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10 days in Belgium

We’re going to Belgium for 10 days at the end of June and are looking for some guidance on itinerary. Our home base will be Brussels, and we splurged a bit on a hotel very close to the Grand Place. So far our only set activity is the Omegang (medieval festival and pageant) which we have tickets for. Aside from exploring Brussels, we were going to take day trips to Bruges, Ghent and maybe Antwerp. Another possibility could be a taking the train to Paris, Amsterdam or other similar location and spending one overnight there.
We’re a couple in our 50’s on our honeymoon, and this is the first trip to Europe for both of us. Looking for a relaxed pace and mix of both touristy and off the beaten path spots, and are open to all suggestions!

Thanks in advance for the help!

Posted by
8067 posts

Save Amsterdam and the Netherlands for another trip.
I'd do 3 nights in Paris after the festival.
How many nights are you booked in Brussels already?

Posted by
2487 posts

Plan a side trip well in advance! A single ticket for the high-speed Thalys to Paris costs you EUR 99 when bought close to your departure date; bought 2 months in advance it can be half the price or less.

Posted by
515 posts

10 days is enough time to visit Dinant, Chimay, Rheems and many other interesting Southern areas. The North of Belgium is (in my opinion) a bit dreary in contrast.
Amsterdam is not on par with Paris and one day in Paris is not enough to bother with.
Belgium and the Champagne region of France are best when explored with a car...the train can get you close but not to into the nooks and cranny's that make this region so wonderful.
Beer, champagne, cheese, chocolate, bread and can you possibly go wrong?

Posted by
7570 posts

Have you bought your air tickets yet? It would be better to fly into BRU and out from Paris, to save money and more importantly, vacation time. Please use Google Maps for a rough (not precise) estimate of distances. You are treating two large countries as if they are a single region of a US state. For that amount of time, I would certainly include Antwerp, since it's actually good for more than one day - while Gent and Bruges can be seen in a single daytrip.

That said, many posters here (Search Box top center) feel that Bruges is so intensely romantic (I don't ... ) that you should be sleeping there for at least three days on a honeymoon. I personally prefer Paris as a Honeymoon idea, but it's a very personal decision. There are also many here who do not think that Brussels is the best place for a long stay in Belgium. It's a transit hub, but distances are small in Flanders, and trains easy to get on at the spur of the moment. Antwerp is just as good a transit hub. Paris is about 100 times nicer than Brussels, and it has daytrips available too.

It might be wise to make some lists of specific sights that you want to visit (I mean like the Mystic Lamb in Gent, or the MAS museum in Antwerp ... ) and then proceed to a list of cities to likely daytrip to. Because this is your first trip to Europe, you might benefit from going to the library and reading some of our host's travel books, large parts of which cater specifically to first-timers. Or you can shop them from his menu, top left.

Posted by
16120 posts

Amsterdam is a little less than three hours by train from Brussels.
Paris is nearly six hours one way....

???? We took the Thalys between Paris and Amsterdam and Paris was only 1.5 hours or so from Brussels, which was on the same line.

I wouldn't do Paris for just one day, though, and we much preferred Ghent and Bruges to Amsterdam. I'll go so far as to say we enjoyed Antwerp a bit more. Shame you couldn't spend a couple of nights in another location in Belgium? Bruges, especially, was nicest during the hours the day-trippers weren't around.

Posted by
2029 posts

For a more off the beaten path experience you can always visit Mechelen / Malines on the way to Antwerp.

Posted by
996 posts

Have you looked at the Rick Steves Belgium guidebook? Rick cover Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and Brussels. Rick Steve probably lists most of what you want to see. Then check the Rough Guide to Belgium and Luxemburg. The Rough guide lists the less popular places in the French speaking southern part; the Rough guide is more comprehensive but less descriptive of what it lists. Then can post a day by day itinerary, listing 2 or 3 activities you think you want to do each day? Before you leave for your trip, add your hotels to your itinery, print it, put it in a plastic folder, put the folder in your carry on luggage or perhaps e-mail it to yourself so you can see it on a tablet computer if you have one. You don’t need to list hotels for us.

Posted by
2 posts

Wow, so much great advice!
Based on some of your suggestions, we’re considering nixing the Paris or Amsterdam idea, and using that time to go beyond Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent, and into the more southern parts of Belgium. Renting a car would be fine if that was the best way to get around there.

We already booked one hotel in Brussels for the entire 10 days- if we did do an overnight in Paris or Amsterdam, we were going to bite the bullet and not check out (we’re normally pretty frugal people but have thrown caution to the wind on this trip due to it being our honeymoon) That way we’d could travel really light to Paris with just a small backpack each. The train takes only 1.5 hours so we’d leave Brussels early one morning, stay over, and come back the following evening.

If we end up staying completely in Belgium, I do like the idea of breaking it up and staying in more than one place. I’ll look if it’s possible to change our hotel reservations. Thinking about it, we’d be saving a lot of money if we didn’t do Paris because the train was quite pricey. If we were to stay in another town in Belgium for maybe 3 nights towards the end of our trip, what would you suggest?

I do have Rick’s book on Belgium, and have watched that episode of his show. I’ll get the Rough guide too. Thanks for all the help, more to come!

Posted by
3941 posts

If you are at all interested in War history - visit Ypres (Ieper) and go to the Flanders Fields museum and hang around for Last Post at Menin Gate. My husband is more interested in 'war' stuff than I am, but I did like the FF museum.

Posted by
7570 posts

Brokedown, note that some sights in Belgium are very close together, and even some out of town ones, like the Bokrijk out-of-doors museum, have their own train stops. It's completely unecessary to change hotels in Flanders because the daytrips by train are so short. And a car is a hindrance in that area.

Distances are much larger in other parts of Belgium, and a car can be helpful. There are lots of medieval town centers to visit, but there are also less publicly discussed open space areas that I'm not qualified to discuss.

I want to give you one more idea to CONSIDER. Although it's a problem to rent a car in one country and return it in another, sometimes the drop-off fee turns out to be less than expected. You can of course price a dozen companies with one web query. Although it is no substitute for Paris, Cologne, Germany is a wonderful city for a few days and for a first-timer to Europe. And it has superb train connections to Brussels where you are going to be forced to return for your flight home. This would mean missing southern Belgium and concentrating on eastern Belgium, and maybe Maastricht. If you still have the car in Germany, you could easily visit Aachen, or Monschau, which is nearly as charming and romantic as Bruges. (However, Aachen is on the train line between Brussels and Cologne.)

If you do look at Rick's books, I hope you will get some understanding of the time overhead for switching sleeping locations, and how superficial a 24-hour stay can be. I personally find that becoming familiar with a locality adds a pleasant intensity to European travel, while trying to park and see four famous places a day just becomes a drag.

Posted by
996 posts

My trip to the Netherlands and Belgium is in July. This will be my 5th trip to Europe, first time in Belgium. I bought both guidebooks I mentioned above. I suspect that between the 4 cities Rick describes, you will have plenty to do in your ten day trip without worrying about going to Germany or France too. There just is not time to see all of Europe on one ten day trip. It is too easy to focus on what we are missing that what we will see. After my previous trips, I feel like I don’t like spending more than 5 nights in a city. I have reservations at two hotels in Belgium, in Antwerp and in Brussels.