If you want to to explore all the exciting highlights that the capital of Belgian has to offer, then it’s recommended to spend more than one day in Brussels. But why stop there when there’s so much more to see in Belgium and beyond? Here’s my personal selection of day trips from Brussel.
Time is of the essence when you plan on exploring a new city in just a day. That’s why you’ll find the travel time next to each destination. You’ll be happy to see that all of these Brussels day trips can be reached in less than 2.5 hours.
Brussels day trips on the map
For your convenience, I’ve put together this map with an overview of day trips from Brussels suggested in this article:
Local day trips from Brussels
Belgium has some incredible gems waiting to be explored. Take this Belgian’s word for it. Medieval cities with cobblestone streets, world-famous battlefields and picture-perfect buildings with stepped gable… You’ll find history around every corner (and Belgian waffles and beer too). Are you ready to discover the best day trips from Brussels?
– Bruges (1h)
Belgium’s tourist magnet attracts millions of visitors each year. And with good reason, because Bruges (Brugge in Flemish) has one of the most enchanting city centers in Europe, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Wander the medieval streets of historic Bruges or take a canal tour to explore the Venice of the North. The city is surprisingly compact, which makes it perfect for a day trip from Brussels. You’ll be amazed at how well-preserved Bruges really is.
- Things to do in Bruges on a day trip: Take a canal tour, stroll around the market square (Grote Markt in Dutch), climb the Belfry tower, visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood, take a horse-drawn carriage ride for a unique guided tour, visit the Groeningemuseum or the Old St. John’s Hospital and meet the swans at Minnewater, the Lake of Love. And, when you plan on visiting in winter, you’ll be lucky enough to experience the Bruges Christmas Market.
- Getting from Brussels to Bruges: Take the IC train at either Brussels Central or Brussels Midi station and you’ll reach your destination in 1 hour. From there, it’s a 20 minute walk to the city center where you can start your Bruges day tour.
– Ghent (30m)
In the past few years, Ghent (Gent in Flemish) has stepped out of the shadows and put itself on the tourist map. It’s also the perfect alternative for overcrowded Bruges: You’ll see just as much medieval charm, similar beautiful waterways to explore by boat, plenty of museums and stepped gable buildings that are just as picture-perfect. And best of all, you’ll find more locals than tourists in Ghent. I’m one of them, by the way. 🙂
As a local I have to admit that, compared to all the gorgeous cities I’ve traveled to, Ghent still has something magical. Especially when night falls and the city’s historic landmarks are beautifully lit, it’s a pretty amazing sight. Consider this an invitation to visit this city on a Brussels day trip.
- Things to do in Ghent on a day trip: Visit the Castle of the Counts, climb the Belfry, admire the postcard views at the Korenlei and Graslei, visit the St. Bavo’s Cathedral, admire the altarpiece and wander the streets of the Patershol district.
- Getting from Brussels to Ghent: Depending from which Brussels station, Central or Midi, you take the train, you’ll arrive in Ghent Sint-Pieters railway station in (good) 30 minutes. From there, it’s a 25 minute walk to the city center. Alternatively, you could catch a tram at the train station.
– Ypres (2h)
The Westhoek region, partially located in Flanders and partially in Northern France, was the scene of fierce resistance against the German forces during WW1. The brave soldiers who fought in the trenches, came from 5 continents. It was essential to keep the city of Ypres (Ieper in Flemish) free from German occupation, because it would keep them from reaching the French coast. Eventually Ypres, the City of Peace, was almost completely destroyed and many brave men lost their lives in the area.
- Things to do in Ypres on a day trip: Visit the In Flanders Fields museum, listen to the Last Post at the Menin Gate at 8 pm, visit the trenches where the war was fought and the cemeteries at which many foreign soldiers have found a resting place.
- Getting from Brussels to Ypres: Take the train from either Brussels Central or Brussels Midi station to Ypres station (this will usually involve a transfer at the Ghent Sint-Pieters railway station). Many important highlights are located in or just outside of the city center. If you’re looking to explore more of the Flanders battlefields area, then you can rent a bike in Ypres and take one of the dedicated cycling tours, such as the Ypres Salient or the Peace Route.
– Dinant (1h 45m)
The city of Dinant’s magical location, against the rocks and along the Meuse river, sparks the imagination. The views are spectacular, both from the Meuse waters and from high up in the Citadel fortress, which was originally built to control the entire valley. It’s a region where tales and legends thrive.
- Things to do in Dinant on a day trip: Take a cable car (high season only) to the Citadel fortress, admire the Collegiate Church of Our Lady, take a stroll along the Meuse river, have a look at Rocher Bayard, count the many saxophones in honour of Adolphe Sax and try to set your teeth in the hard biscuit couque de Dinant.
- Getting from Brussels to Dinant: You take the train from Brussels Midi or Central station to Dinant station, with a transfer in railway station Namur. Or you start your day trip from Brussels Luxembourg station with a direct train ride to Dinant. It’s just a 5 minute walk to the Citadel, which is located across the river.
– Antwerp (40m)
Belgian’s capital of fashion is more than just a shopping paradise. Antwerp offers many interesting museums and a cozy historic center in the shadow of its cathedral. This port city was once the home of several celebrated painters and now a creative base for world renowned designers. Antwerp’s artistic character makes this city one of the most attractive day trips from Brussels for creative types, food lovers and shopaholics.
- Things to do in Antwerp on a day trip: Visit the Red Star Line Museum or the MAS, admire the wonderful town hall, go (window) shopping for diamonds in the Diamond district, go see where Rubens lived in the Rubens House, admire the gothic details of the Cathedral of our Lady and take the wooden escalator in the Saint-Anne Tunnel.
- Getting from Brussels to Antwerp: Hop on the train from Brussels Central or Midi station for a 40 minute ride to Antwerp Central. Upon arrival, explore the beautiful railway station before heading to the city center via the Meir shopping boulevard.
Day trips from Brussels to neighbouring countries
Thanks to its location in the heart of Europe, both geographically and politically, Brussels is very well connected to other important cities in Northwestern Europe. So, why not take advantage from that excellent location to cross the border? Here are some other European gems that are excellent day trips from Brussels.
The Brussels train station which offers most options for international travel is Brussels-Midi (Brussel’s south station). If you were to depart from Brussels-Central station then you might have to transfer in Brussels-Midi for most international journeys.
– Amsterdam (1h 50m)
Popular Amsterdam has plenty to offer so, limiting it down to just a day trip is pretty hard. The number one thing to do is to take a canal cruise. It might be a classic but still, it’s such an amazing experience that it’ll always be one of my top things to do in Amsterdam. I would strongly recommend an open boat if you’re visiting in spring or summer for that picture-perfect touch.
The wide choice in boutique museums, such as the Rembrandt House Museum or the Museum of Bags and Purses, is definitely an advantage. These museums can be visited in just over an hour, which is ideal for this one day Amsterdam itinerary. Plus, it leaves plenty of time to try some local foods such as a stroopwafel (some sort of caramel waffle) or poffertjes (mini-pancakes) from the food stalls at De Pijp.
- Things to do in Amsterdam on a day trip: Smell the
rosestulips at the Flower Market, take a canal cruise, visit the Royal Palace at Dam Square, stroll through the 9 Straatjes district, admire the dancing houses, visit one of the many interesting museums such as the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum or the Rembrandt House, hunt for antiquities at the Spiegelkwartier and try a stroopwafel.
- Getting from Brussels to Amsterdam: A direct IC train from Brussels-Midi will get you to Amsterdam Central train station in 2 hours 50 minutes. Should you opt for the direct high-speed Thalys connection, then you’ll arrive an hour sooner. I’d personally recommend the latter option, even though it’s a bit more expensive, because you’ll need a full day to explore Amsterdam’s highlights.
If you’re looking to spend more time in Amsterdam, then this itinerary for 2 days in Amsterdam might be exactly what you’re looking for.
– The Hague (1h 40m)
The Hague, Netherlands’ political capital and a perfect alternative to escape the crowds visiting Amsterdam. This city offers an interesting mix of classic and cool, creating a unique vibe. In The Hague you’ll find several intriguing museums, narrow streets and quaint eateries. Rent a bike to discover the city or hop on a boat to explore The Hague on a canal tour.
- Things to do in The Hague on a day trip: Visit the Peace Palace, admire Palace Noordeinde, enjoy an iconic hight tea at the legendary Hotel des Indes, say hello to Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring at the Mauritshuis museum, step back in time at the Binnenhof or fly a kite at Scheveningen beach.
- Getting from Brussels to The Hague: You could opt for the direct train from Brussels-Midi to The Hague HS, which will get you there in 2 hours 20 minutes. Alternatively you could take the Thalys from Brussels-Midi station to Rotterdam and then transfer to a regular train for the remainder of the journey. The total travel time for this transfer option is 1 hour 40 minutes.
– Keukenhof Gardens (2h)
Every spring, the tulip fields of the Netherlands paint the landscape with their bright colors. Keukenhof Gardens is Holland’s most popular flower garden. You’ll find over 7 million bulbs – crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips – in every shade imaginable.
The Keukenhof Gardens are open 8 weeks a year, from the final week of March until mid-May. The best time to see the tulips is usually the second half of April. I would strongly recommend to avoid the weekends and opt for a less-frequented day, such as Monday or Tuesday.
- Things to do in Keukenhof on a day trip: Explore the gardens, smell the hyacinths, take a whisper boat tour around the gardens and rent a bike to explore the numerous tulip fields in the area.
- Getting from Brussels to Keukenhof: Public transport is not the best option for this itinerary. Your best bet is to join this organized day trip from Brussels or to rent a car and drive to Lisse. Depending on traffic, you might make it to Keukenhof in just over 2 hours.
– Rotterdam (1h 10m)
Rotterdam is very different from most other Dutch cities. You won’t find the typical, historic market place here or many other reminders of bygone times, like you will in Amsterdam or Maastricht. That’s because Rotterdam got so heavily bombed during WW II that the city center got completely demolished. So, Rotterdam is essentially a young and modern city with an old soul.
What the German invaders couldn’t destroy, however, is the city’s economic importance thanks to its location along the New Meuse (Nieuwe Maas in Dutch) river. Until today, Rotterdam has the biggest and most important port in Europe. This identity is largely reflected in the city’s architecture.
- Things to do in Rotterdam on a day trip: eat your heart out at one of the Markthal’s food stands, spot the Picasso and Rodin statues at the Westersingel statue roue, enjoy the views over the Willems bridge and the Erasmus bridge, abseil down the Euromast which is the highest tower in the country, shop till you drop at the Beurstraverse, explore the Wilhelmina pier, admire the collection of the Photography Museum, walk the yellow Luchtsingel bridge, take pictures from every angle of the popular cube houses and visit the show-cube to find out what it’s like to live in one.
- Getting from Brussels to Rotterdam: There’s a direct train from Brussels-Midi station to Rotterdam. The regular IC train will get you there in 2 hours 5 minutes, the Thalys train in 1 hour 10 minutes.
– Maastricht (1h 45m)
Maastricht is the oldest city in The Netherlands, some traces of early settlements date back to the Iron Age (AD 700-200). It’s located right over the Belgian border. The city’s various landmarks reflect its rich history: stately merchant houses, enchanting city squares, city walls are reminders of its grand past. But Maastricht also hides many underground treasures such as caves and mines. The city is also well-known for its many culinary delights.
In recent history, Maastricht is known as the city where the European Union was founded in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty.
- Things to do in Maastricht on a day trip: Visit the St Peter Fort and caves, the 17th century city hall, shop for literary treasures at the Dominicanen book store, admire the magical Vrijthof with its many historically significant buildings, visit the Hell gate and try as much typical vlaai pies as you can.
- Getting from Brussels to Maastricht: You can take the IC train from either Brussels-Midi or Brussels-Central station for a 1 hour 45 minute journey to Maastricht. There’s one transfer in Liège/ Luik. From Maastricht’s railway station, it’s just a 10 minute walk to the center.
– Utrecht (2h)
The last Dutch city on this list is charming Utrecht, a true gem. In a way it resembles Amsterdam, because of the canals aligned with elegant merchants houses. You’ll find narrow streets, quaint little shops and a cozy vibe.
A bonus if you’re traveling with kids is the collection of museums that’ll spark children’s imagination. And soon as you leave the town center you’re stepping into nature, an excellent opportunity to rent a bike and explore the castles in the area.
- Things to do in Utrecht on a day trip: Visit The Netherlands’ highest church tower, tthe 14the century Dom, admire the architectural unique Rietveld Schröder house (advance reservations required), take your kids to the Miffy museum or Museum Speelklok with its self-playing musical instruments, visit the Botanical Gardens of Utrecht University (spring and summer) and explore De Haar Castle or Zuylen Castle in the direct area of Utrecht.
- Getting from Brussels to Utrecht: You could opt for the Thalys train from Brussels-midi to Utrecht and then transfer in Rotterdam to a regular train for the remainder of the trip, in which case the total travel time will be just over 2 hours. Alternatively, take the direct IC train from Brussels-Central station to Utrecht and you’ll get there in 2 hours 50 minutes.
– Paris (1h 20m)
Paris, the City of Lights. With both European capitals located so close to one another, this is a Brussels day trip that’s hard to resist. All it takes is a short train ride to find yourself in the heart of Paris. From there, you can hop on the metro to start exploring this wonderful city.
However you plan ons spending your day – actively visiting the city’s many iconic landmarks, sauntering down the Parisian streets or indulging in the city’s culinary delights – rest assured it’ll be memorable. If you go for the first option, however, then I’d strongly recommend to purchase skip-the-line tickets for the most popular monuments and museums.
- Things to do in Paris on a day trip: Visit the iconic Eiffel tower, see a glimpse of the Notre-Dame cathedral after the fire, stroll along the Champs-Elysées up to the Arc de Triomphe, visit the Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergerie, admire the art in one of the city’s legendary museums such as the Louvre, the Orsay or the Rodin museum with its stunning garden, visit the Paris catacombs, have a french coffee with your croissant and follow up with the delicious macarons at Ladurée, take in the views from Montmartre and pass by the Moulin Rouge.
- Getting from Brussels to Paris: Hop on the Thalys train in Brussels-Midi station for a 1h 20m ride to Paris-Nord. Or opt for Thalys’ low-cost option Izy, where you can choose between a standing place, a folding seat or a standard seat. Izy also offers special children’s fares.
A day trip from Brussels to Paris is ideal for a second or third visit but when you’re visiting the City of Lights for the first time then it’s strongly recommended to stay longer. This 4-day Paris itinerary, which includes a visit to Versailles, is ideal for first-time visitors.
– Luxembourg (2h 20m)
Luxembourg, the 7th smallest country in Europe, is a true gem. Located amidst natural delights, you’ll find the capital Luxembourg City of which the old quarters and fortifications are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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.
- Things to do in Luxemburg on a day trip: Admire the Grand Ducal Palace, discover the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin, explore the Bock casemates underground tunnels, have a drink at one of the terraces along the Place d’Armes, look for the best viewpoint from the Chemin de la Corniche or visit the Kirchberg plateau where you’ll find the Philharmonie, the MUDAM Museum of Modern Art and a glass cathedral.
- Getting from Brussels to Luxemburg: A direct train will take you from Brussels-Midi station to Luxemburg station in 3 hours 15 minutes. Do note that you there’s a Belgian province with the same name, so make sure to book your ticket to Luxembourg City in the country of Luxembourg. Renting a car is a quicker way to get to this Brussels day trip destination. Depending on traffic, you might make it to Luxembourg City in 2 hours and 20 minutes.
– Cologne (1h 50m)
The first German city in this list of Brussels day trips is Cologne. The largest city on the Rhine river was once an important trade route between the east and west of Europe. Cologne got so heavily bombed during WW II that most of the city was destroyed. With joint efforts, the people of Cologne successfully rebuilt many historic buildings after the war. The result is an intriguing mix of old and new with the iconic cathedral as the city’s focal point.
- Things to do in Cologne on a day trip: Gaze at the 13th century gothic Dom Cathedral, Germany’s most visited monument, or climb the 509 steps to the tower. Hang a love lock at the Hohenzollern to seal your love. Visit the Ludwig museum or the Fragrance museum, for a touch of Eau de Cologne. Have a local Kölsch beer at the Belgian quarter, Cologne’s coolest neighbourhood. Wander the streets of the Altstadt, the Old Town. Take in the city views from the Köln Triangle viewing platform.
- Getting from Brussels to Cologne: The ICE or the Thalys train from Brussels-Midi will take you to Cologne’s railway station, the Köln Hbf., in 1 hour 50 minutes. Step off the train and you’ll find yourself right at the Dome Cathedral.
– Düsseldorf (2h 15m)
I conclude my selection of day trips from Brussels with modern Düsseldorf. This former fishing village on the Düssel has evolved to a cosmopolitan city but its old soul can still be admired at the Altstadt. Düsseldorf is Germany’s epicenter for art and fashion, an identity which you can explore in one of the many inviting museums and on its famous shopping street. It’s a compact city, which is ideal for a Brussels day trip.
- Things to do in Düsseldorf on a day trip: Explore the city’s vibrant art scene at the museum Kunstpalast, the K20 Grabbeplatz or the KIT underground exhibition space. Admire the Altstadt with the Renaissance town hall (Altes Rathaus). Have a local Alt beer at the Rheinuferpromenade. Go on an expensive shopping spree in the tree-lined Königsallee (or Kö, as the locals call it). Visit Schloss Benrath, the impressive rococo castle. Take in the city views from the Rhine tower (Rheinturm) observation deck.
- Getting from Brussels to Düsseldorf: Hop on the Thalys from Brussels-Midi for a direct 2 hour 15 minute journey to Düsseldorf.
Where to stay in Brussels for quick access to the right train station
For domestic day trips from Brussels
For Brussels day trips within Belgium and for Maastricht, it doesn’t really matter where you’ll be staying because you’ll have quick access from both Brussels-Midi and Brussels-Central station. That being noted, Brussels-Central is the nicer area and obviously the best option if you want to spend a day in Brussels too. Some of my favorite hotels near Brussels-Central station include:
For international day trips from Brussels
If you plan on crossing the border, it’s best to travel from Brussels-Midi station. Now, you should know that Brussels-Midi is not the safest or most attractive area in the city. Especially during the evening and at night, it can feel a bit abandoned (or is it just me?). If you want to stay close enough to reach the station by foot yet in a decent area, then I’d recommend this hotel:
Tips for your day trips from Brussels
- Download a railway app: That way, you can see which train to take without an internet connection. The one from Rail Europe is pretty handy.
- Leaving early will give you more time at your destination. Feel free to ask your hotel concierge or receptionist to provide you with a breakfast picnic.
Tips for domestic day trips from Brussels
- For your domestic day trips from Brussels, always choose the IC (InterCity) train and not the L (Local) train or you’ll be stopping at every station on your route.
- Ticket options: Ticket options: The GoPass for those under 26, you’ll pay €6.60 per single trip. There’s also a Go Unlimited version which allows 1 week of unlimited travel for €15 during the Belgian school holidays (around Christmas, around Easter and during July and August). The Weekend Ticket, valid from 7 p.m. Friday until Sunday,entitles you to a free return trip. The Rail Pass is a 10-journey card at €83 for 2nd class journeys and €128 for 1st class journeys.
- In Brussels, there are two official languages: Flemish and French. But do rest assured that about everyone will be able to help you in English should you need information or directions.
- Belgian trains are usually delayed by 10 minutes.
Tips for international day trips from Brussels
- When visiting Europe as a non-European, you’ll enter with a Schengen visa which allows you to cross the Belgian border to the neighbouring countries mentioned in this article: The Netherlands, France, Germany and Luxembourg.
- For international connections, the Thalys high-speed train is the fastest way to get you to your destination.
Which of these Brussels day trips is on your list?
Are you coming to Brussels anytime soon? If so, which of these gorgeous cities will you be adding to your travel planning? I can’t wait to find out which of these day trips from Brussels has caught your eye. Let me know in the comments!
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