3 ways to spend a weekend in Brussels

Notre Dame du Sablon

Because there are so many different ways to discover a city, we’ve come up with 3 weekend ideas for visiting Brussels!

« Bruxelles, je t’aime »: you’ve got to hear this new Angèle anthem on every radio! The Belgian capital is very popular, and rightly so: it’s the ideal place to spend a great weekend with friends or as a couple. What’s more, a train journey from Paris to Brussels takes just an hour and a half! So there’s no excuse not to discover Brussels, and enjoy the charm of the various districts of the Walloon enclave.

During a weekend in Brussels, you’ll have plenty of time to explore landmarks like the Grand-Place and the Atomium, visit a few museums, enjoy parks and markets, and eat… French fries. Yes, French fries will be part of your stay, believe us. In this guide, we offer you three themed weekend ideas for visiting Brussels in the best possible way.

Weekend in Brussels: the must-sees

If you’re spending a weekend in Brussels from Paris or elsewhere, then you’ll probably want to check off the must-see list. Just in time, we’ve prepared a short itinerary around the most important sites, so you won’t miss a thing. What’s more, you can even hop on a bike to enjoy the sights even more, and go faster!

Saturday morning: downtown Brussels

Manneken-Pis - week-end Bruxelles

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Nickzudwa

We’ll start our adventure on the famous Grand-Place, where you’ll be surrounded by 14th-century buildings, including theTown Hall and the King’s House. According to Victor Hugo, it’s the most beautiful square in the world! Take the opportunity to admire this Unesco World Heritage site and snap your best photos. A few streets away, you’ll also find the famous Manneken-Pis, who dons a different costume depending on his mood.

After wandering through the center’s various alleyways, with a stop at the charming Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, head for the Brussels Stock Exchange. The latter has a specific interest: it exhibits works of art! If you’re in the mood for an inspiring break, don’t hesitate to drop in…

Feeling peckish? Stop off at Les Halles Saint-Géry! This former covered market was very active in the 19th century and is now a cultural venue where you can enjoy a meal and a drink.

Saturday afternoon: Royal district

Le Palais royal de Bruxelles

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Mistervlad

The Royal Quarter is a historic district, and a must-see on a weekend in Brussels. First, you can stroll through the Parc de Bruxelles, before arriving at the Palais de Bruxelles. This establishment of the constitutional monarchy is made up of several private mansions. Loaded with history, it’s well worth a visit! However, if you’re more into art than history, we recommend the nearby Magritte Museum.

Continue on your way to the Mont des Arts: an impressive complex with absolutely magnificent gardens. Perched on the heights of Brussels, the park is the perfect place to relax after a day’s walking and enjoy the breathtaking views. Take a look at the surrounding houses, with their traditional architecture… There’s no doubt about it, you’re in for a change of scenery! What’s more, it’s a charming spot for a romantic sunset.

Finally, if you still have the time and energy, take a trip to the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudule: an impressive Gothic religious edifice, venue for royal funerals and weddings. Nothing less.

Sunday morning: Les Sablons and Marolles

Notre Dame du Sablon - week-end Bruxelles

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Renata Sedmakova

Spend a morning away from the center of the city and discover two of Brussels’ most iconic neighborhoods: Les Sablons and Les Marolles. In Les Sablons, you can admire the famous Notre-Dame au Sablon church, which is well worth a visit. The district is also home to one of the Belgian capital’s most important museums: the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. This includes no fewer than 20,000 works of art, ranging from painting and sculpture to drawing.

On your way to Les Marolles, you’ll pass the Palais de Justice. This impressive neoclassical building, topped by a majestic dome, is the largest courthouse in the country. If you go around it, you’ll find yourself in the middle of Les Marolles: a working-class district of red-brick houses. Once very working-class, the area has become gentrified, but still retains traces of its cosmopolitan past. You’ll find plenty of street art, as well as small vintage stores, cosy cafés, microbreweries, traditional restaurants and other original bars.

Sunday afternoon: Laeken Castle and the Atomium

Château de Laeken

Photo credit: Shutterstock – CapturePB

Spend your last afternoon in the most regal way possible! We’ll take you to the Château de Laeken, set in the middle of a charming estate. Allow around 40 minutes by public transport to get there.

Château de Laeken was built by the Austrians. It is now a property of the Royal Donation: the residence of the Belgian royal family. As such, you won’t be able to go inside the building, but you’re free to explore the marvellous gardens, including the royal greenhouses built during the reign of King Leopold II. Bucolism guaranteed!

Above the park and castle, still in the Laeken district, stands another iconic Brussels landmark: theAtomium. Built for the 1958 Universal Exhibition, this bizarre edifice represents a conventional mesh of iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times. You can visit the Atomium exhibition in the museum, and climb up to admire the panoramic view of Brussels! The perfect way to round off a weekend of must-sees in Brussels.

Gastronomic weekend

Do you like good things? Good news: the Belgian capital has plenty to feed your soul. From waffles and French fries to chocolate and beer dishes, you’ll be spoilt for choice. If you’re planning a gourmet weekend in Brussels, here are a few spots not to be missed.

Where to eat the best fries in Brussels?

Maison Antoine - week-end Bruxelles

Photo credit: Facebook – Maison Antoine (official page)

Let’s start with THE real question: why are Belgian fries so good? Well, because unlike us French, the Belgians have found the ideal way to cook these potato sticks into real delicacies. By ideal cooking, we mean pre-cooking at 160° in vegetable oil, then a second cooking at 180° in unrefined beef fat. And… the miracle happens.

In Brussels, you can eat the best French fries in French fry stands. We recommend you try Frite Flagey in Ixelles, or Friterie de la Barrière de Saint-Gilles, a 30-year-old institution. Finally, don’t hesitate to try the fries at Maison Antoine on Place Jourdan. According to the New York Times, they’re the best fries in the world (no less!).

Refreshment bars

Brasserie de la Senne

Photo credit: Facebook – Brasserie de la Senne

Belgium has a rich beer culture! This beverage varies from traditional « pils » to more made-in-Belgium specialties such as top-fermented beers. You can drink Trappist, Moinette and abbey beers. You can also try lambic beer and red beer, with their original fermentation system.

The most famous bar to visit on a weekend in Brussels is Délirium, where you can choose from a dizzying list of over 3,000 beers. In fact, this bar is listed in the Guinness Book of Records! Otherwise, you’ll find excellent beers at neighborhood craft breweries, or 100% local microbreweries. Try Brasserie Cantillon or Brasserie de la Senne.

And if you’re passionate about hops, take a trip to the Musée de la Bière! Located near the Grand-Place, you’ll learn all you need to know about Belgian beer.

Other delicacies not to be missed

Maison Dandoy - week-end Bruxelles

Photo credit: Facebook – Maison Dandoy

Belgians have a sweet tooth. So don’t miss out on the city’s delicacies when you visit Brussels! For example, you can eat delicious praline-covered chocolates at Neuhaus in the Galerie de la Reine. And if you want to get to the heart of chocolate, take a trip to Les Sablons: the district is packed with chocolatiers such as Pierre Marcolini and Wittamer. And of course, if you really love chocolate, a visit to the Choco-Story Brussels museum is a must.

Our Belgian neighbors also have a certain fascination with waffles. So, on a weekend in Brussels, you’ll be bound to try a few. For an authentic Brussels waffle, go to Maison Dandoy. And if you like a choice of toppings, go to Le Funambule.

Comic book weekend

Did you know? Belgium is fertile ground for many comic artists. It’s a veritable art form in its own right! It was Hergé, father of Tintin, who gave Belgium the comic-book impetus it deserved. Le Journal de Tintin, followed by Le Journal de Spirou, have both helped Belgium shine in this art form. So, if you love comics, Brussels is the place to be for a weekend’s visit.

Discover the Belgian Comic Strip Center

Centre belge de la BD

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Michael Mulkens

Take advantage of a visit to Brussels to spend half a day (or more!) at the Belgian Comic Strip Center, or Musée de la BD. Created in 1989, this establishment offers a chronology of the art of comics in Belgium, highlighting influential comics authors such as Hergé, of course, but also Peyo and Walthéry. You’ll be able to admire different styles, through different eras.

The building also offers enriching guided tours, meetings, temporary exhibitions, a (colossal) comic book library and other activities. There’s no doubt about it: you’ll come away conquered.

Make a comic book trail

Parcours BD de Bruxelles - week-end Bruxelles

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Lin Mei

This is the perfect activity for a weekend in Brussels! The City of Brussels has decided to pay tribute to the great comic book artists by displaying iconic characters on the city’s walls: Léonard, Spirou, Titeuf, Tintin, the Smurfs, Cubitus, Tamara, Ducobu, Asterix & Obelix, and Lucky-Luke. It’s up to you to find them via a route that will also take you on a tour of Brussels. You can find the route list directly on the City of Brussels website.

This trail was created in the 1990s, and has since expanded to include over 60 frescoes. Don’t forget your camera to photograph every wall you come across! What’s more, the comic-book trail is being modernized with the addition of more contemporary artists.

And that’s just 1h20 by train from Paris. Let yourself be tempted by one of our itineraries and tell us what you think in the comments.