Day 1 – Brussels

A gorgeous city and a centre of the European Union, Brussels is full of attractions, most of which can be reached on foot. But despite its charmingly small size, it's still one of northern Europe's major transport hubs – whether you’re arriving by plane or train. If rail is your chosen method of transport for getting to Brussels, you can take the Eurostar from London to Brussels in just 1h 56m, travel from Paris to Brussels in just 1h 22m or from Amsterdam to Brussels in 1h 45m.

09:00 - 13:00 – European Quarter

Start your day with a delicious Belgian waffle from Aux Gaufres de Bruxelles, just behind Brussels Central station. Then, head to Place du Luxembourg and Espace Léopold, which houses the European Parliament. Take a guided tour of the impressive modern parliament buildings, which have a state-of-the-art visitor centre. Afterwards, chill out in nearby Parc Léopold, an old English-style urban park with an imposing 15th-century medieval tower.

Walk on 10 minutes to Parc du Cinquantenaire, an even grander, 19th-century public park with landscaped gardens, fountains, an impressive neo-classical colonnade with a huge triumphal arc. The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces is also located inside the park if you'd like to delve into military history before lunch. If it's more your taste, the superb Museum of Natural Sciences is just 10 minutes away on foot.

13:00 - 16:00 – Atomium, Mini-Europe, and Comic Books

The Leopold Quarter is loaded with fantastic lunch spots. There's everything from elegant haute cuisine restaurants, to busy hole-in-the-wall joints and a wide range of international eateries. After lunch, walk to the nearby Schuman station and take the metro out to the Atomium. This 102-metre high stainless-steel atom was built for the 1958 World Expo and is one of Europe's most iconic landmarks. Take the elevator to the top for amazing city views.

While in the area, don't miss visiting Mini-Europe, which contains all of Europe's famous landmarks built on a scale of 1:25. It's a fantastic place for kids. Speaking of kids, if you're looking for a fun family activity back in the city centre, the Brussels Comic Art Museum and MOOF Museum tell the story of Belgium's unique historical contribution to the art of comics. With plenty of giant figurines and fun interactive displays, they'll delight both young and old.

16:00 - 21:00 – Old Brussels

Back in the city centre for the afternoon, it's time to do some straight-up sightseeing. Start at St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, Belgium's national church, where royal weddings and state funerals take place. Walk 10 minutes through the pretty Parc de Bruxelles to the Royal Palace of Brussels to see the royal throne and several staterooms. Or, if you prefer, visit the nearby Musical Instrument Museum, just 5 minutes away on foot.

Make your way towards the Grote Markt (Grand Place) for dinner. This vast public square is completely encased by elegant old buildings of all styles, dating as far back as the 14th-century. Brussels is famous for mussels, and this area is full of places to eat them—accompanied, of course, by quality Belgian beer. On the way towards the Grote Markt, take a slight detour to the Manneken Pis. This 61 cm-high, 17th-century statue of a young boy urinating into a fountain is, for whatever reason, the most famous and iconic site in Brussels.

Day 2 – Bruges and Ghent

Bruges and Ghent are two picture-perfect old cities, full of quaint elegance and antique charm. Thanks to their small size and proximity, it's also easy to visit both in one day. You'll do it without rushing or wasting time on transport. Start by taking the train from Brussels to Bruges, this service takes as little as 54 minutes. Depart from Brussels Midi station, just outside the city centre and arrive into the main Bruges train station, just outside the old city walls in the heart of Bruges.

08:30 - 12:30 – Breakfast, belfry, and a basilica in Bruges

Depending on how early you want to take your train from Brussels, you should comfortably be in Bruges by 08:30. From Brugge station, walk 15 minutes through the majestic grounds of King Albert I Park, past Bruges’s iconic Concertgebouw concert hall, and you'll arrive at the canalside. Here, you'll find plenty of great cafes for breakfast, all within a 5-10-minute walk to Markt. Historically, culturally, and geographically, this is the heart of Bruges.

Shoot up the Belfry of Bruges, a huge medieval bell tower with breathtaking views over the old town. Then visit the elegantly understated Basilica of the Holy Blood, renowned for housing a cloth containing the blood of Christ. Just a 3-minute walk away is Rozenhoedkaai, one of Bruges' prime canal-backed photo opportunities. From there, finish your morning with a gentle 30-minute boat tour through the canals of Bruges. This is a relaxing way to get up close and personal with the city's historical sites.

12:30 - 15:00 – Museums and lunch

After the canal tour, treat yourself to lunch at Pro Deo or Sans Cravate, two homely, family-run bistros away from the tourist crowds, near the canal in the Sint-Anna Quarter. Before heading back to the train station, be sure to swing by the Church of Our Lady, to see Michelangelo's statue and the Bonifacius Bridge. If you fancy a museum visit, the Groeninge Museum has a world-class collection of Flemish masters and modern paintings.

If Belgian chocolate is near the top of the to-do list on your Belgium itinerary, visit the Choco-Story museum and the fairytale-cute Dumon shop. Once you're finished exploring Bruges, wander back towards Brugge station. From there, it's only 22m by train from Bruges to Ghent. There are nearly 100 trains a day between the two cities, so don't worry if you miss the one you were aiming for.

15:00 – Ghent

Gent Sint-Pieters station is Ghent's main railway hub, and trams and buses leave from right outside the station straight into the historical centre of town. Visit Gravensteen Castle, a 10th-century moated castle with great views onto the old town. Then start your walk around the old town at St Bavo's Cathedral, home of van Eyck's masterpiece, the Ghent Altarpiece. It's also home to the Ghent Belfry which, like its counterpart in Bruges, offers superb views over the city.

Walk on towards the canal to the 13th-century St. Nicholas' Church, one of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in Ghent. Stroll the pretty Graslei and Korenlei banks of the Leie river around St. Michael's Bridge. This historical area features rows of old guildhalls lining the canal, now filled with busy cafes, restaurants, and bars that provide a superb spot to end the day. Make sure you try the famous local liqueur, jenever, made from juniper berries.

Day 3 – Antwerp

The final stop on our three-day Belgium itinerary is Antwerp, Belgium's economic and maritime hub since the Middle Ages. You can get from Ghent to Antwerp in just 46m by train, arriving at Antwerpen-Centraal station.

09:00 - 13:00 – Beauty all around

Built in the late 19th-century in an eclectic mix of architectural styles, Antwerpen-Centraal is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. It's only a few minutes on foot from Antwerp Zoo, one of the world's oldest, and Stadspark, the city's favourite morning park for jogging, skating, and kids' playgrounds. Between these two is the famous Diamond Quarter, a 1-square-mile area through which 85% of the world's diamonds still pass.

Continue your walk towards The Rubens House. This magnificent museum is located inside the former house of 17th-century painter Peter Paul Rubens. After marvelling at the house and its collection of artworks, move on to see more of Rubens's handiwork at the Cathedral of Our Lady. An icon of the city, this Gothic cathedral is topped by an impressive spire and features some of Rubens' Baroque masterpieces.

13:00 - 16:00 – Local insights

Right nearby is Antwerp's main market square, the Grote Markt. It's the perfect place to pick up some lunch. If you feel like escaping the crowds a bit, duck into the mysterious Vlaaikensgang. This 'secret' cobblestone alleyway, just a two-minute stroll from Grote Markt, is accessed by a non-descript door (at Oude Koornmarkt 16). Once there, admire its tree-covered tranquillity and famously ornate door locks.

If this glimpse into old Antwerp rouses your curiosity, continue towards Willemdok and go full-on into Antwerp's history at the Museum aan de Stroom. This striking, red-brick waterside structure contains objects and displays. These document Antwerp's origins, rich maritime heritage, and its incredible rise to prominence as the wealthiest city in Europe. It peaked during the Age of Exploration, and it's Golden Age based on the global trade of peppercorns, silver, and textiles.

16:00 - 20:30 – Taking it all in

After all that history, get a glimpse of contemporary Antwerp at Park Spoor Noord. This popular park, located on reclaimed railway land, has play areas, a water garden, lake, trendy summer bars and restaurants, and an outdoor terrace for concerts. It's a great place to relax and soak up the atmosphere.

Of course, since it's the end of our three-day Belgium itinerary, there's one last chance to sample some quality Belgian beer at the open-air Bar Noord, if it's summer. If you feel like splashing out for your last meal, nearby Gå Nord is one of Belgium's most acclaimed contemporary restaurants. If you're planning on leaving Antwerp, it's only a 20-minute walk back to Antwerpen-Centraal station.

With that, we've come to the end of our Belgian adventure. But remember, this itinerary is just a suggestion, you can make your own changes to suit your schedule, budget and preferred destinations. If you're ready to start planning your own Belgium itinerary for three days — or more — there's plenty more information about travelling around the country on our trains in Belgium page.