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Bases of Operations in Belgium and Luxembourg

My wife an I are working on this year's trip, to take place in September. This year's focus is Luxembourg an Belgium. It will be a bit military-heavy, with interests in World War I, the Battle of the Bulge, and Waterloo. However, we're interested in lots of stuff: art, architecture, castles, beer, nature, gardens, history, industry, daily life, etc. It will be a two-week trip, with three or four nights in each place (plus transit days).

We're trying to decide on three bases from which to operate, visiting local sites and making daytrips further afield (preferably by train or bus). Any suggestions for locations? We're thinking mainly about Luxembourg City, Ghent, and Liege, but Brussels is a possibility (If only for the transportation hub). Maybe Bruges? Antwerp?

--Dav

Posted by
1940 posts

I'm glad you're visiting Luxembourg! We were there last fall and loved it. It's a beautiful, friendly, clean little country. Lots of English speakers. And an amazing public transportation system. For 4 euros per person per day, you get unlimited travel on trains and buses throughout Luxembourg. So since you are wanting to use trains or buses, I would suggest that you base yourselves not in Luxembourg City, but in Ettelbruck.

Ettelbruck is a main transportation hub located in the central part of the country. We stayed in nearby Diekirch last fall, using public transportation, and every trip we took went through Ettelbruck! It didn't take us long to figure out that this is where we should have stayed. Since Luxembourg is so small, you can easily take a day trip into Luxembourg City (maybe 1 hour on the train) to see the sights, but return to Ettlebruck for the small-town ambience (and much lower prices).

Ettelbruck is a charming little city of about 7,000 people, and an important WWII site. General Patton led the final liberation of Ettelbruck from the Nazis in 1944, and there's a major square in town called Patton Square, and also a Patton museum. There's a market downtown on Friday morning, so if you like small-town market days, you might want to schedule yourself there on a Friday. The central square (pedestrian only) has several good restaurants, a good bakery, places to sit outside with a beer, and a great gelato shop. Since we didn't stay there, I have no hotel recommendation, but I suggest you find someplace near the train/bus/downtown area. Here's an email address for their tourist info office -- you might get some information from them: site@ettelbruck-info.lu.

Diekirch, where we based ourselves, has an amazing WWII museum that you don't want to miss. It's maybe 15 minutes from Ettelbruck. Allow several hours for the museum -- it's huge -- has actual tanks and vehicles used in WWII, plus dioramas with soldiers in actual uniforms, and room after room of artifacts. After the war, farmers living in the area collected the tanks, trucks, uniforms, etc. left behind, and stored them in their barns. At some point, they decided to gather them together in this museum. It's truly remarkable. Most interesting are the photos of soldiers who fought there, and letters they wrote after the war, describing their time in Luxembourg. There's an American flag flying outside of the museum and a large banner, "Welcome to our liberators." I have never felt more welcome in Europe as an American than I did in these little towns!

Another interesting thing to see in Luxembourg is the "Family of Man" photographic exhibit in Clervaux (a short train ride away). And there's a castle in Vianden that you can visit. You can easily fill 4 days in Luxembourg.

In Belgium, we stayed in Bruges and did the Flanders Field tour with Quasimodo Tours -- very highly recommended. We loved Bruges but that was the only war-related activity we did there ... lots of chocolate and beer, though. We started our trip in Bruges, took a train to Diekirch (changing in Ettelbruck, of course). From there, we went to the Rhine in Germany, for the annual Rhine in Flames, which will take place September 19 this year. A truly amazing sight, if you have a couple of days to spare. Here's a link.

Have fun planning!

Posted by
28075 posts

Dav

If you need to stay in Liege for reasons to do with your searches, I will say nothing. But if you close it because you looked at a map and thought the location looked good, I will advise you to look again.

Liege doesn't get a lot of good press on this helpline, at least not in the past, and not from me. It is a somewhat grimy run down in places industrial city which has had hard times.

I would suggest, in that area, either of the two other cities in its triangle - Maastricht in the mountains of Netherlands (well as high as it gets, anyway) or the spa town of Aachen, Germany. Both are very close, and while different from each other both leave Liege in the dust, IMHO.

I agree with Ettelbruck for all the reasons given above, and very strongly second the museum in Diekirch.

It is hard to find much nicer countryside between the Channel and the Alps than the rural bits of Luxembourg, and it is all so close and easy to get to by the excellent bus and train network in Luxembourg.

Posted by
1680 posts

For visiting WW-I sites around Ypres, there are touroperators (like Quasimodo) who pick you up in Bruges. From there you can go also with the train to Oostende and further coastal tram if you have interest in Raversyde Atlantikwall with also WW-I remains. There are touroperators like Flanders Battlefield Tour from Ypres including also visits to Somme, Vimy Ridge etc. in France, however no idea if they can pick you up in Bruges too.
https://www.ypres-fbt.com/en/
http://www.quasimodo.be/

Train Ypres to Oostende takes at least some 2 hours, Bruges to Oostende just some 15 minutes.

Staying in Brussels for Waterloo is interesting if you want to visit the museum of Military History there.