Brussels used to be the residence of kings as well as an epicentre of arts, crafts and international trade. Today the city is still a bustling spot on the cultural and political scene. The Belgian capital serves as the operational home of NATO, The European Commission and The European Parliament, which contributes to the international profile of the city. If you are curious to explore beyond the Belgian capital, this guide will list for you the best day trips from Brussels.
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Day Trip from Brussels to Bruges
Referred to as “the country’s crown jewel”, Bruges (or “Brugge” as the Belgians call it) in one of the more scenic spots in Belgium, and a popular tourist attraction. It is a rather small city, but with its architecture, the many cafés, restaurants as well as historical and cultural sites, a trip to Bruges is a must on your itinerary.
The unmissable attraction of the city is The Belfry Tower. This medieval Bell Tower used to serve as an observation post for spotting danger and alarm about fires, and today it is the main site of UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bruges’ historic city centre. Since it is very popular among tourists, prepare for a long wait if you want to make the 366-step climb to come closer to the remarkable bells. Weighing almost 30 tonnes, bells number 47 and every hour they ring a short concert.
If you want to experience Bruges from a slightly unconventional perspective, we recommend you to see it… by water! The canals meander through the historic town centre; especially architecture enthusiasts will be happy to embark onto this short cruise on your Bruges day trip. The jetties from which the boats depart can be found around the city both throughout the day and in the evening. Get ready for a healthy portion of city secrets and anecdotes told by the local guide that often accompanies the cruise boats or the boat captain himself.
There are about 100 kilometres between Brussels and Bruges, train tickets start at 14.80 € (approx. 16,5 USD), and the journey will be just under an hour. You can also book a cheaper ticket with FlixBus for 5 € (around 5,5 USD), and the trip will be between 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 50 minutes.
Day Trip from Brussels to Ghent
Less than 60 kilometres from the capital, there is Ghent – another beautiful Belgian city worth exploring. Sometimes it is described as Belgium’s “best-kept secret”, because the town is full of hidden gems, especially when it comes to modern and contemporary art. The S.M.A.K Museum in the Citadelpark is a well-known attraction, but Ghent is also famous for its street art, so make sure you check out the “Werregarenstraat”, also called “graffiti alley”.
Small artist ateliers can also be found in the area called Patershol. The street pattern of this neighbourhood is somewhat different from the rest of the town, so prepare for a (sometimes confusing) stroll around the many quirky alleyways. If you happen to be in Ghent on a Sunday, make sure to visit the Kouter square to experience the Kouter flower market, and get ready to enter a beautiful maze of nature’s colours and fragrances!
Last, but not least, a must-see while in Ghent is the St. Bavo’s Cathedral (to locals known as “Sint-Baafskathedraal“) with the magnificent altarpiece titled “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by the Van Eyck brothers. In the cathedral, you will also find painted masterpieces by P. P. Rubens and L. Delvaux, a true feast for culture- and art-connoisseurs.
The fastest way to get to Ghent from Brussels is by train. From Brussels Central Train Station the journey will take 34 minutes, but you can also embark at Brussels-Midi for a slightly shorter ride. The train fare is around 13 USD, but also here you can jump on a FlixBus and pay 5 € (around 5,5 USD) for a one-hour-long drive.
Day Trip from Brussels to Antwerp
The very moment that you get to Antwerp, you will already see one of the city’s most striking architectural sites – Antwerp Central Train Station. Built in a Gothic style both the exterior and the interior of the main hall will take your breath away!
In Antwerp, even your shopping experience might end up taking your breath away though, especially if you choose to shop in the Stadsfeestzaal Shopping Centre! In 2000, the grand 19th-century neoclassical building was destroyed by a major fire but was afterwards restored with attention to detail to resemble the original architecture and decor.
Another of Antwerp’s historical sites that you must not miss is the Cathedral of Our Lady. The magnificent church took 169 years to be built and stood completed in 1521. When you get inside, prepare for a fusion of exquisite Baroque decor and paintings by P. P. Rubens like the “The Elevation of the Cross” triptych from 1610 and the altarpiece from 1626 titled “The Assumption of Mary”. You can join a guided tour around the cathedral, but do note that entry is ticketed!
Like with the other Belgian cities, there are good rail and bus connections between Brussels and Antwerp. The train ride will take from 35 minutes to 1 hour, and the fares start at 7,7 € (approx. 8,7 USD). With FlixBus the ride will be between 45 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes for a fee as low as 4 € (around 4,5 USD).
Day Trip from Brussels to Hasselt
Have you heard of the “Japanese” city in Belgium? That’s Hasselt! Famous for its stunning 17th-century Japanese tea garden (the biggest of its kind in Europe!), Hasselt is also a great place for shopping enthusiasts! Explore the three parallel shopping streets: Havermarkt, Kappelstraat and Aldestraat, and you will find everything from clothes to design-items perfect for gifts and small souvenirs.
We are sure you will notice the many graffiti art pieces around the city, but if you want to explore the full street art trail, you should ask for the “Graffiti & Street Art Guide” at your nearest Tourist Office/Information Desk. The guide will help you navigate around the urban artworks and give you a written introduction to the various art pieces.
Before you head back to Brussels, have a serving of sushi for dinner; Hasselt is not only famous for its Japanese gardens but known for its excellent Japanese cuisine too!
If you decide to take the train, the journey from Brussels to Hasselt will take around an hour, and the ticket will cost you 18 USD one-way. The bus ride is only 20 minutes longer, but the fare goes as low as 6 USD!
Day Trip from Brussels to Ypres
One of the most scenic day trips from Brussels is a tour to Ypres (also known as “Leper”). You can reach Ypres by train in less than 2 hours, and the ticket fees start around 23 USD. Get ready for stunning views on the road between the two cities!
Ypres is mostly associated with the many fierce battles of the First World War, commemorated and honoured in many of the city’s museums and at memorial sites (like the Menin Gate Memorial). The city is also known for its medieval architecture, parts of which are still preserved original, and some structures were carefully restored to resemble the old ones.
Make sure to visit the city’s Grote Markt (the Market Place) with the most impressive building of Ypres’, namely the Lakenhalle (The Cloth Hall). During medieval times the Lakenhalle (“Laken” being the Flemish word for a type of a high-quality woven cloth made of wool) used to serve as the commercial heart of the city. The Clot Hall Complex was almost completely destroyed during the First World War, and its reconstruction did not finish until 1967. In 1999 the belfry tower of Ypres (a key element of the Lakenhalle) was designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with 55 other belfries across Belgium and France.
Day Trip from Brussels to Luxembourg
Luxembourg might be a tiny country, but it’s an interesting one too! Let’s start with the fact that Luxembourg is home to more than 130 castles, like the Vianden Castle located just outside the capital, Luxembourg City. From the capital, jump on a train to Ettelbruck then take bus 570 to arrive at Vianden and prepare for stunning views of one of the best-preserved pieces of medieval architecture in the whole country.
If you prefer staying in the city, you should start your explorations in the old town of Luxembourg City, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make your way to the famous Place Guillaume from where you can admire the remarkable town hall. A short walk from the main square you will find Grand Duke’s Palace (Palais Grand-Ducal) and the Parliament of Luxembourg.
Curious to know more of the history of Luxembourg?
Even though most of the city’s old fortification was destroyed in the 19th century, the casemates (built in the 17th century by the Spanish and French), survived and today they are open to tourists, brave enough to enter the maze of this old military shelter.
Day trips from Brussels to Luxembourg are easy to plan; if you jump on a train, you will arrive in Luxembourg after 3,5 hours (with one change). You can expect to pay around 59 USD for a single-journey train ticket. If you choose the direct bus connection, the ride will be only 30-40 minutes longer, but significantly cheaper (starting around 14 USD).
Day Trip from Brussels to Amsterdam
Looking for ideas for weekend trips from Brussels by train? We recommend a 2-day getaway to Amsterdam. For as low as 57 USD one way, you can take the train to the Dutch capital. Depending on the railway line, the journey will take from 1 hour 50 minutes to almost 3 hours. Amsterdam is a cool and vibrant city, filled with things to do and places to explore.
Make sure you check out the Museum Quarter (also known as Museumplein) with the Vang Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum with amazing works by Rembrandt and the contemporary Stedelijk Museum. Also take time to simply stroll around the small alleyways, crossing the beautiful canals. Make your way to De Pijp area to check out the popular “Albert Cuyp Markt” or visit the neighbourhood on a Sunday morning for a cosy brunch at one of the fashionable cafés.
Day Trip from Brussels to Maastricht
Another popular Dutch city, Maastricht is just 1 hour 45 minutes away from Brussels by train. The fares start around 23 USD, and a slightly longer journey by bus (2 hours 5 minutes) will only cost you 14 USD.
The beauty of Maastricht lies in its very international, yet low profile. The city is located in the tri-state area between the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, and with its university, Maastricht attracts many students from abroad. This cosy Dutch town is divided into eight different neighbourhoods, each with a unique atmosphere and various things to see and do.
For shopping, we recommend the Wyck district where you will find many local and international boutiques and brands. If you are on a look-out for curiosities or antiques, make sure you stop by the flea market at the main train station. The market takes place every weekend, get ready to browse tonnes of books, vinyl plates and other knickknacks!
Enthusiasts of classical art, on the other hand, should not miss the Bonnefantenmuseum. Mostly known for its collection of artworks by 16th and 17th century Old Masters like P. P. Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, the museum also has a collection of modern international art.
Day Trip from Brussels to Paris
Day trips from Brussels to Paris are both popular and easy to arrange. In less than one and a half hour you can arrive in Paris from Brussels, and the train fares start around 84 USD. If you do not mind a 3,5-hour bus ride, you can also take the Oui Bus to the French capital. That option will only cost you 16 USD!
Get ready for long walks along the Seine River and slow strolls in atmospheric neighbourhoods like Montmartre or Le Marais. Don’t forget to visit some of the many museums like the Louvre, Musée de Orsay or Centre Georges Pompidou for its astonishing collection of modern art.
If you want to visit a very special cultural site, still unknown to many tourists, you should make your way to the Parisian hidden gem: Musée Nissim De Camondo located in the 17th arrondissement. It tells a moving story of a French family, and on display, you will find paintings and sketches by some of the most skilled French artists as well as a stunning collection of antique furniture.
Recommended Best Day Trips from Brussels
- Ghent and Bruges Day Trip from Brussels
- Luxembourg Day Trip from Brussels: Two Countries in One Day
- Amsterdam Day Trip from Brussels
- Bruges Express City Tour from Brussels
- Antwerp Half-Day Trip from Brussels
- Day Trip to Bruges from Brussels