Brussels the Belgian capital is one of the top tourist cities in Europe. The bustling city has world-class museums, well preserved medieval architecture, the city is home to the astounding Comic Strip Route, and numerous intriguing historical monuments amidst the bustling multicultural atmosphere. Belgium has some of charming towns and cities which are an ideal getaway from the hustle bustle of the city of Brussels. If you have more days in the city you can plan and make Brussels as a base for visiting these charming Belgian towns. Well connected and frequent train network makes a visit to these towns popular with tourists as easy day trips from Brussels.
Bruges is a charming untouched medieval town in Belgium, an easy day trip from Brussels. The well-preserved cobblestone alleys winding through the medieval houses, the pretty canals, and the arch stone bridges make a picture perfect Bruges. The town looks like taken straight out of a fairytale story.
And when in Bruges devour on as many flavors of waffles, chocolate or whipped cream topped with a variety of fruits. The town also has some of the historic churches and windmills all dating back to the middle ages. The town can easily be explored on foot, one can also rent a bike cycle or take a canal boat tour.
The Belgian City Ghent is the largest and the capital of the East Flanders. Ghent is a medieval gem with a well-preserved medieval architecture and numerous historic churches and buildings. The city is an easy day trip from Belgian capital Brussels only half an hour train ride away. The historical center of Ghent is a couple of km away from the main train station and is well connected by public transport.
The major Ghent points of interest are St Nicholas’ an exemplary Scheldt Gothic, the 16th-century Saint Bavo Cathedral, the magnificent Belfry and the grandeur Ghent Town Hall all located in the Saint Bavo Square. The iconic landmark of Ghent are the two quay areas Graslei and Korenlei which have some of the stunning guild houses all set along the canal in a picturesque setting.
Though we do not recommend you to combine Bruges and Ghent in one day as Ghent falls on the way to Bruges people tend to combine both into one day. We do suggest you keep one full day aside for the beautiful town of Bruges.
The city of Antwerp is an amazing amalgam of medieval and modern buildings. Antwerp being world’s leading diamond capital has an abundance of diamond shops alongside the high-end branded shops all housed in the Rococo-styled historic buildings.
The major draw of the city of Antwerp is the opulent guild houses located in Grote Markt or the Great Market Square’ in the city center. The magnificent Gothic style 16th-century ‘Cathedral of Our Lady’ and the imposing Renaissance-style Antwerp City Hall is also located in the Grote Markt. There are numerous cafes and restaurants around the square where you can try some delicious waffles, chocolates, ice creams and Belgian fries.
Antwerp is around 45 minutes train ride from the Brussels central train station.
Dinant is a charming historic city set along the River Meuse in Walloon Region of Belgium. The city is home to the imposing 13th-century Collegiate Church of Our Lady featuring a distinctive pear-shaped spire and one of the largest stained-glass windows in Europe. The citadel of Dinant is located on the cliff overlooking the cathedral and the town. The Citadel houses the Dinant’s Arms and history Museum and walks through the history of the town through multimedia shows and exhibits.
Dinant is the hometown of the famous musician Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. And as a tribute to him, you will find several colorful saxophones around the town. Charles de Gaulle Bridge which connects the train station to the Dinant Cathedral and the citadel is adorned with several stunning larger than life-sized saxophones.
The colossal Cologne Cathedral is a major draw for the tourists to the historic city of Cologne in Germany. The magnificent Gothic cathedral with its imposing exterior featuring statues, pinnacles, tracery, and intricate carvings is a Gothic architectural masterpiece. Cologne is well connected with the Belgian capital Brussels and is only two hours journey by train.
The city apart from the Cologne Cathedral has numerous museums, impressive Romanesque churches and plenty of green space along the Rhine River promenade.
Read More: Top Things to do in Cologne Germany
The city of Brussels also makes for a great base to explore the cities in neighboring countries. Luxembourg City the capital of the Luxembourg country is just an hour away train ride from the Belgian capital. The city center of Luxembourg has some of the remarkable historical monuments and structures which can easily be explored o foot.
The important Luxembourg attraction is the Bock casemates which are a maze of an underground tunnel carved out of rocks. Though only 17 km remain today out of the 23 km originally built, a walk through the passages gives a fair idea of how it served as a refuge for the soldiers during the wars. Also not to miss is the ‘Le Chemin de La Corniche’ popularly known as Europe’s Most Beautiful Balcony. The terrace offers a spectacular vista of the old quarters of Grund which has several medieval buildings set along the winding Alzette River.
Amsterdam the ‘City of Canals’ also famed as the ‘Venice of North’ draws visitors for its 17th-century maze of canals all around the city. A canal boat tour exploring the historic and ancient parts of the city is one of its kind of experience. The night boat tours when the city is illuminated by golden lights is even more wonderful. Amsterdam is also home to some of the world-class museums like Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, and Rijksmuseum.
For shopaholics, Amsterdam has several flea markets set up in every corner of the city. The flea markets sell anything to everything from antiques, art, clothing, and paintings at throwaway prices.
Amsterdam is only a two-hour train journey from the Belgian capital Brussels.
Read More: Best Things to do in Amsterdam in one day
Waterloo Battlefield less than an hour bus ride away from Brussels is clearly for a history buff. Waterloo Battlefield is a historic site where Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the armies of Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher in 1815. The battlefield of Waterloo is commemorated by an artificial hill known as Lion’s Mound reached by a set of 226 steps. On a hill stands a lion sculpture with its right front paw on a sphere representing a global victory. The top of the hill offers a panoramic view of the entire battlefield.
The visitors center at the foot of the mound has several multimedia shows and films offering insight on the battle and its consequences. There are numerous important historic sites in and around Waterloo but worth a visit is the Wellington Museum located in the town of Waterloo which served as the headquarters of Duke of Wellington during the battle. The museum displays historical artifacts, paintings and chronological details of the battle.
Tournai (or Doornik in Dutch) is one of the oldest Belgian cities an hours train ride away from Brussels. The major points of interest in Tournai are the magnificent Notre Dame de Tournai Cathedral featuring Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles and the striking belfry both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A climb up the Belfry offers with wonderful views of the city of Tournai.
The old town of the city is home to historic churches and architectural gems like exemplary Art Nouveau buildings, Romanesque and Renaissance buildings. The Grand Place which has numerous cafes and restaurants housed in colorful restored guild houses. The old town is also home to a 13th-century Trous Bridge, the Renaissance Cloth Hall, the Tower of Henry VIII and several old city gates.
The city is also home to some important museums like Museum of Fine Arts designed by architect Victor Horta which exhibits fine artwork by Rubens, Monet, and Van Gogh, a Puppetry Arts Museum, Tapestry Museum exhibiting antique 15th-century tapestries and the Folklore Museum on the daily life of the city of Tournai.
Leuven the Belgian City home to one of the oldest and largest universities is only half an hour train ride from Brussels. The most famous attraction in the city is the Leuven Town hall building or Stadhuis Leuven located in the Grote Markt, the market square. The 15th-century Town Hall is a Gothic architectural masterpiece. Some 236 statues adorn the exterior of the building, each statue representing important personalities like a local scholar or artist from the city. Next to the Town Hall is the magnificent 15th-century Saint Peter’s Church another exemplary Gothic architectural building. The church is home to rich works of art, sculptures, and paintings.
Also worth a visit is the UNESCO world heritage site of 13th-century beguinage. Wander the quiet alleys, courtyards, gardens, and parks great for relaxation and explore the sandstone houses and convents.
Take a guided tour of the Brewery Stella Artois which is a part of the world’s largest brewery AB InBev. Learn about the history and the brewing process of Stella Artois concluded by a tasting session.
Maastricht is a city in the Netherlands couple of hours train ride away from Brussels. The city set along the banks of Meuse River is known for its medieval architecture buildings, 1677 national heritage buildings, and world-class museums.
The two major squares in the city are the Markt and the Vrijthof. The square is dominated by the magnificent Romanesque church Basilica of Saint Servatius with important works of art and medieval sculptures adorning its interior. Vrijthof is surrounded by numerous historic buildings and churches and is a bustling meeting place for its pubs and restaurants. The other prominent square Markt is the town’s market square. The important building in the square is the 17th-century Town Hall an imposing Baroque architectural masterpiece along with several other early Renaissance buildings. The square is home to modern shopping centers and malls which makes it a great place for shopping.
The other major points of interest in Maastricht is the Sint-Pietersberg or the Mount Saint Peter. The mountain is home to 18th-century Fort Sint-Pieter, Grotten Sint-Pietersberg or Saint Pietersberg Caves which is an underground network of man-made caves in limestone quarries. The caves used as refuges during the WW2 can be explored on guided tours.
Have you been on any of these day trips from Brussels? Which is your favorite city/town? Do share with us in comments.