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Belgium - Luxembourg - Germany - France

My girlfriend and I will be traveling to Belgium over the thanksgiving holiday this year for 9 days (11/17 - 11/26) flying in and out of Brussels. Right now the plan is to arrive into Brussels the morning of the 18th around 8am or so and go directly from the airport and catch a train to Ghent. We will stay in Ghent for Saturday and Sunday night to explore the city and then depart on Monday morning by train for Bruges. We will stay in Bruges Monday night and depart on Tuesday for Antwerp by train arriving mid-morning. We'll spend Tuesday night in Antwerp and then depart on Wednesday morning for Brussels.

Once we arrive in Brussels we'll make our way back to the airport to pick-up a rental car that we will have until Saturday. Once we have the rental car we are going to drive towards Luxembourg City (2 1/2 hr drive) and stop over for a few hours there to explore. From Luxembourg City we are going to continue on to Baden-Baden, Germany where we'll spend the night enjoying the thermal baths. On Thursday we'll depart mid-morning or possibly right after lunch and head to Strasbourg, France where we'll then spend Thursday and Friday night. The reason for the stopover in Strasbourg is because it is the opening day of their Christmas market on Friday 11/24 as well as the fact that it is supposed to be a beautiful city. We will depart for Brussels on Saturday morning so that we will have enough time in the afternoon and night to explore some of the city before we depart late morning on Sunday 11/26.

Our interests while traveling will be sightseeing, especially the cathedrals and museums, and enjoying the food and drink while we're there. Considering the time of year I don't think we'll wan to do anything outdoors as far as hiking or anything of that nature.

My questions are:
This is a lot to do in the amount of time that we have available. Is it too many cities / countries to visit?
Has anyone done a trip similar to this?
Are there some places that we should shorten or cut out altogether?
Should we stay in a central location and day trip everywhere while in Belgium?
Ideally I wouldn't be renting a car at all due to the cost but from what I've seen the prices are comparable to train tickets if not cheaper split between my girlfriend and I.

I have a bad habit when traveling to try and see everything and go everywhere possible especially when there are other countries in such close proximity. Really just looking for recommendations on cities / countries to visit, we'll narrow down what we're going to do once we have that figured out.

Any advice is greatly appreciated,

-Adam

Posted by
6410 posts

I've done trips similar to this and sometimes what you have on paper does not turn out; you do not end up doing everything because you may not have the energy that you thought you would. For example my last trip in July in Switzerland I ended up with two unused train tickets and ended up buying another unplanned because my body realized my itinerary was overly ambitious once I started it; jet lag creeps up on you do not under estimate it. Constant transport and checking in and out of lodging over 9 days can be draining not fun.

Have you looked at the map and distances you need to drive to travel? Do you really want to drive 5 hours to get to Baden Baden and all the way back to Brussels? Maybe you should forget renting a car and take the train. At least that way you can nod off every now and then.

Maybe cut out Germany and fly round trip to Strasbourg from Brussels for 4 nights. At least you can use Strasbourg as a base to maybe take the train to Colmar or Baden Baden. Also the TGV train get you Brussels to Strasbourg in 4 hours

Posted by
16748 posts

You have eight nights and are planning to stay in 6 different hotels. That's a huge percentage of your trip spent checking in and out. The days will be very short at that time of year, so I question how much you'll be able to see.

I've never been to Baden Baden, but I think the folks here who have visited it are "meh" about it, so I agree that it's a candidate for elimination.

Ghent and Bruges are about 30 minutes apart by train; it would be better to spend both nights in one place. Or perhaps there's an attractive town that would also work for visiting Antwerp, which would eliminate another hotel change.

I suspect that when all is said and done, you'll be better off sticking to trains. You don't have time for wandering around the countryside.

Posted by
23384 posts

Baden Baden is a nice quiet town, and I enjoyed the baths there, but unless you need Irish it is by no means unique. I go to German modern Therme (the German word, useful in google) frequently but interestingly I've never been back to Baden Baden. I prefer modern ones with lots of water toys, good saunas, good water jets and a good and frequent lazy river.

You don't need to go all the way to Baden-Württemberg to have a fabulous spa experience.

Posted by
1294 posts

I do think it would make much more sense to stay in one place (two at the most) while you're in Belgium. You can easily visit Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels as day trips from Ghent.

I would also skip renting a car. Even if the cost is comparable, you add the stress of driving/navigating, potentially in traffic when you arrive in cities, the added cost of gas and parking and tolls, and the potential for fines if you violate traffic rules.

I haven't been to Baden-Baden or to Strasbourg or Luxembourg, so I can't comment on those, but I think with 9 days, it's too much to squeeze in, even with a car. And Brussels has one of the top Christmas markets in Europe, also starting on 11/24.

Posted by
9 posts

Though I can't speak to the rest of your itinerary, I drove from Brussels to Luxembourg City earlier this summer as part of a larger trip. Especially if you have someone navigating, it's a very easy and scenic drive. On the way, if you are interested in WW2, you may consider stopping in Bastogne en route for a couple hours. The Bastogne Barracks, Massilon Memorial (the large star northeast of town), and the original foxholes used by Easy Company in Band of Brothers are all highlights. (Note that they are all mostly outside attractions, but November is roughly when the battle began, so there may be some commemoration events happening.)

From there, you cross into Luxembourg and head south through a scenic mountainous area (like the Appalachians, not the Alps) to Luxembourg City. I had a very good experience in that city and particularly liked the Bock casements and the City's History museum (built into the cliffs near the Palace). Parking was very limited in the old town section, though as of July, they were building an underground garage; no idea what the expected completion date is. This may be a better suggestion, logistics-wise, if you are intent on using a car but are nervous with city driving, since you can stay in a hotel outside of Lux City that night and continue on your way the following morning. Based on my observations of traffic, though, Luxembourg City looked much easier to drive in than any other city I visited (Brussels, Mainz, Trier, Erfurt, Berlin). Also, check out the Luxembourg Card, which gets you admission to most museums plus all buses and trains are free.

One more note: compare the prices of renting a car from Brussels airport and from Zevanthem, a small town near the airport serviced by trains from the central station. I learned that Avis was about $75-100 cheaper renting from the town office for some reason, even taking into account the one-way dropoff. Staff was extremely helpful and very fluent in English. You just have to walk about a half mile from the train station to get to the office.

Posted by
3 posts

It seems to be al lot in such a few days but on the other hand, if i visit the US i always want to see much as possible places or states in the time i'm there. Brussels has also a nice X-mass market opening the 24th november. Maybe start in brussels, visit Bruges, Gent, Antwerp by train and did you saw London already? you can take the train from Brussels to London and stay one night there and back. Luxembourg is not that special. Strassbourg is a nice mediëval town, but it's a 5hour drive from Brussels, so if you don't like to drive i would'nt do it. With the train it's 3 hours.

Posted by
8 posts

Strasbourg is pretty but I would stick to Belgium for a trip of this duration. At any rate, if you do go to Strasbourg, don't fly -- it costs an arm and a leg! If you shop for train tickets now you can probably get some very good bargains, maybe even first class for the price of second, or less. Try the Deutsche Bahn website (in English, for all countries in Europe) and the guidance on the Man in Seat 61 website.

Posted by
8 posts

You could certainly base yourself in Brussels or another of the Belgian cities and make day trips by train to all the places you want to go of the cities. You'd save loads of time not needing to drive and the fares are very affordable. You can book online for days (not times) and print out the tickets yourself at home before you go.