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Belgium Itinerary for September

Hello everyone, Will be spending 10 days touring Belgium in September.

Flying from Canada to Dublin to Paris, train to Brussels/train to Ypres (please don't ask, our original flight booked in February was just cancelled by the airline and this was the only way we could get there from where we live without paying ridiculous extra fees. :( ) Then heading on a return visit to London via highspeed for 3 days before flying home. This will be our 7th time to Europe but first to Belgium and our 35th wedding anniversary trip. We normally only travel in Europe by public transport and this will be the first time renting a car.

We like to take the time to get to know one country as well as we can in our 2 week time frame. Not retired yet so limited by vacation schedules. 4 days in Ypres because I am a huge history buff and hubby and I are finishing a 10 year quest to run a marathon in a different country every year for ten years. It will be memorable and emotional to do this in Ypres and attend the Last Post that evening.

Sept 5 - 8 Ypres Day 1 - settle in, walkabout
Day 2 - train to Bruges early a.m. for a day trip
Day 3 - rent bikes, tour battlefield/local area, easy day pre-marathon
Day 3 - run Flanders Fields Marathon a.m./afternoon&evening gentle walk around town
Sept 9-11 Ghent Day 1 -train to Ghent early a.m./ tour city
Day 2 - train to Antwerp for day trip
Day 3 - cycle countryside (self guided Castle tour route)
Sept 12-15 Train to Brussels to rent car morning of the 12th (or train to Namur and rent car there?)
We are interested in spending a few days exploring the Ardennes area then return to
Brussels for the afternoon/evening of the 14th and leave for London morning of the 15th.

Interested in Namur/Dinant/Liege or any other interesting town in the area that we
could access without driving more than an hour.

The Brussels/Ardennes part of the trip is the only piece we don't have specific plans for so definitely open to some input on how to plan this section of the journey.

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
1282 posts

I'm not sure if you are wanting suggestions for the Ieper/Ypres portion, but you might want to consider a half-day trip to Poperinge which is interesting historically and also pleasant to walk around.

For your day 3, a cycle from Ieper to Essex Farm to the Brooding Soldier to Tyne Cot to Hill 62 and back to Ieper is about 30 or 40 km. I'm not sure what you consider "easy" (let alone before running a marathon!), but that seems possible. In my limited experience, if you go to the Menin Gate ceremony one night, you may well decide to go a second night too.

Have you got one of the Major and Mrs Holt's guidebooks for your visit? They are very good.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Nick,

Thanks for your reply most of our plan is set except the last few days. We are planning on cycling the Ypres "Peace Route" about 45km by bike for the day before the marathon. I think it may be the same route or very similar to what you suggest.

It will be marathon #22 for me and #31 for hubby and we are also triathletes and do a lot of cycling, so 45km over most of a day is pretty easy. Lots of stops along the way. We will stick with this plan unless there is significant rain. We are considering Poperinge as a back up plan in case of rain as I believe we can get there by train in around 10 minutes.

I had never heard of the guidebook so thanks for the suggestion!

Posted by
7567 posts

I was surprised to see that Google Maps lists a fairly direct trip from Ypres to Bruges using a local bus and a local train: https://goo.gl/maps/TEDe7u9NV9UiqLRB6 But you need to investigate and see if it is reliable and frequent enough for your needs - rather than going via Ghent. I think of Ypres as out of the way, but I've never been there. My "authority" is that I took the train to Lille from Antwerp once, and it took three hours and three seats!

There is plenty of WW II history in Antwerp. It has much more to see and do than Gent or Bruges, so spend the longest day you can there. It also has some fine museums. Especially with a car, you might be interested in pretty Mechelen (market day Saturday), which was once the third largest city in Europe, just after the cloth trade fell off. But there are lot of lovely town squares in Belgium. There is also an unusual WW II Nazi prison just outside Mechelen that is hard to see without a car, Breendonk. There was also a deportation/transit camp in Mechelen.

I haven't been to Dinant, but the listing in Lonely Planet is not particularly favorable. You should search (top center) this newsboard about Liege, because it is often reported to be a post-industrial relic. (I have only looked at the Calatrava rail station, during the stop of the train to Aachen and Cologne.) I don't know how many small, attractive medieval cores you want to see, but there are few on the way to Liege. Does the historic building museum at Bokrijk hold any interest for you? It has its own train station, too. I enjoyed it.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the heads up re: getting to Bruges. I knew we would have to do a train/bus combo but may revise the Bruge/Ghent itinerary by swapping a day.

The first part of the itinerary is pretty much set as a lot of it revolves around the marathon and being able to cycle or walk to the places we want to see. We often rent a bike to get around the town or city we are visiting.

Thanks for the suggestions in the Ardennes area. We are open to anything within an hours drive of Dinant and want to be able to stop along the way to explore the little small towns and villages.

Posted by
995 posts

Consider carrying around a seat cushion, maybe tied onto a light weight day backpack with a shoelace. Remember to take occasional breaks to sit.

I was in Ghent July 15, this month. When you take the train get to Ghent, outside Sint Peters station after you arrive, you can take the tram to the stop right next to Gravensteen castle. When you get off the tram the castle will be on your right and on your left across the road is a square with a statue, an L shaped row of buildings containing bars and/or restaurants, and the tourist information office at the bend in the inside of the L shaped building. I took a guided tour that started at 2pm. I signed up for it at the last minute at the tourist information office. Make sure you pay to go inside the Gravensteen castle, and get the audio guide, and show up more than an hour before they close. I was not impressed with the Ghent design museum. There is an art museum in Ghent too but I missed it because I was there on a Monday when it is closed.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the good info on the castle. Will definitely put that into our plans.

Not sure what the reference is to the seat cushion and taking breaks to sit? For walking around? This is our 7th trip to Europe and the walking is part of what we love.

If it's regarding the cycling, hubby and I are long distance cyclists and its part of our daily routine so not worries there. :)

Thanks again!