Brussels is a city that effortlessly combines rich history, vibrant culture, and delectable cuisine
Brussels is one European capital that’s easy to miss on your grand tour of Europe. In fact, the whole little country of Belgium is easy to miss, but it’s one that you really shouldn’t. It has lots to offer. This grand old city is not only the capital of Belgium, it’s the capital of the European Union.
Something you’ll have to get used to in Belgium is that two languages, Dutch and French, are used everywhere. You’ll often see signs in both languages. It’s Brussels in English, Brussel in Dutch and Bruxelles in French. You’ll get along fine in either language or English. Belgians slip from one language to another with an ease that will put you to shame.
“La Grand Place” or “Grote Markt” is the main square right in the heart of the old town where you will want to start your tour. This huge cobble-stoned square is surrounded by the city tower and 300-year-old buildings, most of which were guild (association of craftsmen) halls.
Only a few old streets are left around the square, but they’re fun to wander. Don’t forget to shop for chocolates or eat some Belgian Waffles with caramelized sugar in the square. (Luikse wafel or gaufre de Liege). Definitely have a beer. The Belgians are known for their beers: over a hundred breweries in this little country produce hundreds of different brands and many types of beer!
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When you stop to eat, you’ll have to have mussels (moules). You can have French fries (fritjes or frites) with them or have fritjes as a snack. If you want to eat those fries as the Belgians do, have them with mayonnaise. If you order any of these as a snack, you can take them and sit on steps or benches around the square just as the locals do.
Just a short walk from the Grand Place-Grote Markt is the Manneken Pis. EVERYONE wants to see this fountain with its funny little statue. And it is small … smaller than you think it will be … especially since its reputation precedes it all over the world. You know what we’re talking about: the funny bronze statue of a little boy … well, Manneken Pis says it all doesn’t it? Maybe he had one too many beers?
There is a museum full of little outfits that have been created for the little boy. If you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your viewpoint), you might even see him dressed in one, but they are usually kept in the museum. Signs will direct you to the corner where he stands.
For a bit of culture, visit the Royal Museums of Fine Arts off one end of the main square, which links the Ancient Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. If you like early Flemish masters, the Ancient Art Museum is for you.
You probably don’t need to spend more than two or three days in Brussels to see it well before you move on to other areas of Belgium or Europe, but it’s a great city you shouldn’t miss.
Brussels in 3 Days: A perfect blend of culture, cuisine, and history
Here’s a detailed itinerary to make the most of your three days in Brussels:
Day 1: Exploring the Heart of Brussels
Morning: Grand Place and Surroundings
Start your Brussels adventure at the heart of the city – the Grand Place (Grote Markt). This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts stunning 17th-century architecture and is surrounded by guild halls and the iconic Town Hall. Take a leisurely stroll around the square, soak in the atmosphere, and marvel at the intricate facades.
Late Morning: Manneken Pis and Museum
Just a short walk from the Grand Place, visit the whimsical Manneken Pis. This tiny bronze statue of a little boy relieving himself is a quirky symbol of Brussels. Nearby, explore the Museum of the City of Brussels, where you can delve deeper into the city’s history and see the diverse costumes worn by Manneken Pis.
Lunch: Belgian Delicacies
For lunch, indulge in Belgian classics. Try moules-frites (mussels with fries) or a Belgian waffle, and sample some local beers. You can find excellent dining options around the Grand Place or venture into the Sainte-Catherine neighbourhood for seafood specialties.
Afternoon: Art and Culture
Spend your afternoon exploring the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. This museum complex comprises the Ancient Art Museum, home to Flemish masters like Bruegel and Rubens, and the Museum of Modern Art, showcasing 20th-century Belgian art.
Evening: A Taste of Brussels Nightlife
As evening descends, head to the Ixelles neighbourhood for dinner at one of the city’s top-rated restaurants. Afterward, explore the vibrant Brussels nightlife by visiting a local bar or brewery. The city offers an array of craft beers to satisfy your palate.
Day 2: A Blend of History and Modernity
Morning: European Institutions
Discover Brussels’ role as the capital of the European Union. Begin your day with a visit to the European Quarter, where you can explore the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Parlamentarium Visitor Centre. Guided tours are available if you want to delve deeper into European politics.
Lunch: Belgian Gastronomy
Savour a hearty Belgian meal at a local brasserie. Try traditional dishes like carbonnade flamande (beef stew), waterzooi (creamy chicken or fish stew), or vol-au-vent (chicken and mushroom stew). Don’t forget to pair your meal with Belgian beer.
Afternoon: Atomium and Mini-Europe
In the afternoon, visit the iconic Atomium, a futuristic building and museum shaped like an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Explore its unique exhibitions and enjoy panoramic views of Brussels from the top sphere. Nearby, don’t miss Mini-Europe, a park featuring miniature reproductions of famous European landmarks.
Evening: Dining in Style
For a memorable evening, dine at one of Brussels’ Michelin-starred restaurants or upscale dining establishments. Book a table in advance to ensure a remarkable gastronomic experience.
Day 3: Day Trip to Bruges
Morning: Depart for Bruges
On your final day, embark on a day trip to the picturesque town of Bruges. Catch a train from Brussels Central Station to Bruges, which takes approximately one hour. Be sure to book your tickets in advance.
Late Morning: Bruges Exploration
Upon arriving in Bruges, wander through its cobblestone streets, admire the charming canals, and visit iconic landmarks like the Belfry of Bruges and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Explore Markt Square and enjoy a leisurely boat ride along the canals for a unique perspective of the town.
Lunch: Belgian Delights in Bruges
Indulge in local delicacies like Bruges’ famous chocolate, pralines, and lace. Bruges is known for its chocolate shops, so don’t miss the chance to sample artisanal chocolates.
Afternoon: Bruges Continued
In the afternoon, visit the Groeningemuseum, which houses an exceptional collection of Flemish and Belgian art. Alternatively, explore the tranquil Beguinage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and stroll through Minnewater Park.
Evening: Return to Brussels
Return to Brussels in the evening, where you can enjoy a farewell dinner at a cozy restaurant or brasserie. Reflect on your unforgettable three days in Brussels and savour one last taste of Belgian cuisine.
Our three-day itinerary gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the rich culture, history, and flavours of Brussels and even make a memorable excursion to Bruges. From cobblestone squares to world-class museums, Brussels offers a delightful blend of experiences that will leave you with cherished memories of your European adventure.
| The Frugal Traveller
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