Are looking for that perfect destination for a European weekend getaway? Somewhere that is not only really easy to get to but has stunning architecture, fantastic food, and quaint streets that give it a smaller city vibe?
Head over to the capital of Belgium, Brussels. Here you will find all of this and plenty more to keep you occupied for an incredible long weekend.
Brussels may appear small, but there is plenty here to fill 72 hours in Brussels and offer you a real feel of what Belgium’s beautiful capital city is really all about.
Around 1 million tourists visit Brussels every year, and it has some great transport links making it a very accessible city to visit. From London to Brussels on a Eurostar train takes a little under 2 hours and the journey by plane is even shorter at around 90 minutes.
There are a staggering 26 direct daily flights from London alone to Brussels – and many of the budget airlines also operate flights from the smaller regional airports as well.
Table of Contents
- Brussels travel tips
- Day 1
- Day 2 – 72 Hours In Brussels
- Day 3 – 72 Hours In Brussels
- 72 Hours In Brussels – What Will You Find?
Brussels travel tips
The centre of Brussels is a great place to stay. You will find a plethora of hotels and hostels to suit every budget. They make a great base for a long weekend in the city. What’s more, the comprehensive public transport links make even those accommodation choices on the outskirts of Brussels a very good choice.
Most of the places you will want to visit in Brussels will be centrally located and easy to get to on foot. However, if you want to explore slightly further out, then you can buy inexpensive tickets that will allow you to use the bus, metro, tram or all three.
One thing that you will probably notice almost immediately in Brussels is that the city is bilingual. Signs and notices will be in both French and Dutch – although only a small percentage of the inhabitants are actually Flemish. English is, however, widely spoken as Brussels is an international city.
The best place to start any visit to Brussels is at the Grand Place. This is the historic central square of the city. Here, there is a truly spectacular array of architectural delights to admire. The square is not quite as “Grand” in size as you might expect.
However, it is surrounded on all sides by some magnificent guild halls and rather decorative civic buildings that give it a real air of grandeur. This makes a great place to stop for a coffee at one of the terraced cafes, or a beer, depending on the time.
Every alternate year the Grand Place is transformed during the month of August with a carpet of flowers. Measuring approximately 77m x 24m, a host of volunteers come together to arrange a rainbow of Begonias into incredible, ornate patterns. The next transformation will take place in Summer 2024.
The self-mocking icon of the city the Manneken-Pis is another absolute must on any tourist’s list of places to visit. You may need to be patient to catch a glimpse of those tiny bronze statue that dates back to the 15th century, however. There are often throngs of tourists around him. This small urinating boy can often be found dressed in rather elaborate outfits.
A visit to the GardeRobe MannekenPis at the Brussels Museum, located just off Grand Place, will offer you a look at the quirky collection of around 1000 costumes that make up this very well-dressed statue’s wardrobe.
Cathédrale des Saints Michel et Gudule
A short distance from the Grand Place, you will find the imposing and incredibly impressive Cathédrale des Saints Michel et Gudule.
This building, parts of which date back to the 9th century, was given Cathedral status in 1962. It is gothic in style with more than a hint of its Romanesque history.
An outstanding feature is its rather spectacular stained glass windows. Inside the ceiling, columns and statues of the apostles are also worth a look.
From March to October, guided tours of the tower take place. These must be booked 2 weeks in advance, and places are strictly limited.
Parc de Bruxelles
By now, you will probably be ready for something a little different. If so, why not head to the biggest green space that you will find in the centre of Brussels?
Here you will find formally laid out tree-shaded avenues. The Palais Royal (only open in late July and August) is to the south of the park.
If the weather is nice, you could picnic in the park. You will find plenty of sandwich shops in the centre of Brussels. Otherwise, head to the Musée des Instruments de Musique.
Musée des Instruments de Musique
The Museum is home to a range of historical musical instruments which are something a little different and give a glimpse of the Brussels of old. The museum building itself is also rather interesting; it is an old Art Nouveau department store. The restaurant, which is on the top floor, has a terrace with fantastic views over the city and makes a good place for lunch.
An alternative lunch spot nearby is the Restaurant Albert which offers ethical lunches and snacks and is situated on the top floor of the Royal Library.
Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts
Another museum, and one that will fill your afternoon, the fine arts museum houses the premier art collection in Belgium. Here you will find works by Rubens and Bruegel.
If symbolist painting is more your thing, then the Musée Fin-de-Siècle, which is next door is home to some very weird works to admire.
What to eat on your first evening
After a busy day, you will certainly be ready for a fantastic evening meal.
A good area to head to is the Place Sainte-Catherine / Rue de Flandre area of the centre. This is the trendy food hub of the moment and home to some fantastic restaurants.
Of course, if you want to eat something that is classically Belgian then you really cannot go wrong with Moules-frites. From Moules natures (simple steamed mussels) to those in cream sauces or with plenty of garlic, choosing how to have your mussels could be quite a challenge.
Don’t forget to order from the wide range of Belgian beers available to accompany your meal.
Day 2 – 72 Hours In Brussels
Musée Art & Histoire
Head towards the south of the city in the morning to visit the Musée Art & Histoire. This was formerly known as the Musée du Cinquantenaire. The museum is located in the Pard du Cinquantenaire – named for and created to mark the 50th anniversary of Belgian nationhood, which took place in 1880.
Inside, the museum is not dissimilar to the layout of the British Museum. It is home to an incredible collection of Belgian and International artefacts.
The museum offers plenty to see so will take up most of your morning. However if you have had enough of art museums, then you will also find the automobile museum in the Parc du Cinquantenaire.
The museum is home to a collection of fantastic cars dating all the way back to the history of some of the first cars right up to the present day.
Nearby Place Jourdan makes a great place to stop for some lunch. If you are looking for something more snacky, then Belgian chips are available almost everywhere.
They come with a wide range of sauces, including, of course, the traditional mayonnaise. Another Belgian classic dish you might want to consider is Carbonnade Flamande. This is a beef stew that is slow-cooked in beer.
A stroll through the European Quarter, which is full of some really interesting buildings, will lead you to Parc Leopold. This is a rather English-style park in looks with a lake and a tower. Despite its city centre location, this is a green oasis away from the hustle and bustle and a great place to take a little time to relax.
A short walk from Parc Leopold is the Parlamentarium, the largest parliamentary visitors centre in Europe. Over 2 million people have visited the Parlamentarium since it opened in 2011. The Parlamentarium offers individuals the opportunity to learn more about the role of the European Parliament and how everything works. As you would expect, tours are conducted in all European languages. Plus, the centre is ideally suited for visitors with a wide range of disabilities.
A little light shopping
Avenue Louise, and Boulevard de Waterloo, which is adjacent, are at the heart of the luxury shopping district of Brussels.
Whether you simply want to indulge in a little window shopping or fancy buying some of the best luxury goods on offer, you will find the likes of Delvaux, Cartier, and Hermes. You will be pleased to know that many of the shops in this area stay open until 6 or 6.30 pm. Of course, your wallet might not be so pleased.
Your second evening
There are yet more fantastic restaurants near the Palais de Justice. Dishes to look out for on local menus include things like aged beef, cured meats, scallops, meatballs and even grey shrimp croquettes.
On the way back to your hotel, don’t forget to stop in one of the many bars you will find in Brussels. Here you can continue your exploration of Belgian beers. You will discover that there are several hundred beers to choose from.
If you are struggling to pick one, then ask for recommendations. The staff will be more than happy to help you.
Day 3 – 72 Hours In Brussels
Waffles for breakfast
If you have reached the final day of your stay and have not yet tried some of the incredible waffles that you will find all over Brussels, then now is the perfect time to rectify that.
Whilst locals might cringe at the thought of waffles for breakfast why not start the day with a sugary treat? From the waffles named after Brussels to simple sugared waffles and those with fruit or chocolate spread, the traditional waffle in Brussels is crispy, light, and truly delicious.
You will find plenty of places selling waffles all over the city.
Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée
One of the biggest Belgian contributions to popular culture is, without a doubt, the humble comic book strip.
A visit to the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée is a great way to see just how much of a contribution the country has made. The centre is housed in an old Art Nouveau fabric shop and has plenty to interest you.
Whilst Tintin may be the most commonly remembered Belgian cartoon character, here you will find exhibitions dedicated to a range of other characters as well. There are also plenty of displays about cartoon characters from other parts of the world as well as a comic strip library and reading room.
Chocolate is one of the most famous products that has ever come out of Belgium. As such, no trip to Brussels could possibly be complete without at least a mention of this incredible delight.
Whether you are looking for presents to bring home, or simply want to indulge your sweet tooth look out for names like Neuhaus and Godiva. Or, if you want something a little more artisan, Pierre Marcolini and Mary. The place to visit for all things chocolatey is the Place du Grand Sablon.
Other sweet treats you may like to look out for in Brussels are Speculoos and Sables. These are both specialties of delicious dry biscuits with a real buttery flavor.
Close to the Grand Place, you will find the flagship shop of the Dandoy brand, the most famous of the Brussels makers. There are also many shops specializing in Speculoos. Some have incredible displays in their windows. These give you just a hint of the artistry that goes into making the final products.
After exploring the city some more in the morning and indulging in chocolate and waffles, it’s time to call it a trip and head home. If you want to continue your trip around Belgium, check out this itinerary: The Ultimate 3-5 Day Belgium Itinerary
72 Hours In Brussels – What Will You Find?
Now we’ve given you some tips on where to spend time in Brussels; where will your 72 hours in Brussels take you? Wherever you choose, we’re sure you’ll enjoy experiencing the best Belgium has to offer.