5 Cities Beyond Brussels
Belgium

5 Must-see Cities Beyond Brussels

Although a small country, Belgium offers an immense amount of diversity. From its dual languages of mostly French and Dutch (and small contingent of German) to its varied landscapes of rural, small villages and UNESCO World Heritage Sites to its medieval to modern architecture and street art to its varied cuisine of beer, chocolate, waffles and frites; all of which they are so famous for. Belgium offers a little bit of everything to its visitors and is a very cost-effective destination compared to France or Italy.

While most people who visit Belgium are likely to spend most of their time in Brussels, there are many more wonderful cities to visit that are just as spectacular. Beyond Brussels, here are 5 others that make for an amazing day trip that you don’t want to miss. 

Antwerp

Antwerp. 5 must-see cities beyond Brussels

One of the best reasons to visit this large city is the shopping! Truth be told, I love to shop and this city definitely earns its status as a fashion city. Everything is within walking distance and you could easily spend an entire day, if not more, just shopping. And, of course it has a large and lively market square. Many travelers say that the train station in Antwerp is one of the best in Europe.  

Here is a quick breakdown of the 6 main shopping zones in the city:

  1. Historic City Center – contains 2 inside shopping centers, the nicest being Stadsfeestzaal with its glass dome with gold leaf and the largest being the Grand Bazar.
  2. Meir – all within the historical buildings in the traffic-free zone houses some of the major European chain stores.
  3. Station District – is located by the massive metro/train station and is closest to the city’s china town, including unique small boutiques and a kilometer-long row of diamond stores.
  4. Quartier Latin – is where you will find the luxury brands interspersed with some small boutiques, cafés and restaurants.
  5. Fashion District – it is where up and coming and established fashion designers open their shops.
  6. Wilde Zee – it is five traffic-free streets that flow into one another and where you will find exclusive shops (for foodies, home décor or fashion). 
Antwerp. 5 Cities Beyond Brussels

Being a big city, there are so many choices for food and drink. We always try and look for those cute little alleyways that are hidden away from the busy city center. Like the one below, a quite respite from the busy streets. 

Antwerp. 5 must-see cities beyond Brussels

Bruges

Bruges. 5 Cities Beyond Brussels

This waterborne city where a large network of canals with cobblestone bridges lined with trees and historical homes make this a romantic city. It is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ for that very reason. The city’s central square has an incredible display Gothic architecture. Many buildings were rebuilt in the 16th century or later, but the Stadhuis, Belgium’s oldest town hall, is an original building built in 1376. 

Bruges. 5 Cities Beyond Brussels

The best way to take in the city is by boat, as you duck under the many low hanging and narrow bridge ways but able to leisurely take in all of the glorious architecture.  

Bruges. 5 must-see cities beyond Brussels.

Dinant

Dinant. 5 must-see cities beyond Brussels | Dream Plan Experience

This is such a picturesque small city with the River Meuse running right through the middle of it. The Collegiale Notre Dame de Dinant is the main landmark as a 13th-century Gothic cathedral with an iconic 16th-century pear-shaped bell tower. It is truly an amazing structure and is perfectly back-dropped by the cliff behind it where the town’s citadel sits. Guarding the city below is the fortress built in 1815 fortress. 

Dinant. 5 Must-See Cities Beyond Brussels

To ascend, get ready for the 400-step climb (or can take cable car) and you will be awarded with fantastic 360 degree views.

Dinant. 5 must-see cities beyond Brussels.

Ghent

Ghent is a must see destination just outside of Brussels | 5 Cities Beyond Brussels | www.dreamplanexperience.com

This is one of the best-preserved medieval cities with beautiful historic homes, churches and guildhalls. The long winding cobblestone streets, that are car free, lead you to a spectacular city center with an open pavilion designed by architects Robbrecht & Daem and Marie-Jose Van Hee. The roof structure with its use of glass, wood and concrete is impressive. 

Ghent. 5 must-see cities beyond Brussels.

Overlooking the city center is the tallest Belfry in Belgium, at 91 meters; along with two others, one in Saint Bavo Cathedral and the other in Saint Nicholas’ Church. 

Ghent. 5 Must-See Cities Beyond Brussels

Leuven

Leuven. 5 must-see cities beyond Brussels.

The most impressive building in this university town would be the Stadhuis (town hall). Its amazing turrets, Gothic stonework and flags. The city center square offers a weekly flower and food market on Thursdays or artisan market on Saturdays. Or why not just sit and people watch in one of the many restaurants or cafés lining the square. Leuven is also home to the most well-known Belgium beers, Stella Artois, where you can tour the brewery.

Leuven. 5 Must-See Cities Beyond Brussels

As a holidaymaker…

Belgium often gets overlooked by travellers, it really shouldn’t. If you were to make Brussels your home base, rent a car, and travel to some of the most picturesque places outside of city. That includes the bordering Germany, Netherlands and France.  

Looking for cities in close proximity to Brussels? Here are 5 that will make a great day trip.

19 Comments

  • Emma

    I visited Belgium a few years ago and spent time in Brussels and Bruges. I hope to get back though and see some more places. I think Ghent would be my next stop. Beautiful country and I found it very easy to get around by train

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks for stopping by Emma, and your comment. Many people stay in Ghent for a weekend, as there is much to see and do while there. Hopefully you are able to return and see it.

  • Riana Ang-Canning

    I love this list! I visited Antwerp for the second time in 2018 and loved it. Just the train station alone was enough to wow me. Leuven looks amazing – especially that Stadhuis. Adding to my must-visit list!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Riana for your comment. Leuven is such a beautiful city, I think most tourists stay away because it is a university town, full of young people. But I loved it!

  • Gus Feliciano

    Ugh I miss Belgium so much! I did a weekend trip while in Europe and fell in love with Bruges! It was my first time in Europe but to this day that might be my favorite city in Europe so far. We spent about half a day in Antwerp and the shopping is no joke!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Gus for your comment. Did you see the Antwerp train station? It must be one of the best ones in Europe.

  • Justine

    We loved Belgium when we went last year but only got to see Brussels, Bruges and Ghent. Would love to go back and see Antwerp and Dinant next time though, so thank you for the tips! 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Justine. Wasn’t Belgium a great destination to visit- close proximity to so many great places to visit?

  • Steph

    What an amazing list! It made me realize how many places I still have to explore right at my front door. Belgium is so close to where I grew up (and still spend a lot of time), but I have never been to any of the five cities on this list. It’s always been one of those ‘one day’ things, but I guess I should finally visit them.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Wow! To think I brought something new to a local! Thanks for your comment Steph. Glad to have given you some new options to explore.

  • Hannah Eunice Padilla

    I so wanted to go to Brugge when I was in London and Paris in October. But we didn’t have enough time, we had 4 days in the UK and 3 days in Paris. I’m from the US so I am really sad not knowing when we will ever go back especially with the coronavirus cases 🙁

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Hannah. Brussels makes for such a good home base for exploring many cities in Belgium as it is a small country in size and very easy to use the train. Hopefully you can return to Europe soon.

  • Dominika

    Such a great post! I love discovering second and third cities and lesser known destinations. I haven’t been to Belgium yet so might need to add it to my list as those cities look gorgeous!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks for stopping by Dominika! Glad the post inspired you to rethink Belgium. It’s a great destination, and central spot in Europe to see beyond.

  • Sarah

    I’ve only been to Brussels so far since I have family there so free accomodation, but I definitely want to explore more of the country next time I visit! Most of these places were already on my list, but I’d not heard of Dinant before and absolutely adore that photo so it’s gone straight onto my to-visit list!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      How lucky you are to have family there. I would highly recommend Dinant. It is a hidden gem for sure! Thank you for your comment.

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