A bustling and busy port city, many European travellers actually miss out on vibrant Antwerp in favour of its more famous neighbours, Ghent and Brussels. However, this would be your first mistake as the city is beautiful and well worth a wander around over the course of a day or two and is also a great base from which to explore the wider region. Here’s your guide to the best day trips from Antwerp.
If I’m being personally honest, considering the sheer number of hidden gems and things to do within Antwerp itself, I would probably prioritise getting to know Anvers itself before embarking on any day trips. In order to really enjoy the city, you’ll need at least 2 or 3 days so as to see the many museums, wander the city centre, and discover the fantastic foodie scene.
With this being said, those short on time may want to prioritise seeing a little more of Belgium by going on a day trip or even half day trip from Antwerp. Read on to discover our top recommendations…
The capital of Belgium has plenty of things to do and even more to see. Filled with stunning architecture, the best attraction of Belgium has to be its Grand Palace. Dating back well over three hundred years, nearby there are plenty of coffee shops and restaurants at which to sit and watch the world go by.
Even on a rainy day in Brussels, there is still plenty to discover; between the hidden gems and 19th-century centrally located shopping arcades, visitors won’t find it hard for things to do. Particular highlights of Brussels that should not be missed include Brussels Cathedral and the Brussels Christmas Markets (for those who visit Brussels in December).
You may well have heard of the city of Bruges before thanks to its craft-making industry, with particular regards to lace-making. Located in the North-West of Belgium, Bruges is the capital of the West Flanders region.
Highlights of Bruges include several spire-topped churches and taking a boat along one of the city’s many canals. Other highlights of the ‘Venice of Belgium’ include sampling a delectable food scene (sampling chocolates and local beer is a must- check out our Belgium beer guide here) and admiring the unique brick architecture that the city is so known for.
The journey from Antwerp to Bruges by train is around an hour and a half in each direction, making it one of the longer day trips from Antwerp in this guide. Since travellers by rail will have to change trains in Ghent, I would advise trying to see both Ghent and Bruges in a day if you have enough time.
Breda, The Netherlands
Pretty and a little off the beaten tourist path, the city of Breda is in the South of the Netherlands and is under an hour’s train ride from Antwerp. Highlights of this Dutch settlement include a historic old town complete with countless eateries, as well as a castle in the very heart of the city.
For one of the top fairytale day trips from Antwerp, be sure to head to Ghent. Filled with picture-perfect houses and meandering rivers, Ghent is the ultimate place to visit in Belgium if you’re looking for a romantic getaway. Top attractions in Ghent include a 10th-century castle and admiring plenty of medieval architecture!
Ghent is like the cooler and lesser-visited version of Bruges, which makes it perfect to visit if you’re looking to go a little off the beaten path. Alternatively, as you have to pass through Ghent in order to visit Bruges, then you might consider visiting both Ghent and Bruges as a single day trip from Antwerp.
A tiny town that’s most famous for its towering Gothic cathedral, 13th-century St Rumbold’s, the delightful little town of Mechelen is home to around 86,000 residents and is a 17-18 minute train ride away from Antwerp, making it an easy day trip via train.
Other highlights of Mechelen include the Kruidtuin botanical gardens (which are free to visit, though obviously best seen in the summer), and strolling alongside the picture perfect boardwalk, Dijlepad.
As Mechelen is not the largest city in Belgium, nor does it have the most attractions, I would personally recommend setting aside around half a day to discover all that the city has to offer. Indeed, a day trip to Mechelen can easily be combined with a day trip to Leuven.
Considering that Belgium is quite small, many cities and towns are within an hour’s train or bus ride away from one another. Those wishing to see a less touristic town in Belgium that is nonetheless beautiful might consider taking a day trip from Antwerp to Leuven.
The beautiful city of Leuven has much to offer the most discerning of visitors. By train, you’ll have to change at Mechelen, meaning that the two cities can easily be combined during a single excursion from Antwerp.
Once in Leuven, highlights include the oldest botanical gardens in the Netherlands, lots of hidden gems, two beguinages (though you should make sure to see the large beguinage if you only have time to see one), and plenty of delicious food.
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