Brussels short break day one, morningRise early at your Brussels hotel to beat the crowds to the Mannekin Pis – the 61cm-tall bronze statue of a peeing boy that is Brussels’ humorous mascot. Turn the corner to the photogenic Grand Place, framed by step-gabled guild houses once home to butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Leering gargoyles and lacy stonework guide the eye to the Gothic Town Hall. Watch the square’s action while eating a waffle hot from the grill and topped with whipped cream. Stroll north to the glass-roofed Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a trio of Art Nouveau malls harbouring cafés and speciality boutiques selling everything from handmade Belgian lace to leather gloves.
Start: Mannekin Pis
Nearest metro Anneessens or Brussels-Central
AfternoonBrussels’ must-see art collections are in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, a 10-minute walk south of the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. Choose between the Museum of Ancient Art showcasing paintings by Flemish masters like Rubens and Pieter Bruegel, and the Modern Art Museum spotlighting works by Picasso and Magritte. Take a breather in the stately greenery of Brussels City Park nearby, where avenues lead to bandstands, misty fountains and the Royal Palace.
Start: Royal Museums of Fine Arts
Nearest metro Brussels-Central
EveningWind down the day with a cherry-flavoured lambic beer in the mirrored Art Deco bar A la Mort Subite. A short amble south brings you to 1920s brasserie Aux Armes des Bruxelles, famed for its authentic Belgian flavours like moules-frites (mussels with chips).
Start: A la Mort Subite
Nearest metro Brussels-Central or De Brouckère
Brussels short break day two, morningWell-to-do locals flock to the weekend antiques market on tree-shaded Place du Grand Sablon. Even if you miss it, it’s worth exploring the square to glimpse the filigree grace of Gothic Notre-Dame du Sablon church and track down the area’s first-class chocolatiers. Nip into Wittamer to drink thick hot chocolate, or Pierre Marcolini for herb-infused pralines, bitter cocoa truffles and featherlight macaroons. Linger for people-watching on a café terrace.
Start: Place du Grand Sablon.
Nearest metro Brussels-Kapellekerk
AfternoonWalk off the indulgence with a 10-minute wander south to Brussels’ smartest shopping streets – Boulevard de Waterloo and Avenue Louise. Devote the rest of the afternoon to contemplating romantic Art Nouveau interiors at the Horta Museum, a few blocks west of Avenue Louise. The former studio and house of Brussels’ best-loved architect, Victor Horta, is an ingenious play on flowing lines, twisting staircases and intricate metalwork.
Start: Avenue Louise.
Nearest metro Louise
EveningHop on the metro north to the old fish market district around Place Sainte-Catherine. Follow your rumbling stomach to one of the unassuming little bistros dishing up fresh seafood and fish. A quick walk west brings you to the upbeat Rue Antoine Dansaert and L’Archiduc, a high-ceilinged, Art Deco jazz bar serving decadent cocktails and a top-drawer line-up of gigs. Ring the doorbell to get in.
Start: Place Sainte-Catherine.
Nearest metro Sainte-Catherine