4 Easy must-do weekend trips from Brussels
If you have decided to visit Brussels, you probably have a long list of things that you want to do and see. However, if you stay within Brussels itself, you might be missing out on some of the best activities that this part of the world can offer. If you have the time to head outside of Brussels for a couple of days, these weekend trips or day trips can be the right answer to enjoy unique experiences during your trip.
Weekend trips or Brussels day trips are so much easier to enjoy if you pack light. Avoid having to bring all of your things with you on your weekend getaway by visiting a Bounce luggage storage facility in Brussels before you leave.
All of the day trips on this list can be turned into longer weekend stays if you wish. From Christmas markets to World War I historical sites to town hall locations that are historic and beautiful, there is so much to do and see in this part of the world.
You can get in and out of Brussels easily using Brussels Central Station. You might also be planning to drive to these destinations. Make sure that you always check out the transit time to places of interest using the train or other forms of transportation if you want to avoid the use of your car. You also might not have a rental car or a good option to get one if you have come to the city on a budget.
Being able to take a little detour outside of Brussels is easier than you might think. Even if you didn't plan much in advance for these weekend trips, there are many great getaways located right by Brussels that you can enjoy. All of these lovely cities and towns will offer you access to historical sites, delicious food, and memorable experiences.
Tournai is a lovely city in Belgium that is located in the province of Hainaut. This location is one of the larger cities in Belgium, and it is very close to the French border. Found on the banks of the Scheldt River, it offers you access to things like Roman ruins, ancient city walls, museums, and delicious dining options. Tournai is a must-see if you have any time to spare outside of Brussels and you love history.
Tournai distance to Brussels
The city center of Tournai is a little over an hour’s train ride from Brussels. If you have a car that you have rented, it will take you just a little under an hour to drive to Tournai.
Our activity recommendations
The first thing that we recommend that you see in Tournai is The Grand Place. This is the square at the center of Tournai, and it is a very unique, triangular plaza that is surrounded by Unesco World Heritage sites. The 17th-century Beffroi is located here, as well as the 12th-century Civic Tower. You can also check out various historic buildings from the 1600s while you are in The Grand Place on your weekend trip.
Notre Dame is also located adjacent to The Grand Place, and this really is one of the most stunning and memorable things that you can visit when you are in Tournai. This is the most important historical monument in Belgium, and you will be amazed by the beauty of the building, as well as its various bell towers, the beautiful nave, and the Gothic architectural style that was used to build it.
For an amazing dining experience, be sure to drop in a La Petite Madeleine on the Rue de la Madeleine. This location will offer you access to beautifully simple plates that have been carefully curated by the chef. You can enjoy duck or lobster, or you might want to try the delicious grilled scallops here. There is also an extensive wine list and a delightful dessert menu to try out.
Locals will love Tournai if they want to make some time to enjoy museums and some sightseeing they might not have had time to do, and those from out of the country will have a wide array of amazing adventures to try out in this city. This is a very accessible day trip, but it can also be a good weekend getaway.
Best season to visit Tournai
Tournai enjoys a variable climate, just like the rest of Belgium. You will need to expect that wintertime visits to this part of the world will be quite cold. The ideal time to head to Tournai is late June to early September.
Brugge, also known as Bruges, is another medieval city that offers visitors a time-capsule-like experience. Located right along the water, you will be charmed by the crooked and leaning medieval houses, the delicious food offerings, and the beautiful windmills. This is one of the most charming places on this list of Brussels weekend trips, and you will love everything from the city centre to the old town area.
Brugge distance to Brussels
If you take the train, Brugge and Brussels are about an hour apart, which is great for a day trip. It will take you a little longer to drive, so you should plan for about an hour and 30 minutes of travel time in the car.
Our activity recommendations
You will want to make sure that you take the time to hop into a boat and cruise the various canals that meander through Brugge during your day trip here. This city has a bit of the feeling that Venice can offer, and beautiful buildings are everywhere all along the waterways of the city. Boats leave the jetties of Bruges at regular intervals, and your boat captain will be happy to explain what you see as you float along.
The Belfry Tower is located right at the heart of Brugge in the city centre. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the bell tower itself dates back to the 15th century. You can actually climb the tower and listen to the bells as they ring if you have good timing. You will need to plan on the line to climb the tower being long during the middle of the day, so you should come first thing in the morning to be sure that you aren’t standing around for a while.
The Torture Museum is another really fun and quirky thing that you can see while you visit Bruges. The museum is eclectic and well-presented, and you will not be scared by the exhibits. There are also some great exhibits inside about the history of Brugge that you can take a gander at. This is an underground attraction, so if the weather is not great, this is a good choice for an activity that is really fun and is warm and dry.
Best season to visit Brugge
Brugge is actually really pleasant year-round, but the best time to visit for a day trip or weekend away is in the late spring and the summer. Shoulder season, which is May and September, can be a great time to visit if you want to avoid crowds.
Ghent is a fun little university town full of charming old buildings, street food, and places to shop. The architectural beauty here is without compare, and there are many fun guided tours of the city which can make it easy to learn more about Ghent and see all the best parts of the town.
Ghent distance to Brussels
Ghent is only about an hour’s drive from Brussels, and if you take the train, you should be there in about 35 minutes. Getting train tickets for this trip is obviously your best bet.
Our activity recommendations
Saint Bavo’s Cathedral and the Mystical Lamb are attractions that you should not miss out on when you head to Ghent. This is one of the oldest Parish churches in Ghent, and the site itself dates back to the 10th century. There is a Rubens on display here, although the provenance of the work is a bit in question, as well as the Mystic Lamb itself. The Lamb is a symbol of Christ’s death, and it is the center of the altarpiece in the cathedral.
It seems like there is no shortage of amazingly beautiful bell towers to see in Belgium, and the Belfort Tower of Ghent is one of them. You will want to make sure to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and get some pictures. If the tower is open for you to climb, be sure to get to the top and check out the amazing views of the old town. Nature lovers will love the beauty of the scenery from the height of the tower as well.
If you love quirky things to see and do on a weekend getaway, head to Werregarenstraatje, the Street of Graffiti. This is a common inclusion in walking tours of the city, but you can also choose to head here on your own to see the artwork, which changes daily. A weekend or day trip is the perfect excuse to see something unique like this, even if you have to skip over the fine arts tour.
Best season to visit Ghent
April is the best time to head to Ghent because it can be quite hot in the summer. You will find that spring is overall a good season to see this lovely town, and since there is so much to see on foot, being able to avoid the heat is a good idea.
Leuven is a hop and a skip from Brussels, and it can be reached easily, even with limited planning. There is shopping, art, history, and more to enjoy here. You probably could fill up more than a few days in Leuven because there is so much to see and do in this lovely city. This is one of the day trip options on this list, but you really could consider extending your stay.
Leuven distance to Brussels
The city center of Leuven is about half an hour from Brussels, whether by car or train. This makes it an easy choice for a day trip as well as a weekend getaway.
Our activity recommendations
Be sure to head over to the Stadhuis or Leuven City Hall. This Gothic building was built in 1439, and it took 30 years to complete. The lovely turrets, flags, and towers of this building will take your breath away. There are also more than 230 statues on the façade of the building. This piece of art actually survived World War II, despite a bomb falling on it.
If you love shopping, the shops on Diestsestraat or the Bondgenotenlaan will delight you. This is a great place to look at local wares, visit designer-brand stores, or even get tea and snacks while you look around. There are also many markets that pop up here during the week where you can wander and see what the locals have made.
For those who love a creative dining experience, you will want to drop by Oude Market, known as the longest bar in Europe. This is actually a square that is lined with tables and chairs from many different restaurants along the edges of the street. You will be able to enjoy live music, affordable drinks, and really good food here.
Best season to visit Leuven
The weather in Leuven is best from May to August. You can also visit in September to avoid the crowds during the high season, but it might be a bit colder at this time of the year.
There are many ways that you can plan a weekend getaway outside of Brussels. You don’t have to head out for a few days if you just can’t fit that kind of trip into your plans. Even the best day trips from Brussels will let you explore more of this fascinating country. If you only have three days to spend in Brussels, you'll probably want to focus on the capital city itself, but that just means that you'll need to plan a return trip to the area.
Brussels is close to so many really fun adventures and places of interest. Whether you want to turn these suggestions for day trips into a weekend away, or you just want to pop into the old town for a day and then head back to the train station, you can have a great time at any of these Medieval town locations.