I'll have 3 nights / 2 days, flying into Brussels. I have already visited Brussels, Brugge, Antwerp, Gent, Leuven and Namur. Any other recommendations for day trips? I will probably book a room in Brussels for 3 nights, and take 1 side trip. Thanks.
Our most enjoyable daytrip from Brussels was to the pretty town of Dinant on the Meuse River about 40 miles out of Brussels. We easily took a train there and back. We visited the church, took the cable car up to the citadel and its museum. Beautiful views from up there. We took a boat ride on the river. It was a beautiful sunny warm day. I had 4 kids with me ages 8 to 15 and they all liked it very much. We had seen a pretty picture of the town in a guidebook and decided to go and we had a great day.
If you visit during the Christmas season, consider a side trip to Hasselt. The city itself is pleasent enough, although nothing particularly special. But "Winterland", a sort of Christmas market/ winter carnival hybrid the city hosts every year is definately worth the trip.
If not during Christmas time, try Tournai (Doornick in Dutch). I think this is the most attractive city in Walloonia, although it doesn't take long to explore.
Or, if you're there in the summer, check out some of the coastal towns. I don't find Oostende particularly attractive, but I love the little seaside town of De Haan.
I second Tom's recommendation of Tournai. However, I found almost no English there; I was able to manage in my basic French, but if you don't speak any French, you may not have an easy time there.
I also like Mechelen, which has a market day on Saturday. Nearby, and both on the same train line, are Lier and Turnhout. Lier is considerably more significant, but Turnhout is a pretty, prosperous little city, with superb woodwork in the Cathedral, an Art Deco town hall (that, when I was there, was not closed to visitors ... ) and quite important Beguinhof with a museum. They also have a surprisingly important museum of playing cards. Check closing days. Turnhout is near a corporate art collection I've never had a car at the right time to get to.
Near Mechelen is an important Nazi-era site, not a concentration camp, called Fort Breendonk. Hard to get to without a car.
Because you have been before, I would mention there are a few one-day-a-week sites in Belgium, like the abandoned village from the creation of the new Antwerp port, Leuven and Antwerp town halls visitable only once on Sunday (tickets at the TI ... ), and the dusty, obscure Volksmuseum (behind a bar) in Antwerp. There is a star-fort in Antwerp that MAY be partly open on Sundays, in the Mortsel area.
Would you consider waiting for the 2019 reopening of the very important KMSKA art museum?
If you are a WWII buff, consider a trip to Bastogne to see the new Bastogne War Museum. I toured it in September and was impressed by the historic depth of the exhibits. There's a great deal about the experience of everyday Belgians under the occupation. There are also several "rooms" where you experience parts of the siege, including a foxhole where the temperature is set really low, and the cellar of a cafe under bombardment. Getting there by public transport is laborious, so I'd consider renting a car instead.
Why not base yourself in Dinant? Dinant is lovely to explore. The inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, was from Dinant. Leffe beer is made there and they have a lovely tasting room. I concur with a visit to the WWII museum in Bastogne. We spent hours there. It can be a day trip from Dinant.
Leffe beer is made there and they have a lovely tasting room. Are you sure about that? I thought all Leffe was brewed at the Inbev Stella facility in Leuven. I know that the abbey of Maredsous is nearby off in the forest, although they don't brew the beer of the same name on the premises. I seem to recall that the on-site dairy that makes the delicious Maredsous cheese is still produced there, however.
Since you don't tell us what your interests are, it's hard to make recommendations. If you are interested in history, a Flanders Fields tour can be very moving. Also, Ostend has the Atlantikwall outdoor museum, which includes fortifications from both world wars. It's easy to take a train from Brussels and then the coastal tram from the station to the museum.
Tom, you are right. Leffe was brewed there at the Abbey. However, Maison Leffe's tasting room and museum were well worth the visit.
Thanks for the great suggestions. I'll be there in December. I have not booked a room yet, so staying outside of Brussels is an option. I will not rent a car. I'm interested in history, but most of all I am looking for ambiance- nice walks, enjoying Belgian beer, chocolates and fine cuisine.