Are you thinking of going to London on your next trip?
While there, how about having a quick day tour to Brussels, the so-called Capital of Europe?
Yes, that’s perfectly possible. You can do a day trip from London to Brussels and hit two travel birds with one stone!
If you do your preparation well and arrive early in the Belgian capital, you’ll have enough time to visit many of the places you’ve always wanted to check off your list.
Now comes the inevitable question, “What to do and see in Brussels within a day?”
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find our expert tips and ideas on how to plan your trip to the Capital of Europe, so you can cover a lot of ground.
Let’s dive right in.
Visa, Currency, and Language Tips for Brussels
Belgium is not only one of the founding members of the European Union. It’s also a member of the Schengen Area. This quick history lesson means one thing. If you have a U.S. passport that expires in more than 6 months, you don’t need a visa to visit the country for up to 3 months (90 days).
For the complete list of visa requirements, check the European Union’s official website.
Besides an EU and Schengen area member, Belgium is also a Eurozone member. In other words, the country uses the euro as its currency. Brussels teems with ATM machines and banks to get cash from. If you prefer cashless payments, don’t worry. You can use a card virtually everywhere.
Belgium has three official languages – Dutch, French, and German. In Brussels, most people speak French because of the presence of the EU institutions. However, you’ll get along with English almost everywhere.
If you’d like to impress locals and show your respect to their culture, we’ve prepared a table with five basic words and phrases for each language:
|Good morning||Bonjour||Goedemorgen||Guten Morgen|
|Goodbye||Au revoir||Tot ziens||Aufwiedersehen|
|Thank you / Thank you very much||Merci / Merci beaucoup||Dank u wel / Hartelijk bedankt||Danke / Vielen Dank|
|Excuse me / I’m sorry||Excusez-moi / Je suis désolé(e)||Sorry||Entschuldigung / Tut mir leid|
|Yes / No||Oui / Non||Ja / Nee||Ja / Nein|
How to Get from London to Brussels
There are several ways to get from London to Brussels. We’ve enlisted each one below:
This is our recommended way to travel from London to Brussels on a day trip.
Eurostar trains run from London St Pancras to Brussels Midi/Zuid station. Here’s what you should know:
- The approximate duration of the ride is 2 hours, depending on the time of the day.
- Trains leave 6 to 7 times per day in both directions, every day of the week, except on Sundays when there are fewer trains.
- The first train from London leaves at 6:13 AM on Monday and Friday, 6:47 AM Tuesday through Thursday, 6:57 AM on Saturday, and 8:55 on Sunday. The last one is at 7:34 PM on all days.
- The first train from Brussels is at 6:56 on Monday, 7:56 AM Tuesday through Saturday, and 8:52 on Sunday. The last one leaves at 8:22 PM on all days.
- Buy your tickets way in advance to secure the lowest prices.
- Important: Make sure to be at least 45 minutes before your train’s departure time to go through the ticket gates, security, and passport control. That’s because ticket gates close 30 minutes prior departure. If you’re late, they won’t let you board the train.
Tip: You can also visit Brussels easily on a day trip by train from these gorgeous European capitals:
If you decide to fly from London to visit Brussels for a day, here’s what you should know:
- British Airways has flights 5 times/day. The duration is around 1:15 hours. If you decide to visit Brussels by plane, you’ll have enough options with them.
- Brussels Airlines flies twice daily – in the morning and in the afternoon – between the two cities. Unfortunately, the time between the morning flight from London and the afternoon flight from Brussels doesn’t give you enough time to visit the Capital of Europe.
- Both airlines use Heathrow Airport. Thus, when calculating your travel times, have in mind that you need 30-60 min to reach it depending on your starting point in London.
- The transfer time from Brussels Airport to the city center is between 25 and 45 min depending on the time of the day.
- Don’t forget to calculate waiting times at both airports in the overall trip duration, even if you fly with a carry-on only.
The fastest route is via the Channel Tunnel. It takes around 5 hours, making it about as fast as flying. Still, we wouldn’t recommend this way of transportation for a day trip from London to Brussels.
Tip: Keep in mind that traffic in the U.K. runs on the left side of the street while in continental Europe driving is on the right side.
The fastest bus rides from London to Brussels take between 7 and 8 hours. The duration of the drive makes this transport unsuitable for a day trip to Brussels from London.
What to Do on a Full-day Trip from London to Brussels
Now that you’re aware of the basics, let’s get to the exciting stuff!
Brussels’ population is a little over 1 million, but 10x more people visited in 2019.
The Belgian capital owes this influx of visitors to a combination of attractive landmarks, world-class food and beer, and dozens of EU organizations. The concentration of European institutions makes Brussels the unofficial Capital of Europe.
There’s a host of things to do and see in Brussels. This section of our guide will list the best spots for your day trip.
Note: It’s possible to visit every single place listed below. However, you’ll find yourself dog-tired. For that reason, we highly suggest you choose only what fits your interests. In the end, if you like Brussels on a day trip from London, you can always revisit.
Grand Place – Brussels’ Opulent Heart
There’s no better place to start you day trip than the very heart of Brussels – Grand Place (Grote Markt).
As the central square of the city, it attracts a swarm of tourists. It measures 223 x 360 ft. (68 x 110 m), which allows for many events to take place there. By far the most spectacular one is the flower carpet. The ephemeral show combines over 500,000 flowers – bark, grass, dahlias, and begonias – that form the gigantic carpet.
Magnificent guildhalls and other astounding edifices surround the Grand Place. All these make the square one of the most gorgeous places in the world. It’s no wonder UNESCO added it to its World Heritage List in 1998.
When there, look for the Town Hall and the King’s House (la Maison du Roi). The latter is home to the Brussels City Museum.
Tip: In our humble opinion, the best way to feel the atmosphere of the Grote Markt is by sipping a cold Belgian beer while sitting in one of the historical cafés.
Manneken Pis – The Most Peculiar Landmark of Brussels
Just five minutes on foot from the Grand Place, you’ll find Brussels’ most peculiar landmark – Manneken Pis.
The Manneken Pis is a 24-in bronze fountain sculpture. It depicts a naked little boy who’s urinating into the fountain’s basin. Jérôme Duquesnoy the Elder designed the sculpture in the beginning of the 15th century.
The current Manneken Pis is a replica, dating from 1965. You can find the original in the Brussels City Museum.
Funnily enough, this landmark is the best-known symbol of Brussels. It embodies the locals’ sense of humor and their independent minds. You’ll find the statue at the intersection of Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat and Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat.
And the quirkiest part about this landmark? The little boy has his own dresser who changes his costumes several times a week. Manneken Pis’ wardrobe consists of about 1,000 costumes. You can see most of them in the City Museum opposite the Town Hall on the Grand Place.
Insider Tip: Most people visit the Manneken Pis, not aware of the fact that there’s also a urinating girl nearby. Its name is Jeanneke Pis. Want to see it as well? Find the fountain south of the Grand Place, on the east side of Impasse de la Fidélité/Getrouwheidsgang (“Fidelity Alley”).
Address: At the intersection of Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat and Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat.
The Royal Palace of Brussels – The Majestic Brilliance of the Belgian Capital
The official palace of the King and Queen of Belgium is the Royal Palace of Brussels. However, the palace doesn’t serve as a royal residence. The king and his family reside in the Royal Palace of Laeken, which is located on the outskirts of Brussels.
The Royal Palace of Brussels does serve as the administrative residence of the King. That’s where he receives ambassadors, heads of states, representatives of political institutions, and other foreign or domestic guests. You’ll find it at the very heart of the capital at Rue Brederode 16.
Since 1965, the Brussels Place opens to the public every summer. That happens after Belgium’s National Holiday on the July 21. It remains open until the end of August.
Thus, if you’d like to visit the Palace on your day trip from London to Brussels, you have to come between July 21 and August 25.
Address: Rue Brederode 16, 1000 Brussels
St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral – One of the Best Examples of Brabantine Gothic Architecture
Want to explore one of the most outstanding religious temples in Brussels? Then, you should head to the St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral.
As the name suggests, the Roman Catholic church was consecrated to the Saints Michael and Gudula, patrons of Brussels. The building is among the finest examples of the Brabantine Gothic style of architecture.
Construction of the church dates far back to the 11th century. By the 16th century, it was largely complete. In 1962, it received cathedral status.
When inside, look at the stained-glass windows. They trace their origins to the 16th, 17th, and 19th centuries, with some of them representing three scenes of the Legend of the Miraculous Sacrament.
You can reach the cathedral via the Brussels Central Station.
Address: Place Sainte-Gudule, 1000 Brussels
Park du Cinquantenaire – The Green Lungs of the European Quarter
Park du Cinquantenaire or Jubelpark derives its name from the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence (Cinquantenaire from French means fiftieth). It was designed for the National Exhibition in 1880.
The majority of buildings that form the U-shaped complex of the park date back to that exhibition. King Leopold II commissioned them.
The triumphal arch that sits in the very center of the complex was built in 1905. All the structures use iron, stone, and glass – symbols of Belgium’s economic and industrial performance from that period.
The northern part of the complex houses the Royal Military Museum while the southern part is home to the AutoWorld vintage car museum and the Art & History Museum.
Address: Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée 21A, 1000 Brussels
The European Quarter of Brussels – Where the EU Makes Important Decisions
Would you like to feel like one of the decision-makers of the European Union?
Svet actually worked in Brussels for a while, and he was constantly amazed by the modern architecture of the European Quarter of Brussels.
In the area, you’ll find the headquarters of numerous EU institutions. The list includes:
- The European Commission
- The European Parliament
- The Council of the European Union
- The Committee of the Regions
- The European Economic and Social Committee
And numerous other buildings whose design and architecture spellbinds locals and visitors alike.
The European Quarter is much more than just headquarters of EU institutions, though. There, you’ll also find interesting museums, green spaces, peculiar shops, and vibrant squares.
In fact, there are four main squares in the neighborhood that act as reference points. They are Place du Luxembourg, Place Jourdan, Rond-point Schuman, and Place Jean Rey. Each of them is worth exploring.
Atomium – the Magical Symbol of Brussels and Belgium
The Atomium is the modern symbol of the Belgian capital, and the country as a whole.
Designed and erected for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958, it served as the emblem and flagship building. Peculiarly enough, the plan was to demolish it right after the Fair. However, its unique design and monumental structure skyrocketed its popularity.
Nowadays, the Atomium is not only a major part of the landscape of Brussels. It has become one of the world’s most creative, surprising, and astounding buildings.
As you might have guessed from the name, the building represents an atom that has been magnified just 65 billion times.
The unique structure offers one of the best views over Brussels. Many locals use it as a backdrop for photoshoots.
More than 600,000 people visit the Atomium every year, so we suggest you book tickets online from its official site. Ensure you print the e-tickets & vouchers in advance to avoid the ticket office queues.
Address: Square de l’Atomium, 1020 Brussels
Mini Europe – Mind-blowing Miniatures of Europe’s Most Famous Landmarks
After marveling at Atomium’s spectacular architecture, we suggest you explore the Mini Europe park nearby.
In Mini Europe, you’ll find reproductions of EU monuments on display, minified 25 times. 350 buildings from almost 80 cities await you in the park.
Admire the miniatures of the Eiffel Tower, the Acropolis, Big Ben, the Grand Place, and hundreds of others.
That’s the only place in the world where you can tour Europe in an hour 😊
To make your experience even sweeter, there are live action models, including mills, trains, cable cars, and an erupting Mount Vesuvius.
The park opened its doors in 1989 and receives around 350,000 visitors each year. Get your tickets online from this link.
Note: Tickets are for certain entry hours, so please respect that.
Address: Avenue du Football 1, 1020 Brussels
Food Tips for Your Day Trip from London to Brussels
If we were you in your shoes, we’d prepare a few sandwiches, throw in a couple protein bars, and stock on water. That’s how you can make best use of your time in Brussels and visit as many spots as possible.
However, if you’d like to take your time, visit a few landmarks, and pamper your palate with a delicious meal in between, here are our food tips for Brussels:
Belgian cuisine is a treat for all your senses. If you’d like to indulge in traditional Belgian foods, here are the most famous ones:
- Moules-frites / Mosselen met friet. Literally Mussels with fries, this is Belgium’s national dish. If you worship mussels like we do, there’s no better place to try them than Belgium. Locals prepare them cooked or steamed and escort them with abundant amounts of celery and onions. As the name suggests, they come with fries as a side dish.
- Carbonade flamande / Stoofvlees. Svet’s favorite stew by far. And it might become yours, too. What’s the magic? The beef simmers in dark beer for hours until the meat becomes as tender as the night. Belgians serve it with bread or fries and mustard. Along with moules-frites, the stew is another national dish.
- Gaufres / Wafels. The Belgian waffles are probably the best in the world. You’ll find them everywhere – in small shops, supermarkets, and ice-cream vans. The best ones are the Brussels waffle and the Liège waffle (Gaufre de Liège).
- Chocolate. Over 2,000 chocolatiers – small and large – exist in Belgium. Nowadays, they produce 172,000 tons of chocolate every year. If you’re a chocolate worshipper, you can’t go wrong with Belgian chocolate. Look for the following brands: Côte d’or, Neuhaus, Guylian, and Leonidas.
- Cheese. Belgian cheeses trace their history to the Middle Ages. Many cheese brands carry the name of the abbeys where they’re manufactured. A number of these abbeys (Chimay, Maredsous, Westmalle, etc.) make both cheese and beer. And for a good reason. Locals accompany their strong beers with a good cheese.
Not attracted by Belgian dishes? Maximize your time by having a quick snack at waffle shops, kebab houses, or Asian restaurants.
Whichever way you decide to go regarding food, you must try Belgian beer. On a territory slightly bigger than Hawaii, Belgium packs an incredibly rich assortment of beers. In fact, it has more distinct beer types per capita than any other country worldwide.
You can order the world-famous Stella Artois or go for something palate-teasing, like kriek (sour cherry beer). If you want something stronger, our suggestions are Duvel, Orval, Chimay, Kwak, Rocherfort, and Westmalle.
A Day Trip from London to Brussels – A Journey through Verdant Parks, Lavish Squares, and Royal Splendor
The Capital of Europe – Brussels – is one of the most cosmopolitan capitals on the old continent. Its lush parks, peculiar cafés, and gorgeous squares will leave you flabbergasted.
The city has dozens of things to do and see. A day trip from London to Brussels won’t be enough to cover everything, but you’ll able to feel the city’s pulsating vibe.
Plus, with some planning, and this comprehensive guide, we’re confident you’ll maximize your time and discover both capitals in one trip.
Now, tell us:
Have you visited Brussels before?
If not, what’s the first thing you want to do when there?