My mom and I are spending a few days in Amsterdam in 2 weeks and would like to add an additional country before we head to London to end our trip. Neither of us have been to Belgium. If we were to take a day trip, which city would people recommend? Antwerp is the most convenient being the closest to Amsterdam by train. We can do an organized bus trip to either Brussels or Bruges, but of course those are much longer day trips. We are really interested in historic centers and old architecture and also sampling local food specialties. We are not looking to visit museums on this trip- just get a basic feel for a city in a new country. It’s mostly about the charm. Thanks in advance for any advice.
It is unclear: What mode of transportation are you using to go to London? If you are using the train you just stop in Brussels and then go to London from there.
To clarify, it is just a day trip from Amsterdam. We will return to Amsterdam and fly from there to London. Our transportation to Belgium would be either on our own by train or as part of a bus day trip.
I would go self guided with Ghent and depending on how you feel stop in Antwerp on the way back. Bruges is too far and touristy and crowded. The Grand Place is all that is worth seeing in Brussels outdoors.
I don't think that Bruges will be that busy in mid-February especially during a weekday. With the coronavirus, I wonder how many chinese will be traveling.
Antwerp has a superb town square and cathedral. We enjoyed lunch at Marche Couvert http://www.marchecouverts.be/ (French style bistro - great guinea fowl) and at Bistrot de Pottenbrug (eel) Both under 10 minutes walk from centre. Both served locals but were very welcoming to we Australian tourists (middle aged couple).
Highlight for us was a visit to the Snijders Rockoxhuis museum which is in a 17th century nobleman’s house and was as much about the architecture of the house as the great art. See https://www.snijdersrockoxhuis.be/en/
Month and year?
My vote is also for Antwerp. I found the Rocoxhuis superior to the Rubenshuis. The small Museum Van den Bergh is a gem, and near the Magdenhuis foundling hospital and small botanical garden. Antwerp can’t be fully seen in one day, but you’ll have a good time. Very cosmopolitan city with wide food choices.
Bruges is too far (opinion) for a daytrip, but it is true that people will ask you if you went there.
I appreciate all the suggestions!
Having been to all three places, I’d recommend Antwerp if you’re interested in historic centers and old architecture and has just a day. It’s an easier walk from train station to historic center in Antwerp than Bruges, and Antwerp has a small town charm to me. Seems like it’s a more of a ‘regular’ working town than ‘tourist’ Bruges. Less crowd, too.
Thanks to everyone for the advice! Because we had to take the day trip on Monday, the only tour available was Bruges. It was about a 3 hour bus ride and unfortunately, the weather was bitterly cold, rainy, windy and even some sleet! However, we made the best of it and enjoyed the charming city. I would definitely like to return in better weather! Thanks again to everyone who gave advice! :)