Brussels or Bruge or ????

Apr 8th, 2005, 02:20 PM
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Brussels or Bruge or ????

I arrive in Brussels from LAX early AM on May 30. I do not have to be in Amsterdam until June 1st. So I will have all day the 30th and 31st and the morning of the 1st. Should I just stay in Brussels or should I go straight to Bruge? Or maybe just go to Amsterdam 2 days early? Any ideas appreciated.

vivi is offline  
Apr 8th, 2005, 02:40 PM
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I'm just guessing from your post that you've never been to Brussels or Bruges. If that's the case...
You arrive on a Monday...I recommend you catch the airport train to Brussels Midi and pick up a train to Bruges. (You could also get to Bruges from Brussels Nord or Centrale, but Brussels Midi is the most user friendly station...Nord can be a little skeevy and Centrale is very basic.). If you need to get cash, get it from the ATMs on the arrivals level at Brussels airport, as ATMs in Bruges are a little thin on the ground (there are plenty around, but the majority are restricted to the banks' customers...this is Bruges' one big failing as a tourist destination). Spend two nights in Bruges (it's wonderful at night after the day trippers have gone and it's quite safe to walk around central Bruges at night). You could go somewhere else on the 31st (Gent, Ieper, Antwerp), but with jetlag from that long trip, you might prefer to just stay and relax in Bruges. On the morning of the 1st, head back to Brussels Midi for the train to Amsterdam (or you could go up to Antwerp, I guess, but I'm not as familiar with that route). *IF* you want to see a bit of Brussels that morning, take an early train (around 8 am), check your luggage at Midi (the luggage check is just past the round info kiosk, as you head toward tracks 3-6, the price is about 3 euros per piece). You could spend a couple of hours seeing some of the highlights of Brussels (Grand'Place, Sablon), then head off to Amsterdam.
Your other choices include going straight to a destination in the Netherlands like Delft or Leiden.
Re hotels in Bruges, there are a lot of good choices. We like the Sofitel, which is close to the central walking area but not right on top of it. It also has an indoor pool, which might be refreshing after a long flight. Air conditioned, VERY comfortable beds and nice service (plus they hand out free goodies, like boxes of chocolates).
BTilke is offline  
Apr 8th, 2005, 02:53 PM
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Hi vivi,

I recommend the first night in Brussels and the second in Bruges.

However, the train from Brussels to Amsterdam is more convenient.

ira is offline  
Apr 8th, 2005, 03:56 PM
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Ira, the downside to your suggestion is that on the 31st, a Tuesday, most museums (the Gruuthuse, the Groeninge [my favorite], the Memling, etc.) in Bruges will be closed. So if Vivi wants to visit any of the museums, then it should be done on the 30th.
BTilke is offline  
Apr 9th, 2005, 10:21 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I am worried about jet lag, I have traveled frequently between Hawaii and Wash DC and I know how hammered I am by the time I get to DC. Now I am wishing I were leaving a day earlier. However, what started out as an 8 day trip to only Paris to visit my daughter has now morphed into 15 days to include Belgium and Amsterdam!

I still cant decided whether to stay in Brussels only and make a day trip to Bruges. They both sound like wonderful places. I was in Brussels many years ago and can hardly rememerb anything about it, have never been to Bruges but my aunt was there last week and just raved about it, said it was the most charming of cities...
vivi is offline  
Apr 9th, 2005, 10:44 PM
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I haven't been there yet, but will be going to Bruges and Brussels in October. However, a good friend of mine is from Brussels, and he andchis wife, my best friend, go back to visit his parents a lot. She has told me that Bruges is absolutely wonderful and whenever they go visit his family in Brussels, she always makes sure that they get to Bruges. So if you don't have a lot of time, I think I'd spend it in Bruges.
lyb is offline  
Apr 9th, 2005, 11:06 PM
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I did this trip last year..

I didn't sleep on the flight and when we got to Bussels we went and dumped our luggage first. then we went to the la place and had lunch,waffle and saw the gallery...Then I started to fade and went back to the hotel for a nap (couple of hours) we got up went down to see the lights at night and picked up a snack and we were back in bed at 8 pm...

Brugge is awesome!!walk up the tower first then rent bikes and save your legs .Ride out to the windmills and down to St Mary's church (across the street there is a bike shop)Take your map or follow the crowd. We were there for two days and didnt have time for the time...we did plenty in Paris...
Apr 9th, 2005, 11:40 PM
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Brugge is beautiful, quaint, charming - you feel like you stepped back in time. It's small enough to walk all over, has great architecture, lots of canals, and a wonderful "feel". It's only downside, if you want to call it that, is that since it is so great, there are lots and lots of tourists. I was there in March and it wasn't bad but I suspect in late May it will be quite crowded. (But that wouldn't stop me from going). And I think the amount of time you have is just about perfect for Brugge.

Brussels is a large city, which I found to be rather boring and dirty. I'm sure it has it's good points, and the Grand Place is indeed very grand and I felt worth seeing. But once I saw that I din't find much else I liked about the city, and it certainly isn't very relaxing. It doesn't have the charm of some of the other large cities in Europe (like Paris).

You don't say how long you have in Amsterdam. If it's only a couple of days you might want to go there early, or go to one of the small towns (like Haarlem or Delft) closer to Amsterdam. What I would NOT do, is spend the whole extra 2 days in Brussels.
isabel is offline  
Apr 10th, 2005, 05:06 AM
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I lived in Brussels for five years (1999-end 2004). I really like the city and we are hoping to be able to move back later this year (we are currently in the UK, although my husband is in Brussels for business every week). But much as I appreciate living in Brussels, I know it takes a back seat to Amsterdam, Paris AND Bruges as a visitor destination.

I highly recommend two nights in Bruges instead of splitting between Brussels and Bruges or spending the time in Brussels. First, Amsterdam and Paris are both large capital cities (Paris bigger, of course)--Bruges will be a nice alternative. It's beautiful and very relaxing...and at night when the day trippers are gone, it has a definite "wow factor."
Stay in Bruges, enjoy its beauty (although there will be other tourists about, it's not that crowded on Mondays and Tuesdays except on holiday weekends and many of those will be day trippers leaving around 5 or 5 pm). Take a boat tour. Go to one museum on Monday afternoon...I like the Groeninge best, but the others are interesting too. Sit in a cafe in one of the leafy squares; have dinner in a little restaurant. Get a good night's sleep. The next day--stretch your legs--walk around, rent a bike for a canal ride, whatever you feel like.
See the highlights of Brussels for a couple of hours on the morning of June 1 before you head up to Amsterdam. I have posted a suggested itinerary for Brussesl that other Fodorites have said worked well for them; I can repost it it you like.

Practical advice: if you take the airport train into Brussels Midi and then want to head to Bruges, your trains will headed for Knokke/Blankenberge or Oostende. Bruges will be the second stop...first is Ghent, then Bruges. These trains are the nicest in the Belgian railway system. Sit on the right hand you head to Bruges you will see one or two old windmills, a small chateau, and a few other interesting buildings. On the left hand side, the most interesting site is a small farm that breeds peacocks, but we didn't see them on the last trip.
BTilke is offline  
Apr 10th, 2005, 06:20 AM
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BTilke, good to see you answering this question, as one of our resident experts on Belgium. Now if I might get some of that advice: we are going from Bruges to Paris on July 2 to meet our daughter @ CDG. Someone here suggested looking at the sncf site to get an idea of fares and times. It looks like we could buy a Smilys ticket in advance (someone else suggested throwing the return away) for 49Euro from Brussels to CDG arriving right before noon. First of all, is that what you would do (Buy 2 Smilys in advance)? Second, is it easy to just go to the Bruges station and get a train to Brussels Midi...I don't think you can even reserve those, can you? Thanks!
wren is offline  
Apr 10th, 2005, 08:13 AM
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I appreciate you expert advice. If I go straight to Bruges and then stop in Brussels on the way to Amsterdam does this sound do-able in 4 hours or so: see the Grand Place, then maybe a short self guided walking tour the murals, and a quick stop at the Tintin shop. Must eat one chocolate, one waffle, have one beer also.

Here is my plan ( this started out as an 8 day trip to Paris , including the travel days.)
2 nights Bruges, 3rd morning in Brussels
4 nights on a canal boat in Amsterdam
8 nights in a cute apartment in the Latin Quartier of PAris. (My daughter will be on study abroad in Paris).

I think you are all right, Bruges would be the perfect contrast to the big city.
Another plus is that I have never been there before (I have been to Amsterdam and Paris about 3 times each.)
vivi is offline  
Apr 10th, 2005, 03:51 PM
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Wren, your plans sound good as long as you are sure that you will make the Thalys train...the Smilys fares allow no changes, no refunds. No one cares if you throw the return portion away.
Yes, just go to Bruges and catch the next train to Brussels after you get your ticket. There are two per hour (no reservations), last time I did it they left at about the hour and half hour (if your train to Paris is at 9:40 am, for example, then I would catch the 8 am train to Brussels). The ride takes 50 minutes, unless there is track work or another reason for delays (Brussels Midi/Zuid has some shops, cafes, etc. to pass the time between your arrival on the train from Bruges and the Thalys departure).
BTilke is offline  
Apr 10th, 2005, 07:08 PM
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Thanks, BTilke. It sounds fairly simple so I think we can handle this one! Since we will need to be at CDG at 12:00 to meet our daughter and we our plans are definite, it's safe to go on and purchase the Smilys fare.

It's always nice to get feedback from someone who is experienced!
wren is offline  
Apr 11th, 2005, 09:44 AM
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vivi -- You don't have to go to Brussels for a Tintin shop...there's one in Brugge just off the Markt.
beanweb24 is offline  

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