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Belgium for 5 days for seniors

Help! My hubby and I are planning to fly into Brussels for 5 days at the end of October. We like to walk and tour on our own...always budget minded. I was thinking of basing ourselves in Brugge and doing day trips? The other thought I had was 3 days in Brugge and then Brussels? I am open to suggestions as we have never been there. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

You are all being very helpful and encouraging. I have done more research and will skip Brussels except to fly in and out of. Now I am thinking of booking Brugge (or Ghent) for 3 days and then Antwerp for 2 days. Or should we stay for 5 days in either Brugge or Ghent and do day trips? I value your opinions greatly.

Posted by
487 posts

Either one of those would work. Belgium is small enough that no place is very far away by rail. Brussels is the rail hub, and so it might be more convenient for day trips, but only a bit. Good ideas for daytrips would be Ostend, Ypres, Kortrijk. and Ghent. What sorts of things are you interested in?

I have a couple of accounts of trips to Belgium in the trip reports folder, one last year and one in 2015. They are probably longer than you want to read. :)

BTW, I am in my mid-60s and like to walk a lot.

Posted by
6410 posts

I think take the train direct to Brugge from Brussels Airport. There is at least one an hour from the airport, otherwise you may have to change in central Brussels. You should do more research on Belgium in one of the travel guidebooks. That way you can decide how many nights and where you want to go after Brugge. But I recommend Antwerp and Ghent and Brussels is enough as a day trip. I've stayed in all 4 of those towns

Posted by
306 posts

We went last year and are in our 60's.
Everything is easily accessible by short train trips -
just have to decide what you want to see and do.
Stayed in Ghent and visited Brugges and it worked out well for us.
We stayed at the Hotel Carlton with is within easy walking distance (1/4 mile) of the train station.
A well-run establishment, reasonable priced with an excellent made to order breakfast.
The proprietors are two brothers well-versed in getting tourists around in both Brugge and Ghent.

Posted by
113 posts

Hi mansard1819! My husband and I are in our mid-60's and will also be in Belgium near the end of October. We are landing in Brussels and immediately taking the train to Bruges where we are staying 3 nights. We plan to day trip to Ghent during that time. We are then taking the train to Antwerp and spending one night there. After that, the train to Amsterdam for 2 1/2 days before heading back to Brussels where we will spend the night before catching our flight home. Only plan on a half day in Brussels as I do not see much to do there and others on this site share the same belief. We are staying at Hotel Fevery in Bruges which seems economical and appears nice. If you haven't booked your hotels yet, I suggest you do so asap. Im sure prices continue to go up and availability scarce.

Posted by
11 posts

You are all being very helpful and encouraging. I have done more research and will skip Brussels except to fly in and out of. Now I am thinking of booking Brugge (or Ghent) for 3 days and then Antwerp for 2 days. Or should we stay for 5 days in either Brugge or Ghent and do day trips? I value your opinions greatly.

Posted by
4681 posts

We don't know quite enough about the interests of the two of you. For example, one of the best reasons for me for a (small) amount of time in Brussels is the art museums. But Antwerp is also famous for an even wider variety of museums. (Antwerp's main art museum is still closed for renovation.) But because you used the word senior in your OP, I want to suggest that Antwerp, followed by Bruges, has the highest ratio of sights/enjoyment per mile WALKED. (I'm 67, by the way.) Because so may posters here are interested is special things (I mean, like World War II, or Art Nouveau, or saints and religious landmarks, or beer brewings, or whatever), you are not yet getting the best possible advice. Where do you live, and where have you toured before? What did you like best?

Gent is also very nice, and is often a cheaper place to stay than Bruges. Antwerp is bigger than either Bruges or Gent, and has a wide variety of hotel rooms, as well as a massive number of things to do. It also has better local transit, for when your legs get tired. A lesser but nice place to consider is Leuven, and it's very close to the airport. Wherever you stay, use Google Maps to see how far it is from the train station before you book. (I don't mind a long walk with a roller bag, but cobblestones can make it tedious, and hard on the bag wheels.) Be prepared for changeable weather in October.

You mentioned "budget". So you need to decide whether cost is the main factor, or whether you have bought into the (not uncommon) belief that waking up in Bruges is a transcendental, romantic idyll. (It's a nice medieval core to a modern postwar city, but I don't have that view of it, myself.) Have you visited any other medieval town centers?

Posted by
11 posts

A little about us....We are from Canada 🇨🇦. Our children presently live in Switzerland. We have been in Amsterdam recently. We like to mix with the people, see the local sites, nature, one museum perhaps, some history, and experience the food. We enjoy “getting lost” while walking around.

Posted by
4681 posts

A lot of places in Flanders were liberated by Canadian forces. I don't have a list, but as an example, on the Steen Castle exterior in Antwerp (not open to the public) there is lovely Thank-You plaque to the regiment that liberated the Port of Antwerp. Because I happened into a remote Deurne (neighborhood of Antwerp) bar on what turned out to be the early September anniversary, I had quite a personal encounter with locals who had just been to the cemetery to lay wreaths. And I mean to say that my money was no good at the bar that afternoon.

Bruges is definitely a beautiful place, but I don't think you will have up close and personal encounters with locals. Of course, that can happen anywhere. But if you can possibly work up the time and interest for a less prominent town (like Lier, Leuven, or Turnhout, none of which counts as "obscure", or Mechelen on Saturday market-day) you may possibly meet locals while walking around. For that matter, there is a Vrijdag [Friday] Market in Antwerp, but it's kind of Polish-trader commercial, to me.

The reason I mentioned Turnhout is that it corresponds (but is even better) to Rick's recommendation of Haarlem over Amsterdam. It's a prosperous local town (I mean, mainly postwar reinforced concrete ... .... ) with a magnificent Cathedral with superb woodwork inside, an Art Deco town hall that was actually open to the public last time I was there, an pretty Beguinage, including a formal museum, and with an old-folks center where you can buy coffee and cake, an obscure but famous Playing Card museum, and a respectable number of older buildings, including a castle now occupied by a financial services company. (One reason their tiny Beguinage has a nicer feel than the massive and famous one in Bruges is the degree of gentrification that has been necessary (?) in Bruges to preserve the place. The old-folks housing has less physical impact on the Beguinage.) I'm not at all saying you must go there, I'm just responding to your most recent post.

I absolutely adore the Beguinage in Leuven, but it's out of the way. This is kind of a University town, so the locals may be too young for you. But prices are lower as a result. The Beguinage in Mechelen is substantial, but suffers greatly from modernization, while maintaining most of the winding floor plan. It's more of a "ghost" of the Beguinage. But it's a lovely, quiet, un-crowded walk. There is a substantial Jewish history museum in Mechelen, but I've never found it open. There's also a museum that has a lot of the native-son painter Rik Wouters, who is little-known in the US, but is often called "the Matisse of Belgium." I love his work, but Matisse was much better! The little Mechelen Town-Museum has a huge collection of composite-event (and gruesome!) Lives of the Saints paintings, which are less common in US museums.

Posted by
11 posts

Has anybody booked day tours in Ghent and Antwerp? Are they available or is everything walking easy to find? Are there any hop on and off busses?

Posted by
1453 posts

If you really want to mix with the locals stay in a B&B in places just outside Bruges like St. Kruis or Koolkerke and take the bus from there to the historical centre. The locals and the tourists in Bruges don't mix with eachother and just staying a few nights I question if you have time for that in case you stay in the historic centre.

As far as I know there are no hop on hop off buses in Ghent, for things to do there: https://visit.gent.be/en The TI can give info about city tours.