Here is the best guide to spending 3 days in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Even if this city is the capital, sometimes it gets overlooked by travelers taking their connecting trains to explore more famous cities like Bruges or Ghent. We want to prove to you that you’ll need more than a day to explore all the culture, history and beauty this city has to offer. We have put together a Brussels itinerary with budget tips and sustainable travel tips for first-time visitors.
General information about Brussels
Brussels is the charming capital of Belgium. The city has an oceanic climate with warm summers and cold winters. That’s why the main tourist season for visiting Brussels is in the summer.
The currency is Euro, just like in most European countries. Belgium is bilingual, there is a Flemish (Dutch community of Belgium) and Wallon (French community) part. Both languages are spoken in Brussels, however, 90 % of the population speaks French as a mother tongue. All the people speak English as well.
Is Brussels in Belgium worth visiting?
Brussels is a beautiful city to spend 2-3 days in. There are plenty of museums to discover, and because it’s the capital of Belgium, it’s capital of the Belgian chocolate, waffles, and beer as well. Brussels has also a charming old town and lovely squares, and it’s also perfect if you just want to relax walking around in the green areas and parks. The Belgian capital is also a great base for visiting other Belgian cities, such as Ghent, Bruges, or Leuven, because of all these cities’ max. 1-2 hours away by train.
Best times to visit Belgium
The summer months June- August is the main season in Belgium, but we recommend you to visit Belgium in the shoulder seasons (April – May, September- October). The weather in Europe from March already gets better and warmer, so April and May are already warm but not too hot as in July and August. The weather is getting cold in September and October, but these are the best autumn months when everything is colorful and still comfortably warm.
How to get around Brussels?
Brussels has a great public transportation system with buses, subway, trams, and trains as well. It also has great bike roads if you want to rent a bike and bike around the city.
Feel free to check out more information about public transport in Brussels here.
The buses that go outside the city center are managed by De Lijn, and you can also download an app and buy tickets with the app.
When we travel, we always try to get the most of our budget. Some cities around Europe have the option to get an official city card when you visit them. These cards can be activated during periods of 24, 48, or 72 hours (sometimes more). Usually include free entrances to museums, events, and public buildings, and also discounts for restaurants, cafeterias.
The Brussels Card is one with the most benefits that we have used, not just because it has free entrance to 44 museums in the city (including the exhibitions at the Royal Gallery and the Natural History Museum) but because you can visit them as many times as you want while the card is activated.
To facilitate your movement through the city, you can choose to include unlimited public transport, or unlimited access to the Hop on Hop off busses during the activation time of your card. We recommend you to activate the card with the public transport option, so you will be able to move around more places in the city and enjoy your time as you want.
Are you ready for the adventure? Do you already have a travel insurance?
World Nomads has the best insurance options for backpackers, young travelers and digital nomads.Click here to get your insurance
Budget travel tips for Brussels
- Book your accommodation near Grand Place and the city center, because the main attractions and beautiful streets are located there. In that case, you can just walk around most of the time and you don’t need to buy public transport tickets.
- Buy a Brussels Card for 24 hours and include museum visits in those 24 hours. Also, go to the places further from the city center during those 24 hours so that you don’t need to pay extra public transport tickets later.
- Don’t buy expensive chocolates and waffles in the fancy stores in the city center, instead, just buy the same chocolates, waffles, beers as souvenirs in the normal grocery stores (much cheaper!)
1st day - Explore the Heart of Brussels!
Brussels is one of the most romantic capitals that we have ever visited. The classic design of the buildings combines perfectly with the modernity of their people. During our first day, we decided to explore the most iconic public places around the center of the city. If you dedicate yourself to explore them for a whole day, you may be able to visit all of them.
St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
This Cathedral is the most complete example of the Brabantine Gothic Architecture. Even if the construction started during the XI century, it wasn’t finished until the XVI century. It’s an iconic place in Brussels and has hosted a lot of important religious and political ceremonies throughout the centuries. The last big event hosted in the cathedral was the weeding of the prince Phillipe (now King) and Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz, This was the last royal wedding of the second millennium.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
This beautiful gallery was completed in the middle of the 19th century. It’s only for walking through and watching the shops from outside if you’re on a low budget. The gallery is full of elegant cafés and restaurants, luxury shops, and apartments. Anyways, it’s quite photogenic and fun to stroll around, people watch, and storefront watch.
Do you have everything ready for your next trip?
We have prepared the ultimate Travel Essential Packing List with Eco-friendly products + A printable checklist!Check it out to get everything you may need for your next trip
Grand Place - Brussels Town Hall
The Grand Place is definitely one of the most beautiful and extravagant squares in the world, or at least in Europe. This is the central square of Brussels known for its elegance and decorative buildings, like the Town/ City Hall and the Maison du Roi. The square was also the location of many historical events since the 15th century, that’s one of the reasons why its part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
One of the most famous fountains is located in the heart of Brussels. You may think that to be that famous is because it represents an epic story to commemorate the life of a very honorable person, but the truth will surprise you!
The Manneken Pis is worldwide famous because it represents the figure of a little boy urinating happily free. The statue represents the value of the sense of humor of the Belgians.
The first mention of the statue is founded in some old documents from the year 1451. Since then it has been involved in a lot of funny and interesting situations including several attempts of been stolen and renovations. It is a very important monument for the Belgians who really love and appreciate the statue. The Manneken Pis is dressed in different clothes and costumes at several times of the year, if you are lucky, you may have the chance to watch it wearing something!
Royal Palace of Brussels
The Royal Palace is the official workplace and administrative office of the Royal Family of Belgium since 1831. The palace is located on the south side of Brussels Park. It’s already amazing to watch the huge building from outside, but it’s also possible to visit it. The Palais Royal de Bruxelles is open to the public normally from the 21 July until the beginning of September.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts Brussels
- Included in the Brussel’s Card
This is probably the biggest museum in Brussels and our favorite. We are big art lovers, so we loved all the collections of this museum.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts includes these collections:
- Museum of Old Masters
- Modern Museum
- Meunier Museum
- Wiertz Museum
- Magritte Museum
- Fin de Siécle Museum
It’s possible to buy separate tickets to the museums at the main counter, but of course, the cheapest option is to buy to all. They also have temporary exhibitions sometimes, for example, they had a huge Magritte-Dali exhibition when we visited (February 2020).
However, all these museums are included in the Brussels Card! Don’t miss the museum if you already have the card.
For more information about the collections visit the museum’s site: https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/en
2nd day - Extras and museums!
On your second day in Brussels, you can choose one or two of the best and most fun museums. Brussels has a museum for everyone! Do you like cars? Visit the Autoworld? Do you like science? Don’t skip the Natural History Museum!
Choose one or two museums to visit!
- Free with the Brussels Card
Visit the Royal Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels if you are interested in the biology and development of the human body, animals, and plants. If you are a fan of dinosaurs you will also love this museum, because it has the largest dinosaur gallery in Europe with some unique dinosaurs!
- Free with the Brussels Card
Belgium is famous for its chocolates, and if you love these sweets, then you need to visit the Choco-Story Museum in Brussels. You can learn about the history of chocolates, buy these delicious treats, or take part in a workshop.
Palais de Justice - Law Courts of Brussels
The Palais the Justice is known for its architectural beauty and stunning interior. The building is about 20,000 square meters that about 3 times the size of the Royal Palace. The style is a mixture of lots of styles, sometimes described as Assyro-Babylonian.
Explore the Parq du Cinquentaine
If you’re visiting the Natural Science Museum or the Autoworld, then you will definitely have to visit this beautiful park. The park is close to both of these museums, and you’ll not regret the relaxing walk. There are also some fountains in the park, and lots of locals are walking, running or dog walking too.
Botanical Garden and Museum
- Included in the Brussels Card
This park and botanical garden is actually not the real botanical garden anymore, they moved the botanical garden to Meise.
The Atomium Museums are included in the Brussels Card.
The Atomium was originally built for the 1958 Expo, symbolizing the technical and scientific development of the times. The atom shapes were the main pavilion for the exhibitions.
In the Atomium, there are exhibitions dedicated to the construction and the World Expos in 1950 and ‘58. There is also a restaurant and panorama viewpoint on the top.
The famous Atomium is a little further from the city center, so try to include this site when you have a 24-hour public transport card or the Brussels card. The best is to visit the Atomium in the afternoon and the wait until it gets dark to see the light show. They turn on the outdoor lights about 15 minutes after sunset. We went to the park in front of the Atomium a bit further to see the whole building light up, it was really beautiful!
Meise Botanic Gardens
These botanic gardens are one of the largest gardens in the world, located just north of Brussels in Meise town in Bouchout Castle. If you spend more time in the capital, then include these botanic gardens in your Brussels itinerary and take a half day to explore them
They consist of several buildings and a huge greenhouse. You can definitely spend up to 3-4 hours strolling around and visiting all the buildings and parks.
How to get there?
It takes about 30-40 minutes to get to Meise from the city center by bus number 250 or 251. The buses go about every 20 minutes (download the De Lijn app to buy tickets).
After coming back to the city, you can spend the afternoon tasting the famous Belgian drinks and food.
Take a day trip!
If you have one more day in Belgium, we recommend you to visit other cities in the country. You can easily take a day trip to Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Liege, or Leuven as well. All these cities are 1-2 hours by train from Brussels.
Sustainable travel tips for Brussels
- Don’t litter, especially in the beautiful parks and green areas of Brussels.
- Take a bus or ride a bike! Brussels has an excellent public transport system, use it to reduce your carbon footprint. If you like biking, you can even hop on a bike and take a bike tour around the city!
- Choose eco-friendly accommodation. Check the sustainable initiatives and the statements of your hostel or hotel on sustainability. If you’re a backpacker, we recommend the Jacques Brel Youth Hostel that has a Green Key certificate.
- Choose fair-trade Belgian chocolate (Belgian, Belvas)
- Take a sustainable walking or bike tour
- Check out this map for sustainable businesses in Brussels