We will be going on the RS Heart of Belgium and Holland tour next month. On day 2 we take the train from Ghent to Brussels, and at the end of the day we return to Ghent. Afternoon and evening are free time and we're on our own for dinner. My question is: Are we better off returning to Ghent early, or hanging around in Brussels for the afternoon and dinner?
I was going to say it would be your opportunity to see Brussels after dark - then I looked up sunset time in mid-June (10 p.m.)
Look at the sights in both places that the tour doesn't cover and see if there's something that interests you. Ghent has several good sights. I love Ghent, which is why I haven't been to Brussels yet.
If you aren't planning to be in Europe for at least a day or two before the tour starts to get caught up on sleep and adjust to the time change, you may want to return early to Ghent to take a nap or turn in early.
Another consideration is how comfortable you'll feel on your own. You'll already be familiar with Ghent from Day 1 and the historic center is small. In big-city Brussels, you may be on your own to get around and get back to Ghent.
As Chani said, Gent is compact. I would spend time in Brussels - some good museums and great food.
There are frequent trains between Brussels and Ghent, and these don't need (or allow) reservations. Looking at tomorrow, I see the latest returns from Brussels Central to Ghent St. Pieters are 11:16 PM and 12:23 AM; the trip takes 38-44 minutes. So, while I agree you should do some research and see if something specific interests you in either city, you can play it by ear, knowing that you can still return to Ghent from even a late dinner in Brussels with no difficulty.
I think Gent is a great place to stay for dinner, for instance near 'graslei' they have great typical Belgian restaurants and a great atmosphere this time of the year. Brussels is more crowded and more difficult to find great spots.
Thanks all for the advice. I'm still undecided. I guess we'll decide at the end of day 1.
Jet lag won't be an issue by day 2. We're taking a flight that leaves New York on Monday evening, and will be arriving in Brussels on Tuesday morning. The tour starts on Wednesday afternoon. Tuesday we will be taking the train from Brussels to Ghent, then we plan to nap in the afternoon before dinner on Europe time. This type of schedule has worked well for us to get rid of jet lag on four previous trips to Europe.
For a Ghent sight, Rick recommends St. Bavo's Cathedral even though the tour doesn't go there. So that's likely Wednesday morning's detail.
Decide once you've seen a bit of Brussels. We were briefly in Brussels yesterday for our Eurostar departure. After spending 4 nights in Bruges, we did not find the big city appealing. We also had spent a day in Ghent which is a moderate sized city, cleaner and easier to wander about. I would choose Ghent but you will be able to decide for yourself once you've been in both.
As I recall, on the Belgium & Holland tour that I took a few years ago, our group stopped in Ghent for several hours and took a canal cruise. That may be at the discretion of the individual guides? You can always send a note to the RS tour department for further information.
Do you know yet who your guide will be?
Our guide will be Hilbren Buys, about whom I've heard nothing but good things. We're supposed to do a canal cruise and a walking tour of Ghent on the first day.
Our decision: We had a full day in Ghent after jet lag-recovery day, with the tour not starting until 3:30PM. We saw the altarpiece in the morning before the tour, then had both a walk and a canal boat ride during the tour. We figured that we had seen just about all that Ghent had to offer, so we decided on Brussels. We had lunch in Brussels, but ended up skipping dinner that day because we munched on street food during the afternoon (those wonderful fries and waffles).