and sips, reflecting the city’s rich culinary tradition. While we experienced the joys of Belgian chocolates, hot-off-the-griddle waffles, and iconic frites with our toddler in tow, we couldn’t help but think of how much more the city’s food scene had to offer. We didn’t get to partake in a formal food tour ourselves, but we think it could be an excellent way for food lovers to immerse themselves in the local cuisine.
Imagine this: A local guide leading you through winding Brussels’ streets, introducing you to the hidden gems only locals know about. The thrill of trying delicacies, learning their histories, and indulging in the rich Belgian food culture.
So, here’s our shoutout to all gastronomic explorers out there – consider embarking on a food tour of Brussels. By all accounts, it’s an exciting journey through the city’s diverse culinary landscape.
Tasting your way through its delicious history and tradition is a great way to dive deeper into the gastronomic landscape of this incredible city. Just make sure you bring your appetite, because these tours are meant to satiate both your hunger and your curiosity!
We did some research and have a few recommendations that come highly recommended:
The ‘Brussels City Highlights Walking Tour and Food Tasting‘ is a recommended option that pops up quite frequently in our research. This tour is a unique blend of gastronomy, history, and culture, led by local food enthusiasts who can guide you to some hidden foodie gems. They’re known to cater to a variety of dietary restrictions, making them a viable option for different culinary preferences.
For chocolate aficionados, ‘The Brussels Chocolate Workshop and Guided Walking Tour ‘ offers a dedicated Belgian Chocolate Tasting Tour. We were told that you can learn about the history and making process of Belgian chocolate, followed by a workshop and tasting session that leaves your sweet tooth well satisfied.
The ‘Brussels Beer Tasting Tour with 7 Beers and Snacks‘ caught our attention too, as it seems like a great way to appreciate the legendary Belgian beers in conjunction with local delicacies. As parents of a lively toddler, we didn’t sample any beer, but this could be a delight for those who enjoy pairing their brews with their bites.
Of course, navigating the food scene independently, like we did, has its charm too. But for those who appreciate a curated experience, a food tour can offer a deep dive into Brussels’ culinary history, local favourites, and gourmet delights. Bon Appétit!
OTHER THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN BRUSSELS IF YOU ARE STAYING LONGER THAN A DAY
Our first visit to Brussels with our little toddler was a whirlwind of incredible experiences, delicious foods, and charming streets. Our itinerary was packed, and we feel like we just skimmed the surface of what this dynamic city has to offer.
That’s why we want to share with you a selection of attractions and activities we couldn’t squeeze into our short visit. These are the places that we didn’t get to see ourselves but caught our eye during our planning phase.
We’re hoping these suggestions can act as an alternative to our journey or enhance your Brussels adventure if you’re fortunate to have more than just a day in this beautiful city. Let’s dive into these additional nuggets that Brussels has tucked away!
A must-mention when we talk about Brussels is the remarkable Atomium. This architectural wonder is a bit of a drive from the city centre, but it’s quite a sight to behold.
Built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58), the Atomium represents a crystalline molecule of iron magnified 165 billion times! The giant steel spheres connected by tubes create an image that is nothing short of futuristic, even after all these years.
The beauty of this site is not just its exterior; you can actually go inside! There’s a museum, exhibitions and, to top it all off, a restaurant with panoramic views of Brussels in the highest sphere.
Our friends who visited told us their kids were thrilled by the escalators inside the tubes and the breathtaking view from the top!
While our day in Brussels was packed with ground-level explorations and delicious detours, a trip to the Atomium offers a quite literal change in perspective. If your itinerary allows for it, why not spend some time ‘atom-sized’? And hey, let us know how it is! We’re planning to visit on our next trip.
And then there’s Mini-Europe, another Brussels attraction we feel obliged to mention, even though we couldn’t squeeze it into our one-day itinerary.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Atomium, Mini-Europe is an amusing and educational mini adventure that’s sure to appeal to children and adults alike.
Imagine being able to walk through 27 countries in just a few hours, witnessing the key monuments and historical events of each! This theme park has over 350 miniatures and animations representing the best of European heritage, and each model is an impressive work of art created with remarkable attention to detail.
While we didn’t manage to fit Mini-Europe into our jam-packed day, friends of ours have recommended it, especially for families with children. They say it’s a great opportunity to learn about Europe’s rich history and cultural diversity in a fun and engaging way.
And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t love to see a pint-sized Eiffel Tower, or watch Mount Vesuvius erupt in miniature?
So, if you’ve got an extra day or are just a huge fan of all things mini (like our son!), it’s definitely worth considering a trip to Mini-Europe.
BRUSSEL COMIC STRIP SELF-GUIDED TOUR
Oh, and how could we not mention the renowned Comic Strip Route?
Brussels is often hailed as the capital of the comic strip, boasting a strong association with famous comic characters like Tintin and The Smurfs.
The Comic Strip Route, a self-guided tour that allows you to explore at your own pace, adds a splash of colour and fun to the city’s streets, turning an ordinary walk into a vibrant adventure. It features over 50 huge murals that pay tribute to Belgian comic strip heroes, scattered across the city and transforming bland walls into extraordinary works of art.
This tour is an excellent option if you’re a fan of the comic strip universe or are travelling with kids (like us). Not only does it promise an exciting hunt for all the murals, but it also provides a different perspective on Brussels as you meander through various neighbourhoods, stumbling upon charming hidden gems along the way.
So, for all comic aficionados or families looking for a unique way to discover the city, this could be your perfect Brussels escapade.
COMICS ART MUSEUM BRUSSELS (BELGIAN COMIC STRIP CENTER)
Now, let’s get to something we know would have been a big hit with our little guy had we had the time – the Comics Art Museum in Brussels.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Brussels – the capital of comic strips – is home to a museum entirely dedicated to this art and entertainment form.
Nestled in a magnificent Art Nouveau building designed by none other than Victor Horta, the Comics Art Museum houses a permanent exhibition tracing the history of comics from its beginnings to the present day, alongside temporary exhibitions showcasing various aspects of the comic strip world.
From what we’ve heard, the museum is not only an artistic and historic journey but also a great place for all family members, with interactive displays that can entertain kids and adults alike.
Besides, we’ve been told that the museum’s boutique is a must-visit for any comic enthusiast, offering a vast selection of comic books and related memorabilia.
And don’t forget to grab a bite in the museum’s charming brasserie, which we heard has a delicious menu.
Despite our best efforts to cover as much ground as possible in Brussels, our packed one-day schedule didn’t permit us a stop at Chocostory, the city’s popular chocolate museum.
However, if you’re a cocoa enthusiast or if you’re fortunate enough to be staying longer in this chocolate-loving capital, we would absolutely suggest adding this delectable destination to your itinerary.
Chocostory is an immersive, interactive experience that dives deep into the fascinating history and process of chocolate making. You get to walk through exhibits showcasing everything from the origins of cacao to the transformation of bitter beans into smooth, sweet chocolate.
The highlight, as per the reviews we read, is the live chocolate-making demonstration followed by a tasting session – a definite crowd-pleaser for all ages.
For families like ours, it sounds like an absolute treat! Our little one is quite the chocoholic and we can imagine his delight seeing chocolate being made in real-time, not to mention the thrill of tasting it fresh!
This is definitely on our ‘must-visit’ list for our next trip to Brussels and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, we bet it would be a delicious addition to yours as well.
MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCES
Famed for its dinosaur hall, which is said to be the largest in Europe, the Museum of Natural Sciences could be a dream come true for your little dinosaur enthusiast.
Imagine the wide-eyed wonder of your child as they marvel at the colossal fossilized skeletons – we can picture our little one’s excitement already!
It’s not all about the dinosaurs, though. From what we’ve gathered, the museum has a plethora of exhibits covering a vast array of natural history topics, from biodiversity and evolution to geology and anthropology.
We’re sure our son would have loved the interactive exhibits designed to engage kids and spark their curiosity about the world around them.
Beyond its educational value, we heard that the museum is very family-friendly. There’s plenty of space for kids to explore and run around, and it offers facilities like a baby changing room and a cafeteria with kid-friendly meals.
So, if you’re in Brussels for a while or looking for a fun, educational experience for your child, consider paying a visit to the Museum of Natural Sciences.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS MUSEUM
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from traveling with a toddler, it’s that music has a universal appeal that spans all ages. So, while we didn’t have a chance to visit it ourselves, we thought this museum might be an appealing alternative or addition to our suggested itinerary.
Housed in a stunning Art Nouveau building in the city center, the Musical Instruments Museum boasts an impressive collection of over 8,000 instruments from various periods and regions around the world.
While we missed out on this fascinating journey through the history of music, friends who’ve visited rave about the interactive audio guides that allow you to hear the sounds of the different instruments as you explore the exhibits – a feature we think would have delighted our little one!
Also, don’t miss out on the panoramic view of Brussels from the museum’s rooftop restaurant. We’ve been told that it’s one of the best in the city. Sounds like the perfect spot to unwind with a meal or a drink after a day of exploring.
Dedicated to the life and work of the world-renowned Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, this museum is a must-visit for any music fan.
From the details we’ve gathered online and from friends who’ve visited, the foundation offers an intimate glimpse into Brel’s world.
There are interactive exhibits that delve into his life, music, and the impact he had on the global music scene. The audiovisual displays, featuring Brel’s powerful performances, are said to be particularly moving.
Given that our little boy has shown a keen interest in music recently, it would have been a brilliant place to expose him to the richness of Belgian music and culture.
If your itinerary allows and you’re a music lover, or simply looking for a deeper cultural experience, we definitely suggest considering Fondation Brel.
VICTOR HORTA MUSEUM
For those of you who may not be familiar with the name, Victor Horta was one of the most influential architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a leading figure in the Art Nouveau movement.
The museum is actually his former house and studio, lovingly restored to its original condition.
Although we personally didn’t get to experience it, our friends have shared stories about the museum’s beautiful architecture and design.
The detailing in the staircases, the intricacy of the ironwork, the unique use of light and space, all contribute to an immersive journey through Horta’s creative universe.
In retrospect, it might have been a little challenging for our toddler to appreciate the delicate artistry, but for older kids and adults with a passion for design or history, this would be a fantastic addition to a Brussels itinerary.
The Oldmasters Museum is renowned for its focus on the works of the Flemish Primitives, a group of painters active in the Southern Netherlands during the 15th and 16th centuries.
The collection includes masterpieces by great artists like Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Also, the museum’s emphasis on contextual presentation allows visitors to understand these works in the sociopolitical environment of the times.
Though our toddler might not appreciate such detailed artistry just yet, we’ve been informed that the museum offers family-oriented tours and workshops. This sounds like a fantastic way to introduce young ones to the world of art while allowing adults to immerse themselves in some of the finest artworks from the 15th to the 18th centuries.
To cap it off, the museum is part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, meaning that with one ticket, you could also explore the Modern Museum or the Fin-de-Siècle Museum if you have additional time.
Dedicated to the surrealist artist René Magritte, the museum is said to house the world’s largest collection of his works. This museum is a treasure trove of over 200 works including paintings, sculptures, and sketches that trace the trajectory of Magritte’s remarkable career.
We’ve been told that the exhibits are well-curated, with the narrative not only spotlighting Magritte’s iconic pieces but also delving into his early works, philosophies, and his influences. We think this comprehensive glimpse into the artist’s life and work might just be an art enthusiast’s dream.
And, hey, let’s not forget about the kids. While our little one isn’t quite up to decoding surrealism yet, we were delighted to hear that the museum offers interactive family tours. They’ve got the balance just right: fun and engaging for the children while still being informative for the adults.
The Magritte Museum, which is part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, offers the added advantage of shared access to the other museums within this grouping. So if you have a little more time, consider diving into the Oldmasters Museum or the Modern Museum too.
PORTE DE HALLE
The Porte de Halle, or Halle Gate, is an impressive medieval fortified city gate and the last of its kind still standing in Brussels. This remarkable structure transports you straight back to the 14th century, providing a remarkable contrast to the modern city it’s nestled within.
From what we’ve read, you can climb to the top for some wonderful panoramic views of Brussels – an aspect we believe our little one would have absolutely adored.
The gate is also home to a museum that narrates the history of the city’s fortifications and armory, engagingly weaving tales of Brussels’ past. This makes it an excellent choice for history buffs or families with curious kids in tow.
The Palais d’Egmont is a grand palace that’s steeped in history and political significance. It’s nestled in a tranquil park, offering a serene escape from the city bustle.
Now, the palace is primarily used for official state functions, but it occasionally opens its doors to the public for special events and guided tours.
We’ve heard that its grand halls, elegantly adorned with intricate tapestries, paintings, and ornate chandeliers, transport you back in time. The gardens are supposedly beautiful as well, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a tranquil picnic – something our toddler would have loved.
So if you’re building your own Brussels itinerary and have some extra time, consider a detour to the Palais d’Egmont. It’s a chance to explore a less tourist-trodden part of the city and steep yourself in a bit of Belgium’s political history.
EGLISE NOTRE DAME DE LAEKEN
Even though we couldn’t make it ourselves, we’ve heard so much about the Eglise Notre Dame de Laeken that we feel it deserves a mention in our Brussels guide.
Eglise Notre Dame de Laeken is a Neo-Gothic masterpiece that stands out for its striking architecture and deep-rooted history. Reportedly, it’s a sight to behold, with its intricate stone carvings, stained glass windows, and a detailed facade that captivates one’s attention.
We were told that the interior is equally impressive, with a rich, ornate altar and elegant, tall arches.
Beyond its architectural beauty, it has a unique history. It was built in memory of Queen Louise-Marie, the first Queen of the Belgians, and it’s here that many members of the Belgian royal family rest.
Our son would have probably loved the space around the church to run around, and we would have enjoyed the tranquillity and beauty of this somewhat off-the-beaten-path spot.
PLACE DU PETIT SABLON
Place du Petit Sablon is a picturesque, enclosed park flanked by 48 bronze statues, each representing a medieval craft profession. These unique works of art lend the square a charming historical feel.
At the center stands the beautiful Fontaine des Comtes d’Egmont et de Hornes. In addition to its impressive artistry, the square is also adorned with an array of colourful flowers and plants, providing a tranquil setting for relaxation amidst the city bustle.
We’ve heard that this square is a quiet haven, perfect for leisurely strolls or unwinding with a good book.
For families like ours, it seems like a delightful spot for a picnic or for little ones to expend some energy in a serene, safe environment.
PALAIS DE JUSTICE
Walking through the streets of Brussels, one building consistently caught our attention, its grand architecture dominating the city’s skyline – The Palais de Justice. Though we didn’t manage to step inside, its regal exterior alone was enough to make us wish we had an extra day in our itinerary.
The Palais de Justice, with its vast scale and ornate designs, represents a significant chapter in Brussels’ architectural history. If you’re a fan of architecture or history, a visit here seems like an excellent way to enrich your understanding of the city. Word on the street is that the interiors are just as breathtaking as its façade, featuring marbled halls, high ceilings, and detailed carvings.
This monumental building also offers another irresistible lure – the panorama! The palace is perched on a hill, and the views of the city from its vicinity are said to be absolutely stunning. With our toddler son, we can imagine the joy of pointing out the different landmarks from this bird’s-eye view.
Note, it’s important to check ahead of time for any temporary closures, as the palace has been undergoing restorations.
Coudenberg Palace is a hidden gem, literally, as the old palace is an archaeological site situated underground. It’s an intriguing excursion into Brussels’ past, once being the home of the Dukes of Brabant and later Charles V.
Visiting this site, you can roam through the old street level, the remains of the palace, and its chapel, getting a unique insight into the historical layers of the city.
TAKE A HORSE AND CARRIAGE
As we strolled the cobblestone streets of Brussels with our little one in tow, we spotted an old-world charm that instantly caught our eye—horse-drawn carriages. Though we didn’t manage to take a ride ourselves, we’re all for adding a touch of enchantment to your itinerary, especially if you have some extra time in this magical city.
Think about it: what better way to soak in the historical splendour of Brussels than in a stately carriage, clip-clopping leisurely through the city? From what we saw and heard, these carriage rides provide a unique perspective of Brussels, allowing passengers to slow down and truly appreciate the architectural grandeur and historic vibe around them.
And let’s not forget the little ones. Our toddler was absolutely fascinated watching the horses. We can only imagine how much more exciting it would be for him to actually be in the carriage! It’s sure to be a storybook experience that will make their day even more special and memorable.
The starting point for these horse-drawn carriage rides is typically around the iconic Grand Place. Rides usually last about half an hour, giving you a good overview of the city’s core. While we can’t provide firsthand details on pricing or specific routes, we highly recommend checking it out when you’re there.
Remember, travel is all about exploration and creating memories, so feel free to switch out any activities from our itinerary with our alternative suggestions above.
And if you do, please share your experience. We love hearing about places we’ve yet to explore, and it gives us more reasons (as if we needed any more!) to plan a return trip to Brussels.
We hope our suggestions inspire you to create an unforgettable journey that suits your unique interests and pace.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT BRUSSELS BEFORE YOU GO
WHAT IS BRUSSELS KNOWN FOR
Brussels is the heart of Europe. It’s not just about the geographical location, but it’s also the political capital of the European Union. The European Parliament, Commission, and Council are all based here, adding a buzzing international atmosphere to the city.
Brussels is also the birthplace of Tintin, the renowned comic book character, and it wears its comic heritage with pride. Stunning murals depicting comic characters adorn many of the city’s buildings. As lovers of art and story, we found this an endearing and colourful part of Brussels’ urban culture.
Last but certainly not least, food lovers will know that Brussels is synonymous with waffles, chocolates, fries, and beer. Even though we didn’t personally indulge in the beer (toddler parenting duties!), we loved sampling the city’s sweet treats. Belgian chocolates in particular are world-famous, and for good reason. They’re rich, creamy, and just the right kind of decadent.
WHEN TO VISIT BRUSSELS
Timing really can make a world of difference when planning your visit to Brussels, and we were lucky enough to have hit that sweet spot perfectly.
Brussels, as with much of Belgium, enjoys a maritime temperate climate, meaning it’s relatively mild all year round. However, every season offers its unique charm, so your choice of visit really depends on your personal preference.
Our visit was at the tail end of May and the beginning of June, and we truly relished the cusp of spring turning into summer. The days were long and sunny, creating the perfect backdrop for our explorations. Our toddler son could play to his heart’s content in the city’s many parks, basking in the sunlight.
The added benefit of this timing is that the city isn’t as crowded as the peak summer months (June to August). So, you’ll be able to explore the city’s charm without having to navigate through throngs of tourists.
If you love the thought of crunching leaves underfoot and witnessing the city awash with the hues of fall, a visit in autumn (September to October) could be your perfect fit. We’ve heard rave reviews about the breathtaking fall foliage in Brussels’ parks – something we’ve made a note of for our next visit!
For those undeterred by the cold and are attracted by the twinkling lights of Christmas markets, winter could be an enchanting time to explore Brussels. The Grand Place, lit up with Christmas lights, is an image that we’ve seen and have on our bucket list.
Remember, though, Brussels’ weather can sometimes be unpredictable. But, as the locals put it, there’s no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. So, pack wisely!
HOW TO GET TO BRUSSELS
There are plenty of options to get to Brussels from another city.
Because we had a toddler in tow and where visiting Belgium for a wedding, we drive to Brussels in our car from North Yorkshire, with a stint in the Eurotunnel for that extra bit of adventure. The drive was definitely a scenic one, but we must admit, it may not be the most practical way for other people to get to Brussels.
If you don’t mind long drives and have the time, it’s certainly an option worth considering, as it can be cheaper than a flight these days. Keep in mind, though, Brussels is a low-emission zone, and some older cars may have restricted access.
Now, if you’re looking for a more practical alternative, flying is the quickest way to get there. Brussels Airport is well connected to many international and European cities. It’s a convenient choice and the airport is very family-friendly, which is great when traveling with young ones.
Upon arrival at the airport, you can hop onto a train that will whisk you to Brussels Central Station in under 20 minutes. Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are also available for the final leg into the city.
If you’re already in Europe, another great option is taking the train. Brussels is a key node in the European railway network with direct links to cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, and more. High-speed trains such as the Eurostar, Thalys or ICE bring you directly to Brussels Midi Station, the city’s largest train station.
So, whether you’re up for a drive, a flight, or a train ride, Brussels is quite accessible. Just choose the mode of transport that suits your style and circumstances
HOW TO GET AROUND BRUSSELS
After arriving by car and parking near the beautiful Parc du Cinquantenaire, we found ourselves diving into the city mainly on foot. There’s a certain charm to walking around, feeling the cobbled streets under your feet, discovering hidden gems, and of course, stopping for a play break or two with our toddler in one of the many green parks.
Walking turned out to be ideal, especially in the city centre, where many of the attractions are within close distance of each other. Besides, nothing beats the feeling of turning a corner to be suddenly met with the splendid sight of the Grand Place or some other historic marvel!
But don’t be fooled into thinking walking was our only method of transport. After a day full of exploring, we took the Brussels metro from the Botanique to give our tired feet a rest. The metro system in Brussels is reliable and pretty easy to navigate. What impressed us most was how stroller-friendly it was, making it an effortless journey back.
Now, walking and metro rides covered most of our transportation needs, but Brussels has other alternatives too. The city’s STIB-MIVB network of buses and trams extensively covers Brussels, ensuring you can get pretty much anywhere. Tickets are affordable and can be bought in advance, making this a convenient option if you’re planning to travel outside the city centre or want to give those feet a well-deserved break!
For those who prefer a more direct or comfortable route, taxis and ride-hailing apps like Uber are readily available. Although we didn’t use these services during our trip, they are certainly options to consider, especially for late-night rides or if you’re in a rush.
WHAT CURRENCY TO USE IN BRUSSELS
Navigating a foreign country with a toddler in tow often means having a bunch of essentials on hand: snacks, wipes, toys, and of course, the right currency.
On our recent family trip to Brussels, we too found ourselves sifting through our wallets, ensuring we were prepared for those unexpected moments, like when our little one suddenly craved a Belgian waffle from a street-side vendor or we chanced upon a delightful local toy store.
So, what’s the money matter in Brussels? Brussels, being the capital of Belgium, uses the Euro (€) as its official currency. This makes it incredibly convenient, especially if you’re touring other parts of Europe that are within the Eurozone.
While most places in Brussels, including restaurants, stores, and major tourist attractions, accept credit and debit cards, it’s always a good idea to keep some cash on hand. We found this especially handy for smaller establishments, market stalls, or those quick bites at local bakeries where card transactions might not be the norm.
ATMs are widely available throughout the city, so you can withdraw Euros without a hassle. Just be mindful of any transaction fees your home bank might charge for international withdrawals.
Now, a quick tip for fellow traveling parents: If you’re exchanging currency, try to request smaller denominations. Having a mix of notes and coins made it simpler for us, be it for tipping, a carousel ride for our son, or just getting two coffees on the go.
WHAT LANGUAGE TO SPEAK IN BRUSSELS
Brussels, being the vibrant heart of Belgium, predominantly speaks two languages: French and Dutch. While French is widely spoken in most parts of the city, Dutch holds its ground in certain neighbourhoods and governmental aspects. As we meandered through the streets with our son excitedly pointing out every tram and dog in sight, we noticed street names in both languages, and sometimes even menus in restaurants showcasing this linguistic duality.
Now, if you’re worried about getting lost in translation, here’s a reassuring bit: English is widely understood, especially in the central parts of Brussels and among the younger generation. Given that the city is home to various international institutions, many locals are used to conversing in English, making it quite tourist friendly.
For those moments when we were trying to ask for directions or order our son’s favourite dish, a simple “Bonjour” (Hello in French) or “Dank je” (Thank you in Dutch) sufficed, often met with a smile. We also felt that even attempting to speak the local language, no matter how broken or accented, was always appreciated. It was heartwarming to see shopkeepers and locals light up when we tried our hand at their tongue, even if just with pleasantries.
WHAT TO WEAR IN BRUSSELS FOR A DAY TRIP
Ah, the age-old traveller’s question: “What on earth should I pack?”
This dilemma faced us head-on when we were planning our day trip to Brussels, especially since our visit straddled the end of May and the beginning of June. Having now navigated those charming cobblestoned streets with our lively toddler in tow, we feel well-equipped to give you the low-down on the best attire for your Brussels escapade during this time of year.
- Layers Are Your Best Friend: Brussels, with its classic European maritime climate, is known for its unpredictable weather patterns. When we visited, mornings could be brisk while afternoons warmed up considerably. Our solution? Layers. A light sweater or cardigan over a t-shirt or blouse made it easy to adapt to the changing temperatures.
- Comfortable Footwear: Can’t stress this one enough! With our toddler bubbling with energy, we found ourselves walking quite a bit. And believe us when we say Brussels is best explored on foot. Comfortable sneakers or walking shoes were our saving grace, especially on the city’s iconic cobblestones. In fact, we have dedicated an entire post to the best shoes to wear on cobblestones!
- A Light Rain Jacket or Umbrella: Despite the promises of summer on the horizon, Brussels can surprise you with a quick shower or two in May and June. A compact umbrella or a foldable rain jacket tucked into your day bag will ensure you can continue your explorations unhindered.
- Accessorize with a Hat and Sunglasses: In late spring and early summer, the sun does make its presence felt in intervals. A chic hat not only adds to the European flair but also offers protection. Sunglasses, apart from their obvious benefits, are perfect for those alfresco café moments, watching the world go by.
- Kid-Proof Clothes: If you’re traveling with a toddler like we were, make sure their outfit is both comfy and easy to manage. Think elasticated pants, easy-to-pull-on tees, and perhaps a light jacket. A change of clothes is also a good idea; we learned this the hard way after an unexpected ketchup mishap!
- A Handy Backpack: While this isn’t exactly “wear”, having a backpack was invaluable. It allowed us to store essentials for our toddler, like snacks, water, and those all-important toys to keep him entertained, all while keeping our hands free for better navigation (and the occasional waffle).
OTHER THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE LOCAL CULTURE
As newcomers to the captivating world of Brussels, we quickly realized that the heart of this city lies in the intricate tapestry of its local culture. Here’s what we gleaned from our day of cultural immersion:
- The Art of Greeting: Belgians are generally friendly and polite. While a simple nod or smile is appreciated, it’s also common to greet with a cheek kiss, usually three times, starting from the left. However, a handshake or a friendly “Bonjour” (in French-speaking areas) or “Hallo” (in Dutch-speaking areas) is perfectly acceptable, especially among strangers.
- Dining Delights: Belgians take their meals seriously, and so did we! Lunch, usually taken between noon and 2 pm, is typically the main meal of the day. While many eateries cater to continuous service, some might close in the afternoon. So, if you’re planning to dine late, do check the timings. Also, it’s polite to wait until everyone is served before starting your meal.
- Respect for Quiet: Coming from a bustling city ourselves, we found Brussels to be refreshingly calm. This tranquillity is especially palpable in residential areas where locals value and respect quiet hours. We were conscious of this during our toddler’s more boisterous moments, making sure to avoid loud noises especially early in the morning or late at night.
- Sustainability Matters: Brussels has a strong eco-conscious culture. From the well-laid out cycling paths to the emphasis on recycling, it’s evident that sustainability is more than just a buzzword here. Carrying a reusable bag and opting for tap water (which is safe to drink) over bottled are little ways to fit into this green culture.
Diving into the culture of Brussels, even for just a day, was like reading an engrossing book – every page offered something new and intriguing. We left with a profound appreciation for the city’s unique blend of tradition and modernity. If you’re planning a visit, we’d urge you to embrace the local culture wholeheartedly; it’s the best way to truly experience the spirit of Brussels.
IS BRUSSELS A GOOD PLACE TO VISIT FOR FAMILIES?
Traveling with a toddler is an adventure of its own, and the destination only adds layers to the story. Before embarking on our Brussels escapade, we had our own hesitations: Would the city’s historic charm blend well with toddler tantrums and diaper duties? Now, having roamed its alleys and relished its waffles, we’re keen to share our findings on Brussels as a family-friendly spot.
- Green Spaces Galore: One of our primary concerns while traveling is finding open spaces where our son can run around and burn off his toddler energy. Brussels surprised us with its abundance of parks and play areas. Our personal favorite was the Parc du Cinquantenaire, with its vast expanses and child-friendly zones. It’s a breath of fresh air (quite literally) amidst the city hustle.
- Child-Friendly Dining: Belgian waffles, chocolates, and fries – need we say more? But beyond these delicious treats, many restaurants in Brussels offer child menus and have high chairs available. We also noticed a few places with play corners, a godsend when you want to enjoy a meal in relative peace.
- Accessible Transport: While we mostly explored on foot, our ride on the underground back from Le Botanique was smooth. Stations were stroller-friendly, and locals were ever so polite, offering seats and making way for our pram.
- Interactive Museums: While Brussels has its fair share of art and history museums, there are plenty that cater to young minds. The Comics Art Museum, for instance, would be a hit for older kids, while even our toddler found the colorful exhibits fascinating.
- Safety First: As parents, safety is paramount. We found Brussels to be relatively safe. Of course, like in any major city, it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded tourist spots.
- Locals Love Little Ones: Belgians, from our experience, have a soft spot for children. We lost count of the number of times our son was greeted with warm smiles, playful waves, or even an occasional treat from a kind stranger.
- Adaptability: This one’s more of a tip. Like any European city, Brussels has its quirks. Cobbled streets, while charming, can be a tad challenging with a stroller. We’d recommend a sturdy stroller or a baby carrier for younger children.
Our Brussels day trip affirmed our belief that the city is not just rich in culture and history but also wonderfully accommodating for families. It offers a blend of experiences that cater to both young and old, making it a worthy addition to any family travel itinerary. If you’re contemplating a Brussels trip with your family, we’d say, “Go for it!” Your family is in for a Belgian treat.