Belgium Itinery

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Oct 12th, 2018, 04:09 AM
  #1
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Belgium Itinery

My wife and I are travelling to Belgium in late May 2019. We arrive in Brussels from Australia at around 0800hrs. We have never visited Belgium before so we are looking forward to exploring what the country has to to offer, albeit in a 7-10 day timeframe. We love scenery, architecture, museums, historical stuff, shopping, eating out, experiencing the culture and are happy to walk everywhere around the respective cities.

We aren't locked into a set timeframe and the length of time spent in each city can be varied according to the advice given. All proposed travel will be undertaken by train.

The first draft of our itinerary is this:
  • Brussels 3 nights including a day trip to Dinant
  • Bruges 3 nights to include the WW1 battlefields and possibly a day trip to Lille (dependent on advice provided)
  • Ghent 1 night
  • Antwerp 1 night
before leaving by train to Amsterdam and start exploring Netherlands.

We are happy for any other alternate suggestions of cities to visit and any help would be greatly appreciated

Many thanks

Gary
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Oct 12th, 2018, 04:17 AM
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Dinant is a bit out of the way perhaps, for a day trip. Ghent is near Brugge, so you could also use Ghent as a base: lively university town, lots of restaurants and bars, good beer, beautiful city. But Brussels too has a very interesting vibe and lots to do and see. You might consider doing the Ardennes and the Meuse valley from Brussels (Dinant) and then traveling towards Maastricht and use that as a base to also explore Aachen.

I wouldn't go out of my way to see Lille, nice though it is.
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Oct 12th, 2018, 04:20 AM
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Do some research on the WW1 battlefields. We went in Feb and now going back in Nov and I am searching records like crazy to see where my two Great Uncles fought. We are going to Ypres and Flanders Field, a couple American cemeteries. We went with a hotel in Brussels but have an apartment in old town of Lille. We are using Lille as a base for five nights. We are renting a car for several days to explore. The parking has my husband a little perplexed. We think we have found a parking garage. Train to Brugge as we don't want to worry about parking there and will be drinking. We picked Lille, France as there is a Christmas market and many places to eat in the evening.
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Oct 12th, 2018, 06:46 AM
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Bruges 3 nights is overkill.
If interested by WW1, why not WW2 and go to Bastogne ?
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Oct 12th, 2018, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by thibaut View Post
Bruges 3 nights is overkill.
If interested by WW1, why not WW2 and go to Bastogne ?
note to self.........ty
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Oct 12th, 2018, 08:43 AM
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Trains are great and you can just buy tickets at stations for domestic Belgian or Dutch trains - discounts on international ones - Bruges itself for 3 nights is overkill IMO but could be a good base for excursions - I'd probably day trip to Gent rather than relocate for just one night. For lots on trains check www.seat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.
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Oct 12th, 2018, 12:14 PM
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Lille could be a neat day trip from Brussels or Bruges if you want to taste a wee bit of France and a nice city but I'd spend more than one day in Brussels though many find it too modern or whatever it does have lots of gems to ferret out. Leuven - a university town near Brussels I thought was really neat.
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Oct 12th, 2018, 12:50 PM
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I certainly don't think 3 nights in Bruges is overkill. There is a lot to see. And you wil only have part of your first day and the next 2 days. I would also give Gent an additional night.
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Oct 12th, 2018, 02:28 PM
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I went to Ghent, Bruge and Brussels. Ghent was by far my favourite city of the three. It's very beautiful. I don't know how to attach pictures on this site, but I took some pictures from the canal cruise we took and it looks like a postcard (perfect). Just so beautiful. Depending on your interests (what you want to do) and how active you are, then you should plan accordingly. I'd take a day from either Brussels or Bruge and add to Ghent. I can not comment on Antwerp

In saying all this, the train from Ghent to Bruge is 30ish minutes if you take the express train. Oh and don't buy your beer to take home from Bruge historic centre, take the bus out to the shop or buy from the supermarket next to the train station. Enjoy the beer
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Oct 12th, 2018, 02:59 PM
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If you want to see the WWI battlefields then take a day tour, as that will improve your experience and take you to the war cemeteries as they are somewhat difficult to access without a car. As Australians you will want to see the Menin Gate in Ieper (French name Ypres), and particularly see the Last Post at sunset; Passchendaele (modern spelling in Flemish Passendale) and the Cemetery at Tyne Cot. You can do all that in a day. Bruges is not all that far from Ieper. I am not sure where tours depart from but I would definitely factor in a day where you do this.
I also think you can do Dinant in a day from Brussels as I've done it in the past. It's between 1.5 - 2 hours by train. However, it would make for a long day.

There is a lot to see in Belgium without going to Lille, even though I think it is a beautiful city.

And why not Bastogne? Well, Australians played no part in the battle there, plus it is WWII. WWI has meaning for Australians as it was the first war they fought as Australians and not British and thus has significance in building the national identity - at least, this is the political explanation. It was also a terrible war that wiped out the male population of entire country towns as there were marches through the countryside recruiting young men, who volunteered by the dozen romantically thinking it would be exciting. Every small town in country NSW has their WWI war memorial. I don't doubt however that Bastogne is a worthy site with meaning for Belgians and worth seeing for what you can learn about Belgium.

Enjoy your trip!

Lavandula
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Oct 13th, 2018, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by lavandula View Post
And why not Bastogne? Well, Australians played no part in the battle there, plus it is WWII. WWI has meaning for Australians as it was the first war they fought as Australians and not British and thus has significance in building the national identity - at least, this is the political explanation.
Lavandula
I don't get this.
You only see places where ancestors may heve died and reject or ignore other battlefields ?
Strange approach.
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Oct 13th, 2018, 01:53 PM
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We have done Bastogne and visited all the locations my Dad was in the area. We would love to know where my Uncles were but Maryland records of that time are horrible. We loved visiting Beaumont Hamel and had no relatives that fought there. I don't think we do in the Ypres area but still, want to visit. I do understand the Australian viewpoint though.
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Oct 13th, 2018, 05:09 PM
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Im sorry if we have caused a disagreement about the battlefields. My intention is the visit the WW1 battlefields around Flanders as my grandfather fought there and as such it has a greater personal significance for me. However, this in no way diminishes the sacrifices millions of men made throughout Belgium and other parts of Europe whilst fighting for freedom.

Last edited by geetee062; Oct 13th, 2018 at 05:10 PM. Reason: typo
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Oct 13th, 2018, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by geetee062 View Post
Im sorry if we have caused a disagreement about the battlefields. My intention is the visit the WW1 battlefields around Flanders as my grandfather fought there and as such it has a greater personal significance for me. However, this in no way diminishes the sacrifices millions of men made throughout Belgium and other parts of Europe whilst fighting for freedom.
I think that is wonderful that you will be able to visit. I have done a few places where my Dad fought and it really meant a lot to us and him when I took pictures to show him. He couldn't travel but was so interested in what was in one village in particular. We are looking forward to visiting Flanders. Have you been doing some research? I am hoping maybe the cemeteries will hold some clues. The people that work there are a wealth of information. My husband bought a book today about the area. Have a great trip.
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Oct 13th, 2018, 11:49 PM
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I was in Tyne Cot last month and on top of being horrified by the sheer number of graves (the same goes for the name on Menin's gate) what I knew but didn't get before going was that a lot if not most of the dead were non identified : you can read : A soldier of xx regiment, or a solider of xx division - or even worse 'a soldier of the great war'. I could not imagine in what state the corpses were retrieved that they were beyond recognition...
I liked Passchendaele museum where they recreated trenches of the different nations. And a dug out.
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Oct 16th, 2018, 02:31 PM
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OK, let me clarify - there are a lot of Australian tourists coming to Europe's battlefields not just for European history but for their own history. I don't want to slight Bastogne and I apologise if it came off that way. It is odd that we have to go to another country for the defining moment when we because our own country but this is how it is shaped politically in Australia. Many young Australians visit Gallipoli in Turkey for the major battle that occurred there for much the same reasons, other people visit the Somme. This - again - has nothing to do with Bastogne's worthiness as a site for Belgians, and for what Australians can learn about Belgium, but when I see Australians are visiting war sites in Belgium it is logical for me to point out locations where there is an Australian history, because that is why many Australian people are going there. I also have made an assumption here about the OP's motivations, which I possibly shouldn't have.

Lavandula
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Oct 17th, 2018, 06:25 AM
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I understand better your point, thanks.

On top of WW1 and WW2 I did visit Waterloo, btw, fantastic preserved battlefield, albeit french defeat.
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Oct 17th, 2018, 09:43 AM
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No one here ever talks about going to Waterloo - but why not? Just south of Brussels.
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