Who can help with Belgium?

Old Jan 8th, 2024, 10:08 PM
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Who can help with Belgium?

I'd appreciate some input on where to stay in Belgium, in May. I'm visiting the UK and enjoyed previous visits to Belgium (Brugge, Brussels, and a bit of Ghent). It's easy to reach without another flight (coming from Australia). I'm thinking 3 full days in Antwerp or Ghent, or both? Time in Belgium would be either first week or last week of May. There are a couple of May public holidays in UK and Belgium, would like to avoid if possible.

Things I love - beautiful ornate architecture, elaborate old arcades, outdoor markets, art galleries, museums (V&A style, not Science/natural history). I'd like somewhere walkable and easy to get around. Travelling solo, older female. Any thoughts on where to stay?
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Old Jan 9th, 2024, 12:36 AM
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Just a quick point, Belgium is really two countries, north and south (please don't shout at me). Which really interests you? The old northern cities with their Dutch elements or the southern countryside with their French influence.
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Old Jan 9th, 2024, 12:57 AM
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That's interesting. I was aware there were two main languages in Belgium (or three?) but hadn't thought about the country being divided. Looking on a map, the places I've been are all in the northern part and I enjoyed them so much I'd like to return. One day I may get to the southern part. I just looked up to see what the southern section is called (Wallonia) and the third region is Brussels. So three regions. Thanks for the info, always happy to learn.
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Old Jan 9th, 2024, 01:24 AM
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Tulips actually lives in Antwerp I believe, I would certainly wait for her input!

Lavandula
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Old Jan 9th, 2024, 03:26 PM
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I love your dea of Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp. I spent three nights in each. Trains are easy and distances short. Antwerp is more Dutch and Brussels more French. All delightful.
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Old Jan 9th, 2024, 04:45 PM
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We just spent three nights in Antwerp around New Year's and really enjoyed it. The Plantin-Moretus Museum is fascinating. We didn't get to all we wanted to do in three days.

On previous trips, we've stayed in Ghent, Brussels and Leuven, and we've visited Bruges. I think Antwerp will meet many of the things you enjoy.
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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 01:50 AM
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Thanks to everyone for replies. Interesting, NYCMOM that you stayed in three places that are all quite close to each other. That sounds quite appealing though it does mean packing up and checking in/out more often. I definitely need to pack light.

Lavandula, hopefully Tulips will see this and reply from the perspective of a local.

Ms go, I've made a quick list of anything that looks appealing in each city and I'm sure I'll only have time for a few of these.

Do others think it necessary to stay in Brussels the night before an international flight? Ghent and Antwerp are only a short train ride away but is that risky, if there's a train strike or something.

Finding my way around each city easily is important as I've zero sense of direction. Just looking at Google Maps, Ghent looks the smallest of the three. Any other thoughts?
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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 04:06 PM
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I do think it's better to stay in Brussels the night before if it's an early flight, if there's trackwork you can catch a taxi (but more likely is the atrocious traffic on the roads, which is quite a talking point). If you don't want to stay in Brussels you could stay in Mechelen, which is also quite close by, and catch a train or even a taxi from there.

But when is your plane? In the morning, Brussels / Mechelen for sure, but if you leave later in the day I really don't think it matters. You could probably then also stay in Ghent or Antwerp and make your way in a leisurely fashion.

Bilbo, I won't shout at you but you do know that the separatist movement is spearheaded by the Flemish far-right? Even if it's true that Wallonia and Flanders are significantly different, probably not the politics that you want to be associated with ...

Kay, if you are early in May you might be able to see the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken. I believe you need to pre-book to get in and it can be quite difficult to get in, but if you will be there anyway, worth a shot. https://www.brussels.be/greenhouses-laeken ; https://www.monarchie.be/en/heritage...uses-in-laeken .

Also in late April / early May is the woods at Hallerbos, which are in bloom with a carpet of wild bluebells. I've never been but it is apparently extremely difficult to get there, although there is a website: https://www.hallerbos.be/en/ .

Lavandula

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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 10:04 PM
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Hi Kay, I think you will enjoy Antwerp, with your interests. Small enough to walk to most places, interesting museums, fashion, restaurants. There's a fast train to Brussels airport, no need to stay near the airport. For ornate architecture, have a look at the Zurenborg district in Berchem. The old part of Antwerp is not that big, but there are some lovely squares and streets. I think Gent is prettier than Antwerp, but Antwerp maybe a bit more interesting with the influence of the port.
Flanders is more known for it's beautiful old cities, Wallonie for nature, pretty villages. If you are on your own without a car, I would stick to the cities.
Let me know if you have questions!

Here's a good bit in the Guardian from 2022:
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2...de-to-the-city

Last edited by Tulips; Jan 10th, 2024 at 10:06 PM.
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Old Jan 10th, 2024, 11:48 PM
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2 countries etc

yes, but I've been on holiday a fair few times in both zones and run a business in the south. The geography is very different. I'm certainly not trying to make a political point just recognise that both offer different holiday opportunities.
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Old Jan 13th, 2024, 09:58 PM
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Thanks all, for your input. The international flight I'm looking at leaves Brussels about noon so I'd need to be at the airport around 8am? I always prefer having plenty of time at airports, especially one I've never been in before. I'm flying out of Brussels to come home (Brisbane via Singapore). Nothing booked yet. I'm not used to travelling on my own and think I'm worrying too much about every aspect of the trip. I think I've settled on Antwerp then Brussels, 4 nights in each. That might change slightly, I need to look at my list of places I'd like to see. If I do a day trip to Ghent, is it better to go from Antwerp or Brussels?

Tulips, thanks for the link to the Guardian article. We lived in the UK for a few years and the wide range of newspapers was something I missed when we came home.
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Old Jan 13th, 2024, 11:17 PM
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I would say 3 hours in advance for a intercontinental flight. Brussels airport is not that big. But I always take a train earlier than I need to, counting in the possibility of delays. Gent is quicker from Brussel than from Antwerp. You could look at some of the smaller towns closer to Antwerp if you wanted another daytrip; Lier, Mechelen maybe. I'd be happy to meet up for lunch in Antwerp if you like. We are planning a trip to Australia later this year, it would be nice to get your input.
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Old Jan 14th, 2024, 05:24 PM
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Hi Tulips, that's a nice offer to meet for lunch. Thank you. My dates in Antwerp should be late May but not booked yet. I can send you a private message once things are organised. Kay

I'm more than happy to help with your Australia trip if I can. The Australian forum on Fodors has just about died since covid. I think the really long distance/flights puts many people off. I can guarantee a beautiful country with friendly people for anyone heading our way.
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Old Jan 14th, 2024, 09:06 PM
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Thanks KayF, if you send me a message if your dates are fixed we'll meet in Antwerp!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 10:38 PM
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Hello Tulips, I've sent you a PM. Hope your trip plans for Australia are going well, happy to help if I can. Kay
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 04:24 PM
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Hi Tulips, are you planning to visit Sydney? It would be great to meet up for a coffee or a meal!

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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 09:09 PM
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I am wondering what day of the week shops, museums, etc will be closed in Belgium? I have a Monday in Antwerp and a Sunday in Brussels. If things will be closed on either of those days, I can plan around it. I'm in Belgium late May and there don't seem to be any public holidays at that time.

Also I was thinking of learning a few words/phrases for the trip, though on previous trips to Belgium, everyone seemed to have excellent English. Is Dutch the main language in Antwerp (or Flemish?) and French the main language in Brussels?
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 10:04 PM
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Quite a few museums are closed on Mondays. I see in Antwerp the KMSKA (fine arts) is open, but most are closed Mondays. Shops are open, but mostly closed on Sundays. Churches are open on Mondays. So do KMSKA on Monday, it's well worth a visit, recently reopened after al long renovation.
They speak Flemish in Antwerp, but it's basically Dutch with another accent. Bit like Australian vs English in the UK. Everyone speaks at least some English but 'dank u wel' (thank you), 'goedemorgen' 'goedemiddag' will be polite. French is the main language in Brussel.
Lavandula, we will be in Sydney for a few days, send me a PM!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 10:25 PM
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KayF -enjoy Belgium. I live in Melbourne and I studied in Belgium 21 year sago and loved it . I did manage to get back 9 years ago .
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 10:32 PM
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Thanks, this is great. I'll learn the basics (usually I try and remember at least a few words - yes, no, please, thank you and toilet!) and practice a few French words too. The fine arts museum is on my to do list. I also really like just wandering, taking photos, people-watching, sitting at a cafe. I think the few days in each city will soon disappear.
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