Day Trips from Brussels

Brussels is so very well known! Ofcourse its the capital of European Union. More often than not, when people visit Brussels, esp., the expats living in Brussels for a short period, go on a day trip to Antwerp, Brugge and Ghent. After that, nothing else.......... Then they begin to visit places out of the country - Paris, Amsterdam etc. So, here are some exquisite places in Belgium which you should consider visiting before heading to other countries.
1. Ypres (Ieper): The place that made me the most emotional. Read about the World War cemeteries there, and esp., about the cemeteries of Indian soldiers. Then ofcourse there's the Flanders Fields Museum in the UNESCO Site of Cloth Hall. A walk around the city to see some more sites is definitely recommended.
2. Mons: Mons is a city that pleasantly surprised me! It has so much to see & do. While Mons itself has the UNESCO listed Belfry & the very fascinating paper Google concept and some quirky things like a iron monkey, more fascinating things are in the outskirts. One is the Neolithic (new stone-age) flint mines in Spiennes where you get to go inside the mines underground with a ladder! Another are Bois du Luc & Grand Hornu, 2 of the 4 major Coal mines which in now defunct. Another is the fantastic boating trip that touches the century old boat lifts!
3. Dinant: The birth place of Leffe beer! You get to go underground into the Le Merveilleuse caves and get pulled with a winch atop the hill to Dinant Citadel. This little town in the birthplace of Saxaphone. In the outskirts of Dinant is one of the most fascinating places in Belgium. Its a whole day trip by itself - Domain of the cave of Han (Domaine des Grotte de Han). While its wildlife park is great, the sound & light underground in the cave is mindblowing! If you're an adrenaline junkie, this is the place for you - Dinant Evasion.

4. Namur: Like Dinant, Namur too has a fascinating Citadel whose underground tour is a must. Ofcourse a walk around the city, a visit to the strawberry museum are good. If you're an adrenaline junkie, you could do speed boating or wake surfing. If you visit during spring-autumn, don't miss the Rail bikes de la Molignée & Jardin de Annevoie, between Namur & Dinant. I'd say Dinant itself, is kinda the outskrits of Namur. 
5. LiègeLiège city has quite a few things to do including the architectural marvel of Liège Guillemins railway station, 12th C bronze sculpture that's considered one of the 7 wonders of Belgium etc. In its outskirts are Blegny Coal Mine, the only one where you can go inside the mine!!! On the other direction, in the outskirts are Prehistomuseum (a day-trip by itself including caves, fire making with flints & more) and Val Saint Lambert Crystal Discovery (where you can see the process of making glass & crystal)!
6. Spa: The nature lover's paradise! Hiking the Ardennes Hills here is such a delightful thing to do. There are more than 70 way-marked trails. 
7. Waterloo: The last battlefield of Napoleon Bonaparte. Today, there are 7 spots to see in this site including the Lion's Mound!
8. Tournai: While you can walk around the city, the humongous Notre Dame cathedral is just fascinating!
9. Charleroi: I'm yet to visit Charleroi. There are 3 main things that I'm planning to see there - Belfry (which is one of the 56 belfries listed by UNESCO), Bois du Cazier coal mine (which is one of the 4 coal mines listed by UNESCO) and a short ride to the outskirts to the very picturesque ruins of Thuin Abbey.  
10. Durbuy: This little town is considered the smallest town in the world, but it has so much to do including a maze made of plants, a stone-age dolmen and so much more! I'm yet to go here. Will update soon after my visit.
11. Mechelen: Mechelen has a belfry & beguinanges, but more importantly it has Het Anker Brewery where Gouden Carolus is manufactured! In its outskirts is the Winter Garden of Ursuline Nuns which has some exquisite stained glass windows!
12. Hasselt: I haven't been here yet. The most important place here is the very beautiful open air museum of Bokrijk. By chance if you're planning to visit in July, don't miss the lavender fields at Limburg Lavedel.
13. Leuven: Leuven, like Ghent, is a youthful city, thanks to the university. Leuven Library is a definite must-visit. A walk around the city to see the unique street art & sculptures is a must and so is going on a tour of Stella-Artois brewery! You could do either Stell-Artois brewery tour or Town Hall tour that happens at the same time!
Pic Courtesy: Jérôme via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

14. Baarle Hertog: This is another place that I haven't been yet. Well, the best way to explain this would be with Google Maps! That's bits & pieces of Belgium inside Netherlands!!!!! Why this complicated border? Well, it follows the land ownership of 12th C CE, which was considered during the Treaty of Maastricht signed in 1843, to settle the borders! Today the border runs in the middle of houses and businesses!!! Can't wait to see this place myself.
15. Halle & Sonian Forest: There are 5 way-marked trails & entry points with tourism offices in Sonian Forest. So far I've been only through Groenendaal Trail. Halle, on the other hand, is best visited during April for Hallerbos - when the Bluebells are in bloom!

Things to do within Brussels:
People crowd to this city to see its landmarks - the pissing boy of Manneken Pis, Atomium & Grand Place.... Here are some more things to see & do in this city!
1. Museums - Musical Instruments Museum, Cinquantenaire Museum, Hallepoort (part of the 14th C City Fortification wall)
2. Floralia Brussels - Belgian Tulip Festival (ofcourse, its in bloom only in Apr & May)
3. Flower Carpet or Flower Time - Again applicable only if you're here in mid-August for both happen only for 3 days every alternate years! Here's about Flower Carpet 2016, Flower Time 2017 and Flower Carpet 2018!
4. Jeanneke & Zinneke Pis - While the pissing boy is famous, here are also the not-so-famous sister & dog!
5. Koekelberg Basilica - One of the 2 very unique architecture for a church that I've seen. This is Art Deco architecture! If you're curious, the other is La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona with its Art Nouveau architecture.
6. Comic Strip Walk - I'm yet to do that!


Unique Hotels to stay in Belgium:
1. Dream Hotel, Mons - It was a church!
2. La Merveilleuse, Dinant - It was a convent!
3. Hotel Neuvice, Liege - It was 3 houses of 18th C!
4. Hotel Les Tanneurs, Namur - It was a tannery!
5. Hotel Prinsenhof, Brugge - It was 2 houses in early 20th C!
6. Ghent River Hotel, Gent - It was a house of 16th C which was then a cotton mill in 19th C!

3 comments:

  1. Wow, now I have to say, I did not know there are so many lovely places to visit from Brussels, I have only heard of (as you mention), Antwerp, Brugges and Ghent. I am planning on visiting Belgium in December, although I haven't finalised the plan yet, for Christmas markets. Looks like I can add a couple of these off beat day trips to my plan, especially Spa, I am a nature lover myself and would love to do some hiking. I just hope it isn't too cold at the time!

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  3. I live and work in Ghent. I believe this is some gold digging info. Kudos to you for sharing this. At least 3-4 places are added to my bucket list and will visit before the year end. Hope these places are a photographer's paradise too.

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