Day trip suggestions from Brussels

Old Aug 8th, 2009, 08:20 AM
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Day trip suggestions from Brussels

Hello,

I will be in Brussels for 5 days in September (last week). My sister will be there on business and I will be tagging along for a mini vacation. Neither of us has been to Brussels or anywhere in Belgium for that matter. We of course will tour Brussels (any suggestions on not to miss places in this area would be much appreciated).

I'm wondering if there are any day trips around Brussels that are worth visiting? Brugge maybe? Any places in France or Germany that may be close enough - within an hour or 2 train ride?

Thank you for your help!
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Old Aug 8th, 2009, 08:27 AM
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In doing a bit more research here on Fodors, it seems that 5 full days in Brussels may be a bit much. So definitely day trips. Ghent and Bruges was mentioned for medieval type towns as was Antwerpen for shopping. I happen to love medieval type towns as well as shopping. Also, I think I will look into maybe Paris as a day trip.
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Old Aug 8th, 2009, 12:37 PM
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You should consider Maastricht, at the very southern tip of the Netherlands. You can reach it by train in less than 2 hours. The center of Maastricht is a medieval walled city and you can see the Helpoort -- the town gate from the 13th-century. Lots of history, some very old churches, and caves/mines in the area. Also, there's great shopping!

Antwerp is my favorite place in the world for shopping, though, since there are boutiques and stores that you just can't find at home in the malls.

No question that you should include Brugge, but you may want to consider doing an overnight trip rather than just a day trip, as it's quite a charming town.
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Old Aug 8th, 2009, 05:16 PM
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Try http://www.planetware.com/brussels. There are lots of ideas there for Brussels and also other places around Belgium. Personally, I like Brussels a lot, even though there are many modern, less parts of the city.

Don't miss the Grand Place and the Mannekin Pis right down one of the lanes. The civic museum (stadmuseum/museecommunal) is interesting. One room has all the outfits that various groups have sent for the mannekin to wear, which he does on various occasions. I have seen him naked and clothed. The Galleries St. Hubert has a glass roof and is a street of ritzy shops--interesting looking but way out of my budget. The palace at Laeken has lovely gardens.

Outside of Brussels and an easy train ride, are cities of Brugge, Antwerp and Ghent.

In Antwerp I really liked the Rubens House. He was one of the few artists who was financially successful in his lifetime. It was not only his studio but living areas, expecially the kitchen. Kitchens are of particular interest to me.

Ghent has lots of canals and you can get a boatride around when the feet get tired. St. Bavons Cathedral is supposed to be interesting; it was closed when I was there so can't give a first hand report. Also a great castle.

Brugge, which everyone seems to love, is old and was saved from modern development when it's harbor silted up hundreds of years ago and so it was no longer a viable port. Fun to wander. Again boatrides when the feet get tired. The church is beautiful.
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Old Aug 8th, 2009, 05:39 PM
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Ghent is a good place to spend a morning or a day. It's easy to get to. In the cathedral of St Bavo is the van Eyck altarpiece The Adoration of the Holy Lamb, which is worth the trip by itself.

The most impressive place I visited was the Hospital of Dr. Guislain (a short tram ride from the center). It is an old psychiatric hospital, but also a museum-- one section devoted to a history of mental illnesses and their treatment, and another to art created by patients, including beautiful installations which are like visiting the inside of someone's mind. The old physical plant is also fascinating. Maybe not for everyone, and definitely not crowded.
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Old Aug 8th, 2009, 06:20 PM
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Brugge and Ghent are your basic options. I would spend a couple of nights in the former - to see the town in day and evening and then to see Gent on the way back to Brussels.
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Old Aug 15th, 2009, 05:01 AM
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Thank you everyone for your replies. I'm waiting for a couple of books to come in the mail that I ordered. I appreciate all of your responses - gives me a great start on places to visit. We are heavily considering a day trip to Paris by train. Has anyone done this? I know 1 day is not nearly enough time to really see anything. We would basically have a list of shops we want to hit - so it would be a shopping 1 day visit, not really a touring type day trip.
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Old Aug 15th, 2009, 05:45 AM
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The train does not even need 90 minutes from Brussels to Paris. Since you have realistic expectations of what you can and can't do or see, I don't know why you should not do that trip. If you take one of the first trains and return with one of the last, you will have quite many hours to fill.

I have done several day trips to Paris (mostly involuntarily, i.e. business trips that I could only extent by one more day for pleasure), and the biggest mistake, IMO, would be to become totally hectic because of the limited time. And keep literally running around all day to "maximize" your day.

"Waste" some time for a coffee or drink here and there, have some nice lunch - rather in a "quicker" bistro than a fully-fledged restaurant-, do your shopping. Maybe throw in a short Seine cruise in the evening, last train back to Brussels does not leave until 10pm. There is a lot to see and experience in only a few hours when you slow down.
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Old Aug 15th, 2009, 08:14 PM
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Aachen is a nice trip from Brussels and is a bit of a contrast.

Lavandula
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 09:35 PM
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we stayed in brussels for 5 nights. every day we went to a different town: ghent, antwerp and brugges and spent one day in brussels. i wouldn't stay in brussels more than a day though to and miss out on these 3 cities. you could do a half day in 2 places to see more, but depending on your travel style you may find it more enjoyable to spend more time to take a nice walk around the town, see the sites and eat a nice meal without rushing...
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 01:43 AM
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Antwerp is cetainly more than shopping!
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 03:56 PM
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Thank you for all the replies. My last day in Belgium is of course a Sunday (I fly home on Monday morning). Is anything open on a Sunday, whether it be in Brussels, another Belgium city or even Paris?? I know I made the mistake of doing the same thing last time I was in Germany, spent my last day in Munich before flying out the next morning and not a thing was open. I'm hoping something (shops, etc.) are open on Sunday. Maybe Paris??? Maybe next trip I'll learn my lesson.
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 05:55 PM
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Another good reason to try Maastricht is to see the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/ne.php
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 01:24 AM
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Hi Katzen, most shops are closed on a Sunday in Belgium - in Brussels there are some supermarkets open but often only for half a day, and there are what they call the 'night shops' open till late at night (these are small neighbourhood shops where you can buy some food, limited groceries, newspapers, snacks, etc.) There is a flea market open on Sunday morning at Gare du Midi, and I think some of the gift shops around Grand' Place are open too. There are also some museums open, such as the Magritte Museum. So I wouldn't plan to spend any time shopping - do that during the week and spend Sunday in a market, museum or park ...

Lavandula
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Old Sep 4th, 2009, 08:49 AM
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Thank you scotlib and Lavandula for your replies. I am waiting to hear whether my sister will have friday free so we can take our day trip to Paris. Since so few shops are open on Sunday we may use this day to walk around, visit different sites, take pictures and possibly the museums.

I live in Virginia and I know in September the weather can be warm, sometimes even humid. What is the weather like in Belgium during this time. We will be there 9/23-9/28.

Thank you!
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Old Sep 14th, 2009, 11:49 AM
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I've finally been able to start reading some of the material on Belgium. It looks as if we are going to visit Ghent and Bruge and of course we are staying in Brussels so we will tour here as well. A Paris day trip may happen - we won't know until later whether or not my sister has a day free to do this.

A few questions that arose in the beginning of my research:
1.If you had to choose would you choose a canal ride in Ghent or Bruge?
2. Is it possible to do 1 day trip and fit both Bruge and Ghent? I ask because if we can fit both of these places into one day then that may leave another day open for Paris.
3. We are staying at the Stanhope, which appears (by looking at a map) to be a bit far from the center of town. I could be wrong. I'm thinking we will be using the tram, subway, etc. Is Brussels more of a 'walkable' city or more of a 'you are going to need to take a tram and/or use the subway'. I've walked over every city/town I've ever been in .. Munich, etc.... we are young and fast walkers ... so not concerned about walking ... just wasn't sure how big Brussels is.
4. I have the adapters for my phone and camera that i used in Germany and Switzerland. Does anyone know if the sockets are the same in Belgium or do i need a new converter/adapter for this country?

I will post later some of the places we are interesting in visiting in each of these cities as soon as I organize my list.

ps: in looking at Brussels, i've never seen so many different 'quaters/areas' for shopping - all over the city!
Thank you all for your help!
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Old Sep 16th, 2009, 08:40 PM
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!. Sorry, can't say as I've never done this.

2. I would think this would be a little frustrating unless you are the sort of travellers who are happy just getting a feel for a city and moving on quite quickly, which is okay. Most people prefer Brugge (Bruges) and try to spend a couple of days there, or prioritise Brugge and Ghent over Brussels. I would be tempted to just do Belgium this trip and leave Paris for later, and then take a few days to see that. There is so much to see there, that a day trip doesn't do it justice.

3. If you stay in the centre of Brussels you can just do it all on foot - there is a lot which is accessible because it's quite compact. However, if you decide to do anything in Outer Brussels such as the Atomium, the palace at Laeken, even the Sunday markets at Gare du Midi, you will probably want a metro ticket. If you do the Horta Museum you will probably want to use the metro or a tram because it's a way out of the city. This takes you through the posh part of town (Avenue Louise), where there is shopping also. Ask at your hotel for directions. Since you are in the European district I would be inclined to get metro tickets because it will be more convenient. And a word about the area you are staying in - parts are a little barren after dark as it's the business / government district. No need to be frightened but if you are coming back to the hotel late at night you might feel more comfortable with a taxi. Some metro stations are closed quite early in the evening and you might want to check this out with your hotel too. Close by is Place du Luxembourg where there are some cafes and shops - not a shopping district but maybe somewhere convenient to get a bite to eat.

4. You can use the same adaptors as for Germany, no problems.

Lavandula
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Old Sep 16th, 2009, 11:09 PM
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Hi,
Just had a look at the location of the Stanhope - Brussels is really a very small city so it's certainly not far from the centre of town. I think it is an easy city to walk around, mainly because it is so small. Street layouts are confusing though, so arm yourself with a good map.

From your hotel it would take you 10-15 minutes to walk to the main museum area, 20 minutes to the Grand Place, 15 minutes to the Place du Sablon. By bus or metro, 5 minutes to get to the centre. The shopping area around Toison d'Or/Avenue Louise is a 5-10 minute walk.

Lavendula is right that the area near your hotel has a lot of office buildings etc. so can be quite quiet at night; however, the hotel is right near rue du Trone and rue du Luxembourg, both of which (IMO) are fairly busy streets.
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Old Oct 25th, 2009, 09:04 AM
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If you want to get out of the city a trip to Spa is great.

The Thermes are beautiful, you can swim indoor/outdoor all year round.

Great golf course if you like golf.

Lovely signposted walks all around the area, leaving from Spa but also from other close-by villages (for example Stoumont, Butgenbach).

However avoid the restaurant "le bouchon gourmand", see our tale on www.bouchon-gourmand.blogspot.com
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