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Belgium base for 4 nights in February

Reading through, Ghent and Bruges seem to be very popular overnight locations. We have 4 nights at the end of February. Our 10 and 11 year old boys will be with us. Does the winter travel season lead you to prefer Brussels over Ghent over Bruges over Antwerp?

Thank you in advance.

Posted by
7506 posts

This is a cold and grey time to visit Belgium. I think there are more things for the boys to do in Antwerp, but most boys that age aren't crazy about museums and churches. Will they enjoy walking through picturesque and interesting old towns? Because of cheap local unreserved trains, you can visit any of those cities for the day if you get bored with the city you choose. It does not require advance planning.

Antwerp is larger than all of those but Brussels, and is (opinion) much nicer than Brussels. But you haven't given the family rationale for a trip there in February. Are you from the US? How long will your flights be for 4 days? Have you been to Europe before? Do the boys like all kinds of food? Is this a school vacation trip "instead" of Disney World? (Not making fun of you, just asking about your proposed trip. Most posters here are from the USA.)

Posted by
98 posts

I know it's not the best time of year to visit, but we are from New Hampshire and can handle the cold days. Nothing a winter coat, hat, and gloves can't fix.

The boys have been to Madrid, Rome, Venice, Paris, and the Normandy region of France. They are great travelers and adventurous eaters. We don't "do" Disney. ☺️

The reason for this trip is for pleasure and for school. My 11 year old has to do a project on Belgium. My husband is a pilot, so we fly free. If we didn't have that benefit, we would not be taking this trip.

We are spending four nights in London followed by four in Belgium.

Posted by
15651 posts

Just looking at a map, Ghent is the central location for day trips to the other 3 cities. I've only visited Bruges and Ghent, only stayed in Ghent (twice). It's a university town, less touristy than Bruges (so Ghent will probably have more restaurant options), very pretty after dark when the medieval buildings and bridges over the canals are floodlit.

Posted by
7506 posts

Your reply confirms Antwerp as a rich place for four days, and daytrip options anywhere. Not to sound like a Travel Agent, “Bruges is for Lovers”, and there’s not enough to do there for 11-year old boys. Antwerp has plenty of medieval sights, just not as continuous as in Bruges. It is also a more diversified and sophisticated place than Bruges. I feel very safe walking through the diverse sections of Antwerp.

The Antwerp-Brussels area is a better place to investigate the (past) long failure to form a government in Belgium, the spread of Islam in modern Europe, economic and language stresses, homelessness and immigration. You might want to take the (cheap) city bus from Antwerp to Turnhout, (and the train back) to view the prosperous suburburban development. Turnhout has a lovely cathedral, Beguinage, and Art Deco town hall, but it has always struck me as an example of a successful welfare-state family town. It has some international pharmaceutical manufacturing as well, but is a very pretty place. (I am not saying everyone needs to visit Turnhout. I’m responding to the school project.)

Edit: While Lier does not rate ahead of Gent or Brugge, train routes mean it can be done on the same full day out as Turnhout. Besides being a very pretty place, you would try the local signature pastry, Lierse vlaaikes. There is a sweet little town hall art museum, an engineering giant clock marvel, and a toy or puppet (?) museum I haven’t been to.

The university town of Leuven has a lot of 20th Century history, including the destruction and rebuilding of the magnificent University library, not just once, but twice. Also a lovely town hall, cathedral, and Beguinage.

Posted by
375 posts

I personally would recommend Ghent over the other choices, as its wonderful historic core has so many things to see and do as well as being the most centrally located to day trip to the other cities you listed. I typically pick Ghent over Bruges when I head to Belgium, however, with your trip being in February, I could easily be convinced to stay in Bruges if I were you. Bruges tends to be overrun with tourists much of the year, which takes away much of its charm. However, Bruges will be less crowded when you go in February and should be strongly considered.

You are going to Belgium at a wonderful time. We have done late February/early March trips to Belgium/Netherlands/England 3 years running. The lack of tourists is refreshing. True, you should expect grey, cold and rain but you never know. Last February, we stayed in Ghent and experienced cold and wet weather (mostly), which we expected, but we managed to squeeze out a day trip to Bruges on a lovely sunny day sans jackets. Have fun.