- Explore historic and modern Antwerp and observe the city from the MAS viewpoint
- Watch passing ships while you picnic on a riverside beach near Antwerp's busy port
- Tour medieval Ghent by boat and discover artistic treasures
- Sample chocolate and Belgian beer in the storybook city of Bruges
|Day 1||Arrive in Brussels, Transfer to Antwerp||Antwerp|
|Day 2||Visit Sint Anna Beach & Explore Antwerp||Antwerp|
|Day 3||Transfer to Ghent, Scenic Boat Tour||Ghent|
|Day 4||Day Trip to Bruges||Ghent|
|Day 5||Morning at Ghent Botanical Gardens, Transfer to Brussels & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Brussels, Transfer to Antwerp
Welcome to Belgium! On arrival at Brussels Airport, you'll catch a 30-minute direct train to Antwerpen-Centraal, Antwerp's grand main railway station. From the station, you can either walk or take a taxi to your hotel.
Once you've settled in, you'll have free time to explore Antwerp's compact city center, with its countless architectural gems, including many examples from the Renaissance and Art Nouveau periods, as well as strikingly modern buildings. Wander to the Grote Markt, the largest and most important square in the city, and the enormous Cathedral of Our Lady, first constructed in 1352. Within its interior, you will find a significant number of paintings by the famous Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens.
After you've seen a little bit of old Antwerp, there's still time on your first day to discover the modern side of the city. With its geometric glass and red sandstone design, the contemporary MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) is a landmark near the Scheldt riverfront. Its rooftop terrace, called the Panorama, offers splendid views of the city and the mighty Port of Antwerp. Access to the Panorama is free, or you can buy a ticket to MAS and enjoy its interactive exhibits that explore Antwerp's place in history and the modern world.
Day 2: Visit Sint Anna Beach & Explore Antwerp
If the sun is out, catch the Waterbus (DeWaterbus in Flemish) at the Steenplein stop for the 10-minute journey along the River Scheldt to Sint Anna river beach (Sint Annastrand). This wide, flat, sandy beach offers panoramic views of the river, the port, and the Antwerp skyline. While you can't swim here due to the strong current, it's a pleasant place for a picnic lunch—or duck into one of the many patio restaurants that line the beach pathway.
If the weather doesn't lend itself to a beach day, use your second day to take a deeper dive into Antwerp's history and heritage. Cultural highlights include the Museum Plantin-Moretus printing museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Rubenshuis, the restored 17th-century home of the famed Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. Spend the day among the animals at the historic yet state-of-the-art Antwerp Zoo, or hop on a rental bike and tour the city on two wheels.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 3: Transfer to Ghent, Scenic Boat Tour
From Antwerpen Centraal, catch a morning train to Ghent, a historic port city at the confluence of the Leie and Scheldt rivers. Settle into your hotel and then head to the historic center, which has as its focal point the mighty Ghent Belfry. If you opted to purchase a museum pass for your trip to Ghent, it includes free access to the city's bus and tram network. Otherwise, you can take a taxi to the pedestrian-only center and then set off on foot.Once you've gotten your bearings, head to the Leie River at the Grasbrug bridge and board a boat for a leisurely, narrated tour of the canals of medieval Ghent. At the end of the 40-minute tour, you'll be dropped off at the same spot, from which you can set out to find some authentic local cuisine. Mussels, oysters, and eels in green sauce are specialties in Ghent, and of course, you'll find Belgian waffles and frites, the Belgian version of fries, as well as irresistible Belgian chocolates.
Day 4: Day Trip to Bruges
This morning, head to Gent-Sint-Pieters railway station for the 20-minute train ride to Bruges. A city best explored on foot, Bruges' cobbled streets link up countless charming squares, and as the inner city is compact, you'll come face-to-face with monuments at nearly every turn. The best views to take it all in are from the 272-foot (83 m) medieval bell tower and city emblem, the Belfry of Bruges, which overlooks the Grote Markt, or "Market Square." Nearby, the 13th-century Church of Our Lady Bruges houses a priceless Michelangelo sculpture of the Virgin Mary.
If you didn't take a canal boat tour in Ghent, you should definitely consider on here. Or just stroll among the Gothic to 19th-century buildings, and stop at one of the chocolatiers that have become an icon of the city. See if you can snag a table on one of the historic squares to try one of many local Belgian beers, such as the coveted Brugse Zot. After a pleasant day of sightseeing, catch a train back to Ghent for your final night in Belgium.
Day 5: Morning at Ghent Botanical Gardens, Transfer to Brussels & Depart
Spend your last morning in Ghent at the prestigious Ghent University Botanical Gardens. With more than 10,000 plant species and extensive greenhouses, the colorful, fragrant botanical gardens feature tropical and subtropical sections as well as delightful outdoor spaces. To add some culture to your morning, the SMAK (the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art) is right near the gardens in the vast Citadelpark.
In the afternoon, it's time to say your goodbyes as you head to Gent-Sint-Pieters station to catch one of the frequent trains to Brussels for your onward journey. The trip takes about 45 minutes. Safe travels!