Brussels is one of Europe’s most important capitals. Politically it’s not only the capital and major city in Belgium but also the capital of the European Union. It’s not the most popular travel destination in Europe, despite having many things to do and see. Furthermore, it’s great to set a base and do day trips from Brussels to the rest o Belgium. Due to Belgium’s great transport system, you can easily reach the whole country (and even some foreign) destinations on a Brussels day trip.
We have been to Belgium a few times (Claudia even had her Erasmus experience in Brussels), so we know the country rather well. Yet, to have this post as complete as possible, we invited a few fellow bloggers to talk about their favorite day trip from Brussels.
15 amazing Brussels day trips
by Vaibhav Mehta from The Wandering Vegetable
Want to enjoy a nice day out and explore the land of canals, castles, and cobbled streets? Then get ready to take a day trip to Bruges. Located in the Flanders region, Bruges is a wonderful city in northwest Belgium that has to feature in your Europe trip itinerary.
Bruges is also called the “Venice of the North” as it has more than 80 beautiful bridges and canals. And that tag’s reason enough to visit this alluring destination. The city’s architecture, history, and culture are mesmerizing.
You can get to Bruges from Brussels either by car or by train. It’s located 96 km away from Brussels city center and a 1 hour 10 min drive by car gets you to Bruges. If you choose to travel by the InterCity train, then it takes just 55 minutes to reach Bruges with an average one-way ticket price of €14.80-€15.80.
Bruges is an interesting place to visit as there are several things to do and see like the Markt (Market Square), Belfry of Bruges, Bruges City Hall, Lake of Love, Saint Salvator Cathedral, Basilica of the Holy Blood, Church of Our Lady Bruges, and Groeninge Museum. You can tour the city on foot and soak in the charm of the medieval buildings and cute cobbled streets.
If you have the time, do take a boat tour on the canal. And do not miss out on tasting the delicious fries and waffles. The day trip costs you around €50-€60 and is totally worth taking!
by Paul Healy of any where we roam
Leuven is a beautiful town in Belgium that has survived Spanish religious wars, French revolutions, German occupations, and extensive war damage to emerge, battered and bruised, as a defiant modern gem. Dusting off the wounds of the past, Leuven today feels young and fresh with a vibrancy that lingers on ancient cobbled laneways.
There’s a wonderful collection of interesting things to do in Leuven, but the showpiece is the Town Hall; an ostentatious Baroque gem that towers over the main square surrounded by newer, but beautifully constructed, architecture. Near the main square, Oude Markt buzzes with social energy. Affectionately known as the longest bar in Europe, Oude Markt is the center of Leuven’s beer scene – an industry so important, there’s even a degree in artisanal brewing techniques available from Leuven University.
The university is also the center of an intriguing episode in Leuven’s history. During the war, the library was burnt down, destroying 230,000 books. A tour of the library’s bell tower reveals the global condemnation of this tragedy and the subsequent support to rebuild the library.
With a thriving food scene, cutting-edge museums, and energy seldom seen in places of its size, Leuven is a youthful center with a medieval heart. At around 20 minutes via train, Leuven is an ideal day trip from Brussels.
by Lieze Neven of glitter rebel
Every spring, Haspengouw attracts people from all over Belgium to bike through the blossoming apple and pear trees or to picnic on the grounds of an impressive castle with a local beer in hand. This region, located Limburg in the East of Flanders, is known for its impressive landscape with Tuscan vibes and history-rich towns and castles.
You can easily take a train from Brussels to Sint-Truiden, the main city in the region. There is one train per hour and the trip will take about 50 minutes. You don’t have to book beforehand so this is a great last-minute day trip! In Sint-Truiden you can rent bikes to bike through the orchards or even a Vespa scooter if you would like to speed things up a bit.
Tours leave from the main market square and take you past the most beautiful and most important castles in the area. Trust me when I say you will feel like you are in France or (northern) Italy rather than in flat Flanders!
If you would like to make your day trip into a little getaway you can easily book a room in one of the many beautiful ancient farmhouses made into Bed and Breakfasts.
Places you cannot miss:
- Visit Kerkom Brewery as their beer is amazing!
- Sint-Truiden Beguinage Unesco World Heritage site
- Discover the Roman History in Tongeren
- Have dinner at Château de la Motte
- Climb the hill to see the modern chapel in Borgloon (picture)
by Stuart Forster of Go Eat Do
Gaasbeek Castle is at Lennik, 14km south-west of central Brussels. It’s situated in the Flemish-speaking Pajottenland district, which is famed for brewing spontaneously fermented lambik beer.
Traveling to the castle takes an hour on public transport. From the Brussels, Zuid station takes train 142 to Brussel-Leerbeek and disembark at Gaasbeek Onderstraat. From there it’s a 10-minute walk. Alternatively, hiring a bike and cycling means an hour-long ride.
The castle has 13th-century origins and was constructed as one of a ring of fortresses defending medieval Brussels. Famously, it was once the home of Lamoraal, the Count of Egmont, whose statue can be seen in Brussels Kleine Zavel Park (Place du Petit Sablon). His execution sparked the Eighty Years War against Spanish rule in the Low Countries, so it is a place of significant interest to history aficionados.
The castle was restyled in the late 19th century. The Romantic-style exterior houses neo-Renaissance interiors are now used to host exhibitions. Gaasbeek Castle is a national museum, and entry costs €10 for adults. Access to the inner garden, in the courtyard, is included as part of the ticket. Entry to the museum garden, which offers beautiful views of the castle, is €5 though combination tickets are priced at €13. The castle is set amid extensive landscaped parkland, also warranting time to explore.
by Joanna Davis of the world in my pocket
Namur is probably one of the most underestimated destinations in Belgium. Located just around one hour and 20 minutes by train from Brussels, Namur makes a fantastic day trip because of its small size, but plenty of things to see. A train ticket from Brussels to Namur costs around 10 euros, depending on the time of the day and which type of train you book. You can buy the ticket from the machines, on the same day.
Namur is the capital of Wallonia, the southern French-speaking part of Belgium. The city grew at the foothills of an impressive citadel, at the confluence of the Meuse and the Sambre rivers. The Namur Citadel is a medieval fortress that offers a fantastic immersion into the city’s history through an interactive center but also through its 7 kilometers of underground passages and tunnels, which can be visited with a guide.
The symbol of the city is a giant golden turtle that sits high, near one of the citadel’s walls, overlooking the buildings and the river below. It was created by the Belgian contemporary artist Jan Fabre and was exhibited in Namur for the Facing time. Rops/Fabre” exhibition. The locals loved it so much that the town decided to buy it.
Namur is also the home of the erotic Belgian artist Felicien Rops, who has a museum dedicated to him in the old town.
The old town of Namur is very picturesque, with a lovely town square and plenty of local bars, terraces, and restaurants where you can try the local Blanche de Namur beer.
In the Flanders region of Belgium, you’ll find the historic market city of Ypres (Ieper in Dutch). Known for its strategic importance in the First World War, this fascinating city draws tourists from all over the world to pay their tributes at the countless war graves surrounding the town. The most famous of these is Tyne Cot, which remembers over 12,000 Commonwealth soldiers and is reachable by bicycle from the city. A day trip from Brussels to Ypres is definitely intense, but for those interested in history, it’s a must-visit.
In the city itself, you won’t want to miss the Cloth Hall, which was totally rebuilt after the original 13th-century building was destroyed during the war. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Housed inside the Cloth Hall, you’ll find the incredibly harrowing In Flanders Fields Museum, which is an eye-opening experience. Next, make sure you visit the Menin Gate. This huge structure has the names of 54,896 WWI soldiers whose remains were never found. The famous Last Post Ceremony, a ceremony which takes place every single night at 8 pm to honor the dead, is one of the best things to experience in Ypres.
To get to Ypres from Brussels, you’ll need to take a train to Ghent and change for the train to Ypres or wait for the direct train from Brussels to Ghent, which is less frequent. The journey in total takes around 2 hours each way, and return tickets cost around €35.
by Nicholas Lim of Rambling Feet
Antwerp is an easy one-hour ride if you ever decide on a day trip from Brussels. If you choose the train (7 -10 euros each way), you arrive in style at one of Europe’s prettiest train stations. There’s plenty that will fill an overnight stay in Antwerp, but you won’t miss too much on a day trip either. It has been a major trading post for centuries (most of the world’s diamonds pass through the city), and its wealth shows in the beauty of the buildings in the city center.
Nowhere is this more apparent than along the Meir, whose grand houses and palaces now house fancy fashion and chocolate boutiques and restaurants. The street leads to the Groenplaats, Grote Markt (even more grand houses and the City Hall), and the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady (6 euros).
Antwerp being the city of the Dutch painter Peter-Paul Rubens, you have to see the latter if you love art. Three of his altarpieces – The Raising of the Cross, The Descent from the Cross, and The Assumption of the Virgin – are displayed within. The artist’s house is a short walk away as well if you want to see where he lived and worked (8 euros).
There is also the Museum Plantin-Moretus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where one can learn about the history of printing through its extensive collection of presses. History is everywhere you look in Antwerp, and its a gem you don’t have to go shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists to see.
by Sander Van Den Broecke of Ars Currendi
Ostend is a city located in the center of the Belgian coastline, easily accessible from Brussels by direct train or by car on the E40 motorway. Both options take just over an hour.
Ostend is nicknamed the Queen of Seaside Resorts, and there are plenty of good reasons for that. The City by the Sea was home to the eccentric artist James Ensor, and visitors can still learn about his life and art in two locations: the recently renovated James Ensor House and the city museum, mu.zee.
Another of Ostend’s absolute highlights is the Crystal Ship art route, displaying street art by more than 50 renowned and world-famous artists. These artworks are painted directly on walls or in open-air art installations across the city. Fun fact: the Crystal Ship is the biggest festival of its genre in Europe.
Not a big fan of culture? Don’t worry, Ostend has got your food and drink cravings covered. Why not try the best shrimp croquettes in Belgium, a freshly baked waffle with chocolate, or a locally brewed beer in one of the city’s many cafés?
Still not convinced? Why don’t you come to discover the magic of Ostend for yourself at Christmas time? Christmas Village turns the main square into a winter wonderland with plenty of lights, animation, mulled wine, and a skating rink.
by Aleah Taboclaon of Guide to Belgium
Another day trip worth taking from Brussels is to Mechelen. An underrated Belgian city located in the province of Antwerp, it takes less than 30 minutes to go there from Brussels-Central station.
As a historic city, Mechelen is known for its UNESCO Heritage sites. St. Rumbold’s Cathedral, for example, has an imposing tower that rises over 300 feet above the city. Make sure to prepare for the climb; it’s 500 steps up. The view from above, however, is definitely worth it.
Inside the church, you can also find artwork from well-known masters, like The Crucifixion, by famous Flemish Baroque artist Anthony Van Dyck. Want to see works by Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch? Go to The Mad Art Collection (entry: €5). Each painting has some reference to madness. It’s definitely worth checking out!
Other UNESCO sites include the belfry, which dates back to the 14th-century, and the Groot Begijnhof, which are old houses where beguines (spiritual women similar to nuns but not taking the vows) lived.
Once you’re done admiring the historic structures in Mechelen, make sure to have a meal at Het Anker Brewery. They produce excellent beers like the Gouden Carolus and the Lucifer. The brewery has its own restaurant, and a must-have for sure is the beef stew (€16), which is made with Gouden Carolus and best paired with a fresh glass of beer (€3). It is definitely a must when visiting this city!
by Maria Hasse of Europeupclose
Ghent is the quintessential day trip from Brussels. Located to the Northwest of the Belgian capital, it takes about 35-60 minutes, depending on you taking the train or driving. Quick tip: the train is actually shorter and cheaper (8-12$ one way) than going by car and super easy to do. Trains run every few minutes, but check the schedule: some trains take only 35 minutes, others take over 1 hour. It might be wise to wait a few more minutes to get on the faster train.
So what’s there to do in Ghent? First of all, you need to soak up the atmosphere. The medieval architecture and stunning merchant houses along the Leie river are remarkable. The waterfront on both sides of the river called Graslei and Korenlei, make one of the most picturesque waterfronts in Europe. Along the river, you will find a vibrating mix of restaurants, bars, shops, and parks. Sit, relax, and don’t forget to eat a Belgian Waffle for the true experience.
Another great stop for your day trip from Brussels is the medieval castle of Gravensteen. It dates back to the late 12th century and has been restored to its former splendor. If you climb up the central keep, you get a spectacular view over Ghent.
by Paulina of Paulina on the road
Nieuwpoort is considered Brussels’ one of the best day trips. The town is located in the Province of West Flanders on the southwest side of the Yser River, 3km from the northern Belgium sea-coast.
In case, if you’re planning for a day trip from Brussels to Nieuwpoort, the cheapest way is to catch a train to cover 116 km with a duration of roughly 2hr 10min. Otherwise, choose the quickest way, i.e., either by hiring a bus or driving a car, covering around 127.2 km within approximately 1 hour 15min. Moreover, the day trip can cost around €14 – €19.
Likewise, Nieuwpoort is worth visiting as it’s among the most beautiful cities in Belgium, combining the medieval port and the seaside, alongside the marina. Though small, the town offers several exciting views, including engaging multi-story boutiques, cafes, and restaurants throughout the city, making it the most attractive tourist destination for a day trip. Overall, you will surely fall in love with the place.
So, if you’re fond of exploring new sights and adventures, make sure to visit Nieuwpoort during the summertime, especially from July to August, when you can truly enjoy the pleasant temperature, fluctuating between 18°-25°.
Located at about 100km from Brussels, Liege is still within an easy reach from the Belgian capital. It should take you about 1h to 1h15 both driving or by train to get to Liege.
Liege isn’t the most obvious city to do a day trip from Brussels but it does have a few interesting attractions, and one of them quite peculiar, Montagne de Bueren. Montagne de Bueren is a 374 steps staircase with an incline that reaches 30% and it’s reputed as one of the most impressive staircases in the world. Named after Vincent de Bueren, Montagne was built to create a direct link between the barracks and the city center.
The other attractions in Liege include the Grand Curtis Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Former Palace of the Prince-Bishops. Liege has the right size and things to do that will keep you entertained for the day, and you won’t feel too rushed to see everything.
Finally, when in Liege, don’t forget to try an original Liege waffle. there are the most common waffles in Belgium, but having one from their traditional city just tastes better, right?
Waterloo is very close to Brussels, it is only 20 km from the capital, and it is easily reachable by car (35 min) or by bus (50 min). So it is an easy day trip and well worth it, especially for history lovers.
Waterloo is the site of the famous battle between the French Empire, commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte, and the seventh Coalition, commanded by the Duke of Wellington and General Von Blucher. The site is immortalized with a statue of a Lion on top of a hill looking towards France. You can climb up to the statue for free, and admire the breathtaking views of the battlefield.
Nearby you will find the Panorama of the Battle of Waterloo, a round building that houses a panoramic painting of the Battle of Waterloo. And the Wellington Museum, which contains information about the battle and about the Duke of Wellington.
You will have pleanty of time to enjoy and explore the historic richness of this city.
by Elisa from France Bucket List
If you wish to leave the hustle and bustle of the big city for a while, head to the Ardennes for a day of hiking, outdoor activities, and sightseeing.
The Ardennes is a region of forests, rolling hills, and ridges dotted with pretty small towns. The Ardennes is located mainly in Belgium but it also crosses the borders to Luxembourg, France, and Germany.
The best way to explore the region is with your own car, you can drive to the Ardennes from Brussels in less than 2 hours. It is possible to travel by train and local bus too, but this is too long for a day trip.
The Ardennes is well known for its medieval towns and villages, and most of them brew their own beer which takes the name of the town. A pretty place to visit on a day trip from Brussels is the town of La-Roche-en-Ardenne, lying beside a bend in the River Ourthe. This medieval town has a beautiful castle from the 9th century and picturesque streets to explore. Also, the surrounding forest offers many different hiking trails or you can decide to spend your time by the river, enjoying water activities, or tasting the local beer in one of the sunny bar-terraces.
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