A Quick Escape: 5 Day Trips in Belgium

A Quick Escape: 5 Day Trips in Belgium

The holy trinity of travel, beer, and chocolate is what Belgium is all about, and its capital city of Brussels encapsulates all this like no other. The capital of the European Union is charming with its harmonious blend of the old and new, and, if you can bear to leave, it is also a perfect base to explore other towns in Belgium. Here are 5 great day trips to enjoy in Belgium, departing from Brussels:

1. Antwerp (22 EUR (24.60 USD))

The city of Antwerp lies in the Flemish-speaking region of Flanders and is Belgium’s biggest port. Stylish and fashion-forward, yet still retaining a rustic European charm, visitors arriving by train will marvel at the grandeur of Antwerp Central Railway Station, often said to be among the world’s most beautiful train stations. Admire the rich interior of the station and the soaring iron and glass vaulted ceiling designed to impress as you ascend the seemingly endless length of escalators.

If diamonds are your best friend, stop by the Diamond Quarter, just adjacent to the Central Railway Station, and have a look at the glittering jewels shining temptingly in the window display. The district might not be a picture of romance but the “Antwerp cut” label is an assurance of quality, giving recognition to the skill of local diamond cutters.

Also near the railway station is Antwerp Zoo, the oldest zoo in Europe. Founded in 1843, the zoo is well-maintained and keeps to rigorous standards to ensure the welfare of the animals. The zoo makes for a fantastic day out with the whole family to learn about the wide number of animals roaming within the compound.

Classic art lovers should make it a point to visit Rubens House, the former residence-turned-museum of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.

Easily reached from Brussels, Antwerp is a gem that is as multi-faceted and sparkling as its diamonds.

By train: 50 minutes on average

By car: 50 minutes on average

Antwerp Zoo

Address: Koningin Astridplein 26, 2018 Antwerpen

Price: 22 EUR (24.60 USD)

Opening Hours: 10 am - 7 pm

Contact: 03-224 89 10

Website: Antwerp Zoo

Rubens House

Address: Wapper 9-11, Antwerpen

Price: 8 EUR (8.94 USD)

Opening Hours: 10 am - 5 pm

Contact: +32 32 01 15 55

Website: http://www.rubenshuis.be/en

Antwerp Half-Day Trip from Brussels

Departure Point: Select Brussels city hotels or central departure point

Price: From 42.17 USD

Departure Time: 1.15 pm

Duration: Around 5.5 hours

2. Bruges (7 EUR (7.82 USD))

You may almost expect to see a prince or a princess taking a leisurely stroll along the quaint cobbled streets of this well-preserved fairy-tale medieval town, whose buildings were left untouched by the bombs in World War II. The picturesque canals flowing through Bruges have also earned it the name of the “Venice of the North”. The 83-metre (272-foot) Belfry is one of the main landmarks in Bruges and it offers the best views of the city from its bell tower, that is, if you can overcome the 366 steps to the top! Once you’ve completed this “work-out”, replenish your lost calories with a serving of fries, which Belgium claims to have invented, at the numerous chip shops scattered around the city. You can even visit the Fries Museum, a museum dedicated to the glorious golden sticks of fried potato.

It is believed that the 12th-century Basilica of the Holy Blood houses a relic of a cloth stained with the blood of Christ. Whether you’re staunchly religious or simply curious, the chapel is a must-visit.

Don’t forget to spend some time strolling around the colourful and picturesque Market Square with its gingerbread-like facades. It is a fine place to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while people-watching.

By train: 1h 10 minutes on average

By car: 1h 30 minutes on average

If you’re interested in finding out more about Bruges, check out other Trip101 articles, including Can You Handle It? Bruges At A Glance With Free Walking Tour.

Fries Museum

Address: Frietmuseum, Vlamingstraat 33, 8000 Brugge

Price: 7 EUR (7.82 USD)

Opening Hours: 10 am - 5 pm

Contact: +32 50 34 01 50

Website: Fries Museum

Belfry of Bruges

Address: Markt 7, 8000 Brugge, Belgium

Price: 8 EUR (8.94 USD)

Opening Hours: 9.30 am - 5 pm

Contact: +32 50 44 87 43

Website: Belfry of Bruges

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Address: Burg 13, B-8000 BRUGGE

Price: Free to enter the Basilica. 2.50 EUR (2.80 USD) to enter the treasury / museum

Opening Hours: 9.30 am - 12 noon and 2 pm - 5 pm

Contact: +32 (0)50 33 67 92

Website: Basilica of the Holy Blood

Bruges Express City Tour from Brussels

Departure Point: Select Brussels city hotels or central departure point

Price: From 45.59 USD

Departure Time: 10 am

Duration: Around 9 hours

3. Ghent (4 EUR (4.47 USD))

If you prefer a destination that is slightly off the beaten track, and with smaller crowds, Ghent is a lesser-known gem that promises a different, less-touristy experience of a Belgian city. Home to Ghent University, the university’s students give the city a vibrant atmosphere and also implies that there is a slew of budget-friendly accommodations and eateries to cater to the student population.

You will quickly notice that the people of Ghent love their bicycles, and, with the winding canals, you may easily be reminded of Amsterdam. Rent a bicycle or put on sturdy walking shoes, as the small town of Ghent is best explored on foot or by bike. A prominent attraction is St. Bavo’s Cathedral and its iconic altarpiece, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, a complex panel painting that is only opened to reveal the full work on religious holidays. A short walk away is the 12th-century Gravensteen Castle, which is surrounded by a moat. Once a prison where prisoners were tortured to get them to confess, the dungeon torture chambers are now a museum where visitors can learn more about the grim methods of torture inflicted on the accused people.

As the sun casts a soft golden glow upon the town, walk along the Graslei Canal and admire the intriguing architecture of the guild houses lining the canal.

By train: 37 minutes on average

By car: 55 minutes on average

Learn more about Ghent in this Trip101 article: Explore Belgium: Top 5 Things You Will Love About Ghent.

St Bavo's Cathedral

Address: Sint-Baafsplein, 9000 Gent, Belgium

Price: 4 EUR (4.47 USD)

Opening Hours: 8.30 am - 6 pm (Mon to Sat), 10.30 am - 6 pm (Sun)

Contact: +32 9 269 20 45

Website: St. Bavo’s Cathedral

Gravensteen Castle

Address: Gravensteen, Sint-Veerleplein 11, 9000 Gent, Belgium

Price: 10 EUR (11.17 USD)

Opening Hours: 10 am - 6 pm (summer). 9 am - 5 pm (winter)

Contact: +32 9 266 85 00

Website: Gravensteen Castle

Ghent and Bruges Day Trip From Brussels

Departure Point: Select Brussels city hotels or central departure point

Price: from 52.43 USD

Departure Time: 9 am

Duration: Around 10 hours

4. Leuven

Leuven is the capital of Belgium’s Flemish province of Brabant, and also home to the oldest surviving Catholic university in the world. Leuven’s mascot is a statue called Fonske, with a boy holding a book in one hand and a mug pouring water over his head. This statue captures the spirit of the city with its population of university students and a thriving beer culture, i.e. attaining knowledge one good beer at a time! The world-famous lager, Stella Artois, is brewed right here in Leuven. Visit the Stella Artois Brewery and learn about the brewing process on their weekend guided tours.

After a beer or two, check out the Gothic town hall of Leuven, an impressive monument that took about 30 years to build. Take the daily guided tour of the town hall to admire the rich and elaborate interiors of the building, and spot the numerous statues representing important personalities from the city’s history adorning the outer facade.

By train: 25 minutes on average

By car: 34 minutes on average

Stella Artois Brewery

Address: Stella Artois Brewery, Aarschotsesteenweg 20, 3000 Leuven

Price: Classic Tour - 8.50 EUR (9.50 USD)

English Guided Tour: Tues to Sat 3 pm

Duration: 1.5 hours

Contact: 016 27 79 80

Website: Stella Artois Brewery

Leuven Town Hall

Address: Grote Markt 9, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Price: Guided Tour - 4 EUR (4.47 USD)

Opening Hours:10 am -5 pm

Contact: +32 16 20 30 20

Website: Leuven Town Hall

5. Dinant

Set by the banks of the River Meuse, the picturesque little town of Dinant in the Wallonia region is a relatively unknown destination to most tourists. However, its old town, backed by a steep rocky mountain and fronted by the waters of the River Meuse, is a lovely sight to behold. Dinant, whose name stems from Celtic for “divine valley”, is also the birthplace of the inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax.

One of Dinant’s main attractions is the citadel, perched high above the town on the cliffs, which can be reached by cable car or by climbing up the 408 steps carved into the mountain. More prominently, the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame, with its onion dome rising majestically above the town, is a peaceful place in which to admire the colourful stained class and ornate interiors.

If you’re looking for a tranquil getaway, away from the hordes of tourists, idyllic Dinant makes a good choice.

By train: 2 hours on average

By car: 1.5 hours on average

Citadel of Dinant

Address: Place Reine Astrid 3, 5500 Dinant, Belgium

Price: From 8.50 EUR (9.50 USD)

Opening Hours: 10 am - 4.30 pm, Closed on Fridays

Contact: +32 82 22 36 70

Website: Citadel of Dinant

Collegiate of Notre Dame

Address: Rue Adolphe Sax 1, 5500 Dinant, Belgium

Opening Hours: 9 am - 6 pm

Contact: +32 82 22 22 07

Website: Collegiate of Notre Dame

Belgium shines brightly

Don’t leave Belgium without exploring beyond the capital of Brussels. It would certainly be a shame if you left without uncovering the precious gems of towns and cities that are so easily accessible from Brussels!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Eunice became hooked on travelling 2 years ago when she embarked on a student exchange programme in Stuttgart, Germany. Among the many places she’s visited, Europe has captured (most of) her heart...Read more

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