I plan to rent a car in aachen. Drve to ypres to see wwI sites and spend the night. Drive to dunkirk for a brief stop. Then to bruges for the rest of the day and overnight. Then back to aachen. Suggestions/thoughts?
The car is very useful for rural battlefield sites, but a long drive to Bruges, and an annoyance to drive and park in cities. Belgian trains tend to be inexpensive and convenient. Have you estimated driving times on Google Maps or Michelen, and added 20% for business day traffic?
Edit: Try to have 2 chip and pin cards to be sure you can buy gas at unattended stations. I once had to fall back on my bank ATM / Debit Card, which I never use for purchases at home.
Someone posted here in the past about seeing those WW sites, try the search box top left or center. I'd rather visit Antwerp.
Any chance you'll be in a Belgian city on their liberation (WW2) day?
Seems reasonable because you have broken it up with the two overnights.
But be prepared for a complete lack of fun driving in Belgium. I have to cross Belgium a lot as part of my trips to Luxembourg and Germany (from England) and I am getting more and more frustrated by both the incessant construction (especially around Namur) and the much heavier than previously truck traffic mixed with the imaginative, ridiculous and just plain crazy driving by Belgian (and Luxembourg) drivers. I have now started paying the high French tolls, and 90 minute longer journey to go around by the French autoroutes just to have a relaxing drive. Frustrating because I could do with that 90 minutes back and I'd much rather not pay the tolls.
So be plenty patient (and quick on the reflexes) on the drive from Aachen to Ypres (Ieper on the maps and road signs - it is in the Flemish area and Ypres is the French spelling). A car is pretty much help wandering around the cemeteries and memorials, and trench areas of the Salient. Not a lot of help in Brugge/Bruges, nor in Maastricht (won't you stop there on the way out or back?) and an absolute boat anchor in Gent/Ghent.
While I understand that others have a reason for visiting Dunkirk/Dunkerque I don't find it a pleasant town at all and do my best to avoid it. I will say that when I was looking for car fuel at a E.Leclerc store there a few weeks ago I was struck by the extreme narrowness of the lanes, which were all one-way in the part of town I was in.
Are you interested in both World Wars? From which angle? There is tons and tons to do in the area.
Do you know about the rocket launchers and V-bomb launchers open to the public?
Thanks for asking the question's I've been wondering! And thanks, especially, to those who have chimed in with the helpful information! One great tip I have gleaned from the friendly folks here is not to miss the WWII museum in Diekirch, Luxembourg. We will be spending 5 nights around Luxembourg and Belgium, in the off season, with a car. This leg of the trip is primarily based on my son's interest in all things WWI/WWII. Aside from the museum in Diekirch & Patton Museum at the American Cemetery in Luxembourg, Bastaogne area, and Flander's Field Museum, what else should we not miss? We had been considering Dunkirk. but maybe not based on Nigel's advice? What/where are these V-Bomb launching sites that are open to the public that were also mentioned?
Highly recommend that you see The Last Post ceremony in Ypres.
We will spend about 5 days in Belgium in April 2019, after a riverboat cruise that ends in Antwerp. Since we will have already had a walking tour in Antwerp, we plan to rent a car there and head into the Belgian countryside. We will have about 5 days and do want to see Bruges and Ghent before flying out of Brussels to Ireland. The question is where to stay as a base from which we can visit small towns and surrounding countryside. Prefer to stay all nights in one location - guesthouse or B&B - Am looking for suggestions. Thanks.
KR, you're grabbing onto an old thread. You might want to start a new one.
It's not clear what you mean by small towns. In that prosperous part of Belgium, the small towns are new development, often concrete or brick, on the old narrow streets. But there are no wooden villages where the milkmaids come out in the morning. (I did see a milkmaid license on the historical wall in the Town Hall cafe in Turnhout, and also in the Volksmuseum Deurne, in Antwerp. And there is a forgotten old town near the new Antwerp port that is open only on Sundays for a few hours.) Perhaps the less prosperous French section of Belgium has more old towns.
If you simply mean, "an attractive small city where prosperous locals enjoy life in a [I mean, what we Americanskis call] Welfare State", I do like Turnhout a lot. Parking and driving are no pleasure, especially when the Johnson & Johnson plant ("Janssen Pharmaceutica") lets out for the day. (Every hear of "A double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich?")
I am surprised. Is the drive from Aachen to Ypres really that congested? Or the drive from Dunkirk to Bruges?
Even visiting Belgium at least once a week, I have actually no experience crossing it in that direction. The two bottle necks are Brussels and Antwerp and no idea which of the two is the worst. To give good advice you have to live in or close to these places being familiar with the loopholes, what is not the case for me. But you can bypass them following the E42 Liège, Namur, Charleroi, etc. to Ypres, unless somebody thinks it is a bad idea even knowing the problems around Namur like Nigel already noticed. Another option is driving from Aachen through the Netherlands via Eindhoven, Breda, Bergen op Zoom and the “Liefkenshoek” toll tunnels north-west of Antwerp, further the freeway E34/A11 to Bruges. The latter can be busy too, but outside rush hour no congestions to expect.
You can park the car in Bruges next to the railway station for €0,70 / hour to a maximum of €3,50 / 24 hours.
Have driven the road between Bruges and Dunkirk several times and the Belgium part is till the French border as far as I know free of congestions. But approaching Dunkirk I have experienced one a few years back, think due to roadworks or the many trucks going to the ferry port and if I remember well the delay was a bit more as 30min. In case there is one you can avoid it exiting or joining the E40 freeway near Gijvelde for going to or leaving the city centre there via the D601. Btw the market square of nearby Veurne is worth a stop.
Kate – the V2 bomb launching sites are both “Blockhaus and La Coupole” near Saint-Omer in northern France, the super guns of Mimoyecques or what is left of it are closer to the coast. Just google for an impression.
Thanks for the helpful information, Wil and others!
Looking at the map, and all of your advice, it seems that my drive from Bastogne to Bruges is going to be an adventure. Does the timing of our trip falling in late November lessen the risk of road construction delays near Namur? Is there a better alternative route? Nigel, is this the area you are willing to venture 90 minutes out of your way and use the French toll roads instead?
Yeah, that rebuilding or whatever they are doing, and the lane realignment looks like it will drag on for years
If you are going from Bastogne it is much too far to go all the way down to Metz to get around. Just knuckle down and be patient, and expect the unexpected from the Luxembourg and Belgian drivers. Leave room for them, and forewarned is forearmed, isn't it.
Knowing that Belgium is (thanks to the Romans) the most northern outpost of the latin countries you can expect some “unpredictability” in their road behaviour, like some not using their indicator at all, but totally at random is possible too. Or driving up a roundabout with the indicator on and taking the exit you don’t expect, things like that.
If the plan is going first to Bruges for meeting your friends and later to Ypres, I think the best you can do is the following. You can take the four lane freeway N4 directly from Bastogne/Bastenaken to the crossing with the E411(A4) near Namur/Namen. I think the E411/E42 “ *Daussoulx” intersection just north of Namur is the bottleneck Nigel talks about, but roadworks will be finished * *(according Dutch Automobile Association) coming November, “if and hopefully if” everything goes according plan it will be of no concern for you.
From the *Daussoulx intersection you can go via Charleroi/E42 to the E19 for by-passing Brussel(s) at the west side for driving to the E40 Oostende/Gent. An option too is driving further along the E411 to the N25 between Louvain-la-Neuve and E19 near Nivelles/Nijvel with the possibility to visit the battlefields of Waterloo. As the northern part of the Brussels Ring linking the busy E40 at both sides of the city it is most notorious for traffic jams I expect the E19 option will cause the least pain.
Also according the same info the roadworks near Ghent will be finished too in the meanwhile, so driving the E40 from Brussels to Bruges will be fairly easy, especially outside rush hour. Have to say there is no guarantee to be totally free of delays, but this is what I think the best route to follow. It alway helps getting up-to-date info in Bastogne or why not your friends in Bruges too.
*Edit: Dassoulx > Daussoulx
I have been following the "Kate" journey with interest. I have recently given thought to two options. #1 drive to Brugge spend 4-5hrs wandering the city, and then drive onto Ypres. Spend the night finish with some local sites and drive back to Aachen. # 2 Drive to Brugge spend the day and night. Drive to Dunkirk and Ypres and spend the night. Reactions??? Also, I am considering driving from Ypres to Kehl, Germany rather than returning to Aachen for the train ride to Kehl. Thoughts???
I have to say it is not easy to give you the perfect info for the drive from Aachen to Bruges via Antwerp, so I only can do my best. According google maps you need, in theory 2½ hours for that (E314 + E313 + E17 + E40). September a year ago I lost around 1 hour driving the Antwerp Ring in the same direction and it was outside rush hour. Driving through the Netherlands as said before will need around 3½ hours in theorie, but with little delays to expect.
Bruges is very compact, you can walk from one end to the other easily within an hour. As most interesting places are located around the main square, except the old windmills at the north-east side 4-5 hours without rushing and no mobility issues will be enough to see the place to my opinion. Including a museum like the Groeningemuseum you need likely some more time. You can drive to Ypres within an hour, so you can leave Bruges after dinner or even sunset if you want to see the buildings and canals illuminated.
If your main focus is visiting the WWI sites around Ypres, with for instance an option visiting the other mentioned sites too and only if I have to speak for myself I would stay the two nights in or near Ypres. The sites are spread around, so a lot of driving is involved, for that a central location is to prefer.
If the already mentioned Daussoulx intersection near Namur is only some annoyance I would not avoid it and would drive from Ypres to there along E42 to Tournai/Doornik, Mons/Bergen and Charleroi. Continuing further folowing E411 to Luxembourg, Metz and Kehl/Strasbourg. Expect roads between Tournai and the Luxembourg border bumpy but they are toll free and Luxembourg has low fuel prices.
There will be at least one long stretch between Namur and Mons, if I remember correctly it is close to Charleroi, where the road has at least one lane closed in each direction, perhaps with a contraflow (where you or they cross over the centre divider and share one side) for several km. Also, along that stretch, where it isn't redone yet, are some pretty big potholes particularly in the slower lane, so do keep your eyes open as you go.
Notice at the French/Belgian border there are usually no obvious French police (but they are there and sometimes run checks) and the 40 kph sign is ignored by everybody so if you drive at that speed you will have a car as a bumper ornament. Also, don't follow the trucks off the road at the border, they do have to stop for inspection.
Hi, Gary! So sorry to have hijacked your thread...and a big chunk of the Belgium forum;) Best of luck on your adventures!
Sorry too for being partner in crime....:)
Wil ...Kate...enjoyed the responses to your questions. Not to worry, not driven in Belgium so looking forward to the adventure.