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Noord-Brabant (North Brabant), also called Brabant, is a province in the south of the Netherlands, with the capital at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (also called Den Bosch). This province has a lot to offer, from beautiful cities, rich in history and culture, to castles and national parks. It’s a great destination for a weekend trip, and I put together not one, but seven route ideas for beautiful weekends in Brabant. Most of them are accessible by public transport, although, in some cases, a car would be more handy. Without further ado, let’s jump straight to the weekend routes!

SEVEN AWESOME WEEKEND TRIPS IN BRABANT

1. Den Bosch — The Monastery Trail

City and countryside weekend.

Den Bosch is a charming city, home of the famous Hieronymus Bosch painter and the famous Bossche Bol cake. Possessing a particular medieval beauty, with its canal network that goes under the houses in many places, Den Bosch is sure to conquer your heart. You can walk around and admire the old architecture and the canals meandering through high brick walls, take a boat trip on these canals (the Binnendieze), or walk in the footsteps of Hieronymus Bosch. There are a few museums to be visited (for example Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, Noordbrabants Museum, Design Museum), and a stunning cathedral: Sint-Jan Cathedral with a 73 metres tower offering a panoramic view over the city.

But Den Bosch is also a modern city, with a vibrant city life. Head to the shopping streets for interesting boutiques, then chill on the terraces and dine in one of the inviting restaurants.

Binnendieze Den Bosch

Combine this visit to Den Bosch with an escape to the countryside and visit the Monastery Trail of Brabant. This trail will take you past fifty former monasteries and abbeys. The monastery life has been an important part of Brabant’s past, and there used to be 660 buildings in North Brabant that served as monasteries. From these, 450 are still in existence, although only some keep their former function; many have been given a different use as hotels, homes, retreats, etc. You can choose which part of the trail you want to walk: the walks are between 2,5 to 12 km. Some take you only around the monasteries, others will take you past farms and churches and even a castle: Castle Heeswijk.

Check out Visit Brabant website for more info on the routes.

Croy Castle in Aarle-Rixten
Photo by Joran Quinten on Unsplash

2. Breda — Castle Bouvigne — Mastbos — Etten-Leur

This could be a beautiful weekend combining culture and nature.

Breda, also known as the Nassau Stad, because it was the official residence of the Orange-Nassau family for several centuries, will charm you with its pastel colours, street art, hidden gardens, the laid-back vibe and the shopping areas. In Breda, you can visit Breda’s Castle (Kasteel van Breda), have a boat tour on the canals, see the Grote Kerk and the Begijnhof. For museums, check out Stedelijk Museum Breda and Begijnhof Museum, and don’t miss the important landmark that is Spanjaardsgat (Spaniards Hole). The Spanjaardsgat was originally used as a gate that would allow supplies to be carried to Breda by water, and got its current name because it is considered to have been played a most important role in the city’s liberation from the Spanish occupation in 1590.

Breda streets

Breda is a green city in itself, featuring a few gardens and parks, but, the most beautiful nature area in Breda is the Mastbos forest, right outside the city. This is a centuries old forest, one of the oldest in the Netherlands. The name of the forest comes from the historical use of the trees for building ship masts for the Dutch and Spanish fleets. Mastbos is a big forest, with narrow paths that open to beech avenues, heathland, deciduous trees and dark coniferous forest. It’s home to many animals (deer, foxes, martens, squirrels, etc.) which you might spot if you’re lucky.

And since you are here, you can also visit the Bouvigne Castle, a fairy-tale castle surrounded by water, gardens, and orchards.

Castle Bouvigne Breda
Photo by Robin Trochsler on Unsplash

From Breda you can also go to Etten-Leur, one of the villages in Brabant that are connected to Van Gogh. Visit the place where the famous artist Van Gogh started his career, walk in his footsteps and discover the Van Gogh related monuments in the village.

3. Eindhoven — Nuenen

Combine old and new for this weekend in Eindhoven and surroundings.

Eindhoven, known as a technology and design hub, is not the typical charming Dutch city with narrow alleys and old facades. The word I would use to describe Eindhoven is cool. This is a cool city, with cool places to go and cool exhibitions to visit. The architecture might not be considered beautiful by everyone, but it’s certainly interesting! Eindhoven is an old city, but, after the World War 2, when parts of the city were destroyed, it was rebuilt in modern style and it never looked back from then on.
There are quite a few museums to see in Eindhoven, like: Van Abbemuseum (contemporary art), Evoluon, Eindhoven Museum, Phillips Museum.

Eindhoven

Don’t miss the exhibitions at De Kazerne and a visit to The Strijp S, the creative cultural heart of Eindhoven. If you are in Eindhoven in October, you can see the wonderful GLOW light exhibition, which is my traditional autumn trip. Another interesting attraction in the city is the PreHistorisch Dorp (prehistoric Village), which, in opposition to the innovation and new all over the city, recreates life as it was in the past.

Go outside the city to visit Kasteel Eckart and the village of Nuenen – another one of the villages connected to Van Gogh. Nuenen is where Van Gogh lived and worked between 1883 and 1885 and where he produced a big part of all his work. Here you can visit the Vincentre, the museum dedicated to Van Gogh and explore the landscape that inspired the painter.

Nuenen
Source: Wikimedia Commons

4. Nationaal Park De Biesbosch – Willemstad

For nature and water sports lovers, this weekend should do the trick.

De Biesbosch National Park is a splendid nature conservation area and the largest fresh water tidal zone in Europe. The park is covered in luxurious vegetation, with willow forests where a rich fauna lives (including pine martens, deer and beavers!). The best way to discover this park is by boat or canoe, but you can also walk and cycle around it. You can join one of the bigger boats or rent a small boat to drive by yourself. You can go bird watching or beaver spotting, or even take a boat trip to Dordrecht or Drimmelen.

De Biesbosch
Photo by micheile dot com on Unsplash

Close to the national park is the beautiful town of Willemstad, where you can find accommodation for your weekend. This a quiet place, a star-shaped fortified town, with a beautiful harbour packed with expensive yachts. There’s not much to do in Willemstad except for relaxing at a café overlooking the harbour and walking around the town, discovering the historical landmarks. You can visit the Mauritshuis Museum, walk on the fortifications of the town, see the Belgian Cemetery, or even go outside the town to visit one of the surrounding forts (like Fort Sabina, Fort De Hel, Fort Buitensluis).

5. Bergen op Zoom — Dinteloord — Rosendaal

This is a weekend for charming villages and adrenaline.

Bergen op Zoom is a true hidden gem in Brabant, and is one of the oldest towns in the country. Giving you the feeling you went back in time, with narrow streets and old houses and squares, Bergen op Zoom could be where you set your quarters while exploring the area. The city palace, the Markiezenhof, is one of the main attractions, but you can also go underground and discover the Grebbe, a restored waterway and sewage system (no worries, only rain water goes in these sewers nowadays).

Bergen op Zoom
Photo by Wikipedia/Michiel1972

When in Bergen op Zoom, you’ll have to try their famous pudding cake, “platte tieten” (translated as Flat Boobs), also known as “cow pie”, or, more elegantly named, groffenkoek, at Bakker Groffen.

Right outside the town, you can visit one of the Dutch architectural wonders, the Moses Bridge (Mozesbrug). This is a wooden trench bridge allowing visitors to reach Fort de Roovere while walking below the waterline.

Dinteloord is a cute village known for its sugar factory and the nature reserve the Dintelse Gorzen, a unique area thanks to the mix of fresh and salt water.

And after so much peaceful walks and serene landscapes (or before this, whatever you prefer!), you can pass by Roosendaal for an indoor skydive in the wind tunnel. Here you can experience free falling without jumping off a plane. Totally safe and appealing even for the people who are afraid of heights, like myself. I tried it and loved every second!

Indoor Skydive Roosendaal

6. Efteling — Tilburg

The fantasy weekend.

A trip to Efteling is the dream of every Dutch kid, so this would be a glorious trip for families with children. Efteling is a fantasy-themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel, Brabant. It’s the largest one in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world! But this park is not only for kids! This is a dream land for everyone, young or old, a trip to a fantastic world of fairytales, weird houses, water shows and amazing roller coasters. You can easily spend a full day there, and even spend the night if you want — the park is offering accommodation as well.

The trip to Efteling can be combined (if you manage to take yourself out of the park) with a city trip to Tilburg. Tilburg has a rich history as a textile city, an industry that started developing around year 1500 and went on until the 20th century. Tilburg has a modern city centre, because it was one of the cities that endured great destruction during the WW II. The city is lively, with modern cafes and restaurants and beautiful street art and museums. It’s a university city, so there’s a young vibe around. If you go to Tilburg, you have to visit the Textile Museum. Or maybe you want to see Museum de Pont, a contemporary art museum, or Natuurmuseum Brabant (Brabant Nature Museum).

Tilburg
Photo by Mark Kieboom on Unsplash

7. Helmond – National Park de Groote Peel

This weekend is mainly for nature and countryside walks.

National Park de Groote Peel is one of the few peat bog areas that remained partly untouched by peat cutting, a unique and varied nature area with peat swamps, vast plains, fens and sand ridges. It’s in the south of the Brabant province, shared with the nearby Limburg. De Groote Peel is home for many birds and other fauna and flora, and offers impressive views. The surrounding villages of Asten, Geldrop and Heeze worth a visit too, as well as Museum Klok & Peel, a museum that shows how the national park developed over the years and is home to world’s largest collection of bells and carillons (what an unusual combination!).

De Groote peel
Photo by Julian Guttzeit on Unsplash

This beautiful park can be combined with a trip to Helmond, where you can visit the Helmond Castle, one of the best preserved medieval castles in the Netherlands. Helmond has other attractions too, like the cube houses (Piet Blom’s houses on stilts) and the St. Lambertus church.

Cube Houses Helmond
Source: Wikimedia

I hope I have inspired you for your next weekend away. Leave a comment if you visited any of these places or if one of them seems very appealing to you!

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