THE BEST DAY TRIPS FROM BRUSSELS – DISCOVER BELGIUM AND BEYOND

As awesome as Brussels is, when you have a day left in your itinerary it might be time to discover something else. We’ve made a collection of the best day trips from Brussels. The first part of this article will discuss destinations in Belgium, while the second part offers a couple of options for day trips from Brussels to other countries.

Some of these Brussels day trips are only a short distance away, while others may become quite long day tours from Brussels. However, there’s much to see both in and outside of Belgium, so get ready to set out and discover!

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The best day trips from Brussels (in Belgium)

#1 Durbuy

view on the river and castle of Durbuy, Belgium

One of the best day trips from Brussels is to the city of Durbuy. Located in Belgium’s Wallonia region, this pretty city boasts storybook good looks and a unique claim to fame; it’s the smallest city in the world.

Durbuy was first granted city status in 1331 thanks to John I, Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia. He ordered ramparts to be built around the town and in doing so, created the world’s tiniest city. Durbuy is so petit that you can walk from one side to the other in five minutes.

These days, the Medieval city is one of Belgium’s most picture-perfect destinations. The city is filled with narrow cobbled streets, timber-frame houses and surrounded by rolling green hills.

Fortunately, despite its small size, there are still lots of things to do in Durbuy and nearby. The city itself boasts a topiary park and a tourist train plus plenty of excellent restaurants. On the outskirts of town is an excellent adventure park with zip wires, slides, bike parks and more. Further afield you can go fishing, hiking or biking. There are also underground caves to discover and ancient megalithic sites to explore.

Contributed by Katja from Globetotting.com

#2 Mechelen

View of the Mechelen square with the cathedral

Mechelen is a very quick, 30-minutes train ride from Brussels and it’s a perfect day-trip for everyone!

To begin with, its Belfry is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Belgium! This Belfry, atop St.Rumbold’s Cathedral, has such a magnificent view and on a clear day, it is possible to even see the Atomium from atop here! The best thing is, in summers, the carillon concert happens here. Carillon is a musical instrument that controls the bells in the tower and it is possible to play melodious tunes on it! The Beiaard – as it is called in Dutch – teaches how to play the carillon and musical concerts happens on Monday afternoons throughout summer. Listening to it, sitting in the Grote Markt, is a soul-stirring experience!

A tour through the Het Anker Brewery (makers of Gouden Carolus beers) is definitely a must-do thing. The tour ends with a beer tasting and the fascinating thing here is the unusual flavoured beers including rosemary, clove, coriander etc!

In the outskirts of Mechelen lies the Winter Garden of Ursuline Nuns which has some fabulous stained-glass works! This can only be seen by guided tour which happens on specific Sundays. Another place in the outskirts is Planckendael Zoo, which is perfect if your family has younger people.

Contributed by Bushavali from My Travelogue by Bhushavali

#3 Haspengouw

the lush green hills and tree lined streets of Haspengouw

Are you looking to escape Brussels for some peace and quiet? Do you love riding your bike through hills and stopping every now and then to taste a fruity cherry beer or local craft beer? Then you need to visit Haspengouw!

Haspengouw is a beautiful region in the East of Flanders (not to be confused with East Flanders) that is famous for its beautiful countryside, blossoms in spring and the many little churches and castles tucked away in its (more or less) rolling hills.

Only 45 minutes from Brussels by train, the city of Sint-Truiden (the town where I grew up) stands as the capital of this region. From this medieval city you can book tours, you can rent bikes or even rent a vespa which you can then use to make a trip throughout the region, visiting little villages and majestic castles.

I would recommend focussing on picking a great route through blossoming apple and pear trees in the blossom season – the people at tourism info will be able to advise you – or focus on castles, churches and UNESCO world heritage bougienages in summer.

There are many local breweries and even wine castles you are free to visit and where you can taste a variety of local specialities. Some of my personal favourites are Bink brewery in Kerkom and Wilderen brewery in Wilderen. That last one also makes amazing gin and their cherry beer is to die for! 

Contributed by Lieze from GlitterRebel.com

#4 Antwerp

The Grote Markt in Antwerp, with the statue of Brabo and the old houses in the background

Located less than an hour away from Brussels, Antwerp makes a wonderful destination for a day trip from the capital. This diverse, cultural city offers plenty to keep even the most discerning travellers entertained, with fascinating architecture, interesting museums and great food and shopping. The Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady is an absolute must, with grand Gothic design features and legendary works of art by Peter Paul Rubens.

Antwerp is Belgium’s second-largest city and is renowned for fashion, entertainment, art, architecture and, of course, diamonds! This Belgian city is the world’s diamond hub and it is the perfect place to come and purchase that special piece of jewellery.

Travellers can easily arrive into Antwerp by car or train; the journey taking around one hour from Brussels. Arriving into Antwerp Centraal by train starts your trip off in style though, as your sight-seeing begins right away as you step off onto the platform of one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. From here you are well placed to start exploring the city, with the Opera Antwerpen just a 5-minute walk away, Rubens House 10 minutes further and the Cathedral of Our Lady a gentle 10-minute stroll from there. This takes you to the banks of the Scheldt River where you can wander along the waterfront before finding somewhere to eat lunch. Your afternoon can then be spent window-shopping for diamonds, photographing the city streets and soaking up the Antwerp atmosphere before heading back to Brussels.

Contributed by Chrysoula from TravelPassionate.com

#5 Hallerbos

all you can see are trees and bluebells in Hallersbos, Belgium

The Hallerbos, better known as the Blue Forest, is just a 30-minute drive from Brussels. If you visit this magical forest during the right period, you won’t believe your eyes! The Hallerbos turns entirely blue for two weeks every year. Somewhere around mid-April (nature is unpredictable but it’s mostly around this period), millions of blue hyacinths start to bloom, turning the ground into a stunning, blue carpet of flowers. Visiting the Blue Forest during the so-called ‘bluebell festival’ is a wonderful way to escape the city. It feels as if you stepped right into a fairytale.

You can reach the forest either by car or by taking public transportation. Either way, seeing these beautiful flowers will be a unique experience, whether you’re going for a long hike (there’s a ‘bluebell walk’), a quick look or a nice picnic.

If you’re not in Belgium during the right period to see the bluebells, the Hallerbos is still a nice day trip that’s not too far from the city. It might not look as magical as during the hyacinth period but each season has its own charm. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll definitely enjoy everything this forest has to offer.

Contributed by Laura from LaureWanders.com

#6 Bruges

Medieval cobble stone streets of Bruges and the canal

Just 1 hour away from Brussels by train is the spellbinding medieval city of Bruges. Situated in the heart of Flemish Belgium, Bruges is jam-packed with things to see and do, although part of Bruges’ charm is in slowing down and wandering along its labyrinth of cobbled streets and charming canals. One day in Bruges is the perfect amount of time to spend here and will allow you to see the city’s highlights.

One of the most popular things to do in Bruges is to take a canal boat tour to see the city from a different perspective. Then, be sure to head to the Market Square and snap some photos of the famous Provincial Palace. Turning your attention to the Belfort, climb the 366 steps to the top of the tower to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

An unmissable Bruges experience is touring De Halve Maan Brewery. This is easily the most iconic brewery in Bruges, with history dating way back to 1564! The tour lasts around 45 minutes, teaching you all about Belgian beer and the brewery itself, and a free beer is included in the ticket price!

Of course, Bruges offers up every famous Belgian treat imaginable, which you can sample throughout the day! Explore the many chocolate shops, lunch on some delicious frites, sip a Belgian beer or two, try a classic waffle, and finish the day off with a Flemish stew before catching the train back to Brussels!

Contributed by Ella from ManyMoreMaps

#7 Ghent

evening view of the canal in Ghent

Ghent is located about halfway on the railway between Brussels and Bruges. It only takes 30 minutes to get there from Brussels by train.

Ghent is a great alternative to the touristy Bruges. It has all the amazing things people usually seek out in Bruges, such as lovely canals with boats and stunning architecture. In Ghent, though, everything is on a larger scale.

The city offers top-notch sightseeing opportunities, including the monumental Castle of the Counts located on a canal and several majestic churches spanning the city centre, surrounded in greenery.

Ghent is a vibrant modern city; local life goes on no matter if tourists are in town. To me, it’s way more authentic than Bruges.

Local flower markets organized every Sunday see locals sipping on champagne, eating oysters and catching up with friends. It’s this laid back vibe that gives Ghent its main appeal.

Graffiti fans will enjoy strolling through the Graffiti Alley covered in murals. The art scene is alive and kicking too and you can find quite a few galleries and design shops.

A variety of restaurants including fine dining spots always full of locals and a high number of hip cafés with beautiful interior design make Ghent not just a great city to visit on a day trip from Brussels, but also to spend several days in.

Contributed by Veronika from TravelGeekery

#8 Ypres

top view over Ypres' church and city

Located in the West Flanders region of Belgium, Ypres (or Ieper), is a charming little town to visit, especially if you are interested in World War I history. Reduced to rubble during WWI, the town was completely rebuilt with its important building carefully reconstructed in the original 14th-century style.

Start your day in the Ypres Cloth Hall at ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum which is devoted to WWI with artefacts, photos, videos – everything from uniforms to exhibits about life in the trenches. Give yourself a few hours to visit as there is much to see and you’ll want to climb the 230 steps up the bell tower. On your way up you’ll pass the bells (they may ring while you’re there!) and at the top, you’ll find spectacular views.

Next visit two beautiful, yet very different, churches. First is St. Martin’s Church, which was once a cathedral and is one of the tallest buildings in all of Belgium. Then go to the simple and charming St. George’s Memorial Church with its walls covered in brass plaques and seats with hand-made cushions denoting regiments and flags all in memoriam to fallen soldiers.

Finally make your way to the Menin Gate, a moving tribute to fallen soldiers that bears the names of 54,610 soldiers from Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, and the UK who died in the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown. We also recommend staying for the ‘Last Post Ceremony’ which happens every evening at 8:00 pm. Traffic through the gate is brought to a halt as buglers sound the ‘Last Post’ in remembrance of the soldiers who died in WWI.

Getting to Ypres is easy from Brussels; it is about 1.5 hours by car or 2 hours by train and there are about 15 trains a day that run hourly from 7:00 am.

Contributed by Stacey from One Trip at a Time

The best day trip from Brussels (outside of Belgium)

#1 Maastricht, The Netherlands

view over the canal in Maastricht

A perfect day trip from Belgium’s capital is Maastricht in The Netherlands. Maastricht has a Burgundian atmosphere, but also a fancy feeling. Maastricht is a fun city to visit since it has history, liveliness, shops, quality restaurants, terraces and museums.

Maastricht has plenty of things to do and there’s something to enjoy for everyone. One of the things you shouldn’t miss is getting kruisbessenschuim (gooseberry pie) or another kind of pie. They’re local and delicious. A good place for this is Buvette ’t Piepenhoes.

An area worth exploring is Wyck, it’s roughly between the train station and the river Maas. Lots of shopping and restaurant possibilities here. After crossing the Maas there’s even more shopping to be done. Maastricht is the ultimate fashion city, with lots of shops from fashion houses and independent stores. Fashion is not all there is, Boekhandel Dominicanen is a large bookshop inside a church.

Maastricht has so many restaurant options, one of the must-visit spots is Vrijthof: restaurants with terraces, a museum and plenty of livelyhood. Another popular square to sit down on a terrace is the Markt. Cooking enthusiasts have to come here for the famous Kookhuis aan de Maas.

Maastricht is a city with a long history, the area has been settled tracing back to 2000 years ago. A tour of Maastricht with a guide or as a self-guide is well worth your time. Explore historical downtown and the Vestingwerken (fortifications). Maastricht has the oldest bridge (St. Servaasbrug) and the oldest city gate in The Netherlands. Other worthwhile experiences are a visit to the Bonnefantenmuseum, St. Servaasbasilica or Maastricht Underground.

Maastricht is 113 kilometers from Brussels, 90 minutes by car without traffic jams and 2 hours and 15 minutes by train.

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.com

#2 Cologne, Germany

view to the top of the Cologne cathedral

A hop, skip and three hours by train over the border from Brussels is one of the most historic places in Germany: the cathedral city of Cologne (Köln). A long but great day trip from Brussels, a visit to Cologne will see you spend the day strolling down the shopping streets, relaxing along the Rhein (Rhine) river and definitely downing a glass (or two) of the city’s signature brew, kölsch.

Now any Cologne itinerary has to start with its most famous landmark: The Cologne Cathedral, also known as the Kölner Dom. An iconic part of the city’s skyline, the ‘Dom’ is the tallest twin-spired church in the world, beautiful to behold from the outside but also with stunning interiors including breath-taking stained glass windows and a number of almost priceless artefacts and treasures housed within. Next up, make your way across the river to the Love Lock bridge (real name: Hohenzollern Bridge) to put your lock on the grate before tucking into a traditional dish of herrings in the colourful quarter of the Fischmarkt which, unsurprisingly, is where fish used to be sold in an early morning market.

There are so many more fantastic things to do in the city: from brauhaus (brewery) hopping, to meandering around the many interesting museums to just taking your time on Hohe or Breite streets, the two main shopping streets that have been called ‘the busiest in Europe’. Whether you’re keen on German culinary delights or a dose of culture, you should definitely head out to Cologne from Brussels for at least a day trip (or two).

Contributed by James from The Travel Scribes

#3 London, United Kingdom

view of the Tower of London

A day trip to London, the capital of England is an awesome day trip from Brussels.  It is seriously easy to take a direct Eurostar train from the centre of Brussels to the centre of London and there are 9 direct trains a day. 

Whether you decide to take a whistlestop tour of London on an iconic red London double-decker bus or take a ride on the magical London Eye to get a birds-eye view of the city you’re sure to have fun. Alternative views of the city can be had from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral, a long climb up but it’s a stunning view! 

Be entertained by buskers on the London Underground or head outside to Covent Garden or Borough Market for lunch, where the world is literally your oyster here with so many choices.  Perhaps fish and chips or a traditional London Pie Mash and Liquor

Many of London’s museums are free to enter – so choose perhaps between the British Museum or the Natural History Museum to get an overview of this history of the nation. 

For a fabulous splurge to end the day then book a dinner cruise on the River Thames, past the Tower Of London (and earmark a trip there for your next visit) before returning to St Pancras station and a late return to Brussels.

Contributed by Sarah from ASocialNomad

#4 Beaches of Normandy, France

view of a Normandy cemetary

Most people wouldn’t think to combine a trip to Brussels with a day trip to the beaches of Normandy, but if you want to explore World War II history it’s a great place to add to your itinerary! 

The day is a long one since the drive is five hours each way, so if you have time to stay overnight it might make your day easier. However, I’ve done many day trips with a five-hour drive. The best thing to do is split the driving with at least one other person so you can rest your eyes.

Once you’re in Normandy, I suggest heading to Omaha Beach and the D-Day Museum. Visit the museum first and then take a sombre stroll along the beach, reflecting what you’ve seen.

There are a lot of important sites you can see here, but if you only have a few hours I would suggest seeing one or two beaches, one or two museums, and the Normandy American Cemetery. 

The roads from Brussels to Normany are open and lovely, making for easy driving. If you don’t want to drive, you can go on a private tour that includes transportation. These will also have excellent guides who can explain what you are experiencing as well as plan your itinerary for an easier day. 

Contributed by Stephanie from HistoryFangirl

#5 Paris, France

charming street in Paris, France which you can visit from Brussels, Belgium

Paris is among the most visited cities in the world, and it’s been called different names by those who have spent time here. This French capital is often referred to as the ‘City of Love, ‘A Romantic City’ and the ‘City of Lights’.

So if you are staying in Brussels, this is one of the best and fun day trips from the city.

The beauty of Paris inspired artists, composers, and writers for centuries. And we’re not talking about the aesthetic beauty of the place, but the gilded history represented in nearly every part of the city.

Among the best places to visit in Paris include several museums from various periods of history and arts that honor the work of legendary artists such as the world-famous Louvre Museum and Musee Picasso. Let’s not forget the iconic Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral.

The romantic Seine River and the structures along it are must-sees as well. And the hundreds of beautiful gardens and opulent chateaux in the city.

There are several ways to get to Paris from Brussels. But the easiest and fastest way is to take a train. Depending on where you are coming from Brussels, you can take the train, taxi or bus to Brussel Zuid and from Brussel Zuid, take the Thalys train to Gare du Nord in Paris. The train takes about an hour and a half and you can find tickets for as little as €60 for a return trip. You can also take the bus for 16-30 euros if you want to save money. However, the trip will take up to 4 hours one way.

Contributed by Christine from France Travel Guides

#6 Amsterdam, The Netherlands

View of Amsterdam from a boat tour on the canal

Even though Amsterdam is located in another country, The Netherlands, it is definitely still possible as a day trip. Amsterdam is only approximately 2 hours one way from Brussels by train making it a quick trip from the Belgian capital with a whole lot to offer. 

The Rijksmuseum is a must-see for fans of Dutch Golden Age artists. The museum is home to famous works by Rembrandt van Rijn and his apprentice, Ferdinand Bol. The museum’s collection includes over 2,000 paintings by Dutch Golden Age artists and also has a small collection of Asian art. 

Aside from art, Amsterdam also is famous for its beautiful canal ring that happens to also be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the streets of Jordaan for some of the quaintest canal houses and check out Museum Van Loon. The canal house was once the home of renowned Dutch artist and Rembrandt apprentice, Ferdinand Bol and is located within the canal ring. Don’t forget to make time for a canal boat tour, for a unique view of Amsterdam and a distinctly Dutch experience. 

To maximize your day in Amsterdam, allow for a long day or sleep on the train. But if you have more time, you can always spend a long weekend in Amsterdam instead. 

Contributed by Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear

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