Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the home of the European Union, consists of a historic centre and a range of additional regions around the edge.
Home to around 172,000 people it’s pretty small as capital cities go which definitely has its advantages as you can get a good feel for the city in a short space of time.
Of course you cannot do everything Brussels has to offer in 36 hours but you can tick a few good items off the list!
For the purpose of full disclosure I will say that Brussels wasn’t my favourite European break. Unfairly for Brussels we visited on one very very cold February weekend where a freak storm had travelled in from the East as basically froze most of Western Europe.
We did however travel in on the Eurostar which is perhaps my favourite way to travel. Big comfy seats, good views and a pretty quick travel time. Winning!
Due to the cold we didn’t do as much as I would have liked but here are my top things to do in 36 hours – especially if it is cold!
The Grand Place
I don’t think any trip to Brussels could be complete without visiting the Grand Place. With buildings dating back to the 17th century it quite often gets piped as one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe.
The square itself is surrounded by guildhalls from carpenters to boatbuilders to brewers. The two larger buildings are the town hall and the King’s House which now contains a museum.
There are now loads of cafes and shops around the edge which is great if you fancy some people watching, or I imagine on a hot day with a beer! Never to be defeated we did sit and soak up some of the atmosphere with said Belgium beer and chips despite the cold!
The square itself is quite often taken over by installations or art work, the weekend we were there it was Chinese New Year so there were some wonderful large paper lanterns of Chinese monuments to look at.
Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée – The Belgian Comic Strip Centre
Brussels is famed for its comic books, most famously the adventures of Tintin. To celebrate and highlight their history with comic books is a museum set up just for that.
Upstairs there are a few halls of exhibitions, read some of the comics, find out how and why they were made and just generally look at some brilliant graphics. Downstairs there is a HUGE comic shop and cafe.
Depending on how much of a love you have for comics will dictate how long you spend here. If you’re a massive fan then easily the best part of a day, for those with less of an interest a good couple of hours.
We also ate in the cafe which although a little pricey the food itself was super tasty and had generous portions.
Random Belgium Statutes
It has to be said that Belgium’s have a wicked sense of humour. You will have likely already read about Manneken Pis, his sister Jeanneke and their unique positions and costumes.
Manneken Pis dates back to the 1450’s where he was installed at the end of a water pipe specifically for drinking water. Since then he has taken on a life of his own with a variety of costumes and outfits for every occasion – now housed in their own museum.
He was joined by Jeanneke in 1987 for no other reason than that they wanted a girl to match the boy. Located in a side alley next to a bar she isn’t as easy to spot but worth the trip.
We didn’t make the trip to find Het Zinneke, a dog version of the pissing children supposedly to commemorate a dog that was killed by a car.
Cathedral of St Michael and Ste Gudule
No trip to a medieval city is complete without visiting a cathedral. I personally have a massive love for religious buildings of all forms, I find them intriguing and humbling. This particular church was upgraded to a cathedral in 1962 having spent a few centuries at different stages and sizes of churches.
It was a welcome break from the cold cold weather and was beautiful on the inside. There was a service on while we were there so we didn’t wander around too much. It’s well worth a visit.
Chocolate, Waffles and Beer
Three things that Brussels and Belgium is very well known for. You cannot walk more than 10 steps without coming across a chocolate or waffle shop or a bar selling beer.
It makes the cold weather much more bearable when you can fill up on waffles and hot chocolate. And, that hot chocolate is to die for. As a lover of Belgium chocolate it was a dream to drink their chocolately goodness!!
Then we come on to the beer. There are over 200 breweries in Belgium in a huge range of styles so you can pretty much find something you like. Plus half the fun is in the trying right?
The best place we sampled said hoppy goodness was the Delirium Bar. Named after the well known beer Delirium Tremens it boats a world record for the amount of different beers it offers. There is a HUGE menu to choose from and you can easily spend a good few hours in it’s quirky interior.
Plus you can get a good look at Jenneken Pis from some of the tables too!
Brussels is also known for its mussels, I did partake in some mussel eating but they weren’t anything to write home about.
Parc de Bruxelles
In need of a break from the crowds or to blow off the cobwebs of last nights beer drinking then head to the Parc de Bruxelles for a wander. It’s the largest park in Brussels and is surrounded by the Royal Palace, the Parliament and US Embassy.
The park itself doesn’t have a huge amount of ‘attractions’ but it does include a commemoration to St Peter the Great. Well, where he was sick if you want to be specific. Apparently when he visited in 1717 he was taken unwell (something to do with that Belgium beer perhaps!) and threw up. A statue marks the spot.
We had found out about this on Atlas Obscura and spent a good 20 minutes wandering round corners of the park to find it, helped greatly by another hot chocolate from the park cafe. That place was awesome I’d recommend stopping there if you have time – especially as there are some quirky statutes to see!
There is of course so much more that you can do in Brussels, from the EU to the Atomium to all the museums and shops. We spent our 36 hours picking the best of the bunch for us and to give you an idea of what you can get up to in a short space of time!
Ever been to Brussels? Did we miss something crucial?
Like it? Share it?