Where to stay in Belgium

Old Mar 9th, 2023, 09:10 AM
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Where to stay in Belgium

Hi
We will be in Belgium for about 4 days, and would like to stay in a nice hotel, preferably in a scenic countryside type location, or at least in a quiet charming place.

Our itinerary involves spending time in Antwerp, a brief visit to Leuven and a trip to Ghent and Bruges. We prefer to stay in one place the whole time, but would consider two.

Can anyone recommend a specific hotel, or area that might be nice to plant ourselves while in Belgium?

Thank you.
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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 11:45 AM
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Is this in addition to your city trips (i.e. 5 destinations)? Or are you looking for recommendations of hotels near those cities, to replace staying in one of them? Or are you trying to find a base to see all of those cities?

Lavandula

Last edited by lavandula; Mar 9th, 2023 at 12:21 PM. Reason: added last sentence
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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by JSamps View Post
Hi
We will be in Belgium for about 4 days, and would like to stay in a nice hotel, preferably in a scenic countryside type location, or at least in a quiet charming place.
Our itinerary involves spending time in Antwerp, a brief visit to Leuven and a trip to Ghent and Bruges. We prefer to stay in one place the whole time, but would consider two.
Can anyone recommend a specific hotel, or area that might be nice to plant ourselves while in Belgium?
Thank you.
If you want countryside, you'll need a car.

We did 4 days in Belgium last year and found Ghent to be the perfect base.
Lots of affordable apartments and easy access by rail for day trips to Bruges, Antwerp, & Brussels.
Ghent itself is great with lots of dining options and quiet college-town feel.
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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 12:36 PM
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[QUOTE=lavandula;17444964]Is this in addition to your city trips (i.e. 5 destinations)? Or are you looking for recommendations of hotels near those cities, to replace staying in one of them?

I would like to somehow be central to all these places, ideally with 30 min or so from Antwerp.

I thought it would be nice to stay outside the large cities in a more relaxing scenic suburb, if that is an option. Otherwise staying in a quaint/quiet charming part of Antwerp could work.


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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by alandavid View Post
If you want countryside, you'll need a car.

We did 4 days in Belgium last year and found Ghent to be the perfect base.
Lots of affordable apartments and easy access by rail for day trips to Bruges, Antwerp, & Brussels.
Ghent itself is great with lots of dining options and quiet college-town feel.
We are renting a car. Ghent sounds like a good option. Thank you.
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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 12:53 PM
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[quote=JSamps;17444976]
Originally Posted by lavandula View Post
Is this in addition to your city trips (i.e. 5 destinations)? Or are you looking for recommendations of hotels near those cities, to replace staying in one of them?

I would like to somehow be central to all these places, ideally with 30 min or so from Antwerp.

I thought it would be nice to stay outside the large cities in a more relaxing scenic suburb, if that is an option. Otherwise staying in a quaint/quiet charming part of Antwerp could work.
I second Ghent which is only 32 miles from Antwerp

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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by lavandula View Post
Is this in addition to your city trips (i.e. 5 destinations)? Or are you looking for recommendations of hotels near those cities, to replace staying in one of them? Or are you trying to find a base to see all of those cities?

Lavandula
we will rent a car.
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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 01:05 PM
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[QUOTE=Michael;17444985]
Originally Posted by JSamps View Post
I second Ghent which is only 32 miles from Antwerp

https://flic.kr/p/7r3Xvh
Thanks. Is that a photo of a hotel?
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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 01:16 PM
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It's labeled Folk Art Museum
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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
It's labeled Folk Art Museum
sounds interesting
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Old Mar 9th, 2023, 10:48 PM
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Back again ... sorry, I had to go to work. I think you are better off staying in one of the cities like Ghent. It's a better option than somewhere really small where there are few dining options and difficulty getting onto major roads. You don't really want a car in Antwerp or Brussels, which I guess is perhaps why you want to stay in the outskirts? Cars are problematic in Belgian cities; in Bruges you will have to park in one of the parking stations on the outskirts as well.

You could I suppose go for somewhere like this place in Aarschot which is central to Leuven, Antwerp and Brussels: https://tinyurl.com/Kasteel-van-Nieuwland , but with only 4 days you would, I presume, want to see the surroundings of where you are staying (which is not all bad if your focus is countryside and not cities, although I am not saying Aarschot should be the next big tourist destination either) and so you might lose another destination from your plans. Bruges would become the outlier distance-wise, but a lot of people here will tell you to keep Bruges, it's really the reason many people visit Belgium at all. So I would still go for Ghent, but I guess you do have options.

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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by lavandula View Post
Back again ... sorry, I had to go to work. I think you are better off staying in one of the cities like Ghent. It's a better option than somewhere really small where there are few dining options and difficulty getting onto major roads. You don't really want a car in Antwerp or Brussels, which I guess is perhaps why you want to stay in the outskirts? Cars are problematic in Belgian cities; in Bruges you will have to park in one of the parking stations on the outskirts as well.

You could I suppose go for somewhere like this place in Aarschot which is central to Leuven, Antwerp and Brussels: https://tinyurl.com/Kasteel-van-Nieuwland , but with only 4 days you would, I presume, want to see the surroundings of where you are staying (which is not all bad if your focus is countryside and not cities, although I am not saying Aarschot should be the next big tourist destination either) and so you might lose another destination from your plans. Bruges would become the outlier distance-wise, but a lot of people here will tell you to keep Bruges, it's really the reason many people visit Belgium at all. So I would still go for Ghent, but I guess you do have options.

Lavandula
Thanks for this information.

Can you please explain what is difficult about getting onto major roads from smaller places? Iíve never been to Belgium and not really understanding the whole thing about what itís like to drive there.

Is it also hard to drive or park in the larger cities like Antwerp or Leuven for some reason?

I am accustomed to driving in New York City so if itís similar that will be fine.

For Bruges, just to clarify, we park outside Bruges, and then is it a far walk?

The reason we always prefer staying outside large cities or in ďsuburbsĒ is because we like peaceful scenic nature type places for lodging.

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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 06:33 AM
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For visiting Antwerp, Leuven, Gent, Brugge, you are much better off traveling by train. Parking is never free in cities but you will find parking garages in all cities. Staying in the center of Gent with a car is not so easy. Have a look at hotel Pillows in Gent and ask them about parking and getting there by car. Traffic in Belgium can be horrible. Check driving times on Google Maps or similar for rush hour times in Belgium.
If you do want to travel by car and stay on the outskirts of a town, check the leafy suburbs such as Sint Martens Latem (outside of Gent), Wilrijk (outside of Antwerp) or maybe smaller towns such as Sint Niklaas or Mechelen. If you stay in the suburbs or countryside, you may have to drive to get to a restaurant in the evening.
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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 07:52 AM
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[QUOTE=Tulips;17445150]For visiting Antwerp, Leuven, Gent, Brugge, you are much better off traveling by train. Parking is never free in cities but you will find parking garages in all cities. Staying in the center of Gent with a car is not so easy. Have a look at hotel Pillows in Gent and ask them about parking and getting there by car. Traffic in Belgium can be horrible. Check driving times on Google Maps or similar for rush hour times in Belgium.
If you do want to travel by car and stay on the outskirts of a town, check the leafy suburbs such as Sint Martens Latem (outside of Gent), Wilrijk (outside of Antwerp) or maybe smaller towns such as Sint Niklaas or Mechelen. If you stay in the suburbs or countryside, you may have to drive to get to a restaurant in the evening.[/QUOTE
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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 07:54 AM
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[QUOTE=JSamps;17445169]
Originally Posted by Tulips View Post
For visiting Antwerp, Leuven, Gent, Brugge, you are much better off traveling by train. Parking is never free in cities but you will find parking garages in all cities. Staying in the center of Gent with a car is not so easy. Have a look at hotel Pillows in Gent and ask them about parking and getting there by car. Traffic in Belgium can be horrible. Check driving times on Google Maps or similar for rush hour times in Belgium.
If you do want to travel by car and stay on the outskirts of a town, check the leafy suburbs such as Sint Martens Latem (outside of Gent), Wilrijk (outside of Antwerp) or maybe smaller towns such as Sint Niklaas or Mechelen. If you stay in the suburbs or countryside, you may have to drive to get to a restaurant in the evening.[/QUOTE
of the outskirts towns you mentioned, which are particularly nice? Are any of them scenic or have pretty areas or parks to take nice walks?
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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by JSamps View Post
Thanks for this information.

Can you please explain what is difficult about getting onto major roads from smaller places? Iíve never been to Belgium and not really understanding the whole thing about what itís like to drive there.

Is it also hard to drive or park in the larger cities like Antwerp or Leuven for some reason?

I am accustomed to driving in New York City so if itís similar that will be fine.

For Bruges, just to clarify, we park outside Bruges, and then is it a far walk?

The reason we always prefer staying outside large cities or in ďsuburbsĒ is because we like peaceful scenic nature type places for lodging.
You won't really have a big problem getting onto the main roads, but you will waste a bit of time. Bigger cities are connected into the major road system, small towns are not. Have a look at a map. The property in Aarschot for instance is completely off the beaten track (and OK if this is what you want, I don't want to criticise this as a valid choice, it's a nice idea). If you want to join the main roads you have to drive some distance, even into Aarschot. If you want a restaurant one night (and that Aarschot property's restaurant is only open Mon-Thurs), you will have to drive some distance, whereas if you stay in a bigger city you can just walk to where you want to go. It's not that it's impossible to do what you want, but you're just suggesting things that are either inconvenient or don't work so well with the local conditions. People in Europe use cars less and are discouraged from using them in cities. There are good public transport connections all through Belgium which make it possible to avoid using your car. Traffic is not good in many cities (congestion where there are open roads, so clearly there are still drivers) - but parking doesn't happen on the streets in the centre of town because the centres are pedestrianised and the parts which are not have no parking permitted. You will have to find a carpark which in the case of Bruges is easiest near the train station. You then catch a bus into town, it's quite a walk unless you pick a hotel nearer the station. This is because medieval streets are not really compatible with traffic and not built for cars to any extent. I don't think you can draw comparisons with driving in NYC where roads are built for cars and society is structured around that. You will also have to bone up on Belgian traffic signs and road rules (such as priority to the right) and what they mean as they are different to yours - again not impossible but a learning curve for you. Driving in Brussels in particular is crazy, it's very busy and drivers are (excuse me for saying this) unpredictable. Lots of small accidents.

Why not search hotels in the rough areas you are interested in and be guided by that? You might find it hard to find a hotel or apartment in the areas we have named here (as they are not tourist areas) but find a super hotel in a completely different area which suits you well. Then you can work out if a car is possible or helpful (because you might have to park so far away from your lodgings that it is unviable. We have had that happen in an apartment in Brussels, where we had to walk 20 minutes to our car park from the apartment). Hotels will tell you what to expect; some will have their own parking but of course you might pay EUR15 - 20 a night for this.

Lavandula
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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 07:25 PM
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Jumping in here to give what I sincerely hope is a better understanding of things. It is really not the driving so much as the completely different style and design of cities and city centers, so there is no comparison of “driving” in busy NYC with “driving” in the narrow, cobbled streets of medieval Towns in Belgium. DH was born in NYC, lived there for years and until recently, we went often. He always drove, insisted on it in fact. He drove everywhere when we lived in Europe, and if we were visiting country areas, might still. However, the beautiful old city centers combined with great train systems from city to city makes ditching a car the easy choice.

Each town and city center in Belgium has an old, medieval area that was constructed for a pedestrian lifestyle, so they have that beauty and nature you are seeking, including parks, squares, rivers that are beautiful with riverside restaurants and hotels and guest houses with beautiful gardens and ponds, all right in the center for people to enjoy. Streets are often for people, not cars. That is why they generally have little to no parking there. Though you can drive through most areas, you must often park outside the area and take a bus or tram to the center, so driving to the city from a place in the country does not get you into the city, and staying in the country may not get you a place any lovelier or more serene than places in the city center.

Taking places separately.
Bruges takes up an area of land only about 1/3 bigger than Central Park. It is oval shaped with a narrow river winding all through it. Imagine Central Park filled with a perfect, almost Disneyesque, medieval town. You can walk the entire perimeter in a couple of hours. It has paved squares edged with amazing gothic and medieval buildings. There are paths along the river with plants, flowers, gardens, etc. and parks, one quite large with a guest house filled with flower boxes, etc. One area has old windmills. People are walking and biking. Anyone driving parks just outside Bruges, right near the train station, and takes the shuttle bus, taxi or simply walks to their hotel and into the center (ten to twenty minutes). During the day, the tiny center streets of Bruges remind me of a street fair, noisy and crowded with people, but quiet and serene at night, and away from the little center, it was quiet all the time.

Ghent is, of course, much, much bigger, but the center is old, absolutely gorgeous and easy walking. We took the train from Bruges to Ghent and fell in love with the feeling of great, open space, the river lined by restaurants and filled with beautiful boats, flowers, people strolling alongside, singing, eating, all surrounded by incredible buildings. Because it is so much bigger, it did not seem crowded. It was wonderful in the evening and I would love to spend more time there. Some of the hotels have fantastic gardens!

I have not been to Antwerp in so long, I have no memory and do not know the train station situation. However, traffic wise, Antwerp and Brussels are considered the two most congested cities in all of Europe and North America. It has to do with the design of ring roads which followed the shapes of Medieval cities and because of their layouts, are actually very time consuming to navigate. So, if you stayed outside any city, but wanted to visit Antwerp, it would probably not be wise logistically to drive there.

If you were going to entirely country areas, advice would be different. To visit only cities, stay in one and use the trains. Ghent would be my choice.

By the way, didn’t notice your age or who is traveling, but if anyone loves sea swimming and it is Summer, the Town of Oostende is about ten minutes from Bruges by train and was a wonderful surprise. The center has a huge, gorgeous, paved plaza. The street/promenade along the sea is a treat, lined with lovely buildings and restaurants. The North Sea will surely be cold, even in Summer, but still a neat thing to do. I was wearing a coat, but people were swimming when we went.


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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 07:54 PM
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Thanks Sassafrass, you explained the differences very well!

Lavandula
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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 10:26 PM
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Lavandula,
You are kind. I worried it was long, but hoped it was useful..
Of course there are problems in European cities too and we have many lovely areas in American cities, but IMHO, so much of some of our cities are such a mess, the concept of cities that are human is foreign. I did not realize the difference until we spent time in Rome, Paris, Vienna, etc. We also don’t have transportation that allows us to be car free. We may hate driving conditions, but we can’t escape them. Even in cities that have human scale centers that are livable: parts of NOLA, a bit of Charleston, SF, etc., you still need a car.

JSamps,
It seems to me that you want your lodging to not be just a place to sleep, but to contribute positively to your travel experience. Am I reading you correctly? Some do not care, but I have come to find it does make a big difference to me.
Look at this.
https://www.theverhaegen.com
I love the dog wandering by, so typical of Belgium and the Netherlands.

Last edited by Sassafrass; Mar 10th, 2023 at 10:33 PM. Reason: Added comment
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Old Mar 10th, 2023, 11:08 PM
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That place looks lovely Sassafrass!
I live in Belgium so do not stay in hotels and cannot recommend any, apart from the location. There are leafy suburbs all over the country, on the outskirts of cities. But these are places with large houses where people live. If you want to go somewhere, you drive or cycle if it's nearby.
I drive to Antwerp all the time. There are plenty of garages around. There's a new big one next to the Opera that is easy to get to. But there are a lot of roadworks, and sometimes the roads are so congested I cancel plans to go into town. Driving Gent to Antwerpen is 58 km, about 45 minutes drive. But there is sometimes a queue of an hour or more for the last 10 km since they are working on the ring road. These works will take another 10 years to complete. Driving Antwerpen to Leuven should take you 50 minutes, but could be 2 hours. By train it's 40 minutes.
If you plan to visit Antwerp, Leuven, Brugge and Gent I would do it by train. If you plan to visit places outside the cities, car is easier. Consider that the station in Gent is not in the center of town. In Brugge it's a short walk outside of town. In Antwerp it's in the center, but you do not want to stay right near the station. I don't know what you want to spend, but hotel August is 10 minutes wallking from Berchem Station (which is on the main line, nearly all trains stop there). This is a lovely hotel in a quiet area. Berchem is a historic area with beautiful Art Deco houses and plenty of restaurants. Google Cogels-Osylei.

Last edited by Tulips; Mar 10th, 2023 at 11:11 PM.
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