Morning view on the city hall at the Grand place central square in the old town of Brussels during the sunny weather in Belgium

How To Spend 48 Hours In Brussels (With Map)

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The historic city of Brussels has become a true melting pot of cultures and architecture. At first glance, it can seem like a bit of a tourist trap, but if you explore a bit more, you find the cool, quirky and multicultural heart. Our 48 hours in Brussels itinerary covers the top tourist attractions such as the Grand Place (which is still worth a visit) but also takes you to other neighborhoods to explore. You’ll see art nouveau mansions, visit delicious restaurants and bars, shop at unique flea markets and see some amazing street art.

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Tips for planning your 48 hours in Brussels

Brussels is a small and walkable city, but there’s a lot to see and do. If you come prepared, you’ll have the best chance to experience the real Brussels – cool bars, beautiful historic buildings, and amazing food!

Quick facts about Brussels

  • It’s the center of the European Union
  • It’s the most densely populated and wealthiest city in Belgium, with 2.1 million living in the city
  • Both French and Dutch are the official languages. German and English are widely known

The Brussels Card

You can get an all-inclusive Brussels Card that gives you free access to most of the museums in the city, as well as discounted restaurants, shops, and walking tours. But is it worth it?

If you’re only in Brussels for 48 hours, we don’t think so. You probably won’t have time to visit enough places for it to be worth the money, but if you do want to add in a lot of museums to your trip, it could be worth it for you.

Get your Brussels Card

How to get to Brussels city center from the airport

After coming out from arrivals, looks for signs that lead you to the train. You can get a direct train from Brussels airport to the city center, and it runs regularly throughout the day. If you want to be organised, you can even book your tickets in advance online here.

How to get around Brussels

For a short trip, you’ll be fine walking around the city. But, if you want to use public transport, the easiest way is to get a BRUPASS– a combined ticket that can be used on buses, trams, the metro and commuter trains. The pass is loaded onto a plastic card which you scan getting on and off transportation. The card itself costs 5 euro and is sold at kiosks and ticket offices in major train and metro stations.

Public transport in Brussels in run in multiple languages which can be confusing, so the BRUPASS is the easiest way of getting on whatever transport you want to use without any hassle.

Tram

The trams in Brussels are powered by renewable energy and offer great views of the city. They’re the best way to get a sense of where everything is. Top tip – they don’t automatically stop at each tram stop, so remember to press the button when approaching where you want to get off.

Metro

Metro is the fastest way to get around and also runs on renewable energy. Use a ticket, MOBIB card, or contactless payment on your phone or card.

Bus

There are several bus companies that run different routes and tickets aren’t interchangeable, so check before you get on!

Bicycle

The city is filled with bicycles and bike lanes make it easy to get around this way. A lot of hotels offer tourists complimentary bikes, or you can rent a bike using Billy Bike, Villo! or Blue Bike.

Train

If you’re staying in city center, you probably won’t need to use trains. They’re best used to travel to and from the airport. Head to one of the three main stations: Gare du Nord (north), Bruxelles Centrale (central), and Bruxelles Midi (south); most intercity trains through Brussels stop at all three.

Car

Renting a car probably won’t be necessary if you’re only in Brussels for 48 hours. Cars can be rented by the hour on apps like Poppy and Cambio, or use Uber (which was actually banned in 2021 in Brussels but is still popular) or Heetch to catch a ride.

Do I need to book a tour for 48 hours in Brussels?

Honestly, it depends on what you want out of your trip. The city is really easy to get around, and there’s plenty of information online (such as this guide) for what to do.

If you do want to delve a bit deeper into the city’s history or food scene, a tour can make a great addition to your 48 hours in Brussels. Getting to explore the city with a local with give you a different point of view, and you’ll get some great tips for your next visit.

Top Food Tours In Brussels

Where to stay in Brussels

If you have only 48 hours in Brussels, you’ll want to be as close to the center as possible. Pick a hotel that’s close to the Grand Palace which is the best place to begin exploring the city. Here are our top, centrally located choices.

Budget: B&B Villa 36

Image courtesy of B&B Villa 36

Based close to the Mannekin Pis and Mont des Arts, this 19th century building offers a comfortable stay with a free breakfast included.

Book your stay

Mid-range: Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre

Image courtesy of Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre

The four star Pillows City Hotel is based right in the center of Brussels, next to Central Station and the St Michael & St Gudule Cathedral. The rooms have comfortable extra long beds and luxurious bathrooms.

Book your stay

Luxury: Cocoon Brussels

Image courtesy of Cocoon Brussels

Next to the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert and Mont des Arts in the center of the city is the wonderful Cocoon Brussels offering an urban glamping experience. Choose between their cosy bubble room or tiny house, both have a view of the Grand Place.

Book your stay

Day One – The Historical Center

Drop your suitcases off at your hotel and head out to explore!

The Grand Place

First stop: The Grand Place. You won’t be able to miss it in the central square of Brussels. Although it’s the most touristy spot, it’s a must-see. Also known as the most beautiful square in the world, there’s actually a lot to see, so if you want to do more than snap a pic for Instagram then arrange to spend a few hours here.

The square has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1998, with architecture from the 18th century when the city’s guilds rebuilt the square.

Here you’ve got Brussels Town Hall which is one of the prettiest in the country, as well as the Brussels City Museum here. There are several restaurants and cafes which have outdoor seating if you want to grab a latte and take in the sights of the Grand Place.

Manneken Pis

Also around this area is the famous Manneken Pis – a small statue that attracts huge crowds of tourists. It’s only a five minute walk away from the Grand Place. There are a lot of rumours about the origins of the little man and he has become a bit of a mascot for Brussels. If you’re lucky, you might even catch him in one of his signature outfits which change throughout the year.

Delirium Cafe

Opposite the statue is the famous Delirium Cafe, which serves the widest range of beers in the world with over 2000 to choose from – and has the Guinness World Record to prove it! It’s a bit of a tourist hotspot but worth a visit.

If you don’t like beer, try one of their many fruity options such as Framboise or Kriek.

The Royal Galleries

Head to the Royal Galleries – a series of elegant covered arcades with a glass roof that contains shops, restaurants, and even a cinema. Treat yourself to some chocolate at one of the numerous traditional Belgian chocolate shops.

Afternoon

How you spend the rest of your afternoon is up to you. We would recommend either:

  • If you enjoy art, you might want to visit the Magritte museum. It has the largest collection of art by renowned Belgian surrealism painter, René Magritte.
  • Head to the Fontainas neighbourhood for cute little shops and quirky bars. This is the perfect place to stop for a Belgian beer, or grab a Belgian waffle at Maison Dandoy.
  • If the weather is nice, take a stroll to Brussels park. You’ll get a view of the amazing Palais de Bruxelles, and there’s also places to stop for a snack or beer.

Mont des Arts

When it gets close to Sunset, head to the Mon des Arts – a small hill that gives you an amazing view of the city, gardens and town hall. Watch the magic as the Grand Palace lights up at night! This famous square also contains the national archives and Royal Library of Belgium. There’s a great vibe here, with people relaxing and buskers performing.

Grab a Belgian Beer

After dinner, grab a Belgian beer at a traditional ‘brown cafe.’ It will have cramped seating, dark wood panels and a long beer list, and it’s an experience that can’t be missed. There are hundreds all over the city but top picks in the center are Nüetnigenough near the Grand Place and Moeder Lambic in Ixelles.

Bars and Clubs

If you want to party the night away, head to Place St Gery for bars and clubs. This area is full of young people and students and is more affordable than other areas, but there’s something here to suit everyone. Zebra is a great bar for live music and cocktails, or for something a bit more different, go to La Machine, a steampunk-themed bar for beers and tapas.

Day 2 – Local Life in Brussels

Today is going to give you a taste of local life in Brussels.

Morning Walk – The Comic Book Route

Pay a visit to Cafe Capitale for a pastry and coffee to go in the morning, and start to walk towards the Marolles district as you embark on the comic book route. The streets of the Marolles district are covered in murals and graffiti, in particular, with subjects from comic books. Brussels is actually the self proclaimed comic book capital of the world, so walking along the streets you’ll be able to see TinTin, Asterix, The Smurfs and more.

The Marolles District

Walk towards the historic Marolles district which is full of trendy cafes, the city’s oldest bars, antique shops, and amazing brasseries.

As you explore, hop into the area’s independent shops. The best shopping streets are Rue Haute and Rue Blaes, which have wonderful stores selling antiques and vintage clothes.

Jeu de Balle

You also have the Marolle’s flea market at place due Jeu de Balle, which is open every day of the year from dawn until 2pm during the week, or until 3pm at weekends. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere asy ou browse for vintage and antique goods. It’s best to come here on a Sunday when it’s the liveliest, filled with both locals and tourists.

There are a lot of trendy restaurants around the market so take your pick – we recommend Le Paon D’or or Le Renard Bleu for some traditional Belgian food.

Ixelles

When you’re done browsing for treasures at the Flea market, head to Ixelles. There are several amazing Art Nouveau buildings here that are UNESCO classified: Hotel Solvay, Hotel Tassel, Hotel van Eetvelde and the Victor Horta Museum. Spend time exploring the streets and admiring the stunning architecture.

If you have more than 48 hours in Brussels

If you want to extend your visit to Brussels, or don’t like the ideas we’ve suggested, there’s no shortage of activities to do!

  • Visit Abbaye de la Cambre Garden, a 12th century abbey surrounded by a lovely park. After, walk towards Bois de la Cambre, a magical forest with a lake, picnic spots and snack vans.
  • Go to the Atomium – a landmark building constructed for the 1958 Brussel World’s Fair. It’s over 100 metres tall and has a restaurant near the top.
  • Visit the Choco-Story Chocolate Museum to learn about the history of chocolate in Belgium. You get an audio guide and lots of sample chocolates to try!
  • Enjoy Parc de Bruxelles – the largest public park in the city full of walking trails, scupltures and outdoor cafes. This is also right next to the Royal Palace, which is closed to visitors but a great spot to see.
  • Book a tour of the European Union headquarters. You can visit the Hemicycle where members gather, or visit the Parlamentarium, a museum that takes you through the history.
  • Visit the Museum of Natural Science which holds the largest dinosaur collection in Europe.
  • Go to the Palais de Justice, the biggest courthouse in Europe. It’s a stunning building that gives some great views of the city.
  • Take the metro to the suburb of Laeken and visit Mini Europe. View famous landmarks in Europe as miniature statues, with over 300 to explore.

Day trips if you have more than 48 hours in Brussels

If you have extra time, the city is a short journey away from some wonderful places that make for a great day trip, Bruges is probably the most popular, but Ghent, Antwerp or even Amsterdam are all possible.

Where to eat during your 48 hours in Brussels

Brussels is full of amazing restaurants and bars, you could spend all your time here eating. There are some dishes you must try – the Belgian frites, waffles, chocolate beer. Here are some of the best places to choose if you’re limited on time.

  • Frites: Maison Antoine, Flagey Frietkot, Fritland, Friterie Tabora, Frit Flagey
  • Waffles: Maison Dandoy, The Waffle Factory, Mokafe
  • Beer: Moeder Lambic, Zebra, Delirium Café
  • Mussels and Fries: Le Chou de Bruxelles, Aux Armes de Bruxelles, La Quincaillerie
  • Traditional Belgian food: Fin de Siecle, Porte De Hal, Le Marmiton
  • Belgian chocolate: Maison Pierre Marcolini,  Wittamer, Côte d’Or, Godiva, Pistolet Original

48 hours in Brussels Itinerary

Day One:

  • The Grand Place
  • Manneken Pis
  • Delirium Cafe
  • The Royal Galleries
  • Mont des Arts

Day Two:

  • The Comic Book Route
  • The Marolles District
  • Jeu de Balle
  • Ixelles

How do I get to Brussels?

Flying to Brussels

There’s only one airport in Brussels which is the Brussels Internation Airport. However, there is another airport 46km away which is called Brussels South Charleroi. It can be cheaper to fly here as it’s a hub for low-cost airlines, but it’s actually in another city called Charleroi.

How to get from Brussels International Aiport to the city center

The easiest way to get to the city center is to take the train. When you leave the arrivals area, just follow the signs to the train. There are three main stops – Brussels North, Brussels Central and Brussels Midi. The closest to the Grand Place is Brussels Central.

Alternatively, you can take a taxi from the arrival gate. Please only get a taxi from the official stand, and make sure they have the meter on. It will cost about €45. A private airport transfer normally works out a little bit cheaper, so ask your hotel for a price to arrange this.

How to get from Brussels South Charleroi Aiport to the city center

Getting to Brussels from the Charleroi airport will require you to take a bus that drops you off at Brussels Midi train station. This will cost €15.

A private transfer from this airport will cost upwards of €100 euro, so it’s probably best to stick to the bus.

Getting the train to Brussels

A lot of major European cities are connected to Brussels by high speed trains. These will arrive at Brussels Midi Station, so you’ll need to catch a connecting train to Brussels Central which is the stop closest to the historical center. You can catch trains from London, Paris, and Amsterdam and be in Brussels within a couple of hours.

When’s the best time to visit Brussels?

Brussels is a city that changes with the seasons and can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Summer is the busiest, with 10 pm sunsets and festivals happening every week. The Winter transforms the city into a winter wonderland, with twinkling lights and some of the world’s best Christmas markets. Or, come in Spring to see flowers bloom across Brussels’ neighbourhoods or in Autumn to enjoy locally foraged mushrooms and freshly caught mussels during the quietest times in the city.

Final advice for spending 48 hours in Brussels

Spending two days in Brussels is a good amount of time to get a sense for what the city has to offer, from beautiful architecture and amazing food to packed flea markets.

We would definitely recommend spending a day in the Historical Center and getting all the main tourist activities out of the way, but venture out a bit on day two to explore the true heart of the city.

There is so much to see and do in Brussels, you could easily spend weeks here and fill your time well. Ultimately, what you decide to do will depend on your interests. If you can’t fit it all in, hey, you can always come back

48 hours in Brussels Map

Map created using Wanderlog, a road trip planner on iOS and Android

Final advice for spending 48 hours in Brussels

Spending two days in Brussels is a good amount of time to get a sense for what the city has to offer, from beautiful architecture and amazing food to packed flea markets.

We would definitely recommend spending a day in the Historical Center and getting all the main tourist activities out of the way, but venture out a bit on day two to explore the true heart of the city.

There is so much to see and do in Brussels, you could easily spend weeks here and fill your time well. Ultimately, what you decide to do will depend on your interests. If you can’t fit it all in, hey, you can always come back!

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