The best day trips from Brussels
One of the best things about Brussels is its central location and the possibilities that gives you to use the city as a base to explore the rest of Belgium. There are so many possibilities for day trips from Brussels, high time to start exploring!
Best day trips from Brussels for city lovers
Mechelen is the perfect one day trip from Brussels. It is a convenient 20-minute train ride away and will allow you to experience quintessential Flemish culture. The city is relatively small, which is one of its charms. Mechelen has all the facilities of a city yet has managed to retain an authentic village like feel to it – an eclectic mix of artisanal shops that have been around for decades and hip eateries line the main boulevards of the city (De Bruul, Ijzerleen, O.L.V Straat).
The best views over the city can be found by climbing the conspicuous Saint Rumbolds tower, weather permitting you will be able to see the Atomium in Brussels and the Cathedral of our lady in Antwerp. Walk around the beguinage to get a feel of medieval Mechelen, gaze up at the colourful 16th century houses on the Haverwerf and grab a beer at the oldest bar in the city – De Hanekeef. One could comfortably spend three days here but if time is of the essence Mechelen is one of the most convenient day trips 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 minute after which you will arrive in one 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 for if you are in the market for furniture.
Be sure to catch 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. If your day trip from Brussels happens to coincide with Saturday be sure to take in the atmosphere at the buzzing local Vogelmarkt (Oudevaartplaats, 2000 Antwerpen) after which you can cross the river via the Sint Anna Pedestrian tunnel to catch a beautitiful view of the cityskyline. In short, there are plenty of things to see in Antwerp to keep both young and old entertained for days!
Dinant is the capital of the Namur province in the Walloon part of Belgium. As far as day trips from Brussels go, this one will require a slightly longer commute taking around 1h45 on the train or 1h15 in car. The city is well known for the colourful buildings that adorn the Meuse river, which cuts through the centre of town and are 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.
The city also caters to those looking for an adventurous one day trip from Brussels with plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking and an adventure park.
Best day trips from Brussels for nature lovers
Belgium has some spectacular natural parks, which offer great opportunities for day hikes from Brussels. The activities described below are all fun and easy outdoor activities and can be combined with the activities mentioned in the section city lovers and/ or castle lovers to form a very varied day trip from Brussels.
Go troll hunting in The Schorre, Boom
One of the most best day trips from Brussels for kids is to go troll hunting in the iconic provincial domain of The Schorre, Boom. This one-day trip from Brussels is perfect to combine with a trip to Mechelen and/ or a visit to Zellaer Castle. You might have heard of this domain before, in the summer it is home to the world famous Tomorrowland festival. Dotted across the large domain – hidden in the thick of the forest, on the rolling plains and by the little ponds – you will find 7 giant (handmade) wooden trolls.
The trolls were created by Thomas Sabo and tell a story about 7 friends who want to help mankind build a more beautiful future.
At the entrance of the domain, you will find a map which shows you roughly where you can find each troll. But frankly, half the part of the adventure is going out and looking for the 7 friends! The underground is made up of soil so best to put on a pair of walking shoes or if you are graced with typical Belgian weather (never-ending rain) you will want to pull on a pair of gumboots.
Practical details for visiting De Schorre:
Entrance Fee: Free of charge
Getting there: If you are counting on public transport your best bet is to take the train to Mechelen and then hop on bus number 500 to the stop Boom Bosstraat which will drop you right in front of the entrance. Boom is a 40-minute car ride from the centre of Brussels, once you get to the domain you will see plenty of parking space. Keep an eye out for P1, this will bring you closest to the start of your walking route.
Furfooz National Park
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 situation in the valley of the river Lesse and contains one of the country’s foremost archaeological, natural and geological heritages. The park holds a large amount 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 which winds through 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 flipflops). If you are looking for a more adventurous was to explore the park, you might want to check out the kayak options offered starting in Dinant.
Practical details for visting Furfooz National Park:
Entrance Fee: €4 for adults, €1 for kids
Getting there: Rue du Camp Romain 79,5500 Furfooz
The park is approximately 96 km away from Brussels or a 1h15 min drive. If you choose to take public transport count on least 3 hours to get there
Opening hours: Summer schedule (28th March to 24th October): 10 AM – 5 PM; Winter schedule (25th October to 27th March): 9 AM – 4 PM.
Explore a lesser known part of the Belgian Coast: De Haan
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 kilometres upon kilometres of connected beaches to walk until your heart is content. The more well-known beach cities are a network of uninspiring buildings, drab café’s 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 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. 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:
Getting There: If you are taking the car, it will take around 1h25 minute. You can park the car at La Potinière in the centre of town. If you are thinking of taking the train catch a direct train to Oostende (this will take around 1h20 min) and then hop on the Coastal Tram which connects all the coastal towns together. Ride 6 stops and get off at the stop De Haan Vosseslag.
Best day trips from Brussels for castle lovers
One of the lesser known facts about Belgium is that it is home to over 3000 castles! Thanks to the relatively small size of Belgium, most of these castles are perfect day trips from Brussels. The castles mentioned below can be visited together with some of the day trips mentioned above.
The Zellaer Castle is located in the little town of Bonheiden, on the outskirts of Mechelen. Combine Mechelen and the Zellaer Castle into a romantic day trip from Brussels. The castle itself is relatively new, dating back the early 19Th century and built according the prevailing nostalgic and romantic spirit of the time complete with drawbridge and cute turrets. The domain around the castle has been around for since the 13th century and housed the predecessor of the current day castle. If you happen to venture out of Brussels on a sunny day, think about renting a bike in Mechelen and ride to comfortable 20 minutes outside of the city to visit this castle. The grounds are perfect to hold a picnic on!
Practical details for visiting Zellaer Castle:
Entrance fee: The park is free, guided visits are €4
Getting there: Zellaerdreef 1, 2820 Bonheiden (10 minute drive from Mechelen city centre or a 20 minute bike ride from the city centre of Mechelen)
Can I visit the castle: Yes, but only on the first Sunday of each month as part of a guided tour (Dutch). Be sure to book your visit through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Type of visit: Inside, guided. Surroundings, self-guided
Duration of visit: Guided tours will take between 1,5h and 2h
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 has been renovated throughout the centuries. To this day, the castle is privately owned by the original family! The good news is you can actually visit it! The castle offers a range of different tours from (self) guided to specific tours for kids and even treasure hunts making it the ultimate kid friendly one day trip from Brussels!
Practical details for visiting Vêves Castle:
Entrance fee: Self-guided tours €8 for adults; Guided tours €65
Getting there: Rue de Furfooz 3, 5561 Houyet (10 minute drive from Dinant city center)
Can I visit the castle: Yes, check for dates and book in advance (https://chateau-veves.be/reserver-ma-visite/
Type of visit: Self-guided or guided
Duration of visit: Self-guided ~ 45 minutes; Guided ~ 1h15
Dubbed the most romantic castle in all of Belgium thanks to the intricate turrets and beautiful entrance gate leading into the castle. The current day castle has been owned by the Government since 1924 who opened it up to the public in 1927. Situated a mere 17 kilometres from Brussels it is the perfect romantic day trip from Brussels!
The first castle to grace this location was built in the 13th century to defend the city of Brussels. Over the centuries the castle went through multiple cycles of destruction and reconstruction. It evolved from being a castle meant to defend the city to a summer residence of a noble family. An extensive renovation in the 19th century added a touch of Romance to the outside of the castle and a strong Renaissance Revival architecture.
Be sure to leave some time to wander through the beautiful castle domain. The domain is 49 hectares and dates back to the 19Th century. In the summer you can visit the Museum Garden for an additional price of €5. Here you get a sense of what the castle gardens looked like in the 18th and 19th century.
Practical details for visiting Gaasbeek Castle:
Getting there: 17 km outside of the city centre of Brussels. Count on 30 minutes by car, there is a small car park right outside of the castle domain. There is no direct public transportation from Brussels Central Station; count on taking a mixture of tram (line 5 Erasme – stop La Roue) and bus (line 142 Anderlecht Het Rad- stop Gaasbeek Onderstraat) for a total transportation time of roughly one hour.
Can I visit the castle: Closed for renovation until 2023
Opening hours of the Castle Domain:
Summer hours: April 1 – October 31e: 08.00 – 20.00
Winter hours: November 1 – March 31e: 08.00 – 17.00
Now if you wake up too late for an actual day trip out of Brussels but still want to explore, perhaps you can focus on some hidden gems the city has to offer instead! And if you find yourself starving after an action packed day of adventure outside of Brussels perhaps you might want to collapse on your couch with one of the cities best pizzas.
Where to stay in Brussels
Brussels has many beautiful hotels to choose from. Below hotels have great locations and are all eco-friendly choices.
- Qbic Hotel Brussels: Located in the hip neighbourhood of Ixelles. This trendy 4-star hotel is colorful, has a private Karaoke and Cinema on site and boasts a 67% lesser CO2 emission versus hotels the same size.
- NH Brussels Bloom: This 4-star hotel is part of the NH hotel group and is perfect if you are traveling with a family. The beautiful rooms are tastefully decorated with plenty of splashes of color and patterns. Make sure to check out their on-site restaurant when you go!
- Stanhope Hotel by Thon Hotel: One of the best luxury hotels in Brussels. Stanhope Hotel Brussels is a 5 star hotel situated conveniently between the European quarter and the Royal Palace
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