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Belgium travel recommendations

I will be traveling from Amsterdam to Bruges in early summer. I have four days and am considering spending two nights in Bruges followed by two nights in Ghent. From there the plan is to take the high-speed train to Montpelier in southern France. Does the Bruges/Ghent itinerary make sense from interesting sites and enjoyment points of view in each city? I plan to travel from Ghent to Brussels to connect to the high-speed train to Montpelier. Any comments/recommendations on this itinerary would be appreciated.

Posted by
8067 posts

I did something similar Bruges to Ghent to Antwerp two nights in each a short distance from the other and enjoyed it because of the beer the architecture the red light districts, the Rubens Museum in Antwerp the belfries; all have a mature party feel. I saw the lead singer of Echo and the Bunnyman in concert in Ghent before hanging out at a block party. Belgium is underated compared to more popular Germany for example.

Posted by
359 posts

Hmm...with just 4 nights and an eventual departure from Brussels, I can suggest a possible alternative for your consideration.
Given the close proximity of Bruges and Ghent (20-25 minutes by train, 4 per hour), stay in Bruges for 3 nights. Do Ghent as an easy day trip from Bruges. When in Bruges, you can also take a break from museums and go to Ostend for some fresh sea air. . The train station in Ostend is right on the coast by the beach and the fish markets, with many stalls serving ready to eat fish snacks. Just exit the station, walk straight ahead across the canal, and turn right. From the station area, you can also take the Coast Tram to see dune areas and other lovely beach towns.
Then spend your last night in Brussels. If you get an early start from Bruges and drop your bags at your Brussels hotel, you will have most of the day to either visit Antwerp or tour Brussels, depending on your interests. Either way, be sure to see the Grand Place in Brussels before leaving the next morning for France. There are many good hotels between the Grand Place and Central Station, and that's the best place to stay for the sights in Brussels. It's just a few minutes train ride then from Central Station to Midi to join your train to France.
As the poster above said, Belgium is vastly undervalued by travelers and is packed with great experiences. Wherever you choose to go, just be sure to sample the beer and chocolate!

Posted by
186 posts

We just returned from a Belgium/Netherlands trip. As mentioned above we stayed three nights in Bruges with an easy day trip by train to Ghent. Be sure to get tickets to the Ghent altarpiece ahead of time. We were there when they opened the panels for the day. I think it was at 10:25 am. For what it’s worth, we preferred Bruges to Ghent (more quaint and charming to us). Watch the movie Monuments Men before you go, then be sure to see the Bruges Madonna and the Ghent altarpiece. It was a surprise to me, but we also really liked Antwerp. I was picturing big city, but it has a nicely preserved historic center.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you to all for these wonderful suggestions. All provided great "food for thought" for finalizing our plans.

One additional question: Is it more scenic to take the bus from Amsterdam to Bruges versus the train? I know its a longer trip but wondering if it provides a chance to see the countryside at a slower pace.

Thank you

Posted by
7080 posts

Take the train. The bus will just be travelling on motorways through two relatively urbanized countries.
The Thalys high-speed is not the only option, regular intercity trains are not that much slower and often cheaper.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you, Balso. I appreciate the speedy and emphatic response.

Posted by
67 posts

Only way to have a scenic route is to hire a car and drive through Zeeland. But if you have only 4 days, I don't think that's the best idea. The bus will just take the highway and go a lot slower. If you have only 4 days I would take the train, it's the fastest and you're less likely to get stuck in traffic. There are big road works in Antwerp, so depending on your time of arrival, the bus can be stuck in quite a big traffic jam.

If you like breweries Mechelen can also be an option for a day trip. It's between Antwerp and Brussels. It's less known but also a nice city with a great city brewery: "Het Anker".

I'd spend atleast a day in Brussels. It has many nice places and in my opinion it feels more real than for instance Bruges, which is very touristic. The central square and the town hall of Brussels are a must see. I also like the Atomium, Cantillon Brewery, the Galleries, Royal Palace, "Koninklijke serres" (only open for a few weeks each year),...

Keep in mind that Bruges is very small (although very scenic), so I wouldn't spend more than 2 nights there. There is also no nightlife in Bruges, once the tourists leave, it's kinda dead. So if you like nightlife Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp are better options.

Posted by
7570 posts

Everyone has their own opinion. I like Antwerp the best, and it has many more things to do than the other cities in the area. I am not bad-mouthing Bruges or Gent, I'm just saying that I would rather wake up in Antwerp. I have been to both other places from Antwerp on the train, twice. (Multiple trips to Antwerp for my wife's work.)

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/belgium/day-trips-from-brussels-besides-bruges-and-ghent

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/belgium/day-trips-from-brussels-768c7c85-75b9-4374-ad13-ae36967bc521