48 Hours in Brussels - Highlights Itinerary for Two Days
Looking to spend two days in Brussels? Don’t make the mistake of thinking the city is all about EU bureaucracy and paperwork. Quite the contrary! There is so much to see here that you will need to plan your steps meticulously if you want to have enough time to check everything out.
Culture, architecture and art abound, just like great and interesting food and drinks, so you are really in for a fun trip if you decide to visit Belgium’s capital. Some things here may even surprise you quite a bit, so here’s a short proposal on how to spend your 48 hours in Brussels – a fascinating city.
DAY 1: Morning – Grand Place and Brussels city centre
Make sure that the first day in Brussels is a memorable one by starting things off from Grand Place. This square is incredibly beautiful in and of itself, but every two years it becomes covered with a carpet of begonias that form spectacular shapes and images. Should you be so lucky that you’re in town at the time, witnessing this is something you absolutely mustn’t miss.
To the south-west of the square is another major Brussels attraction – the statue of Manneken Pis. This naughty little boy symbolizes the city’s independence and sense of humour and is famous pretty much all over the world. Given the statue’s popularity, you may want to see it early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
After that, you can spend more of your first few 48 hours in Brussels enjoying famous Belgian chocolate in some of the shops in the city centre, but you can also go shopping or simply sit down for some coffee and just let the life of Brussels pass you by in Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.
However, don’t forget to check out the Comics Art Museum to the north-east of the main square. If you have ever read a comic book about Lucky Luke or Tintin, for example, you have enjoyed what is probably the most popular aspect of Belgian culture in the world. Indeed, comic books are extremely important to this country, and a visit to this great museum will delight kids (if you have them with you) and take you back to your childhood, too.
DAY 1: Afternoon – Exploring some incredible Brussels architecture
As previously mentioned, Brussels is a city that contains plenty of impressive architectural feats. One of them is St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, the place where the Belgian royal family will have their wedding and coronation ceremonies. The construction of the church took quite literally centuries, so the end result is something very special. During Christmas time, you can find plenty of interesting events here.
Not too far south from that is Notre-Dame du Sablon, a spectacular Gothic church from the 15th century. As much as this beauty is incredible from the outside, it is even more impressive on the inside, primarily because of its beautiful interior decorations. This is a must see sight if spending only 48 hours in Brussels.
Finally, end your sightseeing for the day with a trip to Mont des Arts, a place just north from Notre-Dame du Sablon which is actually a complex of important building such as the Royal Library and National Archives, but also a place with a beautiful public park where you can rest and relax a bit and enjoy a great view of the city hall’s tower.
If after all this walking and sightseeing on your first of two days in Brussels, you want to grab a bite to eat, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of great restaurants in the city centre. Bia Mara is quite popular, with its diverse fish menu and excellent fish and chips, whereas NONA is a pretty fine pizzeria. But just a tiny bit of exploring and you’re bound to run into something good, no matter if you’re looking for lunch or dinner.
DAY 2: Morning – Brussels Royal Palace and parks
Yes, Belgium has its king and queen, and the king acts as the head of state. While the royal couple resides on the outskirts of the city, the Royal Palace in the city centre is where the king attends to his duties. And the palace itself is really worth the time, especially if you’re spending your 48 hours in Brussels in August – then you can enter it for free!
Also, you can check out the beautiful park right next to it called Parc de Brussels. It is the largest one in the city and a perfect place to relax and unwind or even catch a festival or two in summer.
Slightly east from the palace, you will find Parc du Cinquantenaire. It was built to honor the 50th anniversary of Belgium as a country in 1880 and is dominated by a massive arcade in whose center is the triumphal arch. In the arch, you will find a huge Belgian flag, and the whole thing is one of the main symbols of Brussels.
Between the two parks is the Parlamentarium, the place where visitors can enter the European Parliament and explore the very heart of the European Union. Guided tours are readily available in all languages of the Union, so you will be able to learn everything you want to know about this important institution.
DAY 2: Afternoon – Atomium
After lunch, it’s time to leave the city centre and head to the Atomium, probably the most famous building in Belgium. It is actually an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times, and you can climb into it and explore the spheres of this edifice. There are several exhibitions you can enjoy there, both permanent and temporary, plus the site will often host various cultural events such as concerts for some fun evening entertainment during your 48 hours in Brussels.
Next to the Atomium is the Mini-Europe park. Here you will be able to explore the whole continent and its most important attractions in just a few steps, and the kids will love this place too. And right next to this is the planetarium, which can be another very educational place to visit.
But if you just want to chill out and relax for some of your 48 hours in Brussels, simply stroll around that big park below the Atomium (they have a lot them here, right?). It has some interesting monuments to see, with Castle of Laeken being about one kilometer south from the Atomium. This is the home of the royal family, and the greenhouses there open their doors to public every spring.
As for the dinner this time, the Atomium has its own restaurant, but you can find a whole bunch of other fine choices on Avenue Houba de Strooper, very close by. If you’re wondering about Brussels nightlife, if you still have the energy after these two days in Brussels, your best bet is heading back to the city centre. There are loads of great cocktail bars there, such as the Music Village, for example, but head to Brussels Beer Project for some great Belgian beer if that’s the drink you prefer.
Nightlife in Brussels
When it comes to Brussels nightlife, there are some decent nightclubs. Zodiak and Fuse are among the best choices, but Madame Moustache seems to be popular, too. In any case, if you decide to go out in Brussels, you are bound to have a great night dancing and enjoying drinks with your friends. Have fun!
Considering Bruges too? Then check out our 48 Hours in Bruges itinerary!
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About the Author: Anca is the founder and chief editor of One Day Itinerary, a travel blog dedicated to those who want to make the most of their time in a new city, even if they only have only one day there. Thanks to the fact that she has traveled literally all over the world, she can tell you the dos and don’ts of pretty much every major city in the world. As a matter of fact, she’s already done so in her blog posts.