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1 week in Belgium with toddler

Old Aug 11th, 2008, 01:30 PM
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1 week in Belgium with toddler

yippee! Just booked a trip to Belgium in September with DH and baby boy about to turn 2. Since we'll be with him and not wanting to move about with luggage too much, do you recommend 3 nights in Brussels and 4 in Brugge, using these 2 towns as home bases for day trips? should we add a 3rd town at night or should we spend 4 nights in Brussels and 3 in Brugge? Thanks for any advice. JB
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Old Aug 11th, 2008, 01:38 PM
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I think traffic in Brussels is just plain awful, food is not as good as elsewhere in Belgium, and the attractions there are so limited (I think to the Grande Place for a two year old), that you would be much happier either staying in Brugge the entire time (try to get away from the mobbed central core to just a bit beyond, toward the train station if you plan a lot of daytrips).

If that doesn't appeal, Gent is a lovely, untrafficked town, and I think Amsterdam is a kid's paradise. I'm very fond of Antwerp, and its great train connections, but I just don't know how stroller-friendly it is. I never looked at it with those eyes.

Have a great time! I think flat Belgium is a great destiantion, despite my hesitations about recommending Brussels, and you might look into other towns as well.

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Old Aug 11th, 2008, 02:09 PM
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Hi jck,

personally I'd not stay in Brussels at all, and I'd be wary of staying in Bruges because of the canals- not very relaxing with a toddler.

my choice would be to stay in Antwerp for a while and then the beach. there are great beaches round Ostende, and you could do a day trip on the train to Bruges.

good luck,

regards, ann
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Old Aug 11th, 2008, 03:39 PM
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Brussels can be a very nice place with a toddler if you opt to stay in one of the more residential districts rather than with the hordes down by the Grand'Place. For example, if you stay in the Chatelain area of Ixelles, your child can play in the Parc Tenbosch, which has a special play section for young children, your little boy would find other toddlers to play with. And that area is also home to many good restaurants and cafes that are more than equal to other restaurants in their price range in Belgium. Le Fruit Defendu, for example, is one of the best moderately priced restaurants I have been to anywhere, not only in Belgium, but in all of Europe.

The Parc Woluwe and the walking path from the park to the Stockel neighborhood is pleasant.
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Old Aug 11th, 2008, 04:25 PM
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thanks so much for your replies. Is the train ride from Brussels to Amsterdam about 3 hours?

I hadn't thought about the canal issue but suppose I could get one of those baby leashes! Actually they have cute ones now that are backpacks that just happen to have a 5 foot tether coming off of them...

We have a baby backpack (Ergo actually) and might not even take a stroller. Or if we do it would be our $20 simple one.

i'll look at Antwerp more - and what are some nice beach areas? I need to just sit down with a map and study distances.

cheers, JB
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Old Aug 11th, 2008, 07:05 PM
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What is the problem with canals in Brugge? The canal district is actually pretty tiny and the sidewalks next to them are wide, much wider than what is generally found in Venice, and I've never heard people advise parents not to go to Venice with toddlers. If you stay away from the touristy core, nearer the train station for day trips, I don't think there are even many canals there. (I would prefer to stay near the windmills, but if you are doing a lot of day trips, you'd have a much longer walk to the train station.



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Old Aug 11th, 2008, 07:06 PM
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PS: But above all, I'd rather be in Antwerpen. And it has a fantastic promenade.
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Old Aug 12th, 2008, 01:31 AM
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I posted a big long reply with links etc but then my computer crashed.....how I wish I was at home on my trusty mac.

Anyway - my advice would be stay in Brussels at the weekend when it's quiet - and in Bruges during the week when it's a bit quieter.

Think about renting an apartment which is so much handier with a child. The Marriot have some very nice ones in Brussels.

Small kids like Planckendael - which is a wildlife park a few miles outside Brussels and "mini europe" which is a kitschy place in Brussels.

The canals in Bruges will not be a problem.
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Old Aug 12th, 2008, 03:40 AM
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I've just booked at the B&B Sint Niklaas in Bruges which sounds lovely and was recommended on this board. They aren't free on the weekend, so I've booked 3 nights there, leaving 4 nights up for grabs. I figure we'll spend the last night in Brussels as our flight leaves around noon, so should we spend those 3 weekend nights in Antwerp or Brussels? I'm leaning away from Brussels as have traveled extensively and would rather stay out of a big city. thanks
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Old Aug 12th, 2008, 03:52 AM
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Antwerp is also a city - but not huge. I would again suggest an apartment for your family

http://www.antwerpapartments.be/

Leuven is a nice little town situated near Brussels which might be of interest to you. You could stay there for your last night instead of Brussels and it doesn't take much longer to get to the airport.

Hasselt is also a nice little town in Flanders and I also like Mechelen.

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Old Aug 12th, 2008, 04:47 AM
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Actually we have family friends who live in Leuven so perhaps staying there the last night would make sense.

Where would be a good home base for trips to Hasselt and Mechelen?

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Old Aug 12th, 2008, 05:30 AM
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Mechelen is halfway between Brussels and Antwerp. Hasselt is halfway between Brussels and Aachen (ie to the east). Leuven is actually not a bad base for both. But really I'd just do one or the other.
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Old Aug 12th, 2008, 05:37 AM
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If your departure day is a weekday AND you're driving, be advised that rush hour traffic from Leuven towards the airport can be very heavy (mostly as you get close to the airport and the ring road). But driving from the city towards the airport can also be a huge pain.

(And if you think that European drivers are wonderful and really know what they're doing on the road, you will be in for an unhappy surprise...I've often wondered if the Brussels region gives a special tax break to Europe's worst drivers in order to get them to go there...)

On a week-end, it's usually no big deal (barring a massive sale at Ikea).

If you don't have a car, many trains from Leuven to Brussels stop right at the airport train station, which is IN the airport on the lowest level, so it's very handy. Leuven has many of the same charms as Ghent, IMO, but gets far fewer tourists.
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Old Aug 12th, 2008, 05:39 AM
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thanks, BTilke, but I think we'll just stick to rail travel the whole time. Hoping to not lug a carseat around for a week.
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Old Aug 14th, 2008, 08:42 AM
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Here's what I'm now thinking:

3 nights in Bruges with a day trip to Ghent, 3 nights in Antwerp with a day trip to Delft/the Hague, and last night in Leuven. Please comment/advise. julie
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Old Aug 14th, 2008, 11:29 AM
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okay, perhaps we'll spend the last night in Brussels - head back from Antwerp in the morning on Monday so we can tour for a few hours. I think Brussels has some kid friendly activities.
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Old Aug 14th, 2008, 11:36 AM
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I think Brussels does have certifiably kid-friendly attractions, but your boy is so small, I think the only thing that matters is where you are comfortable with him. I recently took a six-year-old to a child friendly attraction in Italy, and he got terribly fascinated playing games with the flower planters outside.

The Grand Place in Brussels is an amazing sight, and you and your husband will enjoy seeing it I'm sure, and your child will have a huge car free space to run about in (although, mind the uneven cobblestones).

Leuven sounds lovely. Anyplace will do for your last night. Pick for comfort, good eats, etc. Your boy will be happy if you are.
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Old Aug 28th, 2008, 06:26 PM
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excellent! we leave Monday - any last minute advice? I'm sure we will have a wonderful time.
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Old Aug 29th, 2008, 12:35 AM
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The weather is pretty chilly at the moment - so bring layers.
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