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Belgium & Netherlands

My husband, one of his work colleagues, & I are headed to Rotterdam for a conference at the end of July. We will be arriving in Amsterdam on Saturday and immediately hopping the train to Brussels. We will be in Belgium from Saturday through Tuesday. Our travel companion wants to spend the entire time in Brussels (he lived there for a short time many years ago), but I want to split the time and stay in Bruges as well. How long should we allow for each city? My thought was to head to Bruges Sunday afternoon so that we may have 2 nights there. Will 1-1 1/2 days in Brussels be enough? Is 2+ days in Bruges too much?

Also, I am looking at AirBnB options for all 3 locations. Any tips on what parts of town to stay in - or avoid? We may end up in a hotel in Brussels if only do 1 night, so any tips on a "local charm" hotel would be great, too. :)

Posted by
1714 posts

With just three nights, I wouldn't bother trying to relocate. You can easily see Bruges in a day and return to Brussels. Or go directly to Bruges and stay there all three nights if you think that would appeal to you more.

There are as many opinions about the best way to spend time in Belgium as there are people who have traveled to Belgium. There is really no best way to spend 2 1/2 days. Some people have their fill of Brussels in one day, and the same can be said for Bruges. Other people stay 3 or 4 days and wish they had more time.

Personally, I'd stay in Ghent all three nights. It's halfway between Bruges and Brussels, making it easy to make day trips. It's really pretty at night when it's all lit up, so it's a lovely place to wander around after dark.

Posted by
15542 posts

What Lane said - stay in Ghent. Beautiful after dark when the medieval buildings and bridges are floodlit, not as touristy as Bruges.

Posted by
1005 posts

If your friend used to live in Brussels, you might want to consider staying there the whole time. He might have some interesting insights into the city, and you can still get to Bruges and Ghent easily for day trips. For Brussels, I really loved Hotel Welcome near Ste. Catherine Church--charming hosts and each room has a different theme.

Posted by
37 posts

I just stayed at Hotel Goezeput in Bruges last week and loved it. Nice old building, on quite street near center of town, short walk from train station

Posted by
7049 posts

courtnay, we could give better advice if you included your home country and/or city in your visible profile. Your first sentence suggests that you travel regularly ... For that reason, I would observe that as nice as Bruges is, it is not unique. I can't imagine (especially absent a romantic reason for isolation) staying two nights in Bruges (and many posters here plan three.) And as noted, unreserved train travel is so easy in this part of Belgium that where you sleep does not prevent seeing many cities.

I would say that where you sleep does "matter", because some cities are nicer and have more to do. I'm an Antwerp person. For example, an art history student could justify sleeping in Brussels. Someone interested in fashion might prefer Antwerp. Someone on a budget might pick a student city like Gent or Leuven. Someone interested in beach and beer might stay in Oosteende, with easy access to Bruges. Don't forget to research and plan your last day's travel. (Belgian trains can be very crowded during rush hour and school traffic hours. Antwerp appears closer to Rotterdam, but I never took that train.)

AFAIR, Saturday is market day in Mechelen (once the third largest city in Europe, but not today!), but you'll likely arrive too late. It has a lot of (half-a-day) charm, and is very close to Brussels. Wherever you stay, check in advance for attractions that are only open (usually by appointment tour at a TI) on Sunday, like a town hall, an historic village, or something like that.