History & Culture

Day trips to Belgium

Looking for something a little different to do in a day? Or have a spare holiday day that you don’t know what to do with? A day trip to the continent might be just the answer.

It only takes 35 minutes to get from Folkestone to Calais, and from there, there are myriad little towns and cities in Belgium, within easy driving distance, that you can explore in a day.

Enjoy a day trip to Belgium with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

Belgium is filled to the brim with picturesque medieval towns, castles, Renaissance architecture and historical landmarks. Why not take a day trip to Bruges? Or take a weekend to explore Ghent? Read on to learn more about some of the beautiful places in Belgium you can visit with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

ivy covered medieval buildings on a river with a bridge

Day trips to the historic town of Bruges

Driving distance from Calais terminal: 120km, 1hr 20mins.

Not many people realise that the historic Belgian town of Bruges, or Brugge in Flemish, is within easy driving distance from Calais, making it an ideal day trip destination. Bruges has been called "The Venice of the north" due to its canal-lined streets and stunning architecture.

With something to see at every turn, Bruges is filled with some of Europe's finest surviving medieval buildings. This includes the Church of Our Lady, the tower of which is the highest structure in the city, and inside can be found a highly treasured statue of Madonna and Child by Michaelangelo.

Not to be missed is the Groeningemuseum, which houses a huge collection of art spanning more than 600 years, including works by the Flemish master van Eyck.

Throughout the year Bruges plays host to a huge number of festivals, celebrating everything from accordion music to jazz, beer, film, circus and even canals, so there is always something to see.

Mixing history, culture and entertainment, Bruges makes a great day trip for those willing to venture further afield than France.

Bruges is also home to some wonderful breweries. Why not take a tour of one? Discover Belgium’s craft breweries in our guide.

stone medieval castle against a sunny blue sky

Perfect for a day trip, Ghent is one of Belgium’s best-kept secrets

Driving distance from Calais terminal: 1h 40m / 147km

As a city, Ghent is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, so once you’ve parked up, explore the city on foot or hire a bicycle and join the locals on the cycle paths.

There are a number of bicycle tours you can do, such as Bike Ghent which offers an ‘insider’s tour’, but if you’d rather explore the city on your own, there are a couple of highlights that you simply can’t miss. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in Saint Bavo's Cathedral attracts art-enthusiasts the world over, and for good reason. It’s one of the earliest known oil paintings, dating from 1432, with an illustrious history. It has almost been destroyed by fire, both accidentally and intentionally, and is the most-stolen piece of art in history – in fact, one panel stolen in 1934 is still missing.

Ghent is also famous for its medieval architecture, and there’s no finer example of this than the 12th century castle Gravensteen, which means ‘castle of the counts’ in Dutch. To look at, Gravensteen is very much what you’d imagine a castle to be, with its turrets, crenellated parapets, and surrounding moat. The castle was once used as a mill, but has been lovingly restored since, and there’s a great video tour you can take round with you that tells a fun story to teach the history of the place.

white beach huts on a long stretch of sandy beach under blue skies

A seaside day trip to Ostend

Driving distance from Calais terminal: 1h 15m/ 96km

If you’re craving a day by the sea, this pretty harbour and seaside town is perfect. Known in Belgium as the ‘queen’ of seaside resorts, Ostend’s strategic position on the North Sea coast is part of its rich history. It was occupied by German forces (along with the rest of the country) and used as an access point to the sea for submarines and other light naval forces for much of World War I.

After your short drive from Calais you will discover over 9 kilometres of sandy beaches that invite you to sunbathe (if the weather allows for it!) plus a beautiful promenade to stroll along. For the hardier individuals you could take a dip in the North Sea, it’s sure to be refreshing!

From late June until the very end of August, Ostend hosts a famous Sand Sculpture Festival. Stop by to see impressive structures and marvel at their intricate detail. Ostend also has museums to visit including The Mercator, a ship that has undertaken scientific expeditions all over the world. Learn about life on deck and those who sailed on her. We recommend using one of the museum’s audio guides, which are only €2.

Building with impressive and detailed architecture and clock tower with tree lined street in foreground

Spend a day at the historic town of Ypres

Driving distance from Calais terminal: 1h 10m/ 92km

During World War l, Ypres stood in the path of Germany's planned sweep across the rest of Belgium and into France from the north, known as the Schlieffen Plan. The German army surrounded the city on three sides, bombarding it through much of the war.

Although reduced to ruins, the town was eventually fully rebuilt, including its impressive Cloth Hall and cathedral.

During your visit, you can see the Last Post every evening. This ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres marks the passing of the soldiers who died in battle during both world wars. The Menin Gate was designed by Reginald Blomfield and lists the names of 54,389 men who have no known grave.

In the centre of Ypres’ Market Square, is the Cloth Hall which houses the In Flanders Field museum. This museum is particularly exciting as it is a multisensory experience, combining soundscapes, videos, exhibits and interactive learning stations. You get to be a character and follow his or her progress through the wartime period as an electronic bracelet activates certain displays.

Ypres’ restored Lakenhalle is one of Belgium's most spectacular buildings thanks to Its 70m-high belfry the original being completed in 1304.

This is only the beginning of an adventure in Ypres. For more to see and do, including places to stay, see our guide to Ypres.

Book your day trip from the UK with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is the best way to take a break in Belgium. It’s only a 35-minute journey from Folkestone to Calais, and from there you can reach the gorgeous cities and seaside in under 2 hours. Ready to explore Belgium? Book your day trip with Eurotunnel, today!

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More to do on your Belgian day trip