My first visit to Brussels in 1995 didn’t go quite as planned. Having so much fun in Ireland, I made it to Brussels in time to sleep overnight in the Brussels Airport before my early morning flight home.
Don’t cry for me Argentina. That overnight in the airport got me a picture with Dikembe Mutombo, who just happened to be traveling with his family. Can you believe it’s still one of my favorite memories of Europe?
In my late 40’s I was finally able to spend 3 days in Brussels solo, with some spectacular day trips, making for an unforgettable 5 days in Belgium. Here’s how you can use my time in Belgium to plan your solo travel. Enjoy!
Warning: Some visuals in this post may cause cavities or weight gain. View at your own risk.
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- Brussels Travel Resources
- Best Time to Visit Belgium
- Where to Go in Belgium
- What is Brussels Known For?
- How Much Time Do You Need in Brussels?
- How to Get Around Brussels
- Where to Stay in Brussels
- Where (and What) to Eat in Brussels
- Top Things to Do in Brussels, Belgium
- How to Spend 3 Days in Brussels Itinerary
- More Travel Itineraries and Guides You’ll Like
Brussels Travel Resources
For more Belgium travel resources, check out my Belgium travel guide for currency, language, culture, holidays, safety, tipping information and more, along with my travel resources and the free WIFI Brussels offers. These will make planning your 3 days in Brussels a lot easier.
Best Time to Visit Belgium
My stock answer for Europe… go in the off season. Why? Like other countries, visiting Belgium is best when it’s not as touristy and travel prices have gone down. Plus, you still can experience fine weather in April, May, September or October.
I went in May with decent daylight hours and when it was not too chilly at night. Plan to dress in layers.
Is Belgium Safe to Travel Alone?
For the most part, Belgium is a safe place to travel solo. I never felt at risk in any of the places I visited in Belgium. As with any travel, be aware of keeping your belongings safe and stay street-wise.
Where to Go in Belgium
I keep checking for places to visit in Belgium for when I go back. In fact, Spa, Belgium, the Ardennes region, just became a new UNESCO world heritage site this year. Who wouldn’t want to partake in its natural mineral water springs?
Wanting to go back is all due to these 5 days in Belgium. Belgium is definitely worth visiting. If you go anywhere in Belgium, put visiting Brussels, Bruges and Ghent at the top of your list. This post will help get you underway.
What is Brussels Known For?
Brussels (Bruxelles in French) is the capital of Belgium (officially the Brussels-Capital Region) and part of both the French Community and Flemish Community of Belgium.
Human settlements in the region date back to the Stone Age, and since then Brussels has undergone cultural shifts and economic industry changes, has been part of the Hapsburg Empire, seen a 19th century revolution, experienced world wars, and now serves as headquarters for the European Union.
What has not changed, however, is its centuries-long lace making industry and beer and chocolate production. Belgium produces over 220,000 tons of chocolate annually and has over 1500 types beer.
Brussels is known for its cuisine with over 138 restaurants located within a square mile. This is not including the plethora of chocolate and waffle shops that inundate the area.
Brussels is rich in culture and likes to show it off in its 80+ museums.
Brussels is a fun and lively city with modern, medieval and Gothic styles meshed together with touches of Art Nouveau making Brussels worth visiting, hands down.
How Much Time Do You Need in Brussels?
How many days in Brussels you wish to spend will depend on how much you want to see. As I noted, Brussels offers a lot in terms of culture, history, entertainment and dining.
If you’re limited on time, pick your favorite Brussels attractions below and spend at least two days.
How to Get Around Brussels
All flights arrive at the Brussels Airport, a mere 10 miles northeast of the city center. Direct trains run from the Brussels Airport – Zaventem station every 10 minutes and take less than 20 minutes to reach the Brussel-Centraal station. Check the local Brussels trains for schedules and fares.
High speed trains can arrive at one of the many Brussels train stations from all over Europe. Transfers to the Brussel-Centraal station are easy and inexpensive.
FlixBus is another, inexpensive option to reach Brussels. Sometimes these buses take less time than the train and cost less, too. FlixBus in Europe is amazing.
Brussels is Walkable
Brussels is spread out, but walkable. You can take public transportation to each Brussels attraction if you wish, but having 3 days in Brussels makes hoofing it doable if you stay in the historic city center.
CORR Eco-Travel Tip
Besides walking, another form of eco-friendly transportation to consider is renting an e-bike in Brussels. Villo! Bike is an easy e-bike share option available 24/7 with multiple pickup locations across Brussels. Download the app and you’re on your way.
Where to Stay in Brussels
To make the most of your time in Brussels in three to five days, it is ideal to stay near La Grand Place and the Brussels Centraal station as seen on the below map, especially if this is your first time visiting Brussels. This will suit for most of your Brussels and day trip needs without having to rent a car.
CORR Eco-Travel Tip
When reserving your Brussels accommodations through Booking.com, don’t just compare services and price. Review your accommodation’s “Sustainability initiatives”, usually listed beneath the “Most popular facilities” section, to support those businesses doing more to reduce negative impacts on our environment.
Where (and What) to Eat in Brussels
Shrimp croquettes, Flemish stew, moules marinières (mussels), pommes frites (French fries), Belgian meatballs, waffles, beer… these are only but some of the traditional Belgian dishes to find in Brussels.
The Rue des Bouchers (the “stomach of Brussels”) is a street with over 100 restaurants to try. Wandering there is a no-brainer.
I found myself at Chez Leon, frequented by locals and tourists alike, for dinner. It’s been a no-fancy mainstay since 1893. It didn’t disappoint for a solid meal.
Read on for other Brussels restaurants frequented by locals.
If you’re an Art Nouveau lover, try De Ultieme Hallucinatie, a classic town house café decked out in Art Nouveau interior, for a beer or snack.
For stunning city views with your Art Nouveau, have a coffee or cocktail at Restaurant du MIM, upstairs at the Old England building designed by architect Paul Saintenoy. I hear mixed reviews on the service, but I had no issues getting my glass of wine.
Let’s not forget the Belgian chocolate, waffles, and beer!
As for chocolate and waffles, well, I won’t have to tell you where to find any of these. You’re going to find them literally at every other shop around La Grand Place.
If you don’t try any of these in Brussels, then you have more will power than I.
Beer and Chocolate
So, if you don’t already know that chocolate and beer go together better than chocolate and milk (but not better than chocolate and wine, in my humble opinion), then there is no better place than Brussels to get schooled.
Hungry Mary’s Famous Beer and Chocolate Tours offers an incredible gastronomical tour to teach you the savory combination Belgium’s two specialties while learning the history of chocolate and how chocolate is made. This tour gets rave reviews.
Top Things to Do in Brussels, Belgium
Now that you’re oriented on Brussels, here of some of my top choices on what to see in Brussels in 3 days.
Consider getting a Brussels Card that is good for three days and allows access to 49 museums in Brussels and discounts on tours and in select restaurants and bars.
La Grand-Place – a UNESCO world heritage site and Brussel’s main city center square, it is the tits in Brussels sightseeing. You can enter the square on foot by one of six narrow alleys. Inside, do a 360 and your jaw will drop in wonder at the guild houses and Gothic architecture.
La Grand-Place highlights include:
- Brussels City Hall – the only remaining medieval building of La Grand-Place dating back to the 15th century.
- Maison du Roi (The King’s House) – this neo-Gothic building, now a museum, was once owned by Charles V, the king of Spain, in which you can see statues bearing his likeness as you enter.
- Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles (City Museum) – this houses the original Manneken-Pis statue and its many costumes worn throughout its history.
- Brewers House – open every day, visit this baroque building houses the Belgian Brewers Association. Sip a glass of Belgian beer in the Brewery Museum café.
- The Statue of Everard t’Serclaes – located just off La Grand-Place on Charles Buls Street, this bronze statue was created in 1902 by Everard ‘t Serclaes and is said to grant wishes and bring luck to those who touch it.
- Manneken-Pis – it won’t bring you luck, but it will a chuckle. This famous urinating statue is emblematic of Brussel’s sense of humor and spirit. Sometimes you can see it dressed in a costume. It’s small, so take a snap and move on.
Outside of La Grand-Place
Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate – just a minute’s walk from the Manneken-Pis, this museum in a small house features chocolate exhibits and live chocolate making demonstrations daily. Individual tours require no reservation.
Mont des Arts – stroll from the southeast end of La Grand-Place past the Centraal station to this lovely landscaped park on a hill offering beautiful views of Brussels.
Musée des Instruments de Musique (Musical Instrument Museum – MIM) – walk further up the hill to the Old England Building, one of the best examples of Brussels’ Art Nouveau style, where it holds this museum of over 2,000 historical musical instruments. This is a pretty cool museum as it’s all about the auditory experience. Don’t forget to go upstairs for spectacular views.
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts (Royal Museum of Fine Arts) – Rue Ravenstein dead ends at Place Royal. Turn right and within minutes is one of the top museums in Brussels – side-by-side museums, in fact, of ancient and modern art, which features works by the Belgian Surrealist painter René Magritte.
Église Notre-Dame du Sablon (Church of Our Lady of Sablon) – this 15th century Gothic church is just a few blocks past the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts.
Royal Palace of Brussels – heading back to Place Royal is the Royal Palace of Brussels. Although the royal family does not reside here it is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians.
BELvue Museum – next to the Royal Palace building you’ll find this museum that provides a history of Belgium with a display of over 200 Belgium objects.
Parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Park) – across from the Royal Palace lies this expansive park with fountains, perfect for a picnic or just grabbing some fresh air and a break from the indoor attractions.
European Parliament – head east towards Place du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Square) and one of the best attractions in Brussels, the European Parliament, home the world’s largest transnational parliament. The tour is free but you must make a reservation. Don’t be late and don’t forget your passport. Tour includes the Hemicycle, House of European History, Station Europe, and Parlamentarium.
Cathedrale St-Michel et Ste-Gudule (Saint Michael and Gudula Cathedral) – head back towards La Grand-Place and you’ll pass this massive, white-stoned Gothic church is where Belgian royals are married and buried. The pipe organ and stained glass windows are particularly beautiful features.
Galaries Royales Saint-Hubert – just a short walk from St. Michael’s before La Grand-Place, this is the oldest shopping arcade in Europe where you’ll find restaurants, shops, and, yes, more chocolatiers located under its glass-domed ceiling.
Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta – Looking for another UNESCO site? If you have the time, search out these townhouses in splendid Art Nouveau style architecture.
How to Spend 3 Days in Brussels Itinerary
By now you’re probably thinking, “Wow, is 3 days in Brussels enough?” Yes, it is, but remember to include my suggested day trips to extend this Belgium travel itinerary to 5 days. You won’t regret it.
Day 1 – Brussels
- 11am – Arrive Brussels
- 12pm – Check into hotel
- 1pm – Explore La Grand-Place highlights with late lunch
- 4pm – Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate
- 5pm – Brewers House for a glass of beer
- 6:30pm – Dinner near in La Grand-Place (Chez Leon)
- 8pm – Explore Brussels nightlife
Day 2 – Brussels
- 7am – breakfast at hotel
- 8am – leave for Mont des Arts
- 9am – Église Notre-Dame du Sablon
- 10am – Royal Museums of Fine Arts
- 12pm – Lunch
- 1pm – European Parliament / Hemicycle tour
- 2pm – Station Europe, Parlamentarium
- 4:30pm – St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral
- 6pm – Galaries Royales Saint-Hubert
- 7pm – Hotel
- 8pm – Dinner on Rue des Bouchers
Note: I have seen others recommend doing one day trip to both Ghent and Bruges from Brussels, but I don’t recommend this. Make the time in your Belgium solo travel itinerary and do one day in Bruges and one day in Ghent.
Day 3 – Day Trip to Bruges
- 7:30am – Breakfast at hotel
- 8:50am – Train to Bruges
- Day Trip to Bruges Itinerary
Day 4 – Day Trip to Ghent
- 7:30am – Breakfast at hotel
- 9am – Train to Ghent
- Day Trip to Ghent Itinerary
Day 5 – Brussels
- 8am – Breakfast out
- 9:30 – Art & History Museum Brussels
- 12pm – Lunch
- 1pm – Musical Instruments Museum
- 3pm – Stroll Brussels Park
- 4pm – Moeder Lambic Brewery or Cantillon Brewery
- 6pm – Hotel
- 7pm – Dinner at Restobières
- 8:30pm – Mingle with the locals at Poechenellekelder
Let Me Hear From You
I would love to hear if this post was helpful to you on how to spend 3 days in Brussels solo over 40. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. Thank you!