11 min read
Afer sharing with you our top tips on how to spend 48 hours in St Ives, Cornwall, our head of operations Sam is taking you to the beautiful city of Brussels, one of his favourtite destinations in Europe. And what better way to find out about unique experiences than to partner with locals to see the city through the eyes of real Brusseleirs! Ready to explore the capital of Belgium and spend 48 memorable hours in Brussels? Let's go.
Only a mere 2 hours and 10 minutes away on the Eurostar, who wouldn’t want to spend their weekend in the Belgian capital, Brussels, instead of binge-watching Netflix in bed? It’s a no brainer. It’s taken me longer to get from one side of London to the next than the time it takes to luxuriate on a train to Brussels.
Although it may seem like a fraught time to visit Brussels for us Brits, do not fret. Negotiating Brexit has been scrapped from the itinerary in favour of considerably more exciting activities to fill these mere 48 hours.
Your weekend ahead consists of culture, history, sight-seeing, food and entertainment, in a city that we have to thank for Belgian Pralines, the Smurfs and the comic strip.
As always with BeRightBack, we have gone to the trouble of travelling to Brussels and figuring out exactly how to spend the ultimate 48 hours in this city. We are just selfless people, what can we say?
Check out our action-packed itinerary for 48 hours in Brussels that you won’t forget.
There is no better place to begin your trip to Brussels than at the Grand Place. It is the main square and often considered to be the heart of the city. In fact, it was actually voted Europe’s most beautiful square in 2010, so if that’s not a reason to go then I don’t know what is.
It has hosted flower festivals, markets and, perhaps more solemnly, executions (it’s been a few centuries since that occurred though so don’t worry, there’ll be no beheadings on your nice weekend away).
It is Brussels’ most visited attraction and it’s not hard to see why. It is central to the city and steeped in history, with the monumental town hall, grandiose guilds and other opulently decorated civic buildings to enjoy.
Grab some breakfast and a coffee at Le Roy d’Espagne, an authentic Brussels brasserie that is located in the Grand Place and sit and watch the world go by.
Next, it’s time to go for a stroll towards the largest urban park in central Brussels: the Parc de Bruxelles. It is home to some extravagant buildings and monuments that you shouldn’t miss, like the concert venue, the Vauxhall, or statues of Peter the Great and Narcissus.
It’s a beautiful escape from bustling city life, and if you get the chance, I recommend getting yourself an authentic, chocolatey Belgian waffle from the Woodpecker food stand for a much needed sugary fix.
Next on the list is heading to one of Brussels hugely popular ticketed attractions, Mini Europe. You heard me right, it’s a miniature Europe.
This open-air museum contains 350 dioramas from 90 EU cities, featuring recognisable landmarks and wonders from around the continent. It is so accurately detailed, having the Berlin Wall being graffitied only on the west side as is historically correct, and displaying mini anti-Brexit protests in the fake London. Like I said – it’s accurate.
A mere 8-minute walk away from Mini Europe is the Atomium. It’s that large, looming silver sculpture that is impossible to miss whilst at the attraction. It was originally constructed in 1958 for the Brussels World’s Fair, and boasted the fastest elevator in Europe at that time. Take a ride up this famous lift to the highest sphere to get a panoramic view of the city.
Picture this: it’s early evening and you’re itching for a culture fix. Well we know exactly how you can scratch that itch; go to the Musée Royaux des Beaux Arts, or the Fine Art museum for those of us who haven’t yet nailed the language.
Located near the parc de Bruxelles, the museum hosts Belgium’s premier art collection, containing over 20,000 pieces ready and waiting for you to admire.
From there, head to Le Zinneke for dinner and sample Belgium’s national dish: mussels. The menus look like a child’s story book and features 69 different recipes of mussels, so it’s safe to say there is something for everyone.
Your end of day one will be spent in a slightly unconventional way: at the Royal Theatre Toone. This is a hidden, quirky bar on the backstreets of Brussels that doubles up as a puppet theatre, and you will absolutely not be disappointed by the performances.
Although it initially seems like a place for light entertainment, it actually has a lot of history behind it. Once upon a time, Brussels hosted approximately 50 puppet theatres that were loved by so many, and the Royal Theatre Toone is the last one standing.
The puppets are handmade and weigh around 8kg each, but be prepared for a lively, charming show that is so dear to Brussels’ history.
Rise and shine for day two and get yourself up and out early to get a glimpse of a hugely popular tourist attraction: a fountain.
Now hear me out. I know a fountain may not sound like the most exciting way to spend your final morning in Brussels, but this isn’t just any fountain. Oh no, this is Manneken Pis. Only three minutes away from the Grand Place, Manneken Pis is a bronze sculpture depicting a little naked boy “urinating” into the basin of the fountain.
The original Manneken Pis was erected in the fifteenth century, but now a replica stands in its place, and the original is kept in a museum. The statue is considered to be the best-known symbol of the people of Brussels and encapsulates their sarcastic sense of humour.
The statue also has several different costumes – around 950 outfits to be exact – and is dressed a few times a week, so keep an eye on the handy dressing schedule attached to the railing and see if you’re lucky enough to witness one of these famous outfits.
Now, one of the reasons I love Brussels is the progressive mindset of the people, and just down the street from Manneken Pis is his female counterpoint, Jeanneke-Pis. This modern sculpture fountain depicts a little girl squatting and urinating.
Admittedly, they’re not the most conventional fountain sculptures, but they’re a brilliant sight to see, which perfectly epitomise the Belgium’s funny side.
After all the sight-seeing and culture you’ve absorbed since being in Brussels, it’s time for a well-deserved shopping trip. Head to the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a shopping arcade located in central Brussels. Take in its regal architecture and magnificent arches and get your spending money ready for specialised boutiques and inviting chocolate shops.
I recommend going to Neuhaus, a chocolate shop that was once a pharmacy, founded by the Neuhaus family. Jean Neuhaus would cover medicine in a thin layer of chocolate for his customers, much to their glee. This lead to the invention of the Belgian praline; choosing chocolate as a filling instead of medicine.
The doors to this famous shop first opened in 1857 and it’s still thriving today. So make sure to go there and sample the original Belgian praline – you won’t regret it.
If you have time in the afternoon and loved the chocolate so much, I definitely recommend going to Laurent Gerbaud’s chocolate making workshop for a masterclass in the production of this world-famous chocolate. Decorate as you please and bring the chocolatey taste of Brussels home with you.
Now you’ve had enough chocolate for a lifetime, why not work it off by wandering around Brussels’ Comics Art Museum.
Belgium is responsible for some of the biggest names in comic book history and put European comics firmly on the map. Favourites like Tintin, Spirou & Fantasio and The Smurfs originated in Belgium. It’s unsurprising then that there is an entire museum dedicated to comic strip art, to commemorate the country’s achievement in this industry.
This is the perfect place for anyone to enjoy: the comic book diehard fans, as well as those who enjoy seeing art – it’s a great place to get an insight into the Belgian comic book legacy.
For dinner, I recommend splashing out at Colonel, a restaurant that is a meat-lover’s dream. It’s more on the pricey side but it’s not hard to see why. Enjoy an evening of delectable steaks washed down with refreshing cocktails.
So, you’ve done the Grand-Place, waffles, Manneken Pis and Belgian chocolate, but the last thing on your list of authentically Belgian things to try is their beer.
So, get yourself to the Delirium Bar (feelings of delirium not included), a place that holds the Guinness Book of World Records with the most beers offered at a staggering 2,004 different flavours. We know beer isn’t for everyone, but with that many on the menu you’re bound to find at least one type that suits your taste buds.
If you have a little more than 48 hours in Brussels or if some of the above recommendations weren't to your personal taste, here are a few more ideas I have assembled for you as I have been to Barcelona many times.
During one of my last visits to Brussels, I went to Palais Royal as a friend of mine told me I had to check it out. Although the royal family now lives in Laeken, the Royal Palace remains their official residence. The palace is open for tourists in the summer months and makes a worthy addition to any itinerary whilst visiting the city. The most notable room in the palace has a ceiling covered in the wings of beetles, forming an oddly beautiful mosaic. The artwork as well as the interior decor is also as splendid as you might expect from a royal palace.
Gorge on Waffles
If like me you love food and have a sweet tooth, a trip to Brussels wouldn't be complete without trying 'Belgian waffles'. Whilst you could probably grab waffles from most cafés or steet stalls, I'd personally recommend heading to Maison Dandoy or the Waffle Factory as their waffles are absolutely DE.LI.CIOUS!
If like me you love taking short weekend breaks across Europe and spending 48 hours in cities like Brussels, Prague, Porto, Split, Bologna, Stockholm or Venice, but if like me you hate wasting hours trawling travel sites to plan and research your next weekend break, only to be hit by increased flight prices just before booking, then BeRightBack is for you!
The team at BeRightBack believes that the mission of a travel company should be to save you both time and money.
With BeRightBack, you get three trips a year to three surprise European destinations, all for the monthly cost of £49.99, which includes your return flights and your hotel.
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I hope you enjoyed my 48 hours city guide to Barcelona and do not hesitate to use our website chat or to email us if you have any questions!
Sam (Head of Operations at BeRightBack)
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