Brussels is potentially more famous than the Kingdom of Belgium, where it resides. This city is home to gothic architecture, rich history, and plenty of shopping areas like Galeries Royales Saint Hubert. Brussels is a beautiful area with unique activities that you won’t want to miss!
Brussels was a next stop after 2 1/2 days in Paris as part of our 2 week trip through Europe . While the grandeur of Paris might seem to one-up the appeal of Brussels, the rich history and culture make it an equally worthy destination.
As we shift into uncertain times with covid and travel restrictions, I have updated my initial post to include information on closures, current travel requirements, and new attractions to help you safely visit Brussels during 2022.
Day 1 – Enjoying Brussels' City Centre: A Day at Grand Place
We were able to take a later morning train to visit Brussels and arrived at the Midi train station during the early afternoon. For this trip, our Airbnb was very close to the train stations (only about a 15-minute taxi ride). This allowed us to get settled and bring our baggage to our accommodations before exploring everything Brussels offers.
We lucked out with our Airbnb! We found it to be a comfortable split-level condo with plenty of space, bedrooms, and a kitchen area. This was a welcome change to our one in Paris where my wife and I were left to sleep on pull-out couches.
The first stop on our trip was an exploration of the city center and Grand Place. This is the main square in town that is famous for its visually stunning gothic architecture and overall pleasant appearance. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and hosts many events during the year.
If you’re visiting around the middle of August, you may be able to catch the colorful flower carpet event, which occurs every other year. This event features 50,000 begonias, bark, grass, and dahlias placed into a mesmerizing design in the center of the Grand Place. You can find an extraordinary view of the flower “carpet” from the balcony of the Town Hall. Live music and a light show accentuate the stunning flower display in the evenings.
During our visit, we caught the Meyboom Festival on August 9. This is a different festival that occurs a few days before the flower carpet. During this celebration, a tree of joy is planted. This festival has occurred since the early 13th century.
We spent the remainder of our time touring souvenir shops, French fry vendors, and Belgian waffle stores in the area. There’s nothing better than sitting with a fresh Belgian waffle while enjoying people-watching in the Grand Place.
Another popular, must see when you visit Brussels is the The Manneken Pis fountain. The story behind this unusual statue is varied. One in particular proclaims that a little boy saved its residents by urinating on a lit fuse set to blow up the city. No matter what is fact or fiction, it’s worth a quick stop and a chuckle while exploring Grand Place.
Day 2 – Tasting & Seeing What Brussels Has to Offer: Chocolate Tour + Atomium
With only two days to visit Brussels, it can be difficult to see every attraction you’d like to. We made sure to include a jam-packed schedule for our second day here. One of the chosen activities included a chocolate walking tour that lasted for four hours. I can’t think of anything better than exploring different chocolate shops and tasting high-quality sweets!
A favorite part of this tour was the information provided alongside the tastings. We learned a fair amount about the history of Brussels while tasting exquisite chocolates. This tour even included a section where we made chocolate pralines. We highly recommend this tour, even if your chocolate-making skills are in the beginning phases.
The next main attraction on the list was the Atomium. This famous landmark was created for the 1958 World’s Fair. Touring the interior of the Atomium provides a look into the history of its construction and the World’s Fair. While kind of eerie, it is a fun way to pass the time with kids as certain stairways include moving technicolor light displays.
We ended the main part of our day exploring the Mini-Europe Theme Park. Opened more than 30 years ago, the park offered small anamatromic models representing cultural aspects from countries all over Europe. Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced the theme park to shut down indefinitely.
Other Popular Attractions When You Visit Brussels
If you’re looking for more activities to tack onto your trip, here are some additional ideas when you visit Brussels:
Mont des Arts
This famous location in central Brussels mixes stunning gardens surrounding museums. It’s well-known for the view provided from the steps. Here, you can see the lovely Grand Place. It’s delightful during sunset. There’s no fee to enjoy the views from this beautiful location.
Wiertz Museum of Art
Multiple museums in Brussels offer free admission, including the Wiertz Museum of Art. The ULB Museum of Zoology and Anthropology is another free Brussels city museum. Expect to wear a face-covering inside each of the museums. Check the museum’s website you plan to go to ahead of time for additional covid requirements like proof of vaccination.
Comic Strip Route
The Franco-Belgian Comic Strip Route includes murals that depict popular comic characters. There are 50 murals all around the city of Brussels. You can make a fun scavenger hunt and look for them all. Or use the interactive map to see the location of each mural.
Comic enthusiasts can spend additional time at the Belgian Comic Strip Center. This activity is not free, though it is fun and educational.
Royal Palace of Brussels Tour
The Royal Palace of Brussels offers free tours from July through September. During these months, it is unoccupied. You can always walk around the exterior and enjoy the grandiose exterior if the tour season is closed.
Visit Brussels: Ideas to Keep Your Budget in Check
When we initially budgeted to visit Brussels, we found the total to be around $1000 for two days. This is quite extreme for a shorter trip. However, we were able to get this budget down by more than 1/3! Here are some tips on how we kept our budget in check with a few additional tips:
While our lodging total did exceed our $250/day budget by $20, we were happy to pay the additional cost in exchange for a few good nights of sleep. Unlike most destinations, hotel prices tend to decrease on the weekends in Brussels due to traveling government officials who head home during these days.
Part of the reason for our large budget cut was the ability to stay $60 under our per day transportation budget. STIBs can be purchased that allow you to travel on public transportation as much as you’d like for 24, 48, or 72 hours. This option needs to be added to the Brussels Card (more about this under excursions). This option is beneficial if you’re planning to see a lot of attractions within a day or a few days.
We dined at small grab n’ go and off the beaten path restaurants to keep food costs down. This helped a lot with budgeting. However, we treated ourselves once to burgers that were pricier in the Grand Place. Avoid touristy restaurants as they tend to overcharge for food.
Previously, we used credit card points to help pay for excursions and activities. Purchasing a Brussels Card allows you to see 49 museums for free in Brussels. This card also discounts popular attractions, restaurants, shopping, and more. You’ll need to add the STIB to this card to incorporate the unlimited trips.
Overall, our time in this gem of Belgium was unforgettable! We managed to stay well under budget yet still pack excellent food and activities into our days. Use the above tips to visit Brussels in the most budget-friendly and safe way possible.
Visit Brussels -Latest Covid Guidelines
According to the Belgium Embassy, Belgium currently has a rating of Level 4: Do Not Travel. At this time, Belgium is still open though many attractions, shops, and restaurants require a CST Ticket. This ticket reflects one of three things: the traveler is fully vaccinated, has a negative Covid test, or has recovered from Covid in the last six months.
Remember to wear a mask while inside taxis and public transportation, like Brussels Central Station. During Covid, many Uber drivers dropped in Brussels due to certain laws and mandates being passed. There is a potential this transportation option may be available again in the future. However, there are limited to no Ubers available, so taxis, trains, buses, and walking will be the main modes of transportation during a visit.
The city has put Covid restrictions in place, which encourage avoiding crowded areas, maintaining 1.5 meters or more from other people/groups, and wearing face coverings. Self-tests are readily available for those exploring the area. You can easily find them at the local pharmacies for about $1.