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Beyond the Standard Brussels Day Trips

Happy New Year! I was wondering if anyone has advice on day or weekend trips from Brussels. I will be in the city for work this January, but have the luxury of a weekend to myself. I was considering traveling somewhere for the weekend, or, because I have a hotel room already paid for (and not by me) taking day trips Saturday and Sunday. I will have a weekday in Brussels to site see before the meetings start and visited Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp about a decade ago. I'm open to returning to one of those locations, but was also thinking this might be a cool opportunity to see another city or two in the region. Moreover, I highly doubt this is my last work trip to Brussels ever.

Does anyone have any recommendations that jump out at them? I was considering Lille and/or Maastricht. Any thoughts on these cities? Would they be workable as Brussels based day trips?

Finally, any favorite recommendations for my free time in Brussels itself?

Posted by
12040 posts

Practically all of Belgium is day-trippable from Brussels, and so are the surrounding regions of the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. You have a very wide selection of possibilities.

Maastricht is a decent choice. There's not a whole lot to see there, other than just being a very nice, livable city.

Several years ago, Gent was my choice for "under-rated" Belgium. But now that it's included in the RS book series and everyone knows about it, that title goes to Tournai, which I would rate as the best city to visit in the French-speaking Walloon region.

Interested in a spa treatment. Well, then go to... Spa.

I also like the Belgian coast, particularly De Haan, but this would make a better trip in the summer months.

Posted by
33123 posts

Hard to say, Kate, don't know an awful lot about you and what you like.

What do you like about NY NY? What would you like more of; what would you like less of?

I like Luxembourg, Aachen, Maastricht, all for different reasons.

Like saxophones? Go to the home of Alfred Sax....

Do you prefer Jones Beach or Atlantic City?

Rockefeller Center or the Village?

Help us help you...

Posted by
6 posts

Tom, thanks for the ideas. I've never heard of Tournai. I'll definitely look into it.

Nigel, good point, thanks. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of New York, and am always happy to visit cities and just walk around to get a sense of the place. I'm up for a museum (both art and history) and love a good historical site. I think its fun to tack a cultural experience on a trip, but I don't think I'll have time for that this time. I'm happy to see nature and beautiful, but am not an adventure traveler and won't be climbing any mountains.

As per New York, if its not Christmas-time I'd pick the Village over Rockefeller Center and would rather stay home and do chores than go to Atlantic City. My favorite NYC museums are the MOMA and the Cloisters.

Posted by
16894 posts

The main thing I know about Lille is that it served as the European Capital of Culture a few years ago, and probably spiffed up some visitor services at that time. The fast TGV trains from Brussels to Lille only takes half an hour and regular fare is only €30 each way, so that's doable. Lonely Planet can be one source of online info.

Posted by
7490 posts

There is a superb art museum in Lille, the Palais de Beaux Arts. Train buffs have some interest in the driverless subway. It's a very long train ride from Brussels - if you can get a good fare, I'd even consider Cologne before Lille. But Cologne is worth the overnight. (I know your Brussels room is paid for.)

There are at least two new museums in Antwerp, the MAS and the Red Star Line [steamship] Museum. However, their main art museum is closed for years of renovation. I've never been, but there is a town abandoned (as a monument) for construction of the new Antwerp port, that's only open on Sunday. Also only on Sunday, the Deurne Volksmuseum in Antwerp - a glorified "New England Barn museum" behind a good bar. That's not worth a special trip, but I thought I'd mention it. You could consider doing Lier and Turnhout in one day - they're on the same train line and not quite worth a whole day each. Turnhout has a good waffel shop on the way into town (on foot) from the train - Het Wafelhuis Victoriestraat 47. Saturday is also market day in Turnhout, but you have to find out if they finished renovating the Grote Markt since my last visit two years ago. You didn't mention Leuven, which is worth a whole day. But all this is less fun on a cold windy day. (Leuven and Turnhout both have important Beguinages, as well as nice Grote Markts)

Check and see if Saturday is Market Day in winter in Mechelen. This was the most important city in Belgium just after the cloth trade in Brugge fell off. Mechelen's beguinage is only a memory, with fragments set into the walls of new buildings on beguinage-worthy twisting streets. Important cathedral, carillon school, and small museums. A brewery, but I don't know about tours.

Note that some important town halls (Antwerp, Leuven) only have interior tours once a week, on Sunday afternoon. Tickets at the T.I. I'd call in advance. Otherwise tourists can't enter these buildings.

Posted by
12040 posts

I forgot one of the obvious (mentioned by Tim), the university city of Leuven, which is only about 20 minutes outside of Tournai. It really doesn't offer much in the way of sites that you can tour, but it's a pleasent city to walk around for a few hours. The late Gothic town hall is the highlight, but as Tim mentioned, it isn't always open for touring. If you visit in the evening, Leuven boasts a particularly large selection of excellent restaurants for a city of it's modest size.

Just in case you're wondering, the Stella Artois brewery is generally not open to the public for touring.

Posted by
11294 posts

I was going to recommend Tournai, but see that I've been beaten to it.

So, I'll recommend the ARAU tours of Brussels, which began with Art Nouveau Brussels but now cover other subjects. My ARAU tour was the highlight of my Brussels visit, and if I ever go again, I'll plan my Brussels time around their English language tours. http://www.arau.org/en/tours

Posted by
6 posts

Welcome to 2015 everyone!

Laura, thanks for the info about Lille! I'll see if I could get a TGV ticket to save a little time for traveling.

Tim, Thanks for the super detailed response. The Palais de Beaux Arts sounds great and you made a good case for a return to Antwerp. "New England Barn museum" is the story of my childhood. There does appear to be a market in Mechelen so I will consider it as well.

Tom, thanks for the extra recommendation for Leuven, especially if I make it to Tournai.

Harold, thanks for the further recommendation for Tournai. It certainly sounds like a popular choice. The ARAU tours sounds awesome as well, and quire a bit like one of my favorite parts of Chicago, their architectural boat tours.