If you are looking for the perfect day trip from Amsterdam, there are many options to consider. We planned for a 7 day and 7 night trip to Amsterdam and wanted to take advantage and explore the surrounding area further. During decision making, our three biggest contenders were Brussels, Bruges, and Rotterdam. After our visit, Rotterdam and Bruges seemed to be popping up everywhere in articles and posts, so I wish we had time to visit all three. Even more recently, I read an article about Ghent, which also looked fantastic. Ultimately, we spent a day and a half in Brussels and the remainder of the time in Amsterdam. We traveled via train from Amsterdam Centraal station to the Brussels-Zuid in approximately 2 hours. I purchased our tickets via the Eurostar website without any difficulty. The tickets arrived for me in the mail prior to our trip.
Amsterdam Centraal station was a relatively easy walk from our hotel. We navigated to the appropriate track without much difficulty and didn’t experience any significant delays on our trip. Once we arrived at Brussels-Zuid, with a stroke of luck, we walked in a matter of steps to the Hilton Brussels Grand Palace. This location is ideal if you don’t want the hassle of a long walk or taxi ride once you arrive at the train station.
What is there to see in Brussels? The following are all of the experiences we enjoyed during our trip. We were able to access everything on foot during our trip.
1. Grand Place. This lavish space, I dare say, is the most beautiful place in Brussels. Adorned by buildings decorated in gold with ornate facades, you could stand in the center of the square speechless just taking it all in while minutes pass. During our visit, they were holding some type of event/festival in the evening. The buildings had a light show on them, and it was pretty spectacular. It turned out to be a great way to experience the culture in the city.
2. Notre-Dame Du Sablon. This is a gorgeous church (pictured above) that dates back to the 15th century. Its stately exterior is equalled by the impressive interior. And, while inside, don’t forget to turn around and admire the gorgeous pipe organ that is above the entry doors. This church is not even a fifteen minute walk from the Hilton Grand Palace.
3. Petit Sablon Square. This is a well manicured garden perfect for a rest from a busy day of sightseeing. Take a seat on one of the many long benches and admire the 10 statues that surround the back of the park. They represent some of the country’s celebrated scholars and humanists.
4. Mannekin Pis. This is literally “little peeing man” and that is just what you will find when visiting this statue/fountain of a little boy peeing. For us, the crowd helped to find him. There was a quite large group standing in front for photos. There are many tales that surround this little statue but, perhaps the most interesting of all, is his wardrobe. He has more than 800 costumes!! So, as you can imagine, you will often find him dressed up.
5. Mont des Arts. The literal translation is “hill/mount of the arts.” Here, you will find gorgeous scenery that I would describe as a well groomed park. The landscaping is rather pristine. Walk to the top of the stairs and look back over the city for some photo worthy views.
6. Place Royale. A quite short walk from Mont des Arts is the Place Royale. This is a neoclassical square flanked by buildings with incredibly beautiful architecture, many of which are museums. I walked through and admired but did not stop inside any of the buildings.
7. Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. This is a shopping arcade which is very reminiscent of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. The grandeur is on a slightly smaller scale, but it is still quite beautiful. In research, I found that the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert actually preceded the Galleria in Milan. It is near the center of town and filled with stores, cafes, apartments, and the list goes on. If nothing else, take a stroll through to take in the surroundings.
8. Pistolet. This place is so cute. We walked by it before lunchtime and were extremely enticed by the people sitting outside enjoying sandwiches and beverages. In no time, we decided to turn around and go back for an early lunch. We had sandwiches and a glass of Rose at a fantastic price. It was nothing extravagant, but oftentimes, I just want an inexpensive place to have a quick lunch. This is absolutely perfect for that.
9. La Pharmacie Anglaise. If you want quirky and eccentric, this is the place. The inside of this cocktail bar has got it all. There are things in jars, a second level overlooking the main floor, fantastic decor, and the list goes on. If I am being the ultimate critic, I did not enjoy their cocktails as much as some of the bars in Amsterdam. It wouldn’t stop me from a second visit on a return to Brussels. Personally, I am not a beer drinker and Brussels is probably one of the places to partake in this. Many may want to forgo this option for beer tasting and drinking. Unfortunately, I cannot make any recommendations on that front. If cocktails are your interest, this is for you.
10. Shopping. I was quite surprised at the shopping scene in Brussels. A great street to window shop is Rue Antoine Dansaert. It is also a quick walk from the Hilton. Stroll along for the scenery and wander inside as you please. There are lots of great women’s boutiques. Some to consider include Essentiel Antwerp, A Suivre, Maje, American Vintage, and Cotelac. This is just to name a few.
11. Waffles and French Fries. You have to try at least one of these in Belgium. I mean, who could deny a Belgium waffle in Belgium? The options of types/toppings for these waffles are literally everything under the sun. The one I tried was dipped in white chocolate with sprinkles. You could probably buy yourself a waffle or fries on just about every other street.
12. Chocolate Tasting. If you are looking for decadent treats for yourself or gifts for those at home, stop in to Elisabeth. They have multiple locations throughout Brussels and others outside of the city too. We sampled many lovely treats inside and took home a number of gifts including cookies, chocolates, and truffles.