Visiting or living in Brussels and looking for something exciting to do outside of the city? These 31 day trips from Brussels cover a wide range of different activities, from castle hunting to Japanese gardens filled with cherry blossoms or even beer tasting in a Trappist Monastery. It’s safe to say there is a little something for everyone to explore.
There is more to the Kingdom of Belgium than Brussels alone. Granted, there are plenty of things to do in Brussels but aren’t you just a tiny bit curious to see what other wonders Belgium has to offer? Thanks to the relatively small size of the country, one can easily be based out of the capital, Brussels, and set out to explore!
Not looking to leave Brussels? Find out what mischief you can get up to during a weekend in Brussels and a few hidden gems in the city you might not know about.
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Brussels day trips FAQ
When embarking on your day trip you will undoubtedly be wondering how to get around Belgium? There are a few options: Public Transportation, renting a car (provided you do not have your own) or taking one of the many tours on offer. Let’s explore the various options together
Public Transport in Belgium
Belgium has a solid infrastructure in place when it comes to public transportation (Bus-Metro-Train). It becomes slightly tricky to figure out which company services the exact part of the country you are looking to travel to as each of the three regions is serviced by different companies.
The Brussels area is serviced by both Flemish, Walloon, and Brussels local transport. Each has a different system to buy tickets and various websites to check for timetables.
Tip: Google Maps does a great job of showcasing the various different options for public transportation to get from point A to point B. Alternatively, if you are looking to purchase the cheapest tickets and have a detailed view of the different timetables look pop over to the Omio website.
Public Transportation in Belgium: Find timetables & book tickets online
Driving in Belgium
Driving in Belgium is relatively easy, roads are well maintained (as is clear from the neverending roadworks) and drivers tend to respect the rules.
Tip: Driving an electric car? Check out all the places to charge your car in Brussels
A few rules of thumb to follow when driving in Belgium:
- Legal driving age: 18
- Driving is on the right-hand side of the road
- Driving speeds depend on the zone you are driving in: City centers 30 km/h; heavily populated areas right around the city centers 50 km/h; large roads that are not motorways 70 to 90 km/h; motorways 120 km/h
- There are no toll roads in Belgium
- Give right of way to cars coming from your right-hand side, unless you are on the main road. Belgian drivers are very assertive when it comes to taking their right of way, when in doubt always slow down.
Save your pennies: Check rates for renting a car
Where to stay in Brussels
Brussels can be a bit of a maze when it comes to figuring out where to stay. This local guide to which areas to stay in Brussels (including the best bars & restaurants to visit per area) might prove to be just what you need.
Map of the various short trips from Brussels
To help you navigate the various different day trips around Brussels I plotted them on a map for you. Check out the interactive Google Maps if you want a closer look, or alternatively sneak a peek at the below image.
28 Day trips from Brussels inside Belgium
With a wealth of options to choose from, choosing which short trip from Brussels to go on might seem slightly overwhelming. Fret not, the various options have been split into five neat categories.
- Six day trips from Brussel that are great with kids
- Five magical castles to explore around Brussels
- Six Belgian cities to visit and get a feel of the diverse Belgian culture
- Six one day trips from Brussels for those who like hiking
- Five cultural heritage sites to visit around Brussels
Tip: Click on the category name above to jump directly to the relevant section in the below article and avoid having to scroll through places in Belgium that are of less interest to you.
Day trip from Brussels with kids
Looking for some fun activities to do with kids in the vicinity of Brussels? Below you will find a sprinkling of places to visit in Belgium that are geared towards a fun-filled afternoon for both young and old.
De Schorre Troll Hunting
Can be combined with: Mechelen, Antwerpen, Borrekens Castle
Location: 33 km from Brussels
Definitely one of the top things to do in Belgium with kids – go on a hunt for trolls.
The Provincial Domain De Schorre is located a 15 km ride from Mechelen and is mostly known as the grounds where Tomorrowland is hosted.
Aside from this famous festival, the grounds are also home to 7 giant (wooden) trolls. These lifelike creatures are the work of Thomas Sabo, who wanted to create 7 friends that work together to make the world a better place.
Practical information for visiting De Schorre:
Park the car on parking P1 (parking is free) and head down the stairs into the park. Right at the entrance, you will find a little map displaying the location of the seven trolls. Alternatively, head straight for the forested area and hunt them down without a map.
Relevant article: Three days in Mechelen
Can be combined with: High Fens National Park
Location: 113 km from Brussels
Durbuy is by far one of the most beautiful towns in Belgium. Located in the south of Belgium it is one of the further away day trips from Brussels, you will need a full day. That being said, it is worth the drive! In this medieval town, time feels like it stood still. Tiny houses and little artisanal shops are connected by picturesque cobblestone paths.
Tip: If you happen to visit in summer, the kids are going to love the giant corn maze located 1.2 km outside of town! Other fun activities include kayaking and plenty of hikes.
Practical details for visiting Durbuy:
There is no direct public transportation from Brussels to Durbuy. If you do wish to take public transportation it will require a combination of train and bus with a journey time nearing upwards of 3 hours (each way).
Can be combined with: Charleroi, Binche, Villers – la – Ville Abbey
Location: 70 km from Brussels
The storybook town of Thuin is a well-kept secret, even for locals. This tiny village, located on the Sambre river has a rich history that can be explored through a fun interactive urban game (only available in NL and FR) perfect to get the kids involved in a bit of history!
If the kids are into biking, 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 with kids: The medieval hanging gardens, the UNESCO classified belfry, and the Aulne Abbey
Practical details for visiting Thuin:
Visiting Thuin from Brussels can easily be done via public transportation as Thuin has a train station. Take the train from Brussels to Charleroi South, once arrived in Chareri South change to a regional train that stops in Thuin. The total journey time varies between 2 hours and 2h30 (one way).
Relevant article: Things to do in Charleroi
Can be combined with: De Schorre, Antwerpen, Borrekens Castle
Location: 23 km from Brussels
The city of Mechelen is a great 1 day trip from Brussels for both kids and foodies. In recent years Mechelen was one of the only cities in Belgium that has had a steady influx of families with kids moving in. This is due to the multitude of activities the city offers catered towards kids.
Mechelen is great to explore on foot, the historical city center is car-free and can be traversed in a mere 45 minutes from one end to the other. Marvel at the Grote Markt (main square), climb the 500+ stairs of the Sint Romboutstoren and spot the Atomium from the top.
Just outside of Mechelen lies Technopolis, an interactive science museum for kids (2.8 km from Mechelen station). In the Nekker Provinciaal Sportdomein kids can go swimming (outside and inside) or play in the large open-air playground (2.9 km from Mechelen station).
Must see in Mechelen with kids: The toy museum, Technopolis, Sint Romboutstoren, Vleeshalle, Grote Markt, swimming in the Nekker, street art walking tour
Practical details for visiting Mechelen:
Parking in Mechelen can be a costly affair and during the weekend the parking garages in the city center tend to fill up quickly. A direct train from Brussels to Mechelen runs multiple times per hour and is the easiest way to get to the city. Get off in Mechelen (not Mechelen Nekkerspoel) and walk 10 minutes from the station to heart of Mechelen.
Relevant article: Places to have lunch in Mechelen
Can be combined with: Charleroi, Thuin, Binch
Location: 40 km from Brussels
Anybody who is a fan of Harry Potter is going to love the Villers-la-Ville Abbey. This 12th-century Abbey is extraordinarily well preserved, at least part of it. Other parts are slowly being reclaimed by nature which adds to the overall allure of the abbey.
The kids will love exploring the grounds, duking in and out of the ruins, while adults might be interested in learning about the history of the abbey through their interactive app (simply scan the QR codes hung around the site). Quench the little explorers’ thirst in the Chalet de la Foret restaurant located 250 meters from the entrance.
Practical information for visiting the Villers Abbey:
Entrance tickets to the abbey cost €9, tickets can be purchased directly at the entrance.
There are two spots to park, either right in front of the abbey or in front of the Chalet de la Foret restaurant. Both are free of charge.
Can be combined with: Japanese Garden in Hasselt
Location: 80 km from Brussels
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.
For those not interested in the open-air museum the park surrounding the museum can be visited freely. Rent a bike (near P1 parking) and ride along the many bike paths inside the park. The most famous stretch of path is called cycling through water, a 200-meter bridge that traverses through a large pond of water. Bokrijk is the perfect road trip from Brussels for active families.
Practical information for visiting Bokrijk:
The park itself is free to visit, parking (P1 or P2) has a fee of €5/day. The entrance to the open-air museum costs €15 and can be purchased at the entrance itself.
Relevant article: Most beautiful places in Belgium
Brussels day trip for castle lovers
With over 3000 castles in Belgium there are options galore for a great day trip. If you are like me, and choosing but one Belgium castle to visit feels like you are losing out the answer is simply to visit various castles in one go. Thanks to their relative proximity to each other this is perfectly feasible provided you have a car.
STAY IN A CASTLE HOTEL
Kasteel van Ordingen is a boutique castle hotel with spa facilities and a breakfast spread befitting of royalty. Experience a night’s stay in one of Belgium’s best castle hotels.
Relevant article: 10 Castle hotels in Belgium for a romantic getaway
Can be combine with: Walzin Castle, Dinant, Furfoos National Park, Fondry des Chiens
Location: 100 kilometers from Brussels
Can you visit inside: Yes
The impressive Vêves Castle combined with Dinant and the Furfooz National Park make for an action-packed day trip from Brussels, showing you some of the best sights the province of Namur has to offer. The Vêves Castle is located just outside of the little village of Celles.
With towering turrets, beautifully preserved woodwork, and impressive size it is not hard to see why this castle is one of the most beautiful medieval castles of Belgium. Uncharacteristically, you can easily spot the impressive castle from the road. The current day castle dates back to around the 15th century and is privately owned by the original family!
Tip: If you like walking, there is a beautiful 16 km hike that links the Vêves castle and the Walzin castle.
Practical details for visiting Vêves Castle:
Entrance fee: Self-guided tours €8 for adults; Guided tours €65
Duration of visit: Self-guided ~ 45 minutes; Guided ~ 1h15
Can be combined with: Vêves Castle, Dinant, Furfoos National Park, Fondry des Chiens
Location: 91 km from Brussels
Can you visit inside: No – The grounds can be visited in the summer weekly on Thursday at 10 AM
Decidedly one of the most famous castles of Belgium, Walzin is somewhat of a mythical castle – perched up high on a cliff, overlooking the Lesse river. Now and then a light switches on to remind us of the nobility living in this privately owned castle.
The original castle dates back to the 12th century and was built as a military fort guarding the strategically important Lesse river. The name of the castle refers to the late baron Frédéric Brugmann de Walzin who had the castle thoroughly refurbished and whose descendants still live here today.
Tip: The river Lesse running in front of the Walzin castle is a popular spot for Kayaking. Most Kayak companies based out of Dinant offer day tours that involve kayaking around the Walzin Castle.
Practical information for visiting Walzin Castle:
The castle cannot be viewed from the street, you will need to drive down to the Lesse area to get the famous picturesque view. Type in Rue du Barrage in your GPS and follow the road until you reach a small parking lot.
Can be combined with: Antwerpen, De Schorre, Mechelen
Location: 57 km from Brussels
Can you visit inside: No
Castles might not be one of the things Belgium is famous for, but let that not stop you from exploring them anyway! Especially when they are as pretty as the Borrekens Castle.
Yet another dreamy castle with turrets, moat, and drawbridge I hear you think. Factually you are right, this one however is located in a lush forested area. The original castle dates back to the 12th century to defend the trade route between Cologne and the dukedom of Brabant.
The current day castle is very much a product of the 18th century when Romanticism reigned supreme in every aspect of life, including architecture. Gone was the fort-like appearance of the castle and in came the turrets. The best views over the castle can be found by walking around the main entrance and to the left-hand side. A clearing in the forest will give you uninterrupted views.
Practical information for visiting Borrekens Castle:
Although the castle is closed to the public, the large domain surrounding the castle is not. The forested area is a popular place for picnics and leisurely strolls. Getting to Borrekens Castle will require a car, park the car along the Lindendreef or Kasteeldreef and walk the last few 100 meters into the domain.
Can be combined with: La Hulpe Castle, Hallerbos, Waterloo Battlefield Memorial
Location: 15 km from Brussels
Can you visit inside: Yes, but not until renovations are finished in 2023
One of my favorite short trips from Brussels is to the Gaasbeek Castle as it offers the possibility to both walk in the gardens and visit the inside of a real castle. This fairy-tale castle comes with a proper moat, an impressive entrance hall perched in front of a drawbridge, and plenty of turrets.
The original castle built on the grounds dates back to the 13th century and was built to defend the area from warring dukes. Over the centuries the castle was burnt to the ground, rebuilt, ransacked until finally it was picked up by a Belgian noble family in the 19th century and thoroughly renovated.
–Castle can be visited
Practical details for visiting Gaasbeek Castle:
Castle itself is closed for renovations until 2023 – The domain around the castle remains open (free)
Visiting the castle can easily be done via public transportation though will require a combination of train and bus (journey time 48 minutes each way). The bus stop closest to Gaasbeek Castle is Gaasbeek Onderstraat.
La Hulpe Castle
Can be combined with: Hallerbos, Waterloo Battlefield Memorial, La Hulpe Castle
Location: Outskirts of Brussels
Can you visit inside: No, unless there is an event held in the castle.
The La Hulpe Castle is located on the Solvay domain, a stones throw away from Brussels. It is heralded as the prettiest castle in Brussels and as such receives a lot of media attention. Chances are high you will have seen this ivy-covered castle on billboards around the airport.
A beautiful domain is part and parcel of any castle and the Solvay Domain lives up to its reputation. With large open spaces, offering sweeping views of this castle and plenty of different walking paths the domain is the ideal location to spend a sunny afternoon picnicking or simply enjoying the location.
The inside of the La Hulp Castle was designed by Art Nouveau master Victor Horta, though sadly a visit to the castle is not possible unless the location was rented for an event or exhibition in which case an invite is required.
–Castle cannot be visited inside
Practical details for visiting La Hulp Castle:
The castle and domain are very close to Brussels. Weather permitting, rent a bike and cycle to the castle. If you do opt to take the car, ample (free)parking is available around the domain. The closest bus stop to the Castle is La Hulpe Etangs Solvay (1.2 kilometers from the castle)
Relevant article: Castles around Brussels
One day trips from Brussels for city lovers
Some of my favorite Brussels weekend breaks include visiting other cities in Belgium. Each city has a multitude of different architecture, museums, and even local dishes to discover. Although the average Belgian is not patriotic at heart, the inhabitants of the larger Belgian cities tend to love their city with a fervent passion.
Antwerp proudly states it is the center of the country and the rest of the country serves as a ‘parking space’ to get to Antwerp, locals from Ghent tout their city to be the coolest & most alternative while locals from Mechelen simply smile and say their little oasis might be smaller but much more charming than anywhere else.
Can be combined with: Borrekens Castle, De Schorre Boom, Mechelen
Location: 45 km from Brussels
Antwerpen is roughly 6 times the size of Mechelen and one of the most populous cities in the country. The city of Antwerpen has a lot to offer, making it one of the most fun day trips from Brussels. Trains run regularly between Brussels and Antwerp, with the ride taking a pleasant 40 minutes after which you will arrive in one of the most beautiful and iconic train stations in the world.
Aside from a beautiful train station, the city is the Belgian capital of fashion with renowned designers such as Dries van Noten graduating from the prestigious Antwerp Fashion Academy. The city oozes style from the well-dressed locals to the chic cocktail bars (Bar Burbur), swanky restaurants, and the much loved Kloosterstraat, the street to be on if you are in the market for furniture.
Must see and do in Antwerp:
Be sure to see the Grote Markt, where you can sit down to drink the local beer (Een bolleke) before checking out the medieval and quaint Vlaeykensgang, taking in some culture at the Plantin Moretus Museum, and finally catching the sunset at the MAS museum. On Saturday go to the buzzing Local Volgemarkt (Oudevaartplaats, 2000 Antwerpen).
Practical details for visiting Antwerp:
Parking in Antwerp tends to get very expensive. With multiple direct trains running hourly between Brussels and Antwerp, I would recommend taking public transportation (50 min train ride). Get off in Antwerpen Centraal and walk along De Meir shopping street towards the Grote Markt (main square)
Relevant article: Spend a weekend in Antwerpen
Can be combined with: Mechelen
Location: 30 kilometers from Brussels
Leuven has one of the oldest universities in Europe, dating back to the 15th century. To this day the city still has large flocks of international & Belgian students attending classes every year. Yours truly is a proud alumni of Leuven University.
Aside from the University, the city is also known for being the headquarters of the large Anheuser-Busch conglomerate who brew amongst other things the famous Stella Artois beer, right here in Leuven. When the beer is being brewed, the smell of hops spreads throughout the city making it a quintessential part of everyday life in Leuven both for students (Stella Artois is the students’ beer of choice) and locals.
Must see and do in Leuven: Visit the iconic city hall, take a tour of the university library, quench your thirst with a locally brewed Stella Artois, walk around the quaint Beguinage, and visit the Arenberg Castle
Practical details for visiting Leuven:
Multiple direct trains run every hour between Brussels and Leuven (25 min journey each way). The train station is located a 2-minute walk away from the main shopping street Bondgenoten Laan which leads straight to the Grote Markt (main square).
Can be combined with: Bruges, De Haan
Location: 54 kilometers from Brussels
Ghent is one of the top places to visit in Belgium to experience medieval architecture and cobblestones streets outside of Bruges. While Bruges is internationally known as the “Venice of the north” and attracts hordes of tourists, Ghent offers visitors the same experience minus the many visitors.
Tip: During the month of July, the city hosts a 10-day free musical festival. Open-air stages, food stands, and buzzing festival-goers ascend upon the city. The festival is a great way to discover one of the typical activities of locals in summer: Attend music festivals, dance until the sun comes up while drinking lukewarm beer from transparent plastic cups.
Must see and do in Ghent: Explore the Gravensteen in the city center, sample a typical delight called a neuzeke (conical shaped, raspberry-flavored candy), wander around the Patershol neighborhood, pop into the St Bavo’s cathedral, and catch the sunset on the St Michaels Bridge before grabbing a drink on the Graslei.
Practical details for visiting Ghent:
Ghent has a low emission zone in the city center. If you are coming by car check in advance if your car may enter to avoid getting a hefty fine. If you are driving a car with a foreign number plate, you might need to register the number plate in advance before entering the city. Park the car on the paid parking P1 (Parking Vrijdagmarkt) which is in the center of town.
Can be combined with: Gent, De Haan
Location: 105 kilometers from Brussels
Bruges is a picture-perfect city in West Flanders and – according to many locals and visitors – the best romantic day trip from Brussels. It was once the most important commercial city in Europe thanks to the direct link with the sea. Merchants flocked to Bruges and built their impressive homes in and around the many canals.
These 15th-century homes have been remarkably well preserved and are one of the main highlights of the city. The historical center is small and tends to get packed during the day. For those visitors eager to explore the city without too many visitors, try and head out in the early hours of the day or, alternatively, after 18.00 when most tour groups have left for the day.
Must see and do in Bruges: Hop on a romantic boat trip to explore the canals, walk around the 12th century Ten Wijngaerde Beguinage, experience the history of Bruges with a VR experience, pop into the Church of our Lady to catch a glimpse of the Michelangelo statue, clamber up the UNESCO classified Belfry for the best views over the city.
Practical details for visiting Bruges:
Direct trains run between Brussels and Bruges multiple times per hour. The train journey takes around 1 hour each way. The station is a 20-minute walk from the Grote Markt (main square). If you opt to take the car, park in the Parking Zilverpand (paid parking) and walk 5 min into the historical center.
Can be combined with: Thuin, Binche, Villers – la – Ville Abbey
Location: 73 kilometers from Brussels
Charleroi is a bit of an underdog in this list. Over the years the city has acquired a less than favorable reputation – an above-average unemployment rate, coupled with a serious lack of funding causing the city center to look scruffy have ensured most tourists & locals steer clear of Charleroi, including myself.
That being said, a few months ago I visited the city and was genuinely surprised. Charleroi is embracing its colorful history, clearing out the cobwebs and undergoing a true revival. With new high-quality museums popping up every few months and one of the coolest hikes bear Brussels (The 21-kilometer Boule Noire), the city has a fair amount of activities to offer.
Must see and do in Charleroi: Take a street-art tour, hike the terrils of Charleroi, learn about the mining history of the region in Bois du Cazier, visit one of the many very cool museums (glass museum, photography museum,..)
Practical details for visiting Charleroi:
Direct trains run hourly between Brussels and Charleroi South, journey time around 1 hour (each way). The train station is located a 15 min walk from the Grand Place (main square) in Charleroi. Alternatively, take the car and park in the newly built Parking Rive Gauche.
Relevant article: Things to do in Charleroi
Can be combined with: Vêves Castle, Walzin Castle, Furfoos National Park, Fondry des Chiens
Location: 85 kilometers from Brussels
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 taking around 1h45 on the train or 1h15 in the car. 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 is well protected by an impenetrable limestone wall on the east. To this day the impressive Dinant Citadel still adorns the limestone wall at the very top and the beautiful Collégiale Notre-Dame de Dinant guards the bottom. The city is the birthplace of Aldolphe Sax (you got it, the man who invented the Saxophone) and as such holds many references to the Saxophone across town.
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)
Practical details for visiting Dinant:
If you visit Dinant as a day trip from Brussels, I would suggest including at least one of the castles (Vêves or Walzin). This however will require you travel to Dinant by car. If a car is not an option, public transportation will also get you there. The train journey to Dinant takes around 2 hours (each way).
Day trips around Brussels for walking and hiking
The city of Brussels has a great spot for walking right at its heart: Bois de La Cambre and the Foret de Soignes stretches for many kilometers and offer hikers and mountain bikers the perfect training grounds near home.
Yet perhaps you are in the mood to switch it up slightly. There are plenty of hikes near Brussels that are equally beautiful, and perhaps even a bit more challenging.
Can be combined with: La Hulpe Castle, Waterloo Battlefield Memorial, Gaasbeek Castle
Location: Hallerbos is 19 kilometers away from downtown Brussels
You might have seen pictures of a forested area carpeted with bluebells, this is the famous Hallerbos or Blue Forest. Every spring (March-April) the forest floor erupts into a sea of bluebells that bloom fragrantly for a few weeks. The scene is straight out of a fairytale!
Well, sort of! The bluebell season is well known amongst locals who tend to head into the forest in droves making it feel ever so slightly like a Disneyland attraction. If you do want to enjoy the forest in peace and quiet, consider setting your alarm bright and early to get a headstart.
Practical information for visiting Hallerbos:
Aside from spotting bluebells, there are plenty of other hikes and leisurely strolls to be done amongst the ancient giant Sequoia trees in the forest.
Furfooz National Park
Can be combined with: Vêves castle, Walzin Castle, Dinant, Fondry des Chiens
Location: Rue du Camp Romain 79,5500 Furfooz; 96 km from Brussels
This day trip from Brussels can be perfectly combined with a trip to Dinant and a visit to the Chateau de Vêves. Furfooz National Park is situated in the valley of the river Lesse and contains one of the country’s foremost archaeological, natural, and geological heritage.
The park holds a large number of caves and caverns that were inhabited by man centuries ago. Explore the best the park has to offer by taking a short 4km hike along a well-indicated path that winds through caves, Roman and Medieval ruins, and beautiful natural viewpoints. The walk is child-friendly and contains a few little climbs so wear appropriate footwear (no flip-flops).
If you are looking for a more adventurous way to explore the park, you might want to check out the kayak options offered in Dinant.
Practical details for visiting Furfooz National Park:
Entrance Fee: €4 for adults, €1 for kids
As there is no direct transportation to the National Park, consider taking the car to visit. Park in the village of Furfooz and walk 1 kilometer to the entrance of the National Park.
Can be combined with: Brugge, Gent
Location: 125 kilometers from Brussels
The Belgian coastline might not be home to pristine beaches like Bali and the water temperature most certainly does not mirror that of the Caribbean Sea but it does offer healthy sea air and kilometers upon kilometers of connected beaches to walk until your heart is content.
The more well-known beach cities are a network of uninspiring buildings, drab cafés, and mediocre restaurants. If that does not deter you, the sheer popularity of them just might do the trick. If you are looking for a more charming escape from Brussels, the sleepy village of De Haan might be just what you need.
De Haan has a mere 12.000 inhabitants and contains some of the country’s most beautiful Belle Epoque mansions (The town hall, Hotel Savoyarde), and holds the yearly Belle Epoque festival in July. It is surrounded by pristine natural Dunes and 11km of uninterrupted beach, which offer a lot of opportunities for those looking to have an adventurous day trip from Brussels.
Tip: If you are looking for a light and breezy walk try the route that takes you from De Haan to Wenduine and back.
Practical details for visiting De Haan:
Car: Park the car at La Potinière in the center of town.
Train: Direct train to Ostend, hop on the Coastal Tram which connects all the coastal towns together. Ride 6 stops and get off at the stop De Haan Vosseslag.
Relevant article: Beautiful Places in Belgium
Hoge Venen National Park (High Fens)
Can be combined with: Durbuy
Location: Malmedy, 152 kilometers from Brussels
The High Fens are without a doubt one of the prettiest, unspoiled stretches of land for hiking in Belgium. It is the oldest and largest natural reserve of the country and as such the perfect day trips from Brussels for those actively looking to stretch their legs.
Please note hiking is only allowed on the indicated pathways to preserve both nature and your ankles. The undergrowth of the High Fens is made up of deep mud which at times is waist-deep, the mud is covered in carpets of mosses & bushes giving off the impression of being a flat landscape.
Traversing this muddy underground are pathways made up of wooden planks, stretching deep into the natural reserve. There is a multitude of different hikes that one can undertake in the gently sloping landscape of the High Fens, both beginners and more advanced hikers will be able to enjoy what the park has to offer. A great starting point for day hikes is from the Baraque Michel.
Practical information for visiting the High Fens:
Public transportation will take around 3 hours (each way). Therefore consider taking the car to visit the High Fens for your day trip from Brussels instead. Free parking is available, type in Baraque Michel in your GPS for a large (free) parking place.
Can be combined with: Antwerpen, Borrekens Castle
Location: Kalmthout, 75 kilometers from Brussels
The Kalmthoutse Heide is a 60 km2 national reserve stretching across both Belgium and the Netherlands. Every year in August the heather (Heide) in the park blooms carpeting the whole park in a veil of deep purple flowers. This is the best time of year to plan a hike in the Kalmthoutse Heide, although also the busiest.
Hikers can choose from 25 signposted hiking trails that range in distance from 1.7 km to a full 24 km hike. Pets are welcome to join you on your walk, although they have to be on a leash at all times to preserve the surrounding natural environment.
Practical details for visiting the Kalmthoutse Heide:
Entrance Gates: There are four main entrance gates to the park. Entry is free of charge.
Fondry des Chien
Can be combined with: Dinant, Walzin Castle, Vêves Castle
Location: Viroinval; 106 kilometers from Brussels
Fondry des Chiens dubbed “the Grand Canyon of Belgium” is one of those unique places to visit in Belgium that will make you feel like you are abroad. The raw natural landscape, jutting rocks formations and wonderful hiking opportunities are well for exploring.
Various options exist for hiking, the easiest hike starts from the church of Nîsme, where red signposts take you on a loop hike of 4 kilometers. There are various other hikes (ranging from 9-23 kilometers that can be undertaken, each hike is signposted in a different color). Alternatively, find off-the-beaten-path hikes in Wikiloc.
Tip: Not up for a hike? Park your car right next to the Fondry des Chiens (the free parking lot above the village of Nîmes).
Practical details for visiting the Fondry des Chiens:
Parking: Either in Nîmes (for longer hikes) or the parking lot right next to Fondry des Chiens
Cultural places to visit near Brussels
There are plenty of attractions & monuments in Belgium to visit that will allow you to get a deeper understanding of Belgium culture; From Trappist Abbeys to UNESCO classified carnival traditions dating back to the Middle Ages, Belgium might just surprise you with its surprisingly diverse culture.
Whether you are living in Brussels or just visiting Belgium add these cultural hotspots to your Brussels itinerary.
Waterloo Battlefield Memorial
Can be combined with: Gaasbeek Castle, La Hulpe Castle, Hallerbos
Location: Route du Lion, Braine- L’Alleud; 20 kilometers from Brussels
Driving outside of Brussels direction Waterloo, you might have come across a big earthen hill adorned with a large statue of a lion. This is the Waterloo Battlefield Memorial, named after the historic Battle of Waterloo that was fought right here, destroying Napoleon’s imperial forces once and for all.
The museum includes four different sites: The Memorial Museum (explaining the history of the battle with animated maps and a 3D film); the Panorama (a painting measuring 100 x 12 meters); the Lion’s Mound (climb the 226 steps of the mound you saw in passing and be rewarded with views over the battlefield grounds) and Hougoumont Farm (a multimedia show which includes memories of the soldiers who took part in the battle).
Practical details for visiting Waterloo Battlefield Memorial
Entrance Fee: €17 can be booked online
Location: 132 kilometers from Brussels
Ypres is a little town located in the West Flanders province of Belgium and one of the farthest day trips you can take from Brussels. Medieval Ypres was the epicenter of a flourishing textile industry, resulting in large sums of money exchanging hands and lustrous merchant homes being built in the city. The remnants of which are still on display today.
Aside from medieval architecture, Ypres is the best place in Belgium to visit for those interested in WWI. The battles fought in Ypres were a deciding factor in turning the tables in favor of the allied troops who eventually won the war. History buffs might like to take a 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.
Practical details for visiting Ypres:
Getting to Ypres by public transportation is not feasible for a day trip from Brussels. Therefore either a car is required. If you are going to Ypres to learn about WWI, consider investing in a day tour leaving from Brussels combining the most important WWI memorial sites in Ypres with a visit to Brugge. Check rates and availability.
Hasselt and the Japanese Garden
Can be combined with: Doorkijkkerk Borgloon
Location: Gouverneur Verwilghensingel 15, Hasselt; 84 kilometers from Brussels
The Japanese Gardens in Hasselt are the perfect 1 day trip from Brussels for those looking to combine some excellent shopping (Hasselt) with a pleasant stroll around fragrant cherry blossoms. The Japanese Garden happens to have the prettiest cherry blossom trees in all of Belgium.
This Japanese Garden is the largest in all of Europe with over 2.5 hectares of land. Inside you will find ample picnic places, a large peace bell, various traditional Japanese buildings surrounded by rivers, and little waterfalls that can be traversed on quaint bridges
Practical details for visiting the Japanese Garden:
Entrance Fee: €6 and can be purchased at the ticket office on site.
Location: 185km from Brussels
The abbeys in Belgium are known across the world, perhaps not so much for their devoted monks as for the Trappist Beer said monks brew. The Cistercian Abbey of Orval was founded in the 11th century and started brewing beer almost around the same time although the official establishment of the brewery stems from 1931.
The Orval Abbey is one of the few abbeys visitors can enter and look around. The abbey produces delicious Belgian Trappist Beer (aptly named Orval) and creamy cheese, both of which can be purchased in the Abbey shop. If you are embarking on a road trip from Brussels, you might want to wait to try the Trappist Beer until you get home, at 6,9% it packs a kick.
Note: The brewery itself is open on select days each year be sure to keep an eye out on the website for more information.
Practical information for visiting Orval Abbey:
Entrance fee: €7 to the Abbey cost €7 and includes a visit to the old Cistercian Abbey, the hospitality house and the medicinal herb garden.
Can be combined with: Charleroi, Thuin, Villers-la-Ville Abbey
Location: 63 kilometers from Brussels
The little village of Binche is quite unremarkable at first glance, that is until Carnival season rolls around. In fact, Binche is the best place to visit in Belgium to experience a true folkloric carnival filled with parades, satyrical costumes, and traditions dating back to the 14th century.
The Carnival processions are traditionally held Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. The highlight of the processions is the Gilles, locals dressed up in a wax mask, wooden footwear, and traditional costumes. They make their way through the center of town dancing to drum music and waving sticks to ward off evil spirits. Usually, this is proceeded by the throwing of oranges, catching an orange is considered good luck!
Practical information for attending the Carnival of Binche:
The exact dates differ each year, check the official website for the dates
Note: The town is very crowded during the carnival, my recommendation would be to take a train from Brussels to Binche.
Three day trips outside of Belgium
Embarking on a day tour from Brussels does not necessarily mean staying put in Belgium. One of the advantages of visiting Belgium is the great connection it has to other European countries. Simply hop on a train and within the hour you can be in the Netherlands, Germany or France. If booked in advance, trains can be a very affordable way to explore (€85 to Paris and back).
Go abroad via train: Check the timetable and book tickets via OMIO
Day trip from Brussels to Paris
Hop on the high-speed train in Brussels Midi and 2h30 later you get off in Paris Nord. Multiple trains run daily ensuring you can easily go and come back in one day. Read on to plan your first trip to Paris.
Must see and do in Paris: The early birds can catch sunrise over the Eiffel tower, grab a delicious croissant and cup of coffee and one of the many Parisian cafés before heading to the many touristic hotspots the city has to offer: The Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Sainte-Chapelle, Tuileries Gardens, Montmartre, Versaille.
Book your tickets to Paris: Find timetables & book tickets online
1 Day trip from Brussels to Amsterdam
Brussels has an excellent connection to Amsterdam. The high-speed Thalys runs multiple times a day from the Brussels-Midi railway station, the train rides takes around 1h30. The Amsterdam Central Station is a pleasant 10-minute walk from downtown Amsterdam.
Must see and do in Amsterdam: Museum-lovers will thoroughly enjoy the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and perhaps even the Sex Museum. Other fun activities include getting lost in the 9 straatjes, renting a little boat to cruise along the canal, and popping into the many different coffee shops the city is known for.
Book your tickets to Amsterdam: Find timetables & book tickets online
Relevant article: Weekend trips from Amsterdam
Brussels day trip to Leiden
Not far from Amsterdam, in the epicenter of the Dutch tulip fields lies the university town of Leiden. Although relatively unknown the storybook town of Leiden is well worth a day trip. Wander around the gabled houses, visit the birthplace of Rembrandt and pop into one of the many, many cool interactive museums.
Must see and do in Leiden: Rent a bike a ride around the city, explore the Hortus Botanicus or one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, grab brunch in a former church now exposition area Sint Pieterskerk and visit the Duivenvoorde Castle.
Book your tickets to Leiden: Find timetables & book tickets online
Relevant article: Things to do in Leiden
Where to stay in Brussels
These recommended hotels prioritize sustainability and minimize their ecological impact by locally sourcing their ingredients and giving back to the local economy.
Best Views & Location – ($$) Cocoon Boutique Hotel
The Cocoon Boutique Hotel is situated just a few feet from the Grand Place in Brussels. This romantic space is sure to charm as you watch the sunrise over this magnificent square. Walk to the nearest coffee shop and enjoy a chat with a welcoming local.
Location: On the main square
Most unique design – ($) Art Deco: Le Berger Hotel
Expertly decorated with vintage furniture and original Art Deco elements, Art Deco: Le Berger Hotel is the perfect pick for any Art Deco lover. People watch or treat yourself to a shopping spree in one of the most upscale neighborhoods of Brussels, Le Sablon. Afterward, take a dip in the heated pool.
Location: 10 min walk from the Magritte Museum
A cosmopolitan hotel – ($/$$) 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
I hope these one-day trips from Brussels have inspired you!
Explore more of Brussels & Belgium with these in-depth guides
Brussel: How to spend an unforgettable weekend in Brussels
Brussels: Hidden gems in Brussels
Castles: 16 Castle hotels in Belgium for a romantic getaway