Basing yourself in Brussels while exploring the rest of Belgium is a great idea. Centrally located, Brussels is in an excellent position for further exploration of the countryside. It is a particularly convenient base for scenic trips to locations in the center and north of the country, such as Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, and also just a few hours’ drive from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and the small country of Luxembourg. Some of the most famous tourist attractions and things to do within easy reach are the historic battlefields of Waterloo and the towns and villages of the Flanders region, where you will also find the attractions and battlefields of Ypres. For those who don’t plan on constantly packing and unpacking while traveling,
Plan your adventures with this list of the best-rated day trips from Brussels :
Read also: Where to stay in Brussels
The small town of Waterloo in Brabant became world famous for the historic battle of June 18, 1815 when the French army under Napoleon met the united armies of Great Britain, Hanover, the Netherlands and Prussia. The battlefield is located south of Waterloo, mainly in the parish of Braine-l’Alleud, and now appears as a peaceful scene of meadows and wheat fields. The Butte du Lion(also known as Lion’s Hill) rises above the former battlefield and is visible from a distance. It was built between 1823 and 1826 on the spot where the Prince of Orange received his fatal wounds. The mound was built with 32,000 cubic meters of earth from the battlefield to a height of 40 meters. At the top is a sculpture of a lion by Arthur-Louis van Geel, which weighs 28 tons and is more than four meters long. The lion stands with its right paw on a globe and looks south from where the French came. From the platform below the monument, up more than 226 steps, there is a panoramic view of the battlefield. There is a convenient half-day excursion to the sites of the Battle of Waterloo in Brussels that offers small groups (6 or less) the opportunity to visit the Hougoumont farm, Lion Hill, visit the Memorial 1815 Museum and other important sights; different departure times are available.
Location: 18 kilometers south of Brussels
The small country of Luxembourg is located in the southeastern corner of Belgium, connected to Brussels by a major highway. It covers less than 1,650 square kilometers and is home to only about 500,000 people, but it is an important political center in Europe because of its central location. Luxembourg City is home to many European political institutions, including the Secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank, the statistical office Eurostat and the Publications Office of the European Union. The Council of the European Union also holds its meetings here several times a year and there are approximately 11,000 international officials who live here annually. The Old Quarterof the capital has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its numerous historic castles; immaculately kept gardens; and forts, including the Corniche Walls , which offer beautiful views over the old quarter.
You can visit two countries in one day with a fully guided bus tour through the Ardennes in Belgium to this fascinating city. The tour includes landmarks such as the European Union buildings, Notre Dame Cathedral , and the 1572 Renaissance Grand Ducal Palace . On the way back to Brussels, the bus stops halfway in the scenic town of Dinant , where you can visit the 13th-century Gothic cathedral and other sights while stretching your legs.
As the capital of a largely autonomous Flanders, Aalst stretches across the banks of the Dender and is a fairly laid-back place, famous for its thriving flower industry. Photographers won’t want to miss Aalst’s colorful spectacle of the flower market (Flower Auction Hall), which is held every morning in Albrechtlaan. In the Grote Markt (main village square) the original Stadhuis (Schepenhuis) is a special highlight for history fiends. Begun in 1225 and now the oldest building of its kind in Belgium, this ancient sandstone structure traces the entire evolution of Gothic architecture over three centuries. The St. Martin’s Church is located a short distance east of the Grote Markt. The choir and ring of chapels in this church are the work of the famous architects Herman and Dominic de Waghemakere who built Antwerp Cathedral. The interior is blessed with a collection of excellent works of art, including the painting St. Roch and the Plague Sufferers attributed to Peter Paul Rubens, which hangs in the chapel to the left of the right aisle.
While in Flanders, history buffs will want to visit the World War I Battlefields Tour of Flanders from Brussels, which visits battlefields, memorials and museums commemorating the sacrifices made here. Location: 28 kilometers northwest of Brussels
Location: 28 kilometers northwest of Brussels
If you visit Aalst, you should definitely not go to Moorsel, five kilometers to the east. Here you will find a moated castle (water castle), which dates from the Renaissance and is built entirely of red brick. It was built in 1520 as a summer residence by Charles de Croy, Abbot of Affligem and later Cardinal Tournai. Then see Moorsel’s main church, the 13th century St. Martin’s Church , which according to tradition emerged from a 7th-century community chapel dedicated to St. Gudula. The current church contains three Baroque altars by Jacob Ulner. The countryside here is exceptionally beautiful, full of rolling farmland, so a drive in this area is a great way to experience Belgium’s beautiful landscapes.
Location: 32 kilometers northwest of Brussels
The capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is known for its almost limitless tourist attractions, rich history and cultural events. One of the city’s most famous features is the network of 160 canals that form its inner neighborhoods, including the aptly named Canal Belt . A paradise for art lovers, there are numerous museums, including the famous Rijksmuseum , with its seven million works of art; the Van Gogh Museum , with his paintings, drawings and letters; and the Rembrandt House Museum , which was the artist’s residence for 20 years. Other museums not to be missed are the Anne Frank Museum , the Jewish Historical Museum , and theMuseum of the Tropics focused on the former colonies of the Netherlands.
The Full-Day Amsterdam Day Trip from Brussels is a great option for those who want a personalized itinerary and an opportunity to explore the city independently, in addition to comprehensive tours led by expert guides. Among its many destinations, the walk includes a visit to the Royal Palace , Dam Square and plenty of time for shopping at Kalverstraat’s boutiques and the historic Flea Market flea market.
Oudenaarde (in French “Audenarde”) in southern East Flanders, where the Flemish Ardennes give way to the coastal marsh crossed by the Scheldt, is a quiet village, which has a significant textile industry. For art lovers, Oudenaarde, after Ghent, is of great importance for its impressive buildings in the Scheldt Gothic style and its magnificent Town Hall , built between 1526 and 1537 according to plans by the Brussels citizen architect Hendrik van Pede on the site of the courthouse (Schepenhuis), which was demolished. The architect followed the late Gothic town halls of Brussels and Leuven and introduced Renaissance elements. Once you’re done admiring the town hall, check out the beautiful St. Walburga Church (Sint-Walburgakerk); theBishop’s Palace , built around 1600 and one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Belgium; and the Church of Our Lady of Pamele , characteristic for its tall narrow choir windows, the corner towers of the choir and the octagonal cross tower.
Location: 60 kilometers west of Brussels
7 Domain Huizingen
For nature lovers, the extensive beautiful landscaped gardens and miles of walking trails of the Huizingendomein are an unbeatable day out. There is also a lot of history here. The first castle built on this site dates back to the 15th century, but the real expansion of the area began in the mid-19th century when the domain was created in the park seen today. Those with kids in tow will find plenty to keep the little ones happy here with a zoo, swimming pools and plenty of play facilities. Otherwise it’s just a beautiful place for a walk and a picnic.
Location: 15 kilometers south of Brussels
The town of Ath (in Flemish Aat) was founded in the 12th century when Baldwin IV, Count of Hainaut, bought the title of the area. Due to its strategic importance, he fortified it by building several castles. The 23 meter high Burbant Tower (Tour de Burbant) is a remnant of Baldwin IV’s original stronghold, built in 1168. The walls are up to 3.7 meters thick, leaving little space inside the tower. The rest of the castle was demolished in the 16th century. In the central city, the 12th century Church of Saint-Julien is well worth a visit to see the sturdy tower with its four turrets and carillon of bells, while the Grand Place is home to the 17th century Town Hall and some beautiful 18th century houses.
Location: 58 kilometers southwest of Brussels
Hasselt is the lively capital of the province of Limburg. In the center, the busy Grote Markt is surrounded by several old patrician houses. Northeast of the main town is the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Quentin (Saint Quentin’s Cathedral) built in the 15th century on Roman foundations with an interior full of Gothic frescoes. A short walk from the Grote Markt is the Church of Our Lady , which was built between 1728 and 1740 and rebuilt according to the original in 1950-1952 after its bombardment in 1944. On the east side of the city center, you will find the Museum Stellingwerff- Waerdenhof, dedicated to local and urban history. The most striking exhibit is the oldest known monstrance in the world from 1286.
Location: 85 kilometers east of Brussels
10 Laarne Castle
Laarne Castle is located 11 kilometers east of Ghent, and it’s great to combine both on a day trip. The 11th century pentagonal fortress was built to defend Ghent and was rebuilt in the 17th century. Today it has two courtyards and a large facade on the right facade and is surrounded by a moat. The interior is decorated in the French and Antwerp style; with exceptionally beautiful Brussels tapestries from the 16th century with the Emperor Maximilian yacht. On the first floor there is a collection of silverware, consisting mainly of French and Belgian silver from the 15th to 18th centuries, including a plate designed by Rubens in 1628, which belonged to the Tsarina Catherine II.
The Ghent and Bruges Day Trip from Brussels stops in Ghent for the first time, where you can enjoy a walking tour of the city’s top tourist attractions, including visits to the Castle of the Counts of Flanders, as well as St. Bavo ‘s Cathedral and St. Nicholas Church . On the second leg of the day trip you will visit the picturesque medieval town of Bruges and then spend some time in the UNESCO-listed town of Minnewater , with guided walking tours of each.
Address: Eekhoekstraat 7, Laarne
The Dutch-speaking city of Antwerp was once the cultural capital of the Belgian region of Flanders, known for its many guilds of craftsmen and artists. The most popular tourist attraction is the Grote Markt (Grote Markt) , a prominent square with the ornate Brabo Fountain , as well as the Town Hall , the Ethnographic Museum , and the Volksmuseum . Antwerp’s best Gothic churches include St. Paul’s Church (Sint-Pauluskerk) , which traces its origins to 1517, and the Cathedral of Our Lady , which dates back to 1352, while the Baroque interior and collection of art at St. James Church(St. Jacob’s Church) is equally impressive. Art lovers will appreciate the Royal Museum of Fine Arts , with a collection of more than 1,000 works by the old masters.
The Antwerp Half-Day Trip from Brussels is a great way to visit this beautiful historic city, starting with a tour of the city’s fortress, the National Redoubt of Belgium . In addition to the main tourist attractions, you will have a chance to admire the architecture of the grand 1905 Antwerp Central Station , the city’s train station, as well as time to explore it yourself.