Three days in Belgium

Old Oct 26th, 2010, 12:38 PM
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Three days in Belgium

We will be spending three days and nights in Belgium after disembarking our cruise ship in Zeebrugge. We arrive on a Sat. morning and will fly out of Brussels airport on Tuesday. I need suggestions. Brugge is at the top of my list and I want to spend the last night at the airport. Thankyou in advance.
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 01:05 PM
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Gent is a short distance by train or car from Bruges and is also a very captivating and historic city - you could do it as a day trip from Bruges

and then spend the last day in Brussels, a city frankly that many report to be real disappointing - from the standpoint of an average tourist that is - not that Brussels cannot be a fascination cosmopolitan city - just one lacking much old-world romance we expect European cities to offer IMO
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 01:17 PM
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First and foremost, go to the Guardian website -- the newspaper of the United Kingdom -- and use the search feature on their travel section to look up past articles on Bruges and other Belgian destinations. Many many UK residents hop over to Belgium for weekends, so the British press is a great resource of up-to-date info on what's of interest in Belgium

Otherwise, it is really hard to advise without knowing more about your tastes and what you want out of a visit to Belgium.

With all good intentions, I booked myself into a 2-night stay in Bruges and the very minute I arrived, I regretted my choice. Bruges is totally a tourist destination. It has very little other existence than being a picture postcard tourist sight.

Other people absolutely love it and would disagree with me, but I'm just telling you my reaction for what it's worth.

I had also booked myself into a brief stay in Antwerp and a visit to Ghent. I found both much more engaging, with much better food (including chocolate!), and much more of a window into history and the present day life of Belgium. I also loved the art and archtiecture there (but be warned that as of this moment, Ghent is undergoing a lot of public works and restoration, which ends up hiding sights and vistas behind scaffolding).

A few years later, I went to busy Brussels. The Grand Place is a world treasure, the food is grand, there are gems of museums -- but it is to my eye a tragically ugly city, the victim of wars and poor planning.

Food, beer and spirits throughout Belgium are simply wonderful.

Have a great trip!
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 01:37 PM
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Hi PalenQ,
I'm also planning to spend about 5 days in Belgium next year, and rather than spending a few nights here and a few nights there, I'm thinking of staying put in one place and go off on day trips. Which city would you recommend for a base? Brugge, Brussels, Antwerp or Ghent?
Thanks!
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 01:44 PM
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Brugge is a small town, so you can walk it through in one day. I was there for three days, in my first day there was "wow" and in my last day I got really bored. Minnewater park is lovely and Hospital museum gives that strange, depressive, "gothic" feeling. Also panorama view from the central church (forgot the name, sorry) and the river excursions are usual must-haves. It's croweded, indeed, but I don't regret and now can say "I was in Brugge. It's in Belgium" Ghent is a lot like Brugge but definitely less crowded.

My favourite one in Belgium is Antwerpen. It's approximately 1,5-2 hours from Brugges by train. Antwerpen is a big city, so one day is too short to experience it all but you can walk along Scheldt's banks, see one of museums (we liked Fashion museum and Rembrandt's house), see this famous man throwing the hand.

Brussels is less than a hour by train from Antwerpen and is also interesting. It might be not as breathtaking or tourist-friendly as other cities but it has its specifics. I liked Atomium (subway station Hayzel), a futuristic architecture with museum inside. Actually, inside it is even more interesting than outside, give kind of science fiction feeling. There is also a comic strips museum and a dozen of houses right in the centre of the city with huge comic strips on them. It's funny when you suddenly see something like this in a modern big city.

Thick Belgium fries are really good with mayo. My Belgian friends keep telling that their nation invented the fries and the name "French" is a total mistake. Moules are very good, too.
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 03:07 PM
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I just returned from that area.

Brugges: I really liked it. Very touristy, but worthy of at least a full day. I don't know that I would do anything more than that.

Brussels: I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong...the Grand Place was beautiful, but the rest was just very urban. I live in urban and I like urban, but that wasn't what I wanted on this trip. I was able to do two Rick Steves walking tours in 3 hours and was ready to leave.

If you have an early flight out think about the Sheraton Airport. It is literally a 1 minute walk to the departures area. It's nothing to write home about, but was just so easy (we won it on Priceline for super cheap).

I liked Belgium, but not nearly as much as the Netherlands
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 10:39 AM
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Which city would you recommend for a base? Brugge, Brussels, Antwerp or Ghent?

Due to short travel distances and times any could work as an effective base but Gent perhaps is in the center of all these places and a town that has some Bruges-like cutsey old districts but is also a more workaday city

Travel times from Gent may be less to hop to all the others I think and that is a factor - and cheaper too.

But you really can't go wrong - Bruges too can be a great base to return to, especially after all the day-tripping bus tours have departed - then the city with its sublimely illuminated old canals and humpbacked wooden bridges, etc takes on a rather surreal air.

So it is a hard choice but one in which IMO you cannot go wrong with any of them.
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 10:51 AM
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We spent several nights in Belgium in March. If memory serves, we spent 2 in Bruges and 2 in Brussels. That's about a perfect stay in Bruges (imho). Yes, there are tourists, for good reason. Take a walk. Get lost. Enjoy. On the way back to Brussels, we stopped in Gent. You'll need an update on the construction, which really marred our visit (though we could see it is a great town/city.

IMHO you don't need to stay at the airport in Brussels. The train ride from the main station is one of the quickest (15 minutes?) and easiest I have found to a major airport.
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 10:51 AM
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We enjoyed both Brussels and Bruges.

In Brussels we enjoyed the Grand Place, the Art Nouveau architecture, good food, the comic murals, found some fun bars with live music, the atomium, several churches. It is a fun city and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. It is definitely urban, very diverse, and I can see how it wouldn't be necesarily what people were expecting.

Bruges is touristy, but it is easy to get off the tourist track and the town is really neat. We spent 2.5 days there - we planned to do a day trip to the coast, but the weather wasn't great, so we hung around Bruges. We toured de Halve Maan brewery, climbed the belfry, took a canal ride, went on a bike tour, visited the chocolate and frites museum, wandered around a lot, hung out in cafes and watched the rain. It was fun.
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 11:55 AM
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We spent two nights in Bruges and loved every minutes of it. Antwerp....what can I say? Not a place for me unless you are diamond shopping. The food in Bruges was wonderful. We never got bored.
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 02:45 PM
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Oh - I forgot to comment about your last night plan to stay at the airport. I would stay in Brussels near the central train station. There is a direct train from there to the airport, takes about 20 minutes or so to get there. Very easy. There are a lot of hotels near the central station, and it is about a 5 minute walk to the Grand Place, so plenty of things to do and see in that area. So unless you have a ridiculously early flight, I wouldn't stay out by the airport.
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Old Oct 28th, 2010, 08:53 AM
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Bruges is touristy, but it is easy to get off the tourist track and the town is really neat.>

yes indeedy - the Bruges that most tourists do not see is so so quaint - the old quays lined by stately olf Flemish facades, harking back to days when Bruges was one of Europe's busiest ports - especially in bringing English wool to its local weaving industry to be turned into famed Flemish carpets and clothing - but the port access silted up and Bruges was left high and dry and slumbered along whilst the hectic port action moved to Antwerp, still one of the world's busiest ports.

Many tourists come to Bruges and only see the always mobbed in season main square with the famous belfry (be sure to climb up to its roof for a great view of the medieval maze of canals and tiny lanes swirling around it far below) - and the adjoining lanes are full of tacky IMO souvenir shops hawking such things as the local much raved about lace of the type that is ubiquitously hung in every window in Belgium and Holland it seems.

But I think that folks who describe Bruges as only a mob scene have missed much of the town that november moon talks about - and even in peak season few of the tourist hoardes in the main square venture the few blocks north and west to find its neat old quays area.

And Bruges is a great place for walking - paths circle the town on top of the old fortifications that is now a public park most of the way - great place for a picnic and again well away from the maddening crowds.

And you can easily rent a bicycle and cycle the few miles to another old port near Bruges - can't pop up with the name but it has several monumental old Flemish warehouse buildings extant from Bruges' heyday - buses go there to as do tour boats.
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Old Oct 28th, 2010, 09:56 AM
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WOW!!! Thanks for all the great replies. Terrific input just makes it easier for us to decide on our plans.
June1
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Old Oct 28th, 2010, 06:04 PM
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Hello?

I probably have spent more time in Bruges by the windmills near the river and the neighborhoods around St Anne's than PalenQ.

It isn't at all the case the people who describe Bruges as a mob scene didn't see the parts that aren't. I'm living proof. The facts are: Bruges is mob scene. Of course you can walk away from it's famous parts or bicycle some where else if you don't like mob scenes.

I found it more enjoyble to simply go to other town in Bruges. More than one of them as architecture, museums and central markets as engaging as Bruges -- even more so because of the absence of the tacky tourist scene. And all of them have fantastic food.

Ghent and Antwerpen are really enjoyable.
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