After having a fair share of Belgian waffles, fries and beer in Brussels, you should definitely check out some day trips from the city. It’s the perfect place if you want to explore more of Belgium or the surrounding countries.
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Here are our top picks!
Visiting the Medieval town in Bruges is probably the most popular day trip from Brussels.In all of Western Europe you might not see a more fairytale-like town than Bruges. The moment you reach Bruges, you feel you have stepped back in time and are in a different era. One of Europe’s best preserved towns, Bruges is full of picturesque cobbled lanes, dreamy canals and photogenic market squares.
Start in the central square, the Markt, which is where you’ll find the famous Belfort. Climb the 366 stairs for a fantastic view of the city. Also nearby is the town hall building and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where supposedly they have a few drops of Christ’s blood.If museums are your thing, check out Groeningemuseum, which features art from the 14th to 20th centuries.
The best way to see Bruges is to simply just wander around. While its main sights are absolutely stunning the charm of this town comes from the small cobble stone streets and the beautiful houses alongside the canals.
You can take a canal excursion boat tour and it will take you through some of the prettiest spots. You can also visit the Minnewater Park – a very tranquil and serene location. At the centre of this lies the ‘Lake of Love’ and ‘The Lover’s bridge’. It is believed that if you walk over the bridge and kiss your loved one, your love will be eternal. Ah Bruges!
Getting there: To travel from Brussels to Bruges is an hour long journey on one of the frequent trains.
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Ghent could be one of Belgium’s best kept secrets. Despite being one of the oldest cities, Ghent remains small enough to feel cozy but also big enough to be a vibrant, modern town. It is a quaint little university town with picturesque views. But what really sets this city apart is the unique medieval castle you can tour.
The Gravensteen castle, also known as the ‘castle of the counts’ has a moat, rampath, stables and a unique collection of torture equipments. The audio guide tour here has one of the funniest narrations and will make you laugh multiple times. The voice over is by Ghent comedian Wouter Deprez and he will take you on a journey through the castle’s history, packed with funny anecdotes and exciting battles between knights. You also have the opportunity of visiting the St Bavo’s Cathedral where you can view an oil painting by Van Eyck or visit the Ghent Design Museum.
Take a walk along the Leie River, and explore the main square. The views from St. Michielsbrug are very pretty and you can spend some time admiring them. You can also climb the Belfort for spectacular views of the city. Don’t forget to eat a mastel, a sweet traditional Ghentian pastry here.
Getting there: You will arrive in Ghent Sint-Pieters railway station in 30 minutes from Brussels. From there, it’s a 25 minute walk to the city center. Alternatively, you could catch a tram at the train station.
Let’s explore one of the smallest yet richest countries in Europe. Located amidst natural delights, you’ll find the capital Luxembourg City. The capital is located on the cliffs of a large sandstone plateau. The valley is where the Alzette and Pétrusse river meet. In the past, this strategic location has made the city highly significant on a military level. The first fortifications date back as early as the 10th century. Today, Luxembourg City’s spectacular setting makes this one of the most picturesque day trips from Brussels.
The Old Quarter of Luxembourg City is a UNESCO World Heritage designated Site because of its many historic castles, impeccably tended historical gardens, and fortresses such as the Walls of Corniche. From the Walls of Corniche, you get stunning views over the City’s Old Quarter. Explore the Kirchberg quarter and its many important buildings such as the European Court of Justice, and the European Commission. Marvel at the Notre Dame Cathedral, a landmark that perfectly combines the late Gothic architecture with Renaissance adornments. Continue with wandering around the charming streets. Do not miss catching a glimpse of the Palace of the Grand Duke and the city fortifications.
Getting there: The train will take around 3 hours from Brussels.
A visit to Belgium is not complete without a day trip to Antwerp! Often referred to as the Diamond City, Antwerp will leave you speechless as soon as you get off the train. The Central Station is considered to be one of the most beautiful ones in the entire world.
Antwerp is famously known for its fashion scene, diamond trade, and having one of the oldest zoos in the world.But Belgian’s capital of fashion is more than just a shopping paradise. There’s plenty of history and architecture to be enjoyed here as well. Start in the Grote Markt, a pedestrian market square where you’ll find the impressive Renaissance-style city hall building among others. The Onze Lieve Vrouwkathedraal is Belgium’s largest cathedral, built in a Gothic style between 1352-1521. Inside you’ll find art by Rubens. More art by baroque artist Pieter Paul Rubens can be admired at Rubenshuis. The Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten is another impressive art museum with centuries of Flemish artwork.
Antwerp is an absolute paradise where both old and new styles are flawlessly combined. There is the central market which is lined with beautiful guild houses, the Antwerp City house and the majestic Cathedral of Our Lady. And on the other hand you have ‘het Eilandje‘, a neighbourhood that’s becoming more and more popular where you’ll find the MAS, a modern museum which offers an incredible view over Antwerp. From here you can also catch a glimpse of Zaha Hadid’s Port Authority: a historic building with a ship-like glass structure on top of it which also resembles a diamond. Wander along the riverside and in the Zurenborg area to take in the Antwerp’s architecture and skyline, and to get a feel for the overall vibe of the city. Antwerp’s artistic character makes this city one of the most attractive day trips from Brussels for creative types, food lovers and shopaholics.
Getting there: Very frequent trains travel from Brussels to Antwerp, with the trip taking roughly 45 minutes.
Bringing to you a glimpse of Japan is the beautiful city of hasselt. The Japanese Garden in Hasselt is the largest of its kind in Europe and offers the perfect setting to experience the Japanese culture. The Hasselt garden comprises a highly detailed complex of waterfalls, paths, and cherry trees covering around 2.5 hectares. Love strolling? This garden forms an idyllic and exotic landscape for that whimsical stroll.
The Museum Stellingwerff-Waerdenhof is located on the inner town’s east side. If you love history, here you’ll find everything about the locals and town history. In the town center, the busy Grote Markt is surrounded by several old patrician houses. Northeast from the grand place is the Gothic Saint Quentin Cathedral (Sint Quintinuskathedraal) built in the 15th century on Roman foundations with an interior full of Gothic frescoes. You can also make a small detour to the outskirts of Borgloon where you’ll find a beautiful art installation called ‘Read between the lines‘. This is the perfect place to watch the sunset before returning back to Brussels.
Getting there: Brussels to Hasselt by train will take you about one and a half hours while a car gets you there in 1 hour and 10 minutes.
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