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6 nights in Belgium (As part of a 2 week trip to Belgium/Netherlands)

Hi all, I know there are both the Belgium and the Netherlands forum. I have posted a similar thread in the Netherlands forum with questions related to the Netherlands. For the sake of this forum, please focus on my time in the Belgium (although if you have an opinion and/or insights on my time in Netherlands, I would love to hear it!)

My wife and I will be heading to Belgium and the Netherlands for 2 weeks (12 nights on the ground) from June 18 to July 1st. We were able to get a great deal flying in and out of Amsterdam. Our tentative itinerary is to immediately train to Ghent, Belgium upon landing and spend a few days in and around Ghent (3 nights). From there the plan is to train to Bruges for a few days (3 nights). After Bruges, we plan to train to Amsterdam, where we plan to base ourselves for 6 nights and doing day trips from there. Here is a more detailed outline of our itinerary

  1. Mon, June 19th - Arrive in Amsterdam at 8 AM. Train to Ghent (Sleep in Ghent)
  2. Tues. June 20th - Day in Ghent (Sleep in Ghent)
  3. Weds. June 21st - Train to Brussels, Day in Brussels, Train to Ghent (Sleep in Ghent)
  4. Thurs. June 22nd - Train to Bruges, Day in Bruges (Sleep in Bruges)
  5. Fri. June 23rd - Day in Bruges (Sleep in Bruges)
  6. Sat. June 24th - Day Trip, TBD (Sleep in Bruges)
  7. Sun. June 25th: - Train to Amsterdam (Sleep in Amsterdam)
  8. Mon. June 26th – Day in Amsterdam (Sleep in Amsterdam)
  9. Tues. June 27th – Train to Delft, Day in Delft, Train to Amsterdam (Sleep in Amsterdam)
  10. Weds. June 28th – Train to Leiden, Day in Leiden, Train to Amsterdam (Sleep in Amsterdam)
  11. Thurs. June 29th – Train to Haarlem, Day in Haarlem, Train to Amsterdam (Sleep in Amsterdam)
  12. Fri. June 30th – Day in Amsterdam (Sleep in Amsterdam) Fly home at Noon on Saturday July 1

This is our tentative outline. Nothing has been booked except for our flights, so the itinerary can be adapted. We are fairly sure we want to go to all of these places, but number of nights in each place it up in the air. Also, we don’t want to change hotels every night. My biggest concern is in which town to stay and for how many days. We are active, in our early 30s, like to visit sites (museums, etc.), but we also really like to relax, drink beer/wine, and eat. We really enjoy sitting in cafes/squares/parks and just relaxing.

Questions about time in Belgium:

1) We would like to split our 6 nights in Belgium between 2 cities. From what we have read, we are not super excited about Antwerp, but like Ghent, Bruges, and Brussels. If you could stay 3 nights in 2 of those cities, which cities would you pick? Or is there another city not listed that you reccommend staying in?

2) Our day #6 is TBD. Any day trips or suggestions of things to do that day?

3) Any reccommendations on places to stay or at least neighborhoods?

4) Aside from Bruges, Brussels, and Ghent, are there any other day trips or places close to those cities that we should visit?

5) Is there a Belgium train pass we should get, or is it easy/cheap enough to buy train tickets daily (I prefer this route if it isn’t too expensive because it maximizes our flexibility)

As always, any help/comments on the itinerary as whole would be great. We are getting ready to start booking accommodations, but want to make sure that we have a good itins outlined before we do.

Posted by
1045 posts

We are going this summer, too, so I can only answer your train question. There is a 10-trip pass that can be purchased once you get there that seems to be the best deal, at least for our planned travel. It can be shared between you and your wife, and it does allow stops en route on one trip. Note that the trip from the airport does require a "diabolo" surcharge that can be paid when you purchase the pass.
More info here:

Edited: I see now you're flying into Amsterdam. You should price out your tickets within Belgium to see if the pass makes sense. There is no advantage to advance purchase in Belgium, so you shouldn't expect the prices to go up if you wait to buy.

Posted by
2487 posts

I wouldn't change hotels between Gent and Brugge. They are only half an hour from each other with several trains per hour.
If you're looking for a different place for accommodation in Belgium, consider Mechelen (Malines). It is a nice and peaceful historical city, somewhat forgotten between its more important neighbours Antwerpen and Brussel.
The Belgian railways have a good offer with its Rail Pass: 10 trips for EUR 77.
For the Netherlands consider Haarlem, Utrecht or Leiden for accommodation instead of expensive and crowded Amsterdam. Train connections are quick and frequent.

Posted by
288 posts

Brussels and Bruges are both only 30 minutes from Ghent. You could easily stay based in Ghent and do day trips from both and not change hotels at all. You could also go to Ypers if you are interested in WW1 history and Flanders Fields etc..Bruges is pretty walkable from anywhere in the old city so most any place there works. If you stay in Brussels near the Centraal Station you have easy train access and are near many of the central sights like the Grand Place. Also if you stay in Brussels its a more business oriented city so you may find hotels cheaper on the weekend, while Bruges is more tourist oriented so it may be cheaper on weekdays.

Posted by
3938 posts

We just finished up 3 nights in Belgium. Stayed in Ghent and daytripped to Bruges (quick and easy) and Ypres (not so quick and easy).

With regards to Ypres, it's an hour and a bit by train. Only one train an hour. Of course, we missed the train there by a few minutes and had to cool our heels (check schedules!). One the way back, we wanted to stay for the last post at menin gate, which was over around 8:20. The train to Ghent wasn't until 9:20, so again, we had a 30-40 min wait by the time we got to the train station and didn't roll into Ghent until 10:30, so keep that in mind if you want to go to Ypres and see the last post. Also, if you want to see it, I'd recommend getting there at least 30-40 min ahead to get a good viewing spot. The In Flanders fields museum was quite interesting.

As for Antwerp, we stopped there for the afternoon when going between NL and Ghent. Now, I will preface this by saying I had no preconceived notions of Antwerp or Belgium. I was actually quite tickled by Antwerp. We walked from the train stn to the grand square. Some lovely buildings. The grand square was gorgeous. Actually, I think I liked Belgium more than NL (hearsay!!!).

I'll be posting some of my favs in the trip report section once we get home...if you want to see windmills, put Kinderdijk on your list from Amsterdam. We also quite enjoyed our walking tour of Gouda, which you could maybe combine with Delft (which we didn't visit).

Not sure if you like Airbnb's or hotels. We had nice, affordable Airbnb's in both Ghent and Amsterdam. Not full apartments, but rooms. The Amsterdam one had private bathroom and was separate from the other part of the apartment. About a 15-20 min walk to the first big canal and tram to city centre, but a quick taxi ride from the south station (11€) and a 5 min tram ride to rijksmuseum. They were working on the tram section nearby, but going fast so I think the direct tram connection to the centre would be running by then (may be running now). I'm one who likes to get up early without hubby to go take photos, which is why I like staying in the city instead of a 20 min train ride outside. It was great to get up at 7am and head to the Rijks and get photos of the I Amsterdam without anyone around. It was in the De Pijp area...tons of restaurants and bakeries!

The one in Ghent was literally steps to the historic centre. Shared bathroom, use of kitchen and laundry! The apartment owner even yourself to the beer (which we didn't because we don't drink Super nice guy. If you are interested, send me a private message and I can let you know the listings.