I am arriving two days before my RS tour which starts in Gent. I decided to fly into Amsterdam and take the train because I got direct flight very cheap. I thought the train ride through the tulips might be nice. What would the best thing to see or do in Gent on my arrival day. I know I will at least walk around town to get my barrings to keep myself awake for the day. I do usually sleep on the overnight flight. I already have my RS books, so I just looking for the best suggestions. I leave in just over two months. Times are getting excited in our house.
Walk the old town it is stunning old buildings look around climb the belfry if you don't have problems with stairs .
Timing is everything there was actually a legendary band in town and some kind of outdoor music festival when I was there so I went to a concert at night. A lot of things to do can depend on your interests where ever you go. For instance I like beer and I was happy to see that the legendary stuff I can't afford so much as an import was there on tap in a pub a lot cheaper
I assume you will be taking the Thalys? You can change in either Antwerp or Brussels for a train to Ghent, and you might consider stowing your luggage in a locker and exploring one of those cities for a couple of hours before continuing on to Ghent, since neither of them are included in the RS itinerary. I think if I had to pick, I would recommend visiting the Grand Place in Brussels.
In Ghent it looks like a walking tour, a visit to St. Bavo to see the altarpiece, and a visit to the MSK (fine arts museum) are included in the itinerary. Other things to consider doing are Gravensteen (which I liked more for the views than for anything there is to see inside) and the Huis van Alijn (which I enjoyed more than Rick seems to based on the description in his book).
If your tour starts in Ghent, I wonder if you really want to spend a lot of time doing things you might do anyway on the tour? It is a lovely town - nothing wrong with spending a little extra time there, but perhaps there's something else you might see before you get there?
Do you have two nights or one night before the tour starts? You might consider a stop along the way before you get to Ghent. Brussels would be an OK choice. Then it's a direct train to Ghent. Another option might be a little town in the Netherlands like Delft, which I found adorable. Some would also recommend a stop in Antwerp - a logical choice because you could also have a direct train from there on to Ghent, but it wasn't personally a favorite town of mine. But if you like museums, there are a few interesting ones there for sure.
The only place you will likely see tulip fields on a fast train from Schiphol to Antwerpen and onwards to Gent is for a very short time just north and south of Leiden which is very quickly after leaving the airport. The train which goes northwest from Leiden to Haarlem passes past many bulb fields, but unfortunately the high speed line doesn't.
Thank you everyone for all the suggestions. Lane, I am not taking the fast train. It has been suggested not to take the fast train because you never know when flights don't arrive on schedule. I am fine with the slower train. I have been on the fast before from Paris previously. I will be taking the train where I can just buy my ticket at the airport. The last time I checked on the train tickets, I should be changing trains in Rotterdam and Antwerp, then onto Gent. My plans in Gent are to do things that are not on my tour. I really would like to climb the tower, but my calves will let me know if that will be possible. I love seeing towns from above.
I am planning on visiting Brussels on the day after I arrive. I might stop in Rotterdam for a few hours just to break up the trip and see a bit of that city. Thanks again for all the suggestions.
FWIW, I was an exchange student in Belgium for a year and travel back to see my host family regularly. I prefer Antwerp as a place to visit for a day or two. I like Ghent, but enjoy the museums and city of Antwerp more - the Rubens house, the Red Star Line museum, the catheral, etc. The centraal station is not to be missed, and the square where the statue is shown throwing his hand is great too - BTW, I think the name of Antwerpen comes from the legend of a man throwing a hand - Hand Werfen - "to throw a hand" turned into Antwerpen.