Excursions from Bruges: the best day trips around Bruges

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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One of the most beautiful cities and absolutely to visit in Flanders is certainly Bruges: proclaimed a World Heritage Site by Unesco, it is known worldwide as the "Venice of the North", but whoever wants to know the immediate surroundings of this fairy-tale place must also know that a few kilometers from it there are as many cities not to be missed such as Damme, with its medieval flavor, or the ancient Ostend overlooking the North Sea, the unlimited natural landscapes of the famous Zwin Reserve or the town of Ghent with its ancient bridges, canals and churches.
We therefore propose the best day trips around the city of Bruges.


  1. Damme
  2. Ghent
  3. Ostend
  4. Zwin Nature Reserve
  5. Mechelen
  6. Ypres
  7. Antwerp
  8. Leuven
  9. Kortrijk
  10. Brussels
  11. User questions and comments

1 - Damme

Just 6 kilometers from the city of Bruges, lies this ancient Flemish city unique for its typical medieval context, picturesque and very particular with its central square where there is also the town hall, the true heart of this village, but also the Sint-Janshospitaal dating back to 1249, the De Grote Sterre (ancient house of the fifteenth century), which together with its delightful little shops and cafes make this place unique and a must visit.
Other attractions not to be missed include the Onze Lieve Vrouw church which stands out in the landscape with its 45 meter high tower on which you can climb to admire the surrounding landscape, the city walls and the ancient windmill.

  • Range: 6,5 km
  • by bicycle (21 minutes) thanks to the efficient cycle paths that connect it to Bruges just 7 km away. Alternatively it is advisable to use a car which will take you 15 minutes to reach it - Get directions
  • the city is always accessible
  • admission to the Sint-Janshospitaal costs € 12,00, free admission to the Onze Lieve Vrouw church

2 - Ghent

In Dutch Gent, is an important port city famous for its museums, art galleries and romantic canals navigable, in fact it rises right between the Lys and Schelda rivers.
Among the things not to be missed is the Beffroi, a medieval civic tower, which has become a Unesco heritage since 1999, and the Baroque-style cathedral of San Bavone with its particular stained glass windows. Then there is the castle of the Counts of Flanders, the typical medieval environment of the Patershol district full of small and particular shops, historic buildings and excellent restaurants.

The typicality of this locality is evident above all in its particular panoramic views visible when you cross its bridges, including that of Grasburg, which has become famous because it overlooks the old fish market, the Lys canal, the church of San Michele and the buildings of the Graslei bank.

  • Range: 41,1 km
  • it is about 41,1 km away, by car it will take about 45 minutes along the E40; train takes 26 minutes (€ 8,80) - Get directions
  • the city is always accessible. For timetables of Ghent's top attractions, see 10 Things to See in Ghent
  • Beffroi € 3,00 per adult, € 0,90 up to 15 years, free up to 7 years; the cathedral of San Bavone is free; the castle of the Counts from 26 to 64 years € 6,00, from 19 to 25 years € 10,00, over 65 and large groups € 7,50, free for minors
  • guided boat tour in the medieval center 40 minutes cruise of the city center

3 - Ostend

It is a beautiful city that was born in ancient times on the North Sea, originally a small fishing village, today the culmination of atmospheres rich in ancient traditions and renewed modernity. Do not miss the Koninklijke Gaanderijen (royal gallery), a colonnade made of columns that rises over the sea along the beauty of 400 meters, the LeopoldPark, the Mu.Zee museums and the Stadsmuseum Oostende, famous home of the painter James Ensor, emblematic of life of the society that inhabited the city of Ostend in the first decades of the twentieth century.

You also need to know that the most beautiful church in this city is the cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, built in 1907 is a huge particular building with its neo-Gothic style stands out from the others for its characteristic spiers and decorated windows. This city is also linked to the singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye: his splendid album Midnight Love seems to have been born after the latter's stay in this splendid Flemish city.

  • Range: 22,7 km
  • it is about 22,7 kilometers away, if you choose to reach it by car it will take you about 30 minutes along the E40 and A10; by train it will take 14 minutes (€ 6,40) - Get directions
  • the city is always accessible
  • Koninklijke Gaanderijen and Leopoldpark for free; Mu.Zee for adults € 9,00, € 7,50 for groups of 15 pax, over 65 and between 13 and 26 years € 1,00, free up to 12 years; Stadsmuseum adults € 4,00, up to 18 years free, for students, over 65 and the disabled € 2,00; free cathedral

4 - Zwin Nature Reserve

It is made up of swamps, salty meadows, woods, all dream places and ideal for lovers of long walks, but also perfect for cycling enthusiasts. Internal protection many species of birds among which storks and herons stand out. Located between the Netherlands, Holland and Belgium, most (125 hectares) is located in the latter.

An excursion to this place is also suitable for lovers of sustainable tourism, the sea, and unusual environments; visiting it is a particularly interesting experience, even more for children thanks to the interactive museum included in the reserve. The best season to discover it is autumn.

  • Range: 22,7 km
  • it is 30 minutes by car via the N376 and entry includes passage through the state of the Netherlands - Get directions
  • open every day from 10:00 to 18:00
  • admission for adults is € 12,00, € 5,00 for children who have not turned 17 and free for children who have not turned 5

5 - Mechelen

It's a renowned destination of Flanders: it includes about 300 monuments and buildings (most of which can be visited) among which the churches of Baroque and Gothic style stand out; own here is the oldest Belgian brewery, Het Anker, but also the famous Grote Markt, the particular "Market Square" where you will find the Gothic-style town hall, or a complex of various buildings that includes the Belfort, the Grand Council Palace and the Textile Market. Also particular is the Cathedral of San Rumbold (in Flemish Sint-Romboutskathedraal) built in the period between 1200 and 1530, majestic and spectacular with its bell tower 100 meters high and recognized as a UNESCO heritage.
Even children will have a special fun in this city: you can go for example to the toy museum or to the Technopolis technological education center.

  • Range: 101 km
  • it is 1 hour and 30 minutes by car along the E40; by train in 1 hour and 21 minutes with IC1814 getting off at Gent-Sint-Pieters stop, from here take train IC4114 to Mechelen (€ 14,00) - Get directions
  • the city is always accessible
  • free St. Rumbold's cathedral; museum of toys for adults € 6,50, over 65s and students € 5,50; technopolis adults and children from 12 years € 17,00, up to 4 years free, from 4 to 11 years € 13,50

6 - Ypres

This town lends itself to being the ideal place for lovers of holidays and travel not only in the name of relaxation and culture, but also for those who are history buffs: this city, unfortunately, it was the scene of the First World War. After the 5 battles that razed it to the ground, it was almost faithfully reconstructed and today it gathers a large number of museums, war cemeteries, statues, memorials and churches, places where every year the victims who lost their lives in occasion of world conflict.

Among the sites not to be missed we recommend the characteristic market square (Grote Markt), which still today is home to an interesting weekly market, and wonderful buildings emblematic of medieval and Renaissance styles, also interesting is the In Flanders Fields museum located inside the historic Lakenhalle building and which traces some parts of the First World War as lived by the Belgian people. The church of St-Maarten en St-Niklasskerk located just behind the Lakenhalle is also worth a visit.

  • Range: 49,5 km
  • it is 55 minutes by car along the E403; the train takes 1 hour and 45 minutes with IC2309 getting off at Courtrai / Kortrijk, then with the IC 709 you get to Ypreso (€ 12,00) - Get directions
  • the city is always accessible
  • In Flanders Fields museum for adults € 9,00, between 7 and 18 years € 4,00, between 18 and 25 years € 5,00, up to 7 years free; free churches
  • Battlefields of Flanders: tour from Bruges

7 - Antwerp

Capital of the homonymous province, is the best known and most important city in Flanders and boasts numerous historic buildings in the Gothic style. You absolutely must not miss the Rubenshuis, home of the Flemish painter Rubens, where you can still find some works by the artist, then the Grote Mark (market square) in whose center the majestic fountain of Brabo will surprise you and around the town hall and the building of the Ancient Corporations of Arts and Crafts; these last buildings are however faithful reconstructions following a big fire in 1587 and another in the th century.

Very particular also the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady, declared Unesco heritage: it is majestic with its 7 naves, tall and colorful windows, a gigantic organ, all enriched by an exhibition of works by Rubens. Among the historic buildings there is also the castle of Het Steen, a medieval fortress located on the bank of the Schelde, was the city's prison and today houses the National Navigation Museum.

  • Range: 88,8 km
  • it is 1 hour and 40 minutes by car along the E40 and E17; the train takes 1 hour and 25 with IC512 getting off Ghent-Saint-Pierre, from here take IC734 getting off at Anvers-Central (€ 12,00) - Get directions
  • the city is always accessible
  • Rubenshuis € 8,00 between 26 and 65, € 6,00 from 12 to 25, over 65, free up to 12 years, disabled and school groups; Cathedral of Our Lady adults € 6,00, for groups of at least 20 people, students and over € 4,00, free under 12 years
  • Highlights of Antwerp: 2-hour bike tour

8 - Leuven

Known as Leuven, it is a famous Belgian university city that enjoys a beautiful location next to the banks of the Dijle; Erasmus of Rotterdam and Justo Lipsio taught here and it still conserves much of its original architectural heritage to this day. Here too the famous Grote Markt cannot be missed, with the adjoining gothic church of San Pietro where it is possible to admire the picture of the Last Supper, painted by the Flemish painter Dirk Bouts.

Then there is the town hall whose two side facades host 236 figures representing familiar faces in the history of the city. Along the Naamsestraat there are many university buildings that still live including the Premonstratensian College, founded in 1571, the Arras College and the Royal College (aka the Koningscollege) founded in 1579 by Philip II of Spain. Do not miss the famous beguinage, the historic district characterized by typical red bricks; it is certainly a romantic and enchanting area and is crossed by a tributary of the Dijle river. It was founded in the thirteenth century and houses, to date, a hundred houses and a church.

  • Range: 120 km
  • 1 hour and 30 minutes by car along the E40, by train it takes 1 hour and 25 minutes with the IC513 towards Eupen, € 12,00 - Get directions
  • the city is always accessible
  • free admission to the church of San Pietro as well as all university buildings

9 - Kortrijk

It is almost close to the French border, in Flemish Kortrijk, it is also a fascinating city even if it has been rebuilt several times following the world conflicts. Extremely special is the old town, full of numerous buildings which, although reconstructed, still retain the typical Flemish atmosphere. The Grote Mark also played, and still has today, great importance: with its fourteenth-century mockery, once home to the textile market (declared a World Heritage Site), the gothic church of Sint Maarten, the town hall dating back to 1421 with a façade adorned with small spiers and niches with various statues.

Among the museums not to be missed we suggest the Broelmuseum where you will find works by Emmanuel Vierin, Roelant Savery, and others of a modern style, and the Vlasmuseum, which illustrates to its visitors the processes and development of the textile industry.

  • Range: 45,1 km
  • it is 45 minutes by car along the E403, by train in about 50 minutes by taking IC2308 with Courtrai stop, € 8,00 - Get directions
  • the city is always accessible
  • free admission to the church of Sint Maarten

10 - Brussels

Just an hour from Bruges you reach the Belgian capital, characterized by a cosmopolitan atmosphere in which the main protagonists are tourists or artists from all over the world, from the gothic style of the Grand Palace square for example with its town hall and the Maison du Roi and its history. In fact, this city is linked to its past, so don't miss the city museum or Museé de la Ville, or the Cinquantenaire Park, located near the EU headquarters buildings, including well includes 3 museums: the Military History museum, the Cinquantenaire museum and Autoworld.

  • Range: 94,6 km
  • it is 1 hour and 30 minutes by car along the E40, by train it takes 1 hour using IC 509 towards Eupen with stop Brussels, paying € 14,00 - Get directions
  • For timetables of Ghent's top attractions, see 10 Things to See in Brussels
  • museé de la Ville adults € 8,00, seniors and groups € 6,00, students and unemployed € 4,00; the Military History museum admission adults 26-65 years € 5,00, from 6 to 25 years and from 65 years € 4,00; the Cinquantenaire museum and Autoworld € 10,00

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