Welcome to Brussels. The city known for beer, fries, chocolate and, if you ask Trump, being a hellhole. But this city is so much more than that and this 48-hour guide will show you. You will discover the beautiful hidden gems of the city, the favorite great-value restaurants from the locals and some great unique stores and museums. So, put on your walking shoes and let’s go exploring!
How to get around
First of all, you need to get to and around the city. Your best option is the STIB, our local public transportation system. They offer 24h, 48h and 72h tickets that you load onto a so-called ‘mobib‘ card. You can buy these mobib cards at one of the bootik shops. If you arrive by plane, you can buy them at Brussels Airport. They also have a shop in Brussels South Train Station if you plan to come by train.
If you arrive at Brussels Charleroi Airport, however, you are quite far out of the city. You can take a direct bus shuttle to Brussels or take a taxi to the train station and then take the train to Brussels South. Do not take the public Tec bus to the train station! It is more expensive than the taxies. If you take the shuttle bus, book your tickets online here, because they are always cheaper than at the ticket booth at the airport.
The public transport will get you all around the city with a combination of trams, buses and metros.
Where to Stay
If you want the real tourist experience, book a hotel in the city center close to the ‘Grand Place’ and miss out on the real vibe of the city. It is great if you really want to eat some waffles, take a chocolate tour and get a beer tasting experience. If that is what you are looking for, this guide might not be for you.
If you want to experience a local feel you should get an Airbnb out of the city center, for instance in Saint Gilles, Ixelles, Etterbeek or Uccle. This, this and this are great Airbnb options for couples or friends.
If you are traveling solo, a hostel can be a great option too. This one and this one are great options.
What to do
For this itinerary, we assume you will arrive at the airport in the morning, but feel free to adapt it to your own travel schedule.
8:00 – Arrival at the airport
- Go find your mobib and buy yourself a ticket. Take the bus to the city center and from there use Google Maps or the STIB- app to find the way to your accommodation.
11:00 – Brunch
- Once you have settled in at your place, it is time to head out for a bite. Crème Brussels is an amazing place for Brunch all day long and every day of the week. They are an Australian inspired brunch and lunch café situated in the cutest street close to the Grand Sablon. Bertrand, one of the owners, is a coffee specialist so do not worry about your caffeine shot to wake you up for the day ahead. If you are a sweet tooth, chocolate sauce or Popcorn and homemade salted caramel sauce will surely satisfy your hunger. Not so big on sweets? Go for their avocado toast, the most amazing chili or, if you are feeling decadent, the lobster roles.
- Rue de Rollebeek 30, 1000 Bruxelles
12:00 – Time to explore The city
- One of the best things to do in Brussels is to just wander around. You can pick up a good insider travel guide like Time To Momo, or feel free to just start walking and take a turn wherever you feel like it. This way, you will find the hidden gems of the city that are not in any guide.
16:00 – MIMA Musuem
- MIMA is a small quirky museum that focusses on small artists. It is a hidden gem of modern art and really worth to check it out. They also have a small café that is really cozy if you want to have a drink and a heartwarming conversation with your friends or some locals. They change their exhibitions from time to time and then the whole museum is closed for almost a month! So be sure to check if they aren’t closed if you want to go.
- Quai du Hainaut 41, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
18:30 – Dinner
- For your first dinner, head to Beat, a restaurant focused on Belgian cuisine with a creative twist. They serve waffle burgers, speculoos risotto and Brussels sprouts pesto penne. The waffle burgers are a masterpiece of sweet and salty flavors combined with an amazing burger and delicious sauce. Don’t miss out on that experience! It can get busy so reserve a table if you want to be sure to have a spot. If you want an endless supply of Belgian food during your stay, you can even book a stay at the two apartments above the restaurant!
- Rue de l’Enseignement 1, 1000 Bruxelles
20:00 – Drinks
- End your day with some beers at Delirium Café. Dedicated to Belgian beer, they have every single great beer on their menu you can think off. It is a great place to understand why Belgians love their beer and why they are so proud of it. If you get overwhelmed by all the options and you don’t know what to choose, ask the owner or some locals hanging at the bar for advice. They will gladly share their favorite beers with you. Approach it with an open mind, some of the flavors can be quite unique and surprising.
- Impasse de la Fidélité 4, 1000 Bruxelles
9:00 – Time for breakfast!
- For a decadent breakfast, head to Coco Donuts. You will find some amazing coffee and even better donuts! All of their donuts are homemade every morning and glazed by the students working in the shops. If you go there for breakfast, the donuts will be at their best, sometimes even still a bit warm. Be sure to ask for the Matcha or Chai Latte, a simply perfect Cappuccino or the Strawberry and Pistachio tea. In the weekend, they have their weekly specials: filled donuts with more unique flavors. But don’t be sad if you come during the week, the homemade salted caramel donuts, the creamy white chocolate donuts with pistachio or the fruity apple cinnamon donuts are just as awesome. On nice and sunny days, take your donuts to go and enjoy them while relaxing in the sun.
- Rue Sainte-Anne 36, 1000 Bruxelles
- Chaussée de Charleroi 168, 1060 Saint-Gilles
10:00 – Kanal Centre Pompidou
- Kanal Centre Pompidou is a recent addition to all the museums Brussels has to offer. It is a modern art museum in an old Citroen garage. The unique combination of the old industrial building and the modern art is just amazing. A must see where you can get lost for hours enjoying the architecture of the building just as much as the art it houses. Unfortunately, they will close the museum for renovation in the summer of 2019. Afterwards, it will probably miss its unique misplaces feature so be sure to visit before then! They also have a street food corner in the central hall for the museum. Be sure to check out the wine bar for some rest after all the exploring. The museum is located here:
- Kanal Centre Pompidou, Akenkaai, 1000 Brussel
13:00 – Lunch
- Ballekes is a great spot for a lunch break. They serve traditional Belgian meatballs in a hip and trendy way. You pick your ball (chicken, beef/pork or veggie) and one of their 6 sauces and a side. They have some deals on their menu so be sure to check those out as well. Don’t miss out on the Brussels sprouts side, the Kriek sauce and the veggie balls which are all simply delicious.
- Rue Sainte-Catherine 37, 1000 Bruxelles
- Rue des Chapeliers 3, 1000 Bruxelles
- Chaussée de Charleroi 174, 1060 Bruxelles
14:00 – Vintage shopping
- Brussels is full of vintage and second-hand shops. You can find a great overview of the best thrift stores in town here. If you want to wander around and test your luck to find some cheap antique pieces, head to Grand Sablon on the weekends. Not only is there an antique market going on on Saturdays and Sundays, the area is also surrounded by vintage and antique shops. If you get tired of shopping, be sure to stop at one of the cute cafés you will come across during your treasure hunt.
18:00 – Dinner
- Makisu is the place in town for cheap but amazing sushi! You can opt for picking from their menu or making your own unique creations. They have the classic sushi options and some more daring and creative flavor pallets. This place is also great for vegetarians and vegans. They have so many great options like Sweet potato tempura, Teriyaki Eggplant and cashew cream to replace regular cream cheese. It really is heaven!
- Chaussée de Boondael 470, 1050 Ixelles
- Rue du Bailli 5, 1000 Ixelles
- Chaussée de Waterloo 361, 1060 Saint-Gilles
- 1000, Rue de Flandre 6, 1000 Bruxelles
20:00 – Drinks and dance
- Head to Madame Moustache for some retro vibes and amazing cocktails. Madame Moustache is a dance café located at Saint-Catherine square. They are specialized in retro music and often have 80’s, 70’s and 60’s nights. In this unique place, you can dance the night away! If you are in the mood for a calmer evening, they have enough space to sit down and sip on some drinks as well. Make sure to try their cocktails, especially the Strawberry Daiquiri. They are quite pricy, but 100% worth it.
- Quai au Bois à Brûler 5-7, 1000 Bruxelles
8:00 Last breakfast
- For a last quick breakfast head to Exki or Foodmakers. You find them all over the city and they are a great option for a quick on the go bite. They focus on healthy local products thay they turn into tasty sandwiches, cakes, quiches and so much more.
- They have so many locations in town, just give it a quick Google Maps search!
- And on this note the 48 hours stay comes to an end. Hopefully you enjoyed your stay and this guide. By avoiding the major tourist sites, you will get to know our city a bit more and realize why it is not a hellhole like Trump claims. The beauty of Brussels lies in the combination of beauty and ugliness that you come across on every little stroll to town.