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  • Writer's pictureanusha gopalakrishnan

Top things to do in Brussels | Half Day Itinerary

Truth be told, Brussels wasn't at the top of our list of places to visit. We were more inclined to explore other Belgian cities like Ghent, Bruges, and Dinant. However, we ended up in Brussels because it made the most logistical sense, considering our next destination was Amsterdam. That being said, I'm incredibly glad we decided to visit Brussels because we had an amazing time in the city, albeit it being a really short trip.


There are countless attractions and experiences to enjoy in this charming Belgian capital, and you can easily explore many of them in half a day, depending on your preferences. Whether you're interested in visiting museums and art galleries or simply soaking up the city's atmosphere while indulging in local delicacies like beer, fries, mussels, or Belgian waffles, there's something for everyone. Personally, I lean towards the latter option—I mean, who can resist Belgian waffles? Lol.


Allow me to guide you through our itinerary so you can virtually explore the city alongside us.

 

1.      Marvel at the Grand Place (Grote Markt)

Take in the stunning architecture of the buildings surrounding Grand Place. Marvel at the intricate facades of the Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville) and the guild houses, which showcase a blend of Gothic, Baroque, and Louis XIV styles. This Gothic structure dates back to the Middle Ages and stands as the sole remaining medieval building in the central square of Brussels.


Explore the Town Hall, one of Brussels' most iconic landmarks. If time permits, take a guided tour to learn about its history, architecture, and role in the city's governance. Don't miss the chance to climb the tower for panoramic views of Brussels.


Guild Houses are an absolute must-see. These buildings, also known as Guildhalls, stand as tangible reminders of the influence wielded by craft guilds, which played a significant role in both Belgian and European economic life not too long ago. Essentially akin to ancient unions, they represented members from various crafts.


The Grand Place is renowned as one of the most picturesque central squares in all of Europe, and I wholeheartedly agree. Its architecture is truly magnificent and has the power to leave visitors in awe.


Additionally, there are numerous shops and cafes surrounding the city square where tourists can browse for souvenirs or relax with a drink or bite to eat. It's the perfect setting to soak up the atmosphere and indulge in a bit of people-watching.

 

2.      See the famous Maneken Pis and his sister "Jeanneke Pis" in the flesh

"Manneken Pis" translates from Dutch to "little peeing man," effectively summarizing the statue's essence. It literally is a statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain. Lol.


Friends who had previously seen this statue in person had warned us about its size, so we managed my expectations accordingly. So, seeing it in person didn't disappoint us. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised because on that day, it was dressed in a unique costume. We learned that there are occasions when the Manneken Pis is dressed in special outfits to mark various events. But I must say, the statue was indeed small, as my friends had warned! Heck I even spotted a chocolate version of the Manneken Pis, which was larger than the original one, which was quite amusing!

I would still recommend adding it to your itinerary despite the fact that I found it a little underwhelming for two reasons. Firstly, because the statue is situated just a brief five-minute stroll from the Grand Place, and you won't overlook it, as it's constantly surrounded by crowds at all times of the day. Secondly because it is one of the most iconic symbols of Brussels, representing the city's playful and beloved tradition.


We also made a stop at "Jeanneke Pis," often regarded as the "sister" of the Manneken Pis. I'll leave you with a photo of the statue—quite adorable, isn't she?

If you're interested, there's also the "Zinneke Pis" featuring a urinating dog. Haha. We decided to pass on this one since I think we've seen our fair share of statues relieving themselves. Lol


3.     Indulge in a Belgian waffle (or two)

In my opinion, no trip to Belgium is complete without indulging in some incredible Belgian waffles and washing them down with deliciously rich Belgian hot cocoa. It's a quintessential Belgian experience that satisfies both the sweet tooth and the soul.

In Brussels, you can find delicious Belgian waffles at various cafes, bakeries, and street vendors throughout the city.


In fact, the very first item on our agenda upon arriving in Brussels was, you guessed it, WAFFLES! Our very first stop upon arriving in Brussels was at the Waffle Factory. There, we indulged in warm, fluffy waffles topped with silky Belgian milk chocolate and crushed hazelnuts—It was oh so divine!


On our journey to the Waffle Factory, we couldn't resist indulging in an impromptu delight – we picked up some piping hot pancake fries generously coated with cinnamon sugar. Paired with creamy coffee to take away, it was a delightful treat. After all, they calories don't count when you're on holiday, right?


Consider checking out other renowned waffle spots such as Maison Dandoy and Le Funambul to get your waffle fix.


4.      Sample local Belgian Beer

Brussels, the capital of beer, is truly a paradise for beer lovers. The beer scene here is huge and essential part of experiencing the city's culture and heritage.



We strolled past a charming bar aka Delirium Cafe adorned with quirky memorabilia, vintage posters, and vibrant murals. Little did we know then that Delirium Café is globally renowned as one of the most iconic beer bars, holding the Guinness World Record for its extensive beer selection. With over 2000 different varieties from around the globe, whether you prefer Belgian classics, craft brews, or international favorites, there's something to satisfy every palate. I opted for the peach and raspberry ale, both of which were delightful!


Initially, we ventured in just to capture some photos, but as we glimpsed the inviting taproom and its extensive beer selection, temptation beckoned. Although it was still early, being on holiday granted us the liberty for a sneaky drink before noon. Despite the looming train departure in 45 minutes, with the station a 20-minute walk away, logic urged us to prioritize our time wisely—after all, we hadn't even purchased chocolates yet. But we figured, "Why not seize the opportunity to have a beer in Brussels? Before we knew it, we were both seated on bar stools, each with a pint in hand, paying no heed to logic.


Reflecting on it now, I am thankful that we took the leap even if it meant sprinting like maniacs to catch our train while slightly tipsy in a foreign country. Haha. Will I do it again? – Yes, in a heartbeat!

p/s: We successfully bought chocolates, retrieved our luggage from storage, and caught the train on time! Not too bad, huh? Team work makes the dream work! Lol

 

5.      Intentionally get lost in the city center

Sometimes the best plan is not to have a plan at all.


Brussels is a compact and easily walkable city, making it difficult to truly get lost— if you catch my drift. Almost every road seems to lead back to the Grand Place, serving as both a starting and ending point for your explorations.


  •             Up your Serotonin Levels with some Belgian Chocolate

Allow the irresistible aroma of chocolate lead you to the numerous chocolatiers scattered throughout the city. Leisurely explore these charming chocolate shops and delight in sampling their diverse array of chocolates. Take a moment to admire the exquisite handmade chocolates on display – Can you think of a better way to spend your afternoon?


  •             Get your Geek on with Comic Murals

Did you know that both Tintin and the Smurfs originate from Belgium? You'll find many comic murals scattered throughout Brussels. Exploring the city streets can lead you to even more colorful and creative artworks celebrating Belgium's comic heritage.


While wandering the streets near the Grand Place, we stumbled upon a mural dedicated to Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock from "The Adventures of Tintin" on Rue de l'Étuve.

If you're passionate about comic books and art, be sure to add the Belgian Comic Strip Center to your itinerary. This center is entirely devoted to Belgian comic strips, showcasing artwork and exhibits from some of the world's most beloved and influential comic book artists.

 

  •             Snack on some French Fries

 

French fries are a beloved staple in Belgium, with some claiming that they originated there. You'll find fry shops scattered throughout, so be sure to grab some for your stroll—you can always walk it off (or at least tell yourself that).


While fries are often enjoyed with popular condiments like mayo and ketchup, I highly recommend trying local specialty sauces like samurai or andalouse – they are absolutely delicious!


Some of the famous French fry places in Brussels include:


  1. Maison Antoine: Located near the European Parliament, Maison Antoine is renowned for its delicious Belgian fries and wide selection of sauces.

  2. Friterie Tabora: Situated in the city center, Friterie Tabora is another popular spot known for its crispy fries and homemade sauces.

  3. Frit Flagey: Found near the Flagey Square, Frit Flagey is famous for its traditional Belgian fries served with a variety of condiments.

 

  •             Browse random bookstores

If you're a bookworm like me, stepping into a random bookstore and perusing their collection can be a delightful experience. I wandered into a bookstore that also happened to sell VCDs of old movies, which was incredibly nostalgic. It was a double win for me as I love movies as much as books! The atmosphere was so inviting that I found myself losing track of time as I browsed through the shelves, discovering hidden literary treasures and reminiscing over classic films.


Here is a fun tidbit for you – Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium. Did you know that? If you find yourself with spare time and are an ardent fan of Audrey Hepburn, you might consider visiting her birthplace. However, bear in mind it's a private residence with little to see except for a golden plaque outside marking the spot. I'm contemplating a visit myself; it seems like a quirky experience; especially given how many times I've enjoyed watching Breakfast at Tiffany's.


  •             Tour the Tour Noire or Black Tower

 

The Tour Noire, or Black Tower, in Brussels is definitely worth a visit for those interested in history and architecture. This medieval tower is one of the few remaining remnants of the city's original fortifications and offers a glimpse into Brussels’s past. While it may not be as well-known as some of the city's other landmarks, such as the Grand Place or the Atomium, the Tour Noire provides a unique opportunity to explore Brussels' medieval heritage.

 

If I had more than a day in Brussels, I would have been eager to explore attractions like the Atomium and the Palace of Parliament. Well, I suppose that's on the agenda for my next visit.


Another must-do on my list would definitely be a chocolate tour! There's something about the chocolate-making process that feels therapeutic to me, even though I'm not particularly knowledgeable about it.


Additionally, I'd relish the opportunity to dine at a local restaurant, savoring the famed mussels paired with a refreshing beer, and taking my time to enjoy every bite. A brewery tour to witness the production of local beer would also be a fascinating experience, I believe.

That's all for now! If you're reading this, you're probably considering a day trip to Brussels. I trust this post will assist you in planning your travels.


Till next time, toodles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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