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4 nights in Belgium

Coming from Amsterdam and on my way to Cologne, I'd like to spend Monday through Thursday night in Belgium, seeing Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, and/or Antwerp. I recognize that this may be more crammed in than ideal. I'm generally not a hotel hopper, but maybe 2 one-night stays and a two-nighter in here...?

I've sketched out a few ways for this and thinking of 1 night in Bruges and Ghent & two in Brussels, skipping Antwerp but for passing through. Any suggestions are most welcomed.

Posted by
852 posts

These locations are all within one hour of each other. I would stay in one place and do day-trips from there by train. Personally, I love Bruges, but Ghent is slightly more central.

Posted by
656 posts

First of all; you’re probably aware but the most direct way from Amsterdam to Cologne is not via Belgium and certainly not via the western part of the country that you plan to visit. However you can get to Cologne from Brussels by direct train.

If I were you I would either base myself in Ghent or in Brussels for the entire stay.
Ghent and Bruges are only a 25 minute train ride away from each other, so for me it wouldn’t make sense to spend 1 night in Ghent and 1 in Bruges. You can easily visit Ghent from Bruges, or Bruges from Ghent.
From Ghent to Brussels is also very easy as it’s only a 35 minute train ride.
If you want to switch bases, you can of course do but for me it wouldn’t be worth all the hassle of checking in and out, (re)packing, dragging luggage around etc etc.

To find train schedules and tickets for domestic trains within Belgium, see
For the reason international train from Brussels to Cologne see

Posted by
6206 posts

My preference is to base in Antwerp, especially if your NL train happens to go direct to Antwerp rather than to Brussels. Cologne is an easy direct two hours from Brussels, but much cheaper by advance purchase, barcode ticket printed at home. (Do you want to stop in Aachen?) Many local trains per hour from Antwerp to Brussels (3 stations, note where the Cologne train departs from.) Antwerp can't be seen in a day, and has lots of things to view and do.

It is totally unnecessary to change hotels in this part of Belgium. There are very frequent, unreserved commuter trains between Bruges and Ghent and Brussels and Antwerp. It is possible that some people at cocktail parties back home will say you should have slept in Bruges, but I consider that romantic notion to be incorrect. (OPINION.) Antwerp is a good location for daytrips in any direction. I have had to wait in ticket lines because my State Department Federal Credit Union Chip-and-PIN credit card wouldn't work in the Belgian ticket machines. Haven't been there in six years though.

Edit: Note that in all these cities, the historic center is not at the train station. It's typically a 15 minute walk or a short tram or bus ride. There is a bus ticket machine outside the train stations. Except for Brussels, the same agency runs the trams and busses in the other three cities, so you might buy a 10-trip for convenience.

Posted by
920 posts

As above, base yourself for two nights in Antwerp near the cathedral and the Grote Markt. Then move on to Bruges for two nights. Bruges is a 90-120 minute train ride from Antwerp. Ghent’s train station is a 25-minute train ride from Bruges, which makes it an easy stop on the way back to Brussels. Brussels is a half-hour further from Ghent. For the 3 cities, it’s about a 20- minute tram or bus ride to get into the core of each city. Brussels’ Centraal train station is in the city center.
Have a great Trip!

Posted by
1542 posts

Thanks, for the insightful replies everyone. I'm really quite relieved to be advised out of hotel-hopping—the logistics of day trips are so much easier.