Ghent, Bruges, Brussels or Antwerp?

Old Dec 16th, 2012, 03:07 PM
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Ghent, Bruges, Brussels or Antwerp?

Hello! We are going to be spending 3 days in Belgium in May and are trying to figure out whether we should spend that time in Ghent, Bruges, Brussels or Antwerp. We are reading wonderful things about all of these cities and are clearly having a tough time deciding We are a young couple who are interested in good food and beer, museums, being able to walk around for hours, and some fun nightlife. Any suggestions? Thank you!
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 03:44 PM
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From your requirements and my having been in all those towns dozens of times I'd say concentrate on Bruges as a base - the best walking around town for sure and Antwerp. Brussels disappoints many deeply - a real modern busy international city but lacking the old-world dreams that oozes from practically any canal or old church in wonderful Bruges. Gent is also nice but is no Bruges. Antwerp has loads of old Flemish art and some great Art Nouveau areas of town as well.
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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Hm, I see the problem. A few thoughts, and just my opinion, really:

*food: brilliant everywhere in Belgium. You won't set a foot wrong, food is so important to the Belgian identity. Someone said once that it was French food in Germanic portions and they weren't wrong.

*nightlife: Antwerp (many jenever pubs), Brussels (around Place-St.-Gery has a lot of fun and trendy beer cafés, can tell you about other options). Bruges is very pretty at night but not so lively. Ghent is more of a city that people live in than Bruges, but doesn't approach Antwerp or Brussels in terms of options and bustling nightlife.

*walking around for hours: Bruges, Ghent - beauty around every corner. Bruges is seriously worth it, and many people manage to stay for a few days because it's so pretty. Ghent has been under heavy-duty construction lately and I'm not sure if it's finished yet. Maybe someone who's been more recently can tell you. I would also find a lot to do in Antwerp and Brussels, but many people are less attracted to Brussels because its centre is not medieval beyond the Grand' Place. Rest assured there is plenty to do in both.

*museums: Brussels has some really excellent museums: the cartoon museum, the musical instrument museum (in one of the most spectacular Art Nouveau buildings), the car museum, the museum in the Porte de Hal. Antwerp has the spectacular Royal Museum of Fine Arts but it is under renovation and won't be open until 2017. There are many others.

*If you like shopping I think Antwerp would have the edge over Brussels. It also has a pretty shopping street, the Meir, and some pretty squares. But I think Brussels has the better nightlife, and more dining options, thanks to the thousands of civil servants with good disposable incomes. It depends what you rate higher.

I would consider basing in one spot (pick Antwerp or Brussels) and taking day trips out from there. You could then have the best of the nightlife and see the best of Ghent and Bruges anyway.

Lavandula
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Old Dec 16th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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Last year we visited Ghent & Antwerp, and in about '08 we visited Bruges. We were in each of these cities for 2 nights & 1 1/2 days. We enjoyed them all equally. We spend 2 months in Europe every year - mainly France.

Both Ghent & Antwerp have better train connections to "elsewhere" than Bruges has. If you stayed in Ghent or Antwerp, you could take a 1 hr train to visit the "other" city as a day-trip for one of your 3 days.

We visited Brussels for several hours, and the central square is the most impressive square we've visited in Europe. Other "places" in Brussels didn't impress us.

Stu Dudley
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 05:42 AM
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Hi... My vote is always for Ghent! yes it may still have some construction going on but it's not overrun with tourists and there's lots to do. Plus Brugge is a 1/2 hour train ride away so you could easily pop over for a day!

There's no shortage of good beer and food in any city in Flanders! But you might want to check local events and Markets... Wednesday is Market day- fish, cheeses meats ready cooked yummy treats - in Brugge on the main square. The Half Moon Brewery tour is also fun.
In Ghent market Day is Friday on the Vrijdag Square.. and around the corner is St Jacobs Flea market on Fri, Sat & Sun.
The churches are gorgeous, St Bavo's. and St Niklaas.
Sunday at the Kouter is the Flower market with the Blue Kiosk serving fresh oysters and champagne.
Chocolate shops on every corner, Max's for waffles- here they are not for breakfast! and there are 2 different kinds. Mokkabon coffee is an old cafe with great coffee, oh and there are no free re-fills!
Beer... Waterhuis /Bierkant is always a favorite and right next door is the Drueplkot, that only serves flavored Gin... not to be missed! There's also Dulle Griet and Trappistenhius. There's also the Gruut Brewery.

Nightlife try Cafe Centrale, or Limonade.
Good food- I know some people will disagree with me but I really love Amadeus- all you can eat ribs! for under 20 euros!
Twilight has great pasta, Krokantino nice for lunch, or Panos for an easy sandwich.

The Information office across from the Gravensteen Castle has maps a listing of events and are generally very helpful!
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 05:56 AM
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Given the way you describe yourself and your interests, Brugge would be my last choice. I would take Antwerp over Ghent because I would prefer the small city buzz to the university vibe, but you might go the other way.

I highly recommend a lunch or beer in Brussels to see the Grand Place, or longer for the day if you want to take in some of its excellent museums, including (but not limited to) Horta House. But I find much of the city unattractive, so I would prefer more stylish Antwerp for a base.
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 06:02 AM
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I just noticed above that somebody said Brussels or Antwerp "seriously disppointed" a lot of people. Brugge "seriously disappointed" me. It is touristy to the MAX. I was quite sorry I had booked 2 nights there, although I took my second day in town to walk as far as I could from the tourist center, and it repaid the effort. But I was absolutely happy in Antwerpen for its sophistication and life of its own independent of tourism, and multi-layers of cultural interaction, historic and modern.

That isn't to say what your reactions will be, and of course Brugge doesn't disappoint a lot of people. It is exactly what they are looking for. But I will say that it really has very little in the way of fun nightlife or jenever bars. I think that is just objectively so, independent of subjective reactions.
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 06:08 AM
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I'm not an expert on Belgium but I'd say Antwerp. I based there last summer and did day trips to Ghent and Brugge easily. Antwerp is big enough to have the things you mention, but small enough to easily navigate, and very pretty. Brugge is the most charming of those cities but more 'touristy' and quieter at night. I spent three days in Brugge several years ago (and revisited it this past trip) and I remember it being pretty dead at night. I think Ghent probably is a wonderful place but I was there during it's summer music festival and between all the staging, plus massive amount of road construction in the center of town, plus it had been raining - it was a freaking mess. I'd like to return someday.

Here are photos of all the cities you mention: http://www.pbase.com/annforcier/belgium
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 03:05 PM
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If you visit Antwerp, you definately have to vist the quarter "Eilandje". It is located in the north of the city with the famous museum 'Museum aan de Stroom' (MAS). It's a lovely place when it is good weather.

You can find more information about Eilandje on http://www.antwerpseilandje.be
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 03:48 PM
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Brussels disappointed me on different levels but Ghent was the redeeming feature of the Belgium leg or our Eurotrip. It's a university town with lots of bikes, canals, and outdoor cafes. From an architecture standpoint I love what Ghent brings to the table. You've got your typical Flemish guild houses mish mashed with these gothic medieval dinosaurs of a church. Truly impressive. Then there's a large castle complete with a moat right in the middle of the city. There's a shopping district Called the Veldtstraat or something like that. The Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market) is where you'll see lots of options for beer and delicious Flemish cuisine. Try the waterzooi
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 03:48 PM
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Ghent. Recommended by Belgians I know I'd go to Brussels as a Daytrip, see the museums and leave. Must admit, it didnt impress me at all.
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 03:50 PM
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I must warn that there aren't nearly as many museums in Ghent as the capital Brussels
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 04:02 PM
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Sorry to quell this discussion, and maybe someone doing a search will find this valuable. However, this thread is from last December and probably the OP is long gone. Seems to have been topped by pieter_maes_9, not sure why.

Lavandula
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