Brussels is known for its history, the baroque architecture, and some of the world’s best chocolate, This capital city offers a wide variety of things to do and see, that you can spend days exploring it.
Belgium, however, has so much to offer than the gold-tipped Grand Palace, waffles and chocolates and it has towns and cities that could rival the splendor and rich history of Brussels.
The city is also an ideal starting point if you wish to visit another country in a day, and there’s a pretty diverse choice.
Here’s a list of the best day trips from Brussels to help you decide.
13 Day Trips From Brussels
Easily reachable by train, Antwerp should be on top of your list when you want to take a day trip from Brussels as it’s only 45 minutes away by train.
This city is an interesting mix of old and new, with popular historic attractions such as Cathedral Of Our Lady and the Plantin-Moretus Museum for history and literature nerd.
However, the stunning sights at Antwerp start right at the central train station, a grand building considered to be one of the most beautiful train stations.
Also check out the Diamond District, as Antwerp is one of the largest diamond districts in the world.
As mentioned earlier, a haven for literature and history geek is the Plantin-Moretus Museum, which has a stunning courtyard and also a UNESCO world heritage site for its role in creating early literature using print presses.
Make sure to visit the Vlaaikensgang, a medieval alleyway dating back to 1591. This secret street is accessed via a door (Oude Koornmarkt 16) is a quiet hidden place that many tourists don’t know about.
Check out the Grote Markt, with its buildings such as the 16th century extremely extravagant guild house. There’s also the Het Steen, a medieval castle that was intended to protect the city from invasions.
For a stunning view over Antwerp and after looking at exhibitions, climb to the top of MAS, one of Antwerp’s main museums.
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Situated in Belgium’s Luxembourg area on the crossing of the rivers Rhine and Meuse, the picturesque small town of Bastogne is tucked in a lush, green valley, perfect for biking and lazy afternoons strolling along the river banks.
The size can easily fool visitors and at first glance, it may seem uneventful, but a visit here makes for an easy, laid back day tour from Brussels.
Bastogne’s top draw is that it was the location of the famed Battle of the Bulge, and a cycle through the recommended trails passing through the Belgian Ardennes, and the battlegrounds are especially fascinating.
There’s also the Bastogne War Museum with its amazing set-up, abundant but comprehensible information and the many 3D videos for a touching and mind-blowing total historical immersion.
For families and kids, Bastogne has La Ferme des Bisons – a paradise for wannabe cowboys, with cozy gîtes for rent that are perfect for a splendid vacation in the rural Ardennes.
And of course, there’s the stunning lake La Strange, a fishing spot as well as a haven for biking and leisurely strolls while enjoying a piece of amazing nature.
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Amsterdam, Netherlands is only a couple of hours by train from Brussels, but the ride is surely worth it once you start exploring this charming, historic city. Its city center is easy to explore by foot, making it an ideal day tour from Brussels.
While in Amsterdam, make sure you explore the canals either by foot or boat, especially the three main canals Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht.
All dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, they are surrounded by some of the most beautiful traditional Dutch houses that Amsterdam is famous for.
A must visit are the Dam Square with the Royal Palace with its impressive buildings, the Begijnhof where you’ll see one of the two original wooden houses in Amsterdam, and the floating flower market.
If you must be at a museum, make it either one of the three:
Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, or Anne Frank House, or all if you booked tickets in advance. If you fancy a beer or just want to learn its history, check out Heineken’s oldest brewery, now converted into an interactive museum.
For some unique, stroll along the Nine Streets, the area is famous for independent boutiques, specialty stores, and vintage shopping.
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Located only 60 kilometers or 40 minutes away from Brussels, Ghent is easily reached by car or by train. It is an absolute medieval treasure, and a must if you’re looking for a unique day trip from Brussels.
Ghent is also a cultural city defined by its music, theatre, film, and visual arts scene, as well as its medieval history. Ghent is best explored by foot, so you can fully enjoy the sights especially its impressive medieval architecture.
It is located at the confluence of rivers Leie and Scheldt, so you can also go on a boat ride through the canals for a different perspective of the sights.
Some of Ghent’s top attractions are the 12th-century medieval castle Gravesteen, which was the residence of the Court of Flanders; the Gothic Saint Bravo’s Cathedral, home to the Ghent Altarpiece and the Citadelpark, a beautiful natural oasis in the middle of the city, surrounded by monuments and museums.
When in Ghent, make sure you also visit the Belfry of Ghent, the Town Hall, and get a glimpse of Ghent’s trading history at the Old Fish Market.
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Cologne doesn’t always come to mind when planning for a day trip from Brussels, but at only a little over 2 hours by train from the Belgium capital, this German city is slowly becoming a must-visit for travelers.
The tour often starts at the Cologne Cathedral, which towers at almost 160 meters over the houses and is the city’s main landmark.
If you’re up to it, climb the 509 steps to the top of the tower, pass by the church bell, called “Dicker Pitter” and enjoy the scenic view over the city and the Rhine.
Adjacent to the Cathedral in the historic center with old, colorful houses, where you’ll see Tünnes und Schäl, two figures that represent the original Kölsch inhabitants, and marvel at the town hall and tower. When you get hungry, try some Cologne dishes such as “Himmel un Aed” or “Halve Hahn”.
Go museum hopping and check out some modern art at the Ludwig Museum or art from the Middle Ages to the Impressionist era in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, while you can learn about the city’s Roman past at the Roman-Germanic Museum.
Before going back to Paria, relax with a cup of coffee along with a piece of cake at the 150-year old Café Reichard for a wonderful view of the Cathedral.
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Founded in 50 BC by the Romans, Maastricht is one of the most beautiful and stylish cities in The Netherlands. Situated close to both Belgium and German borders, it is also the capital of the south-eastern province of Limburg and can be reached by train from Brussels in less than two hours.
A good place to start exploring Maastricht is through the old city center, where you can see landmarks like the Vrijthof, the Bonnefanten Museum, Saint Servatius church, and the old city walls.
The Treaty of Maastricht was signed here, making this city a symbol of the European Union. It has since attracted visitors from all over, who enjoy the fantastic food, the lovely terraces, and the luxurious shopping street, the Stokstraat.
While in Maastricht you’ll find out soon enough that most of the buildings and even bridges like the Sint Servaasbrug are built during the 13th century.
You should also see the Helpoort or Hell’s Gate, which was built in 1380 as part of the inner defense wall of the city, the Gothic Sint Janskerk, and De Bisschopsmolen mill, Maastricht’s historical (and working!) watermill.
Take a break from all the exploring by dining in one of the cafes on Vrijthof, and just a few steps away, find one of Maastricht’s unique attractions: Boekhandel Dominicanen, a 13th Century Churched turned into a bookstore and a cafe.
With all these fascinating attractions, Maastricht certainly makes for one of the best day trips from Brussels.
This old imperial city on the River Main is mostly known as an important commercial and economic center. Frankfurt is considered a global city and frequently ranks in the top ten best cities to live and do business.
Less than three hours from Brussels via the fastest train route, Frankfurt is also a hub for cultural and tourism activities such as the Frankfurt Book Fair (the world’s most important publishing event).
It also has a number of fine museums, impressive architecture, huge garden parks, and a stunning gothic cathedral — making it a worthwhile day trip from Brussels if you’re keen on venturing to a different country.
In the heart of Frankfurt’s Old Town is the Römerberg, with the Justice Fountain at its center, surrounded by open-fronted shops, and the Römer, which is made up of 11 lovely buildings, faithfully reconstructed in 1954 from original 15th- to 18th-century floorplans.
Make sure you spend time at the Museum District, with its collection of separate museums, such as the Museum of World Cultures, Museum of Ancient Sculpture and The Icon Museum.
Relax at the Palm Garden, the 54-acre botanic garden in Germany, and afterward, visit the Senckenberg Natural History Museum, one of the most modern museums of natural history in Europe.
Slow down at the end of your Frankfurt tour at St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, built of red sandstone in Gothic style and at 95 meters, still manages to stand out in this city of skyscrapers.
An intriguing town located between two rivers and surrounded by castles, Namur can be reached in less than an hour by train from Brussels. As the capital city of the Wallonia region of Belgium, Namur is also considered as an important political and cultural seat in the country.
This city is crammed with medieval castles, citadels, and canals, making it a definite must for those who want to go on a day trip from Brussels.
You can easily explore Namur by foot or on a bike, wander around the graceful alleys, then stop and admire landmarks such as the Saint Aubain Cathedral and the Felicien Rops Museum.
You should also see the Citadel of Namur, built at the confluence of the rivers of Meuse and Sambre, and the Gothic Maredsous Abbey.
Located very close to the Belgium and German border, Luxembourg is one of the most recommended day trips from Brussels especially for those who are fond of beautiful rural sceneries. It is less than three hours by train from the Belgian capital.
Explore it by foot or on a bike, start with the Kirchberg quarter and its many important buildings such as the European Court of Justice, and the European Commission.
Marvel at the Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral and its Renaissance touches, or see the Palace of the Grand Duke and the city’s fortifications.
Make sure you also visit the stunning Adolphe Bridge; the Gelle Fra, a war memorial, dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered for service in the armed forces during both World Wars and the Korean War, and the Medieval ruins of Pétrusse Casemates.
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As Belgium’s closest neighbor, it is pretty easy to go across the border and visit many cities in the Netherlands. One of the best day trips from Brussels should take you to Utrecht, an iconic religious center for centuries.
A picturesque city that’s best explored by walking or cycling, Utrecht is best known for the Dom, a 14th-century bell tower, tallest in the Netherlands; the cathedrals, canals, and medieval castles.
Wandering further into Utrecht, you also shouldn’t miss the Gothic Cathedral of St. Martin in the central square, the Utrecht Botanical Gardens, and Utrecht canals.
Another must-visit is the gothic Castle De Haar, a medieval structure with stunning gardens surrounding it; Utrecht’s Centraal Museum and Railway Museum housed in a 19th-century railway station.
11. Ypres (Battlefields of Flanders)
Only 123 kilometers or an hour and 25 minutes from Belgium’s capital, the road that takes you to Ypres is filled with breathtaking views.
Ypres is known for the three Battles of Ypres during the First World War from 1914-1919, which destroyed the entire city. Restoration work began in 1921, once residents that moved back to Ypres in 1919 have already settled.
The city may have recovered since then, but its painful history and how it rose from the ruins makes it an important place to visit. Explore Ypres and discover why it’s one of the best day tours from Brussels.
Stop by the Menin Gate, a war memorial with inscribed names of fallen heroes of war; see the In Flanders
Field Museum, which is dedicated to the study of World War 1, and the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, a place dedicated to the 100 days battle of Passchendaele in 1917, as well as the German cemetery, and the Saint George’s Chapel.
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You simply cannot go wrong with Paris, and it certainly makes for a satisfying day trip from Brussels. Less than two hours by train from the Belgium capital, make sure you set out early, wear comfortable shoes and prepare for a lot of walking. Paris is definitely more than the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, a walk along the Seine or the Place de la Concorde and Jardin des Tuileries.
While in the French capital, make sure you stroll through the Jardin des Plantes, the main botanical garden in France that dates back to 1626.
There’s also the iconic and charming Latin Quarter, home to the Sorbonne University, one of the oldest colleges in Europe. The place got its name from the theology students who spoke in Latin until the French Revolution.
A day in Paris won’t be complete without seeing the grandiose Pantheon, originally a church until the French Revolution and now contains the tombs of famous French figures such as Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, and Alexandre Dumas.
Take a break from walking at the Luxembourg Gardens, which dates back to 1612 and is one of the most popular parks in Paris.
Once you’ve recharged, continue through Sant Germain, the quintessential Parisian neighborhood with its elegant buildings, charming streets, and picturesque squares.
Stay until sunset or early evening to witness why Paris is the city of lights, and before you leave, make sure to get a few boxes of macaroons at Pierre Hermé, Parisian chocolates at La Maison du Chocolat and decadent hot chocolate at Angelina in Rue de Rivoli.
A definite must-visit for any history enthusiast, the Waterloo memorial is so close to the Belgium capital that it’s often a choice destination for a Brussels day trip. Located just 30 kilometers or about 25 minutes away from the capital city, it’s ideal to spend a whole day in Waterloo to best appreciate it.
Once there, check out the historic Waterloo Battlefield; the Lions (Mound) Hamlet which is also a visitor center, and the Musée Wellington with its wealth of information about the 1815 battle. You shouldn’t miss
Napoleon’s Last Headquarters, a 5 room museum containing items of Napoleon, located around 4 kilometers to the south of the Lion’s Mound. There’s also the Pass 1815, the Hougoumont, a shed that’s believed to have played an important role in the battle and of course, Waterloo – where the finale of the battle took place.
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