London, Belgium, Paris: 13 nights

Old Jul 9th, 2024, 11:49 AM
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London, Belgium, Paris: 13 nights

My sister and I are planning a trip in September and would appreciate advice from the wonderful Fodors group. We are flying into Heathrow and out of CDG, but as of now our other options are open. We have been to Paris several times and love it, so we want to spend the last 6 nights there. What are your thoughts on this rough draft for our trip?
  • Fly into London, stay 4 nights. Stay in Covent Garden area (not booked yet)
  • Eurostar to Bruges or Ghent; stay 3 nights in one, do a day trip to the other.
  • Eurostat to Paris; stay 6 nights
I have traveled extensively in Europe, and have already been to Brussels. While it has some lovely areas, I don't want to return there. I've been to London once many years ago, and my sister has never been. We'd like to visit the Tower and other main sites, and possibly take in a show there.

Bruges has always been on my bucket list, but not sure that it's the better place to stay vs Ghent which looks wonderful. Any thoughts and advice would be very welcome. Thanks in advance!
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Old Jul 9th, 2024, 02:56 PM
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Both Bruges and Ghent ARE wonderful, although Bruges still gets more visitors because cruise ships disembark at Zeebrugge and everyone goes to Bruges. However, Ghent is trying to attract visitors who will stay the night (as per a recent campaign). Doubtless this is to try to lessen the effects of day-trippers who come but do not spend so much money.

You also need to know that there are works being done to the tram lines in Ghent and that this will have an effect immediately as the main part of the town is a 25 minute walk from the station and most people catch the tram there. Read this: it's a bit older but works are still happening:

https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/2023/11...work-in-ghent/

and this:

https://www.delijn.be/en/gemeente/gent/

De Lijn is the transport company for Flanders (so tickets you buy in Ghent are good for Bruges as well). I never try to promote one town over the other. Both have their pluses and minuses (Bruges is crowded but beautiful - some would say mystical, while Ghent is a bit livelier and workaday because it is a university city but still has a medieval heart). I will let others chime in here.

Lavandula
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Old Jul 9th, 2024, 04:59 PM
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Thanks lavandula, that is very helpful information. I can see that I'll need to do some research on De Lijn. If we choose not to take a tram, are taxis or Ubers readily available in Ghent?
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Old Jul 9th, 2024, 06:01 PM
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Have you both been to London before? If not (and maybe even if yes) I'd want to add one or two nights to London. It is huge of course with soooooo much to see and do. But mainly because your arrival day is essentially a 'non day'. Four night nets you three usable days What with jet lag, arrival formalities, transit, etc one or both of you may not be firing on all cylinders for a day or two.
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Old Jul 9th, 2024, 08:46 PM
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Yes, you can get taxis in Ghent - Uber is only Uber X, which is professional drivers and it is not particularly widespread in Belgium. However, many streets are blocked off or only open between certain hours as a result of the roadworks / tramworks. I am not expert in this but I think that De Lijn website will be able to help you out. If you stay in Ghent you might try asking your host / hotel for the best way to reach them, as they will be apprised of the latest situation.

Lavandula
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 05:21 AM
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Can agree to skipping Brussels, we did not love it, and with the upper and lower parts of town found bit hard to navigate, even with Lavandula's advice. We loved Bruges and spent 4 nights at Guesthouse No. 11, which was perfect and quiet and a short few blocks to the main square. The interior was beautifully done and we had a huge attic room, with great views. We did a day trip by train to Ghent but again, bigger city, and left us not loving it. Perhaps not enough time to seek out the best spots. In Bruges we were close to the residential streets and the windmills of the city and it was quieter than around the square naturally. We departed Brussels to Gare du Nord in Paris, but coming out of Brussels had to change train stations once to be on the Paris direct line, and recall there were no elevators, or at least we couldnt find them. Your trip sounds great.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 08:32 AM
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Hello,

We (family of 4) took a similar trip last summer: London-Amsterdam-Bruges-Amboise-Paris. We stayed in Bruges and I loved it. Had a nice Airbnb close to the center of town. We only stayed in Bruges so cannot comment on Ghent. It was more crowded during the day, but it was not unbearable. Check out the Michelangelo in one of the churches there if that sort of thing interests you.

I agree that adding a day to London is a good idea. I'd take it from Paris since you say you've been there before. Tower of London can take hours. I think we were there around 5 hours. Not because of crowds or lines (although there was a line for the Crown Jewels), but because there is so much to see and explore.

Enjoy
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 11:48 AM
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You can pack a lot in to 3 full days in London if you plan well but it pays to reach in advance what you want to see and then fit them into some sort of logical itinerary. We live in London and often have friends and family coming to stay and this is one of our "staple" days out:
  • Start at Green Park tube station
  • Walk through Green Park to Buckingham Palace.
  • Walk up the Mall to Trafalgar Square
  • Down Whitehall to Parliament Square - Big Ben and Houses of Parliament (with a quick peek at Downing Street)
  • Get the Uber boat up river to London Bridge (great views along the way)
  • Walk along the South Bank to Tower Bridge (maybe stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants or even a longer walk to Borough Market)
  • Walk over Tower Bridge
  • Visit the Tower of London/St Katherines Dock
  • Tube form Tower Hill or Monument back to your hotel
Its a full day and you can easily do it in reverse to avoid the crowds at the Tower.

Covent Garden is a decent place to stay with lots of restaurants there and in Soho and Seven Dials. There is a nice outdoor food market in Seven Dials which I think should still be running in September. Depending o budget, The Covent Garden Hotel on Monmouth Street or The Londoner on Leicester Square are very nice( if expensive)
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 04:36 PM
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Thanks janisj, I think that once we really start looking at all there is to do in London, we might want to add more time there.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 04:40 PM
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aliced, I'm glad to hear that you really enjoyed Bruges. I've wanted to go there for years, but it never made sense with any other itinerary. Maybe we could just go there and skip Ghent for now. No elevators in the train station sounds challenging. I think I'll research that in advance and see if I can locate any.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 04:45 PM
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crellston, thank you so much for your detailed reply. I will definitely use that to help plan our days. I'm going to look into those hotels as well. It looks like Covent Garden is conveniently located to many theaters, and we'd like to see a play while we're there.
.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 04:46 PM
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I've been to London, but only for a jam-packed weekend. My sister has never been, but we're both looking forward to going there.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 04:49 PM
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rmoore, thanks for the tip about the Michelangelo. I always try to seek out his work. Taking a day from Paris sounds like a good idea.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 06:15 PM
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Elevator (lift) on platform for Gent-St.-Pieters: https://www.belgiantrain.be/en/stati...t-sint-pieters

Elevator for Bruges / Brugge: https://www.belgiantrain.be/en/stati...anderen/brugge

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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 06:47 PM
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Covent Garden is VERY central. Hotels in the area tend to be either quite posh (i.e. expensive) or pretty basic like Hub or Travelodge. I do like staying in the area -- but 10 or 15 other neighborhoods are also central and equally convenient for theatres and sightseeing. What sort of budget do you have??

Re the walking day recommendation above -- a couple of things: 1) A lot would depend on the weather; and 2) I would definitely do it in reverse order and start out at the Tower of London right at opening time. That is the only time during the day when it is possible to visit the Crown Jewels without waiting an hour or longer in line. Then you could walk across Tower Bridge, have a late-ish lunch in Borough Market, see Southwark Cathedral, then walk west along the Southbank and so on . . . But I honestly wouldn't do that itinerary unless you do add a few nights to London. It would take an entire day so I wouldn't devote that much time if you only have 4 nights/3 days in the city.
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Old Jul 11th, 2024, 08:48 AM
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Thank you!
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Old Jul 11th, 2024, 09:43 AM
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janisj, thanks for the recommendation on timing for that walking day. What other areas would you recommend in which to stay? We like to be able to walk to dinner, plays and generally around town. As much as possible, my sister would like to avoid the tube (I have no problem using it, though).

We have stayed in nice Airbnbs in France and Italy, so knowing a good neighborhood would be very helpful in choosing an Airbnb. We also like to stay in good quality 3 or 4 star hotels in safe neighborhoods. Sometimes we splurge on a 5 star, but we would not do that for the whole trip.
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Old Jul 11th, 2024, 11:24 AM
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Covent Garden is very central -- and there are several theatres in the area. But depends which shows you are seeing -- because there are other theatre districts (around Shaftsbury/Piccadilly Circus, near Victoria on the Southbank and elsewhere. There really is no neighborhood where you can avoid public transport for at least some of your touring -- if you want to avoid the tube, then it will have to be taxis and buses.

Holborn/Bloomsbury is walkable to most of the theatres in Covent Gardsn and is about a mile from Piccadilly circus. St James's is walkable to lots of the West End. Tottenham Court Rd/Goodge Street/Fitzrovia are walkable. as is much of the Southbank. Victoria is farther -- but there are a few mainstream theatres right there.
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Old Jul 11th, 2024, 04:23 PM
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Thanks janisj, I will plot out on the map once we decide which show to see. I would love to see Tina!
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Old Jul 11th, 2024, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by cybertraveler
Thanks janisj, I will plot out on the map once we decide which show to see. I would love to see Tina!

Tina is playing at the Aldwych Theatre so anywhere in Covent Garden, or on Aldwych or on the Strand or near Holborn Station would be within easy walking distance. Those locations have TONS of hotels from budget (like HUB or Travelodge) to world famous grand (like the Savoy) to ApartHotels (like Citadines) and everything in between . . . you should be able to find something no matter your budget.

That area also has masses of restaurants and pubs.
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