Day trip from Brussels?

Jun 18th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Day trip from Brussels?

I will be in Brussels July 15-24 doing some research for work. I know a lot of places in Europe (i.e. Paris) basically shut down in the months of July/August. Can I expect the same in Belgium?

Would it be worth making a day trip somewhere, like Brugges or Ghent, to explore and get out of the city? Final question: is it better to take a train to those places, or could I easily rent a car (I've never driven in Europe before, but have travelled extensively and can speak decent French - would driving be too daunting?)?

Jun 18th, 2007, 03:13 PM
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Personally, I prefer Ghent over Bruges, but accept that I am in a minority on the question. Either makes a good day trip.

The Belgian rail service is very good -- trains every hour from Brussels to Bruges or Ghent. I don't think it is worth hiring a car.

Both Bruges and Ghent are in Flanders. Many people there would sooner fail to communicate adequately in English than admit to having French (which, almost invariably, they do).
Padraig is offline  
Jul 11th, 2007, 01:19 PM
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Sallygirl42, I don't know how much you are into parties and crowds, but I can tell you that 14-23 July is the Ghent Festival, the biggest city festival in Europe. Imagine about 100.000 visitors a day for 10 days, enjoying lots of free music on every square, street theater in every street, free dance classes and parties in every park, and even more happenings... and lots of beer and genever...

Gent is half an hour by train from Brussels, Bruges is a full hour. Don't take a car, trains run at least every half an hour.

Have fun, perhaps we'll meet in the Baudelo Park in Ghent !
stardust is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 07:00 AM
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Both Ghent and Brugges would make great trips. Both are great respites from larger cities. If you can, I would highly recommend you stay a night in Brugges. When the day crowds leave or before they come, the city takes on an entirely different atmosphere and personality - the transformation is almost magical.

I would also agree to take the train. Very frequent, fast, and easy. A car would IMO be a detriment with parking issues, etc.

Ditto Padraig's point about Flanders. Our daughter speaks pretty good French, but it was clear very quickly that it was not the prefered language.
dfr4848 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 08:25 AM
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<Our daughter speaks pretty good French, but it was clear very quickly that it was not the prefered language.>
It's not (just) a matter of French being not the prefered language in Flanders. Usually English is much better understood than French spoken by a non-native French speaker. I'm Flemish myself, so I know what I'm talking about.
MyriamC is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 08:30 AM
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If you speak reasonable French then why not head south into the French speaking part of Belgium. A car would be a good idea but you can get a train to Dinant I believe.
Driving would not be that daunting if you can drive a non automatic car. Otherwise you may have a problem hiring an automatic.
hetismij is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 08:33 AM
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Come off it, Myriam!

My French, while not fluent, is certainly good enough for transactions in France and in Brussels. I have had Flemings with almost no command of English switch from my fair French to their very poor English.
Padraig is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 08:46 AM
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My wife and I spent a half-day in Dinant two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is much better than nearby Namur, which is another town in southern Belgium that is crowned with a Citadel.

Frankly, however, if you have never been to Bruges, you should go there just to find out what the fuss is about. Bruges is very touristy, which is why those that fancy themselves "seasoned travelers" are often quick to dismiss the place, but there is a reason that the town is so popular.

Also, I've been to Bruges three times and I have overheard quite a bit of French spoken there. On our last trip, one of our waiters told us that a significant portion of their visitors are from France.

From Brussels, you could easily spend a couple of hours in Ghent on your way to Bruges.
smueller is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 08:48 AM
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Brugges comes to mind first but if you want a little beach action stay on the train & continue on to Oostende. A great beach & tons of great seafood. Perhaps the best mussels & frites I've ever had anywhere.
SAnParis is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 08:54 AM
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You can make a day trip to Lille also which is easy to drive to.

Odin is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 10:45 AM
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Brugges and Ghent are both very nice, but how about something a little different? Try Ypres, near Lille but on the Belgian side of the border. There are several museums dedicated to World War One, including genuine trenches preserved since 1918.
It is amazing to think that there are only 3 surviving British veterans now.
STUMBLEBUM is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 11:34 AM
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The Queen was at Tyne Cot today marking the 90th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele. Ypres and the whole area is very moving, and worth a visit, and a huge contrast to Brugge.
hetismij is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 12:05 PM
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To answer the "Flemish not wanting to speak French"-thing once again:

First of all, most Flemish speak a lot more English in daily life than they speak French. We get in touch with English every day through TV, music, internet, work life, etc. If as a Flemish you don't live in Brussels or have a job where you need French, you really don't use it very often.
So most Flemish just feel more confident speaking in English then in French. Quite logical that they switch to English then if a native English speaker is trying to speak French to them.

But yes, I don't really like it when foreigners presume all of Belgium is French-speaking and don't even realise that the majority speaks a language that is completely different from French. That's also why I was one of the few exchange students who took the effort to learn Catalan while I was studying in Barcleona.
stardust is offline  
Jul 12th, 2007, 08:09 PM
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Thank you everyone for your suggestions! I have just one more question... I noticed that July 21 is a national holiday, so I assume that just about everything will be closed - is that correct? I am considering taking a day trip then on that Saturday to Paris or perhaps somewhere in Germany. Can anyone recommend something better? And do the trains run on a reduced "holiday" schedule?

Thank you so much, I'm really excited about my trip!
Jul 13th, 2007, 02:24 AM
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I think Myriam has a good point. I grew up with Dutch speaking parents so I prefer the northern half of Belgium. From what I understand, the Flemish prefer not to speak French if they can help it. Belgium has been dominated by the French Wallonians for along time but in recent times the Flemish have become more powerful economically so they stand up more.

I was told that Brussels was historically Flemish but became bilingual under presuure from the french speaking Wallonians. So I think it's preferable not to speak French in the northern half of Belgium if you want to respect the Flemish people.

Day trip to Germany: Aachen or Cologne.
Daytrip to Paris IMHO is not worth it as it won't do justice.
DAX is offline  

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