Get out of the city and explore the wealth of culture that Belgium has to offer. From tiny villages in southern Belgium the bustling fashion capital of the country are but a train ride from Brussels away.
One of the great things about Belgium is the fact it is absolutely tiny. One can literally take a train trip from Brussels and be at the coast in a little under two hours. It might be tempting to limit your time to the starlets Bruges and Brussels, but I highly recommend adding in a few lesser-known beautiful places in Belgium such as picturesque Mechelen, quaint Thuin or Ypres filled with WWI memorials.
Being from Belgium means I am intimately familiar with the Belgian rail, and where it can take you!
This guide balances the practicalities of taking the train (type of tickets to buy, which station to leave from) as well as 16 day trips from Brussels by train, both within Belgium and a little further afield.
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Where to go from Brussels by train?
A brief glance at the map, should make it abundantly clear that Belgium is incredibly small. As a Belgian, I can confidently state that my country has a lot of problems but the trains are not one of them. Thanks to a comprehensive network of trains crisscrossing the country there are endless possibilities for train trips from Brussels within Belgium.
Add to that the high-speed network of trains (Thalys & Eurostar) that regularly stop in Brussels Midi, and your list of possible places to go now also includes the UK, France and the Netherlands.
To make things simple for you, I have picked 16 places to visit near Brussels, reachable in under two hours. A mixture of well-known cities and off-beat towns to help you explore Belgium in a more sustainable way.
Read More: Looking for more inspiration on trips from Brussels. These are my 31 favorite day trips from Brussels (some of which will require a car).
12 Day trips from Brussels by train within Belgium
The truth of the matter is, one can get pretty much anywhere by train from Brussels. However, there is little point in spending 5 hours on a train for a mere day trip. Therefore I have narrowed it down to places that require at maximum a 2-hour train trip from Brussels (each way).
5 Train trips from Brussels under one hour from the city
Looking for a short trip from Brussels that does not require ages of commuting? Look no further, this section covers five of the prettiest cities in Belgium, reachable by train from Brussels in under one hour.
Visiting Brussels in spring? Look into visiting the bluebell forest near Brussels in the Hallerbos.
Getting there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Mechelen (not Mechelen Nekkerspoel)
Travel time: 24 minutes
The city of Mechelen is one of the best places to visit near Brussels if you are short on time. A quick 24-minutes brings you from Brussels Centraal to Mechelen station. The train station is a comfortable 10-minute walk from the heart of town, de Grote Markt (main square).
Mechelen is tiny and can easily be traversed on foot in 45 minutes. I lived in the city for 10 years and can confidently boast it is one of the prettiest cities in the country. The main square is lined with colorful gabled houses, a UNESCO-heritage cloth hall, the famous Saint Rumbolds Cathedral and plenty of little bars serving the local beer Gouden Carolus.
Must see and do in Ghent: Climb the Saint Rumbolds Cathedral, grab lunch in the trendy Vleeshalle, stroll around de quaint Begijnhof, and visit the brewery Het Anker, try the best fries in town on de Korenmarkt.
READ BEFORE YOU GO: Things to do in Mechelen, a local’s guide
Getting there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Leuven
Travel time: 25 min
The station of Leuven is located a 2-minute walk from the Bondgenoten Laan, the main shopping artery of the city. This large boulevard leads you directly to the Grote Markt (main square).
Leuven is known for its university, dating back to the 15th century and one of the oldest in all of Europe. To this day the city is still home to thousands of international and Belgian students. In fact, I attended Leuven University! Aside from the University, the city is also home to the large Anheuser-Busch conglomerate, which brews some of the most famous Belgian beers including Stella Artois and Jupiler.
Must see and do in Leuven: Visit the iconic city hall, do like the students do and grab a beer on the Oude Markt, head to the Ladeuzeplein and take a tour of the university library, explore the tiny Beguinage, and hop on a bus to explore the Arenberg Castle
3. GHENT (GENT)
Getting there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Gent-Sint-Pieters
Travel time: 35 minutes
Many tourists take the train from Brussels to Bruges and skip out on visiting the most majestic city in Belgium: Ghent or Gent in Flemish. The station of Gent-Sint-Pieters is a 30-minute walk from the Vrijdagsmarkt or the center of the city.
Much like Bruges, the heart of the city is lined with gabled houses, cobblestone streets and impressive medieval architecture minus the hordes of tourists. It is also a city with vibrant nightlife and some of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country!
Tip: During the month of July, the city hosts a 10-day free musical festival. Belgians love their music festivals and spend most of the summer nipping lukewarm beer out of plastic cups while dancing. Why not go local and give it a try!
Must see and do in Ghent: Explore the Gravensteen in the city center, sample a typical delight called a neuzeke, stroll through the Patershol neighborhood, explore the jaw-dropping St Bavo’s cathedral, and catch the sunset on the St Michaels Bridge before grabbing a drink on the Graslei.
4. ANTWERP (ANTWERPEN)
Getting there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Antwerpen Centraal (not Antwerpen Berchem)
Travel time: 40-50 minutes
Antwerpen is another spectacular city in Belgium with a very rich history. The Antwerpen Centraal station is an easy 10-minute walk from The Meir, the commercial hub of the city. Before you head out of the station, make sure to check out the iconic marble staircase in the central entrance hall. Wowza!
Aside from the most beautiful train stations in the world, Antwerp is also known as the fashion capital of the country. If you are looking for a place to visit near Brussels by train that is home to chic cocktail bars (Bar Burbur), very well-dressed locals and wonderful pre-loved furniture stores (Kloosterstraat), Antwerp is definitely the place to be!
Must see and do in Antwerp: Grab a local beer (Een Bolleke) on the main square (Grote Markt), check out the medieval Vlaeykensgang, get in a bit of culture at the Plantin Moretus Museum and catch sunset from Linkeroever. Take a private walking tour of the city covering the history and the highlights of Antwerpen.
READ: How to spend a weekend in Antwerp & Best vegetarian restaurants in Antwerp
Getting there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Liège Guillemins
Travel time: 28 minutes
Liège is located in the southern part of the country. The station is around a 25-minute walk from the center of the city Place Saint-Lambert. The Liège Guillemins station is the most modern train station in all of Belgium. A paradise for photographers with all those geometrical shapes.
The city itself is small, cozy and quite charming to walk around. Make sure to try the famous Gaufre Liégeoise (a small, dense waffle with little pieces of sugar inside) or alternatively the sweet dessert known as Cafe Liégeois (coffee-flavored ice cream with chantilly cream).
Must see and do in Liège: Explore the Prince-Bishops’ Palace, hike up the Montagne de Bueren for the best views over the city, marvel at the impressive organ in the Cathedral of St. Paul.
7 Places to visit near Brussels by train between 1 and 2 hours
The following train trips from Brussels are between one and two hours each way, with the furthest being colorful Dinant. There are restrooms on most trains however food and drinks are not sold onboard. Therefore make sure to bring everything you need for the longer train journeys.
6. BRUGES (BRUGGE)
Getting there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Brugge
Travel time: 1h10
Bruges is a picture-perfect city in West Flanders and – according to many locals and visitors – the best romantic day trip from Brussels. The station is a 20-minute walk from the Grote Markt (main square).
The city was once the most important commercial hub in Europe, thanks to a direct link with the sea. Remnants of these glory days can be found in the many beautifully preserved 15th-century merchant homes which line the tiny historical center of Bruges.
Must see and do in Bruges: Hop on a romantic boat trip to explore the canals, walk around the 12th century Ten Wijngaerde Beguinage, see the Michelangelo statue in the Church of our Lady to catch a glimpse of the Michelangelo statue, walk up up the UNESCO classified Belfry for breathtaking views.
TOUR: I don’t advocate for many tours, but the guided boat tour and walking tour of Bruges is worth every penny. I learned so much about the city and found a ton of new photography spots (and I am Belgian so have been plenty of times to the city).
Getting there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train and stop in Bokrijk
Travel time: 1h50
The open-air museum of Bokrijk is located inside a 550-hectare park containing a mere 148 historical buildings. The museum depicts rural life across Flanders over the previous centuries. Hunting down the houses is a great way to combine time outside and cultural activity. It is sure to be a hit with the kids! Bokrijk train station is an 8-minute walk from the entrance to the park
Travelers not interested in visiting the open-air museum can simply enjoy the surroundings either on foot on by renting a bike (near P1 parking). The most beautiful cycling path is aptly called cycling through water, a 200-meter bridge that traverses through a large pond of water.
8. NAMUR (NAMEN)
Getting there Brussels Centraal: Take the IC train to Namur
Travel time: 1h23
Namur is the capital of Wallonia, or the southern (French) speaking part of Brussels. The train station of Namur is a beautiful 15-min stroll from Place d’Armes or the central square of the city. Namur has undergone a huge transformation in the last years and has turned into a very hip, vibrant city.
The absolute coolest thing to do is to rake the cable car up to the citadel. The ride provides the very best views over the city and drops you at the entrance of the most important landmark of Namur. Make sure to take out a few hours to pop inside the interactive museum enclosed in the walls of the Citadelle.
Must see and do in Namur: Visit the cat café, explore the Citadelle of Namur, walk or cycle along the Meuse River, pop into the Belfry of Namur and learn about local artist Felicien Rops.
Read More: 15 Unmissable things to do in Namur
9. Ypres (Ieper)
Getting there from Brussels Centraal: Take the IC train to Ieper
Travel time: 1h50
Ypres is a little town located in the West Flanders province of Belgium is a slightly farther out day trip from Brussels by train. A breezy 10-minute walk takes you from Ieper station to the Grote Markt (main square).
The city itself flourished in the Middle Ages thanks to a boom in the textile industry. The sudden influx of cash ensured the wealthy merchants built beautiful guild houses in the center of town which can be admired today. Additionally, history buffs might like to take tour around the WWI battlefields.
Must see war memorial sites in Ypres: Tyne Cot Cemetery, German War Cemetery, and many memorial sites around the Kemmelberg. Hike around the Menin Gate to spot the many signposts indicating where the battle took place. Make sure to keep some time to visit the Flanders Fields Museum which delves deeper into the role of Ypres in WWI.
How to get there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Charleroi South, and switch here to the L- train which stops in Thuin.
Travel time: 1h40 – 2 hours
The picturesque village of Thuin is a hidden gem, even for locals! I recently discovered this little bolthole on a trip to nearby Charleroi. Thuin station is located 200 meters from the central square.
Thuin has a UNESCO-classified belfry and can be explored via a very fun interactive urban game (only available in NL and FR). Discover the tiny little streets and make a stop at the medieval hanging gardens (pictured above left).
TIP: rent a bike downtown Thuin (€18 for 4 hours) and head to the ruins of the Aulne Abbey. A magnificent 7th-century abbey surrounded by a large park. Next, take the bike to the Distillery of Biercée for a drink or a local meal.
Must see in Thuin: The medieval hanging gardens, the UNESCO classified belfry, and the Aulne Abbey
11. DE HAAN
How to get there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Blankenbergen, switch to the coastal tram for 21 stops and get off at “De Haan”
Travel Time: 2 hours
Belgium might not exactly have pristine beaches like Sicily or even warm water temperatures as one can find in Thailand but it does offer long uninterrupted stretches of beach and a dose of very healthy sea air.
Skip the well-known beach towns (Ostende, Blankenbergen) as they are a clustering of drab buildings and overpriced restaurants serving horrible coffee. Instead, take a train trip from Brussels to the sleepy village of De Haan. Void of too many tourists, and filled with Belle Epoque mansions!
Tip: If you are looking for a light and breezy walk try the route that takes you from De Haan to Wenduine and back.
How to get there from Brussels Central: Take the IC train to Namur or Gembloux and change for the IC train to Dinant
Travel time: 1h50-2h15
Dinant is the capital of the Namur province in the Walloon part of Belgium. As far as short trips from Brussels go, this one will require a slightly longer commute. The train station is located a 10-minute walk from the main square.
The city is well known for the colorful buildings that adorn the Meuse River, which cuts through the center of town and is an excellent spot to chill out during sunset. The Medieval city center is protected by large limestone cliffs, upon which the Dinant Citadel is neatly perched. Walking through town you will see many multicolored Saxophones and an ode to Aldolphe Sax, who was born right here in the city.
Must see and do in Dinant: Visit the Dinant Citadel & the Notre-Dame church, learn about the Saxophone in the Aldolphe Sax Museums or go hiking, kayaking on the Lesse river (around to the Walzin Castle for example)
TOUR: Getting to Dinant will require a bit of time on the train and cost at least €2O/person with th. A worthy and pretty affordable alternative is to book a tour from Brussels to Luxembourg which includes a visit to Dinant.
4 Easy train trips from Brussels to other countries
The beauty of Brussels is that it is smack on the high-speed international train route connecting Amsterdam to Paris and London. Jump on the Eurostar in Brussels Midi to get to London (2h) or the Thalys, also in Brussels Midi, heading north to Amsterdam (1h30) or alternatively heading south to Paris (2h) or Luxembourg (3h). Be mindful of the fact these train tickets need to be bought in advance!
PRACTICAL: For train travel from Brussels to Schengen countries, you will not need to show your passport before getting on the train. If you take the train to the UK however, you need to have a valid passport as the UK is no longer part of the Schengen region since Brexit.
Useful information: Check the latest timetables and book your tickets for both domestic and international trains online.
READ: Guide to Public Transport in Amsterdam
Taking the train from Brussels to Amsterdam is super easy. The high-speed Thalys run between Brussels-Midi railway station and Amsterdam Centraal multiple times a day. The total ride time is around 1h30, once you get to Amsterdam Centraal simply walk 10 minutes to downtown Amsterdam.
Depending on how far in advance you book, the Thalys trains can get expensive. If you have a bit more time on your hands take the Intercity Direct train between Brussels Midi and Amsterdam Centraal. It stops in Antwerp before hitting Amsterdam Centraal and takes about 3 hours versus 1h30 with the Thalyse. No reservations are needed in advance for this train.
Must see and do in Amsterdam: First-time travelers will want to explore the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House. Rent a bike and cruise around the 9 straatjes, rent a little boat to cruise on the canals or pop into a cheeky coffee shop.
Book your tickets to Amsterdam: Find timetables & book tickets online
The high-speed train (Thalys) from Brussels Midi to Paris Nord takes 2h30 and runs multiple times a day. This connection tends to get very expensive, so make sure to book well in advance to avoid paying €200 for a ticket! A day trip from Brussels to Paris by train is reasonably common for Belgians who are looking to get in a bit of shopping or visit a museum in Paris.
TIP: Get the most out of your day trip and book your tickets for museums & monuments in advance to avoid having to cue. Be smart & get your tickets.
Must see and do in Paris: There is so much to see in Paris! See the sunrise at the Eifel Tower, have breakfast on a delicious croissant in one of the many Parisian Cafés or simply indulge in the abundance of tourist hotspots including The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Sainte-Chapelle, Tuileries Gardens, Montmartre, the castle of Versaille. Or hunt down the very best Instagram spots in Paris.
Book your tickets to Paris: Find timetables & book tickets online
Getting to Aachen by train from Brussels is super easy and fast with the high-speed ICE or Thalys trains, yep that’s right there are two options that get you from A to B in 1h30. Both require tickets to be booked in advance.
Must see and do in Aachen: Aachen is located in Western Germany, very close to the Belgian border. Visitors can explore the stunning Aachen Cathedral, soak in the thermal waters at Carolus Thermen, stroll through the historic Old Town and try delicacies like Printen cookies (yuhm!).
Book your tickets to Aachen: Find timetables & book tickets online
The high-speed train from Brussels Midi to London Kings Cross takes around 2 hours from door to door. Multiple trains run daily, tickets need to be booked in advance. There is a specific Eurostar counter in Brussels Midi (by platform one) where passengers check-in and go through passport control. Since Brexit, passport controls are stricter. Make sure to come at least one hour before boarding starts.
TIP: Avoid having to stand in line everywhere, losing precious time during your day trip. Book your tickets for the main monuments and sites in advance. Be smart & get your tickets.
Must see and do in London: First-time visitors can take a ride on the London Eye, see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, explore the British Museum, walk along the Thames, enjoy a show in the West End, and visit the Tower of London.
Book your tickets to London: Find timetables & book tickets online
Where to stay in Brussels
READ: Detailed guide of which areas to stay in Brussels – written by a local
Spending a few days exploring Brussels and its surroundings and looking for a sustainable hotel or locally run B&B to sleep in? Here are a few of my favorite options for various budgets.
The Cocoon Boutique Hotel is situated just a few feet from the Grand Place in Brussels. This romantic space is sure to charm as you watch the sunrise over this magnificent square. Walk to the nearest coffee shop and enjoy a chat with a welcoming local. Location: On the Grand Place
UNIQUE DESIGN: Art Deco: Le Berger Hotel
Expertly decorated with vintage furniture and original Art Deco elements, Art Deco: Le Berger Hotel is the perfect pick for any Art Deco lover. People watch or treat yourself to a shopping spree in one of the most upscale neighborhoods of Brussels, Le Sablon. Afterward, take a dip in the heated pool.
Location: 10 min walk from the Magritte Museum
TRENDY NEIGHBORHOOD: Moxy Brussels City Centre
The trendy and modern Moxy hotel is a worldwide chain that consistently provides guests with an excellent experience. They provide some of the best breakfast in town. Plus, Moxy is a stone’s throw from bars & restaurants. Perfect for a night out on the town.
Location: In the safest neighborhood of Brussels – Ixelles/Elsene
The various train destinations from Brussels on a map
Have a look at the interactive Google Map to get an idea of where the various train trips from Brussels discussed above are located. Yellow pins are under one hour from Brussels while red pins are under two hours from the city.
Train travel from Brussels – The practicalities
Before delving into the various train destinations from Brussels, let’s first cover the practicalities of actually getting on the train. If you are already familiar with the Belgian trains, I suggest you skip this section and head straight for the day trips.
Train stations in Brussels
Brussels has three train main stations, all trains aside from the high-speed international trains will stop at the three stations.
BRUSSELS NOORD (NORTH): The smallest of the three stations, located in the northern part of the city.
BRUSSELS CENTRAAL (CENTRAL): The central station is the closest to the historical center, a 5-minute walk from the Grand Place.
BRUSSELS MIDI (SOUTH/ZUID): The largest of the three stations and the only train station in Brussels where the international trains stops (Thalyse/ICE/Eurostar). This train station gets hairy at night, best not hang around her alone when it is dark and late at night.
Types of trains to take from Brussels
LOCAL TRAIN (L): A slower train that makes stops at all stations between the larger cities. They are great for quick trips from Brussels to smaller cities. Tickets can be bought right before boarding the train, no prior reservation needed. These are domestic trains.
INTERCITY (IC): A fast train that makes limited stops between the larger cities. Tickets can be bought right before boarding the train, no prior reservation needed. These are usually domestic trains (the exception is the slow train between Brussels-Amsterdam).
PEAK TRAIN (P): These trains run during peak travel times and stop at smaller cities.
EUROSTAR/ THALYS/ICE: Highspeed trains connecting Brussels to the Netherlands (Amsterdam), France (Paris) and the UK (London). These trains require a prior reservation and are international trains.
Purchasing tickets & taking the train in Brussels
How to purchase train tickets
Traveling around Brussels on the train requires you to purchase a train ticket, in advance. Tickets that are bought on the train are subject to an additional fee of €7, regardless of the destination.
Tickets can be purchased in a variety of ways: Online, inside the stations from the blue and white vending machines or from the service desk inside the station. The machines accept cash and (credit) cards – Visa & Mastercard.
Types of train tickets in Brussels
During the weekend (Friday evening until Sunday evening), tickets are half-price. If you are purchasing tickets at the vending machine, make sure to choose the option “weekend ticket” as the machine will not automatically give you the correct price.
If you are planning on taking multiple day trips from Brussels by train, consider looking into purchasing a “10-ride card”. This formula cost €95 for 10 rides, or €9.5/ride, which if you are traveling to places like Ghent, Brugge and further is worth considering. This pass is valid for a full year.
Finding the right track
The various trains with their arrival times & platforms are indicated on the large overhead screens at the entrance of each station. Check the timetable and which train to take online (or via Google Maps). Once you get on the train the stops of the train will be indicated on a small screen, usually located above the seats next to the door. “Verwachte aankomsttijd” means estimated time of arrival while “Spoor” means platform.
Useful information: Check the latest timetables and book your tickets for both domestic and international trains online.
Where to store your luggage when exploring places around Brussels
Despite being a capital city, there are not a huge amount of places to store your luggage in Brussels. Your best bet is to head either to Brussels Centraal (central station) or Brussels Midi (south station) and use the locker facilities here. Book online or head to the locker section at the station immediately. Payment is done by (credit) card or coins.
INSIDE BRUSSELS MIDI: Head in the direction of platform 6. There is a section of lockers in this part of the station (right opposite the bathroom). Prices start at €4/day for a small locker and €12/day for larger lockers for automatic storage. Storage is accesible 24/7
MORE LUGGAGE STORAGE PLACES: Alternatively, check Nannybag which is slightly more expensive but has more locations to drop off your bag (payment is done online, in advance).
To conclude on train trips from Brussels
There are plenty of places to visit near Brussels by train. If you happen to be visiting Brussels, calculate a few additional days to explore the rest of the country. The beauty of Belgium is how compact it is and the very easy-to-use Belgian rail. In practice, it means you can easily base yourself out of Brussels to visit the rest of the country.
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING BELGIUM
Belgium: Most beautiful places in Belgium for your bucketlist
Belgium: 16 Castles you can sleep in Belgium
Travel Guide: An awesome one-day guide to Brussels
Travel Guide: Weekend in Brussels
Travel Guide: Hidden Gems in Brussels
Travel Guide: 31 Day trips from Brussels
Accommodation Guide: Which areas to stay in Brussels and which ones to avoid
Food Guide: Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurants in Brussels
Food Guide: Best brunch places in Brussels
The rail network in Europe is such a great way to travel. Day trips by train are a great way to see more places without having to pack up all your stuff and move from hotel to hotel every day!
i absolutely love exploring by train. These looks like do.e really great day trips from Brussels