Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 1
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Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024

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Greetings Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel guide Get Lost! So you want to know what to do for what to do in Brussels for a day? Perhaps you think that they will just be eating frites and chocolate and drinking beer?

Of course, you can do those things well anywhere in Belgium and we will definitely experience the Brussels chocolate tour. But don’t forget Brussels is home to many fascinating museums (e.g. the Magritte Museum) and beautiful works of architecture.

You can spend a perfectly lovely what to do in Brussels for a day wandering around and just snapping photos of all the cool Art Nouveau buildings. Or you can just eat some truck waffles and find a musical instrument that’s shaped like a winged rat. A vous de choisir!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: What to Do in Brussels for a Day

#1 TOP PICK

Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
CHOCOLATE AND BEER TOUR
✔️ They are both delicious
✔️ Expert local guide

#2 PICK

Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 3

BEER, CHOCOLATE, AND WAFFLES
✔️ Waffles are also delicious
✔️ Small group tour

#3 PICK

Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 4

ALL OTHER BRUSSELS TOURS
✔️ Choose your favorite
✔️ Find the best deals

what to do in Brussels for a day

what to do in Brussels for a day

Morning: Magritte Museum

Our what to do in Brussels for a day starts with VFB (Very Famous Belgian) Rene Magritte. The Magritte Museum is one of several museums within the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. If the term “Royal” confuses you, keep in mind that Belgium is still technically a monarchy.

I am willing to bet that zero percent of non-Belgian people reading this blog can name the current ruler of Belgium, or even whether said ruler is a king or queen. (It’s King Philippe, for the curious. The only thing I know about him is that his glasses game is divine.)

Anyway, a Belgian who is much more famous than the current ruler of the nation is preeminent Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. Magritte’s strange paintings of sky-birds, men with apples on their faces, and pipes that are not pipes have influenced everyone from David Lynch to Andy Warhol.

Even if you’re not a museum person, if you are into quirk, I guarantee that you’ll enjoy spending a morning at the Magritte Museum during your what to do in Brussels for a day looking at…

THE APPROXIMATELY TOP FIVE: MAGRITTE MUSEUM

what to do in Brussels for a day
1) “La Saveur des Larmes”

This is a painting at the Magritte Museum about a creepy bird plant that is being eaten by a caterpillar. Even though the bird is very sad, the caterpillar doesn’t care. I imagine that’s why the title of the painting is “The Taste of Tears” because the caterpillar is enjoying the taste of the bird’s suffering. This is one of Magritte’s very few titles that makes sense.

what to do in Brussels for a day
2) magritte museum ad collection

Before Magritte started making money as an artist, he had to work in advertising. It’s pretty fun to see Magritte’s ads in the museum and try to notice how he inserted flashes of surrealism into them. But now I’m really surprised that none of the characters on Mad Men with artistic aspirations ever mentioned that Magritte started out as one of them.

what to do in Brussels for a day
3) “L’Empire des Lumieres”

This painting at the Magritte Museum is another example of Magritte’s putting two things together that couldn’t possibly go together. In “La Saveur des Larmes”, he makes a bird out of a plant. Here he puts a house at night in the middle of a sunny day.

This is one of those paintings it’s much better to experience in person to see how Magritte managed to pull off making it look like it was daytime and nighttime simultaneously.

what to do in Brussels for a day
4) “L’homme du large” (Man of the Deep)

Magritte didn’t start out as a surrealist. He developed his own style over time. This Magritte Museum painting from 1927, is one of the first paintings to have that Rene Magritte feeling.

I have so many questions about this painting. Why does it have the same title as a 1920 French film about a fisherman? Is this guy supposed to be a fisherman? It seems like it would be pretty hard to fish with no eyes and a head made out of wood. But then again I’ve never been fishing, so what do I know?

what to do in Brussels for a day
5) “L’incendie”

The brightly colored work is from a brief period when Magritte tried to imitate the style of the Impressionists a bit and combine that style with its own work. But people didn’t want light droplets and happy colors from Magritte.

They wanted headless fisherman and dying bird-plants. So he was forced to return to his original style of Plain Surrealism. That’s why the Magritte Museum doesn’t have many other paintings in this style.

what to do in Brussels for a day
6) “La Magie Noire”

This painting at the Magritte Museum was a very popular work of Magritte’s, and I’m assuming that’s because dudes with money like to look at pictures of naked ladies even if/especially if their boobs are blue.

The painting’s title translates to “Black Magic” and I wonder if the magic is that the sky is turning into a lady or that the lady is turning into the sky…

what to do in Brussels for a day
24 Hour Treasure

The highlight of my what to do in Brussels for a day is “Le Retour”. This painting has everything: night and day at the same time, something that is a bird and not a bird at the same time, clouds, eggs…basically it’s every Magritty element rolled into one painting.

what to do in Brussels for a day
24 Hour Tip

You probably won’t have time on your what to do in Brussels for a day to go for a real lunch, and we’re going to eat a lot this afternoon, so I suggest just grabbing a snack at the Magritte Museum cafe. The sandwich or soup lunch deal is a good value, and you’ll be able to head out on the rest of your afternoon ASAP.

what to do in Brussels for a day

What to do in Brussels for a day

Early Afternoon: The Musical Instruments Museum

It’s time to leave the Magritte Museum and continue our what to do in Brussels for a day at…a very different museum! I was initially disappointed to learn that the MIM is not a museum dedicated to Madam Mim, the wicked witch from The Sword in the Stone.

Instead it is a museum dedicated to musical instruments. But that ended up being almost as exciting as a museum about cartoon witches, as you will soon see.

Your price of admission to the MiM comes with a comprehensive audioguide. If you see an instrument that looks interesting, just press the right button, and you can hear what the instrument sounds like.

what to do in Brussels for a day

As a bonus, the museum is located inside this stunning and historical Art Nouveau building, which has an Old England sign on it for reasons that remain unclear to me. I think someone should have clarified to the architect that he was in Belgium and not England.

There are two main areas of the museum, and the first is a floor dedicated to folk instruments from all the countries in all the world. My favorite thing about this exhibit is that the instruments are grouped by instrument type, so you can see drums from Ireland paired next to drums from Africa.

However, as tempting as it might seem, I don’t recommend that you run around the museum and try to bang on the drums one after the other and pretend to be Animal from the Muppets. That will get you thrown out of the museum, which would put a damper on the rest of your what to do in Brussels for a day.

what to do in Brussels for a day

I gathered from the percussion exhibit that regardless of the country of origin, the principle of playing a drum remains the same around the world. You hit an object with either your hands or a baton of some sort and it makes sounds that make your neighbors want to call the cops on you.

what to do in Brussels for a day
24 Hour Treasure

My favorite instrument in the museum was this creature, who is either a winged rat, the world’s cutest demon, or an ancient representation of Rocky the Flying Squirrel from Rocky and Bullwinkle.

He is apparently some sort of wind instrument, but I would personally feel a little inappropriate putting him in my mouth. I mean you probably have to put your mouth on his butt to play him, right? That seems inappropriate.

what to do in Brussels for a day
24 Hour Tip

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the second part of the museum, which is dedicated to European court instruments, is going to be stuffy and boring. You can find anything there from fancy white violins…

what to do in Brussels for a day

to this weirdo, which looks like a cross between a tuba and a chandelier. I don’t even want to think about the number of mouths you’d need to play this fellow.

What to Do in Brussels for a Day

Late Afternoon/Evening: Explore Brussels

My favorite thing to do on an afternoon when I am traveling is to book a walking tour with a local expert. I recommend booking this tour because it has the best reviews.

Check rates and availability by clicking here.

The only sights that you can’t leave out are the Grand Place and the Mannekin Pis. These are the two most popular tourist attractions in Brussels. If you spend your what to do in Brussels for a day without seeing both of them, it’s almost like you haven’t been to Brussels at all.

You will have a hard time convincing your friends you didn’t just imagine the whole thing in some sort of half-French half-Flemish fever dream.

THE APPROXIMATELY TOP FIVE: What to Do in Brussels for a Day

what to do in Brussels for a day
1) Belgian Comics Art Museum

I’m sure you’d heard of Belgian waffles before reading this post, but perhaps you had never heard of Belgian comics. Well, the Belgians are perhaps the foremost European practitioners of the comic arts. They even have a museum dedicated to the subject!

Ever heard of Tintin? Smurfing smurfed of the Smurfs? Then you are already familiar with Belgium’s two most famous comic strips. But just in case you’re eager to learn even more, allow me to share…

Three Fun Facts about Belgian Comics
what to do in Brussels for a day
A) what are smurfs?

You may be thinking to yourself that the word Smurf doesn’t sound very French or Belgian and you would be correct. In fact, the original name of the Smurfs is “Les Schtroumpfs”. If you ever meet a French speaker and want to talk about tiny magical blue creatures with him, you’d be smart to keep this in mind.

The Smurfs/Schtroumpfs were the brainchild of Belgian comic artist Peyo, who had only one name, like Cher from Clueless. Apparently he had trouble thinking of a word one day, and so he came up with the nonsense word Schtroumpf and liked how it sounded. And thus an incredibly irritating film franchise was born!

what to do in Brussels for a day
B) who is herge?

As popular as the Smurfs are, the largest exhibit in the museum was dedicated to another one-named Belgian Boy Wonder, Tintin (and his faithful dog Snowy). The author of these comics was a Belgian cartoonist named Georges Remi. He took the pen name Herge because that is what you get if you reverse his initials GR and pronounce them–the French way, obvi.

I grew up reading the Tintin comics in English, so it was interesting for me to learn the original French names of all the characters. For example, in the original French, Snowy the dog is named Milou and Professor Calculus is Professor Tournesol.

what to do in Brussels for a day
C) is tintin racist?

Though Tintin is beloved by many, he’s not without controversy. In his stories, Tintin travels to many countries to solve adventures, but Herge himself had never been to any of these countries. He sometimes resorted to stereotypes when writing about Asian or African countries.

Herge did apologize for these errors. He also attempted to correct some of them in rereleases of his works later in his career, but protests and criticism of racism in Tintin comics remain to this day.

what to do in Brussels for a day
24 hour tip

If you’re traveling with kids, be aware that some sections of the museum are about comics for adults, so there might be depictions of guns or bare-breasted toon ladies and such like. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

what to do in Brussels for a day
24 Hour Treasure

I love the elaborate models in the museum, but my favorite is this one of Snowy on the moon! The Belgians are not known for their achievements in the space race, but I definitely think they should be proud of getting the first cartoon dog on the moon!

what to do in Brussels for a day
2) River Tour

I think it is a cruel joke on the Belgians that their river is called the Senne when the most famous river in Paris is also called the Seine. It really sounds like their river is a knock-off version of the better river in Paris. It’s the river version of one of those Gooci or Versachi knock-off bags you find on Canal St. in NYC.

But a cheap river cruise is nothing to sneeze at on a fine summer what to do in Brussels for a day, and it was nice to sit back and relax after a hard day of museum-hopping.

what to do in Brussels for a day
24 Hour Tip

There is a guide speaking on the boat, but in French and Flemish only, not English. But don’t worry about that because the audio quality is so poor that even though I speak French, I couldn’t actually hear much of anything the guide was saying.

I suggest just peering out the window and enjoying the view. Plus after your trip to the Comics Museum, I’m sure you’ll enjoy noticing how much Belgian street art looks like comic strips.

24 Hour Treasure

Every day but Monday, from the beginning of July to mid August, there is a festival right by the dock for the river cruise called Bruxelles Les Bains.

There’s lots of international food stalls, music, and cages into which you can throw your children so that they can run around with other little gremlins unless they pass out and you can finally get your drink on with a fine Belgian beer. And a good 24 hours in Brussels was had by all!

what to do in Brussels for a day
3) The Grand Place

This is Brussels’ answer to Bruges’ Markt, and judging from the elaborate detailing on the architecture, that answer is YES MORE PLEASE! It’s hard to tell exactly when the Grand Place was built because so many buildings had to be rebuilt because of war, fire, and the many, many invasions Belgium has been subjected to.

But most of the buildings in the Grand Place date back to the 17th century. In fact, they’re such stellar examples of 17th century architecture that UNESCO declared the GP a World Heritage Site.

BTW, in English the Grand Place would be called the Big Square. I think it sounds way better in French.

what to do in Brussels for a day

This elaborately curlicued structure is known as the King’s House or the Breadhouse. I assume that’s because most kings like to keep all the bread for themselves and let their subjects eat cake? I don’t know much about this king except that he was obviously a big fan of arches.

what to do in Brussels for a day

My favorite thing to do in the Grand Place is wander around and take pictures of random things that amuse me. I love the gold detailing in this plaque honoring former mayor of Brussels, Charles Buls. I don’t know much about him except that he was popular for showing his bare tush to people and rubbing genies out of bottles. At least that’s what it looks like from this plaque.

what to do in Brussels for a day
4) The Mannekin Pis!

You can’t spend 24 hours in Brussels without this little boy. I have absolutely no idea how this tiny peeing Belgian got so popular. Yet here the Mannekin Pis remains. It’s the weird, vulgar symbol of a city so cosmopolitan that it was named the capital of Europe.

The MP is as wee in real life as he looks in my photo. You’re not going to see to spend a lot of time here. Snap your photo and move on. The Belgians do like to dress the Waterboy here up in funny costumes. Tf you’re lucky he’ll be dressed as the Mayor of Brussels or an organ builder or something. (Yes, both of those actually happened.)

what to do in Brussels for a day

When you’ve finished, if you haven’t had enough of watching statues pee, you can check out this dog! He’s on Rue des Chartreux 35.

I really want to know why there are so many statues of things taking a wee in Brussels and none of famed fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. I know he was the brainchild of an Englishwoman, but surely he was the most famous Belgian that there is. The NY Times wrote him an obituary when he died, and he was never even born in the first place.

I would like to start a petition to get Hercule Poirot a statue. Yet I’m afraid the Belgians would make him relieving himself and that would be beneath his dignity.

what to do in Brussels for a day
5) Liege Waffle House

If you want a snack while looking at the Mannekin Pis, you simply must pick up a Liege waffle. (Although if looking at statues of peeing children makes you hungry, I have to admit I find that confusing, Internet Stranger!)

The Liege waffle is much smaller, denser, and richer than the Brussels waffle. This is due to the fact that pearl sugar is used in the waffle to give it a delectable sugary crunchiness. Unlike the Brussels waffle, it’s best eaten without any toppings.

As long as you get the Liege waffle freshly made, all Liege waffles in Brussels are pretty much of the same quality because they use the same batter. So you don’t need to stress about getting your Liege waffle at any particular shop.

what to do in Brussels for a day
6) Mokafe

For dinner, we are going to stop in at one of the most famous covered shopping arcades in the world, the Galeries Saint Hubert. And here, we will stop at a cafe named Mokafe to feast on one of the most famous Belgian foods: the wondrous waffle!

It is important to remember that there are two main kinds of waffles in Belgium: the Brussels waffle and the Liege waffle. We will eat a Liege waffle later (along with a special secret type of third waffle). For lunch, we will stick to this sugary beauty, the Brussels waffle.

A Brussels waffle is light and big. It is properly crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, dusted with powdered sugar. You can also put toppings on it, unlike the Liege waffle which is best left nekked. I chose to have mine topped with whipped cream and sweet-tart cherries, which were in season at the time. It was a rectangle of sheer heaven!

what to do in Brussels for a day
7) Galeries Saint Hubert

If it starts raining, head back to Galeries Saint Hubert for a cultural experience. There’s a free art gallery inside with regularly rotating exhibitions. Are you interested in seeing a portrait of Marilyn Monroe composed entirely out of tiny snapshots of women’s tuckuses clad only in panties? They have that.

what to do in Brussels for a day

Or perhaps you’d rather see an invading army of plastic penguins all decked out in the colors of the Belgian flag? They have that too. I feel like this work is probably an anti-war commentary of some sort.

All I can think when I look at these guys is, “AAAAH! PENGUINS SO CUTE!” Although, come to think of it, if everyone just looked at cute pictures of penguins all day, there would be no war. Problem solved!

what to do in Brussels for a day
24 hour treat: secret waffle

Got room for a third waffle? Then it’s time for the Secret Waffle of the day: the French waffle. This waffle comes from a store called Meert, located in the Galeries Saint-Hubert, and Meert originated in the French city of Lille, hence the name “the French waffle”.

This is an incredibly thin waffle stuffed with a variety of dense fillings. I chose speculoos, which is a kind of cinnamony Dutch shortbread cookie. It tasted exactly like eating a waffle stuffed with cookie batter, which is an experience I highly recommend.

24 Hour Tip

Those are all the secrets of Brussels that I can share with you for now. You’ll have to go ahead and book this walking tour to find out the rest!

Check rates and availability by going here!

Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 5

What to do in Brussels for a day

Where to Stay?

When it comes to hotels, I’m generally looking for two things: affordability, convenience, and a tasty breakfast. Now, Le Berger Hotel doesn’t provide free breakfast, but it absolutely has the other two covered. So if you are a like-minded person when it comes to hotels, I strongly suggest checking it out. It’s a great place to spend your what to do in Brussels for a day

If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here.

And if you want to explore a lot of other hotels in Brussels for your what to do in Brussels for a day, click here.

I always use this search engine when I travel because it’s such an easy search engine, they have great deals, especially if you use them frequently and earn Genius status, and they help you keep your travel plans organized.

one day in brussels itinerary

That’s what to do in Brussels for a day

What do you think is what to do in Brussels for a day? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Brussels right now? Do you prefer beer or chocolate? And which is weirder, the paintings in the Magritte Museum or that snake chandelier musical instrument? Please email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: What to Do in Brussels for a Day

#1 TOP PICK

Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
CHOCOLATE AND BEER TOUR
✔️ They are both delicious
✔️ Expert local guide

#2 PICK

Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 3

BEER, CHOCOLATE, AND WAFFLES
✔️ Waffles are also delicious
✔️ Small group tour

#3 PICK

Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 4

ALL OTHER BRUSSELS TOURS
✔️ Choose your favorite
✔️ Find the best deals

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day with what to do in Brussels for a day.

You can also try 24 hours in Brussels. You can also try 24 hours in Bruges. Try adding a what to do Bruges day. Experience 24 hours in Amsterdam. You can even try the top Amsterdam attractions.

Best What to Do in Brussels For a Day 2024 9

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