Help planning Belgium trip

Old Jan 27th, 2008, 04:08 PM
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Help planning Belgium trip

Hello.

My wife and I are going to fly from Charlotte to Frankfurt, then connect on to Brussels. We are going to then hop on a train to Paris for five nights, before returning to Brussels for a few days. We will then leave from Brussels to return to Charlotte. Might sound a bit convoluted but it works in terms of travel times and costs for us.

We've been to Paris a few times but this will be our first trip to Belgium. I'm sure we could spend a week or more in Belgium, but unfortunately I have only either two or three full days.

I'm trying to decide on whether I give Belgium two days or three days. Would appreciate any input on that as well as what are the things that we should focus on regardless of two or three days.

We would like to see some art, but not a ton of it and nothing modern. We love seeing old churches and castles. We will likely take in a brewery tour if we can get into one of the Abbey breweries. My wife, (surprise) enjoys shopping a bit. And we like just walking around and seeing different things. I know that leaves a lot open, but we would appreciate any input for this itinerary you might have...aside from 'just spend it all in Paris.'
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Old Jan 27th, 2008, 04:13 PM
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How about Antwerp and Bruges?
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Old Jan 27th, 2008, 04:22 PM
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Yes indeed. I am thinking Bruges for sure with Antwerp as a maybe. I've not got a good feel for how much time it would take to visit Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent or Brussels itself.

Would it be possible to take an entire day and devote it to Antwerp and Bruges? That would leave me either a full day or two to devote to Brussels.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 12:37 AM
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hello,
I'm a tour guide in Belgium and I think there is plenty to do and see for 3 full days in Belgium.
You definitely must visit Bruges (1 day). Ghent is also a great place that would probably deserve 1/2 day. Don't miss the Van Eyck brothers painting in the cathedral and the Castle of the counts (Gravensteen). In Brussels you can either focus on the medieval historic center and walk (1/2 day) or take a sightseeing tour to see the sites and monuments like i.e. the Royal gardens and the Atomium, the Fine Arts Museum, the Japaneese Tower and Chinise House, the Art Nouveau mansions.... Antwerp has a very elegant city center, lovely cathedral containing major paintings by Rubens. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have questions. It's a pleasur eto help.... You may also find lots of info on my website www.qualiguides.be
Enjoy Belgium
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 12:48 AM
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If had to narrow down my choice of Belgian cities, I would also focus on Brugge and Antwerpen.
It may be my personal dislike fueled by too many business trips to Brussels, but I'd rather cut short my time devoted to the capital, than to the other two.
Gent, of course, would also be on my short list.
Don't mistake that as an advice to avoid Brussels - I simply like the other places better.

I don't think you want to do Antwerpen and Brugge on the same day, but save one full day for each.
Antwerpen is just a short ride from Brussels, so if you had enough from Antwerpen for whatever reason, you could go back to the capital in no time.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 02:39 AM
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@ mdtravel
No, it's not possible to see Antwerpen and Brugge in one day. Firstly, they're too far apart and secondly, both cities deserve more than a few hours!

I second the suggestion for a full day in Brugge and a full day in Antwerpen. Both are easy train rides from Brussels and both are easily walkable.
Brugge is quaint and (IMO) a bit Disneylandish as it is mainly aimed to tourists. It is a pretty city, though that I visit at least 3 times a year.
Antwerpen's historical centre is quaint, too. The difference with Brugge is that Antwerpen is more cosmopolitan. It's a city where people actually live and work (our harbour is amongst the largest in the world). Furthermore Antwerpen has everything that you are interested in. Many churches and museums where you can admire the Old Masters (Our Lady's Cathedral holds several masterpieces of Rubens), an old castle (Het Steen), nice squares and cobblestoned streets to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. Even good shopping for your wife, Antwerpen being the fashion capital in Belgium. And many restaurants and cafés where you can taste the local food and beers (De Kulminator sells more than 500 different beers!).

Antwerpen is my hometown, can you tell? ;-)
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 05:21 PM
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Thank you for the great replies and excellent information!

I'm going to have many more questions but we have booked our trip and will have three full days in Belgium.

With respect to Bruges, I have heard that the part of town that most people go see is a rebuilt replica of the real old town. Is this correct and, no offense intended, is a replica really worth going to see? I think I'd rather spend my time in a 'true' historic town....thoughts?
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Old Jan 29th, 2008, 05:43 AM
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No, that information about Brugge is not correct.
Brugge is still as it was in the Middle Ages with the monumental building and houses still intact. For this reason Brugge has been awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO.
That being said, Brugge is a typical tourist town but it's beautiful nonetheless.
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Old Jan 29th, 2008, 06:04 AM
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It is mainly Ieper, or Ypres, which had its Town Hall and a part of the center reconstructed after one of the WWars. But beware, maybe you wouldn't see the difference...

Definitely Brugge 1 entire day. Be sure to stay a night in Brugge. When all the day tourists are gone, you will adore strolling in town. It changes completely.
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Old Jan 29th, 2008, 06:25 AM
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A few years back we did a similar trip - 4 nights in Paris and 4 in Belgium. We chose (and were happy with) basing in Ghent and day tripping to Brugge. Our take was that Ghent was almost as charming as Brugge and was more comfortable as it felt like a real town. I agree that Brugge is a bit too tourist-oriented. Very easy to get anywhere from Ghent via train.
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Old Jan 29th, 2008, 07:41 AM
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Previous poster "...Our take was that Ghent was almost as charming as Brugge and was more comfortable as it felt like a real town. I agree that Brugge is a bit too tourist-oriented...."

This is exactly what I meant. Ghent stays a "real town" at night, with its traffic. Stay in Brugge overnight. The quality of an evening in Brugge is quite different when you have an evening stroll in town. The city is yours...
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Old Jan 31st, 2008, 03:26 PM
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With regards to Ieper, it wasn't just part of the town center that was rebuilt, it was the entire city. There was nothing but rubble left after WWI.

To me, it's an amazing city to see because it looks like it was built in medieaval times, but it's all less than a century old. If you have any interest in WWI history, this is the place to go.
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Old Feb 1st, 2008, 06:48 AM
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I'm Flemish (Flanders part of Belgian) but have spent many years living in Washington DC. Here's my two cents...

I agree that you should limit your time in Brussels, IMO it's just like any other big european city.

Brussels, Ghent & Brugges are on the same train route... so perhaps you could hop on the train stop off in Ghent for 1/2 day and continue to Brugges. I would stay overnight there, spend the next day touring around Brugges and head back in to Brussels. I've been to a working Abbey in Brugge that offered a tour. Can't remember the name. But since Belgium is the Land of Beer you won't have too much trouble finding an Abbey to tour.

Ghent is my home town and is just incredible for art and architecture. I agree with all the comments posted by the guide/agent above. You may want to see the Counts Castle too(Gravensteen Castle - it's right in the city).

Antwerpe is a great city for shopping. There are quite a few famous Belgian designers and Antwerpe is famous for clothing and diamond cutting. Famous lace you will find a plenty in Brugges (make sure if you buy any that it is truly hand made and not machine made).

Take a peak at http://www.visitbelgium.com for some pictures.
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Old Feb 1st, 2008, 06:56 AM
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P.S. send me an email if you decide on Ghent and i'll give you more specifics on what not to miss.
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Old Feb 1st, 2008, 01:37 PM
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For art I really recommend the Fine Arts museum in Brussels if you have any interest in the Flemish masters. Also the beautiful Adoration of the Lamb altarpiece by Van Eyck
at the cathedral in Ghent

The Grand Place in Brussels is also well worth visiting.

I am planning to visit friends in Brussels this year. I have been to Ghent and Brugges and the side trips on my list this time are Antwerp, Mechelen and Tournai. I'd be interested in anyone's experiences visiting Mechelen. It doesn't seem to be mentioned too often but sounds interesting to me
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Old Feb 1st, 2008, 02:23 PM
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Hi, mdtravel -

I'll add my vote for Bruges: At least one full day, including a night. It is lovely, and as others have said, even more wonderful in the evening after day-trippers have left. And depending on your preferred pace, Bruges could easily offer enjoyment for 2 days!

Hope that helps. . . .
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