Statistically the average stay in Brussels is just 1.4 nights – so if you’re only planning to spend two days in Brussels, you’re not alone. Fortunately this is a very walkable city so you can see plenty in Brussels in 48 hours.
How to get to Brussels
There are two airports serving Brussels, the capital of Belgium with a population of around 1.1 Million. Brussels Zaventem is the main airport which is within a 20 minute train journey of the city centre, and Brussels Charleroi, which has more limited transport connections and is about an hour hour away.
Travelling in Europe during the time of Airmageddon I wanted to avoid air travel as much as possible and got the Eurostar from London to Brussels Midi/Zuid which took just over two hours. Onward travel to Brussels-Central and other selected stations in Brussels is included in the ticket price.
If you’re travelling to Brussels from another part of Europe there are regular and fast train links to France, Germany and the Netherlands. I used The Trainline to find my way to Berlin on the train at the end of my stay in Brussels.
Sights to see in Brussels in two days
Grand Place or Grote Markt is the central square of Brussels. In this busy square you will find the 15th Century Town Hall of the City of Brussels. Flawed, off-centre and not symmetrical, while some of the other buildings in the square look older it is the oldest building in the square by hundreds of years as survived the city’s bombing by the troops of Louis XIV of France in 1695.
The city was rebuilt over a period of 9 years following the attacks.
The Manneken Pis statue is regularly voted the most disappointing tourist attraction in the world (The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is also up there) but is still a must see in Brussels. Only 55.5cm tall, the fountain statue which is regularly dressed up in costumes is a replica of the original which can be found in the Brussels City Museum.
Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
The Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries (Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert) in the centre of Brussels are formed of three glazed shopping arcades which include luxury stores, restaurants, cafes and apartments. It was the first covered shopping arcade in Europe, inspiring those in cities such as Milan.
The vendors are open (and less crowded) into the evening if you’re in search of gifts, waffles or a Belgian Beer and you can find stores for three of the best chocolate brands in Brussels:
– Mary – Mary was the first female chocolate maker in Brussels when she opened her store in 1919. The packaging in Mary was beautiful.
St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
Impressive from the outside, it is free to go inside the cathedral to admire the stained glass, statues and sculptures and gothic architecture. It’s a lovely place to light a candle for someone.
Comic strip walls
Over 50 comic book walls have been commissioned around the city paying tribute to the characters and authors of the Franco-Belgian comics. There’s a comic book route map you could follow to find all 50, or you can just enjoy keeping an eye out for them as you go.
Parc de Bruxells
For a green space to wander around, picnic in, and just enjoy, I’d recommend the Park of Brussels. At one end there is a fountain at statues, and outside the gates of the other you’ll find the impressive Palais de Bruxelles.
Eating and drinking in Brussels
You’ll find vendors selling frites around the busy old town, but if you’re after a proper meal you could visit a restaurant for moules-frites – mussels and french fries, considered the national dish Belgium.
Rarely one to reach for a beer, I enjoyed trying different Belgian beers, my favourites being a cherry Choufe (I loved the cute gnome on the bottle!) and Geuzes, the real sour beers known as “the champagnes of Belgium”.
The other key dish to try is waffles – apparently most authentic when served simply with icing sugar.
Museums to visit in Brussels
Three museums came recommended to me:
- The Magritte Museum, an art museum featuring the surrealist art of René Magritte as well as Belgian abstract art.
- MIM – the musical instruments museum which has a collection of over 8,000 instruments.
- The Museum of Oldmasters.
If you have two days in Brussels or less I found the Sandemans Free Tour (you’re welcome to tip the guide at the end) for Brussels worthwhile – it was over 2.5 hours long and covered a lot of ground and the key highlights.
If you have more than 48 hours in Brussels, day trips are also possible to Gent, Bruges and Antwerp.