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Deciding between Naples, Brussels, or Lisbon

Deciding between Naples, Brussels, or Lisbon

Mar 5th, 2012, 06:20 PM
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Deciding between Naples, Brussels, or Lisbon

I need some help deciding where to go on my next trip in November 2012. I have 2-3 possible destinations in mind, and for the life of me I can't decide which one to choose. I need to do some thinking out loud, and would really love to hear people's thoughts, impressions, etc.

For background, this trip will be approx. 2 weeks long, divided into two parts. The second part will be spent with family in England, and they'll actually be flying back with me to Canada, so England has to make up the second half of the trip.

The first part of the trip is where I need some help. I will be flying Air Transat, which means extremely limited flight destinations to choose from. I will probably be traveling alone (maybe not, but doubtful bf can get away in Nov). I will not have a car and will therefore be taking public transportation. I'll be packing light.

Most importantly, I will have 5-6 nights to spend.

I've narrowed down my options to Naples, Brussels, or Lisbon, and I'd love to hear your subjective opinion on one or all of these cities. Did you love it, hate it, don't care? Where would you go and why?

There are other cities I've considered, like Madrid, Berlin, and Istanbul, but the logistics of getting there (given my limited parameters) are too difficult for this trip. I've been to both London and Paris a few times and want to go somewhere new, so that's why I've omitted them from the list of possibilities.

I'm also open to any new suggestions

But here are my own quick, preliminary, rambling thoughts.

My heart says Naples. It's been on my wishlist forever. The history and character are what interest me. I've been to Italy twice before (Florence and Rome) and loved both trips. In fact a part of me is thinking of returning to either Florence or Rome instead, but another part of me really wants to go somewhere new, i.e. Naples.

Want: explore/wander the city, churches, architecture, opera, Archeology Museum, Pompeii, food, stay in the city centre (looking at the Hotel Pinto Storey).

Logistics: I would be flying into LGW from YYZ, arriving LGW at 10:10am.

To get to Naples, there is a BA flight departing LGW at 2:20pm. That is only a 4 hour window, and it worries me. The other option would be to spend the night (in London or at Gatwick) and take the 7:30am BA flight the next morning. I don't like the idea of wasting a night like that. No option to fly direct to Naples from YYZ (and I'm pretty much stuck with Air Transat). Getting to Naples is the problem. Coming back is not an issue, I'd fly back to Gatwick, train to St Pancras, and go from there.

I would definitely stay put in Naples the entire time.

My head says Belgium. Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp have also been on my wish list forever. I LOVE the Flemish Primitives, and I want to learn more about Magritte and Art Nouveau.

Want: museums, architecture, food, churches, museums, and more museums.

Logistics: Easy. Fly into Gatwick, train to St Pancras, Eurostar to Brussels. There are plenty of Eurostar trains to choose from throughout the afternoon and early evening, so there is less chance of me missing the train. If, due to some massive delay with the plane, I did miss it, there are others that day I could take (cost not withstanding). Coming back is simple, I'd just take the Eurostar back to St Pancras.

Not sure how I would divide my nights in Belgium- stay in Brussels the whole time and take day trips? Or move around a bit in order to experience one or two smaller cities at night/early morning?

I really think I am going to feel rushed in Belgium with only 5-6 nights.

Wildcard. It's a distant 3rd right now, but I could probably be convinced otherwise. Many years ago I was dying to go to Portugal and started planning a trip with an old bf that fell through. Then I sort of forgot about it, although it's never been completely off my radar as a destination. The character and atmosphere is certainly appealing to me.

Want: explore/wander, churches, architecture, food, history, ??? would need to do more research for specific places.

Logistics: Easy. I could fly directly to Lisbon (stopover in Faro but on one airline ticket). This is actually what made me consider Lisbon for this trip in the first place. I haven't looked at flights from Lisbon to London but I'm not picky about the airport.

I would probably stay put in Lisbon and take a daytrips.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Mar 5th, 2012, 06:29 PM
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Hi Apres_Londee,

If you choose Brussels, I would stay 4-5 nights there and 2 nights in Bruges. You can visit the other cities as a day trip, but Bruges is truly magical at night when all the daytrippers are gone. I've been to Bruges 3x - 1st two times as a daytripper and 3rd time finally stayed there for a couple of nights. Loved it so much when we had the town by ourselves in the evening.

The art nouveau buildings in Brussels can easily take a whole day (there are self-guided art nouveau walking maps you can buy).
yk is online now  
Mar 5th, 2012, 06:41 PM
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Hi yk,

I absolutely love your trip reports on Belgium, and I remember you saying how much you enjoyed your stay in Bruges.

Gah, such a difficult decision.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Mar 5th, 2012, 07:28 PM
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Brussels, Brugge, Ghent would work fine for you with just about the right amount of time. So, I would stick with that.

Amsterdam would also be great for the whole time.

Don't know if they are a possibility with your flight limitations, but have you considered Venice or Barcelona? The amount of time you have is just right to explore either one without going anyplace else, and they are both places that I would enjoy going even by myself.

I love Naples and you do have Pompeii and Herculaneum, but I think it is so much nicer in warmer weather, that would be a factor. I also would prefer to be with someone there.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 5th, 2012, 07:47 PM
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I'd rank them Lisbon, Naples, Brussels. Aside from the Art Nouveau, which only occupied an afternoon (and I'm a big AN fan), and an evening for the square, I thought Brussels was missable. Bruges is pretty, but overloaded with tourists. And I wouldn't go in November with alternatives further south.

I love Lisbon, and with that amount of time you could day trip to Obidos or Evora as well as Sintra. See my TR for the trip before last: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ing-lisbon.cfm

Naples (which I did solo) was OK, but it was Herculaneaum, Capri (away from the crowds) and the Amalfi Coast that I really liked.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 5th, 2012, 07:56 PM
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This is a tough choice since each place has its charms. Your Belgium option would be the easiest. Bruge, of course, is wonderful as is the Ghent altarpiece.

I am also a big fan of Naples -- be sure to see The Veiled Christ sculpture at Capella Sansevero.

But I also love Lisbon -- it's full of character and the weather might be best there. The city itself is fascinating -- be sure to visit one or more fado clubs. Sintra makes a great day trip. So, I'll cast my vote for Lisbon.
Magster2005 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2012, 08:25 PM
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Cheers everyone, I'm reading and will keep reading every word posted in this thread.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Mar 6th, 2012, 05:13 AM
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I have not been to Lisbon so can't offer any personal experience. Portugal is on our short wish list and I just ordered one of my Fodors free guides for that country so I certainly would not discourage you from going there.

Naples is an amazing city and Pompeii, Herculaneum and the archeology museum would rank up there with the high points of our European travels over the years. Capri is also doable in a day trip.

Last fall we spent 11 days in Belgium (with one day trip to a museum in the Netherlands) and didn't even go to Brugge or Ghent on that trip. We are big fans of the country which (despite being voted "least cool" in a poll last year) offers great food, great beer and great chocolate in addition to the great art you have identified. With only 5 to 6 nights you would have to pick and choose. Brugge OR Antwerp would be logical places to spend two days with the rest of the time in Brussels. You could take a day trip from Brussels to see the Adoration of the Lamb altarpiece in Ghent which seems like a "must see" given your taste in art.

Here is a link to my trip report which includes time in Brussels and Antwerp
Vttraveler is online now  
Mar 6th, 2012, 06:02 AM
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We liked Lisbon enough to go back a second time, although now I've no real idea quite why - perhaps merely that it was handy for London?

But soon afterwards we "discovered" Rome (me really, my wife had had 2 years in Italy as a student) - and moved to live in Naples province nine years ago tomorrow!

The city...

... and some of its surroundings..

You may be the only person for whom it's a convenience but the very good, bimonthly magazine - 'Qui Napoli' - that's published by the Naples area tourism people has taken a winter pause, so you can still download the Nov/Dec 2011 edition from...


Crisis allowing, they'll be starting again in Spring!

Remember too that from here you could easily have a night or two in the capital - it's only 70 minutes away on the fast train (€45), or about double that on the €10.50 Regionale.... although we usually opt for the middle choice, and take the €22 IC when making our own November visits:


A_Brit_In_Ischia is offline  
Mar 6th, 2012, 06:11 AM
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I would choose Belgium. I thought you had gone there a couple of years ago but I guess that trip didn't happen. I keep thinking about a Belgium trip myself.

1. You really want to go there.
2. Easy to get to England from Brussels.
3. Great art and architecture
4. Lots of good indoor activities for November (if weather does not cooperate).

I agree to spend a couple of nights in Brugge.

I'm not a Lisbon fan although I adored Sintra. I've never been to Naples in November but I think it might be cold and damp then and not very pleasant to walk around the archeological sites.

PS - Did you know the Barnes Foundation is opening in Philadelphia in May? I'm sad because I loved the Merion location and it was easier to get to but the Phila location will make the museum more accessible to others.
adrienne is offline  
Mar 6th, 2012, 07:31 AM
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A big part of my vote is that it will be in November and I'm just thinking cool, rainy? in Belgium which I guess works OK if alot of your trip is indoor, museums?

You've been to Italy and I must admit an extended stay in Naples does not entice me. I'd go there in nicer weather when you could enjoy the Amalfi coast as well.

So I vote Lisbon - we were there at the end of a cruise last Oct., now I've planned a 5 night trip there for May. It's a neat city, some unique cultural aspects and there are several easy day trips to see some of the rest of the country.
suec1 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2012, 07:37 AM
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In November you don't want to be in Brussels, you are already making the ultimate sacrifice and coming to UK in November.

Lisbon looks the most attractive, Art Nouveau made it to Lisbon, there is a Tririeme to visit in the Arsenal and if yo uget board the train system is good enough to visit other parts of what is a small country and it should be at least 18C
bilboburgler is offline  
Mar 6th, 2012, 09:54 AM
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Naples has more going for than any European city, except maybe, than Paris. You will find that one you see Naples, you will always want to go back. Just being there is exillerating.
Waldo is offline  
Mar 6th, 2012, 10:03 PM
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Thanks so much everyone for your thoughts

I've been reading everyone's posts (and trip reports!) and, even though the weather would probably be better, I've decided to save Lisbon for another, more romantic trip. Chances are good I'll be alone, and I feel like Lisbon is a place where I'd want to be with a friend, spend time relaxing, rent a car and see the countryside, etc. A different sort of trip than what I'm planning this time.

I'm still undecided over Belgium and Naples. The more I read, the more difficult it feels to make a decision. I'm not too concerned about the weather, I'll be damp and chilly at home anyways.

The good news is, I probably have 7 nights to spend now. So the two basic itineraries I'm trying to decide between are these:

Brussels- 5 nights (Ghent daytrip, maybe Antwerp daytrip if time)
Bruges- 2 nights


Gatwick Hilton- 1 night (check in and dump my bags, then head out to London or Brighton for the day)
Naples- 6 nights

I think I'm going to let my OCD run loose and plan out the blow-by-blow itinerary for each one to help me decide. This thread will probably end up being my extremely annoying blog spot.

adrienne, you're absolutely right I did plan a trip to Belgium a couple of years ago, but decided to go to Scotland with my parents instead (that trip also included London and Paris, and I never did a trip report ). Thanks for telling me about the Barnes, I didn't know that and it's great news for folks like me! Now you've got me thinking about taking a long weekend this summer.

vttraveler, I can't believe Belgium was voted least cool! I can only assume Canada wasn't on the ballot
Apres_Londee is offline  
Mar 7th, 2012, 04:35 AM
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Apres_Londee; Canada was voted fourth "least cool" following Belgium, Poland and Turkey.

My husband and I did find that many people looked at us blankly when we announced we were spending our vacation in Belgium, but we had a great trip.

I hope planning the two possible trips will help you decide between your two very different possible destinations.
Vttraveler is online now  
Mar 7th, 2012, 05:35 PM
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Aw, rats. We're not even best at being the least

I'm getting those blank stares when I mention Belgium, too. When I mention Naples, I get mutterings about cleanliness and the mafia.

Sometimes I think I need new friends.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Mar 7th, 2012, 07:12 PM
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all 3 great cities with great side trips. Of the remaining two, I would go for Brussels partly because of the weather. Naples would be best reserved for September or early October when it is lovelier imo.
ncounty is offline  
Mar 7th, 2012, 09:08 PM
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The weather in Naples can be wonderful in November, especially if you want to go to Pompei. It can be quite hot in September.

I'm a huge fan of the cuisine of both places, and I quite enjoy Antwerp and Ghent. Not very interested in Bruges and I would never spend 5 days in Brussels. I'd like to see the rest of Belgium -- but not in November.

Naples is incredibly fascinating. I could easily spend another month there. it's museums and churches merit repeat visits. I've yet to see all the sites of antiquity at Pompei and its surroundings.
zeppole is offline  
Mar 8th, 2012, 02:31 AM
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All those destinations are great. I had heard a few negative reviews of Naples but found it to be underrated and absolutely loved the Amalfi coast. In the city itself there isn't much to do besides the archaeology museum, but here is a good list of the 10 main attractions: http://www.ucityguides.com/naples/
As you'll see, the best part of a visit to Naples are the daytrips.

The same applies to Brussels. The Grand Place is impressive but after that I wasn't impressed. However, I loved Bruges, a mini Venice but with its own atmosphere. It's a small place but wonderful to relax, especially as a couple.

I personally love Lisbon and have gone there a few times on business. In terms of easy access to London, Brussels and Lisbon are your best choices. Going to Lisbon means also going to Sintra, one of Europe's still-secret treasures for its architecture and fairytale atmosphere. Lisbon also has some wonderfully unique attractions, from the baroque tiles everywhere http://www.lisbonlux.com/culture/azulejos.html to the gilded art in almost every church http://www.lisbonlux.com/culture/talha-dourada.html . As a capital city, it also beats Naples in terms of number of attractions.

I think your choice will have to come to logistics, flights, etc. In November, the best weather will also be in Naples and Lisbon.
ColeConners is offline  
Mar 8th, 2012, 06:14 AM
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I'm amazed that CC couldn't find much to do in Naples. We spent a week in Naples with only one day trip to Vesuvius and ran out of time to see (and eat) all that we wanted:
Marija is online now  

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