I have a 10 hr layover in October - essentially all day - layover in Brussels. I’ve never been to Belgium. Thoughts on what to do? We have plenty of time for Brussels- but thoughts on Ghent or Bruges instead?
First things first; how much time do you actually have? At what time do you arrive and where from? At what time do you leave again and where to? Will your luggage be checked thru? Or do you need to pick it up and recheck it?
If it were me I would not venture as far as Bruges or Ghent, I'd stay in Brussels. Don't forget, that 10 hour layover will turn into much less once you factor in clearing immigration, exiting and transport to wherever you go, then transport back to the airport, security, etc.
Note that the Old Town sections of Ghent and Bruges require a substantial walk, or a bus ride from the train station. This is a terrible idea, even though the trains a frequent. Like many cities, very few BRU airport trains go anywhere but downtown.
Brussels is practical, but note that some airline gates can be a 20 minute walk from Immigration, and may be Bus Gates.
“ Like many cities, very few BRU airport trains go anywhere but downtown.”
This is not correct for Brussels Airport. The train station of Brussels Airport is located along a main train line. From Brussels Airport there are direct trains (no change) to Belgian cities like Mechelen, Leuven and Antwerp and even to Dutch cities Breda, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
Whether or not the OP has time for any of these cities depends on the answers to the various questions raised in this topic.
Thanks for the feedback. I purposefully buy long layover itineraries to do this. I’ve used this strategy 7-8 times, but never in Belgium. I arrive from the US at 715 AM. Leave BRU at 515 pm for another Schengen destination (CTA)
After entering Schengen I usually go to a lounge, shower, and leave bags at the lounge check. Then I leave the airport. I don’t check bags except sometimes on the way home if I’m bringing wine.
The Grand Place in Brussels is one of my favorite sites in Europe. The area around it is wonderful for strolling and window shopping. The food and beer are great. You should have plenty of time to enjoy Brussels. I would not venture to Ghent or Bruges as it would add too much travel time and I am pretty risk averse when it comes to getting to airports in time for flights.
Yes, to the post above! The Grand Place in Brussels is one of the most ornate and impressive in Europe. It's easy to take the train from the airport and should fit into your time frame. Enjoy a lunch at one of the cafes on the square, and just spend the time drinking a Belgian beer and looking up! On the Grand Place, the Roi d'Espagnne and T'Kelderke are solid restaurant choices, but the Roi d'Espagnne has a broader range of menu options to suit everyone in your group. Walk just around the corner to Dandoy if time permits. Have fun!
Walk just around the corner to Dandoy if time permits.
Wow, that looks good. Noted for my upcoming trip :)
.Be sure to try the classics, speculoos and pain d'amandes before you get distracted by all of the other beautiful offerings. I always have to fight with myself to avoid leaving with a full shopping bag!
Belgian trains are frequent and the country is small. With ten hours you certainly could train to Bruges (90 minutes directly from the Airport) Ghent in less than 60 minutes directly from the airport, or Antwerp in 30 minutes directly from the airport .
The trams and buses into those city centers take an additional 15-20 minutes. That leaves you with several hours to enjoy any of the three cities.
Have a great Trip!
Linda, I'm going to want all of that!
Kenko, which of the 4 cities would you choose in October?
Hi Tophcooks, I’m just now getting back to answer your question as I’m in Rhodes, Greece having too much fun in the sun.
Your question is a really excellent one and I had to put some thought into it before answering it. They all are amazing cities rich with historic architecture, art museums, fantastic food ( Belgian chocolate, waffles and beer are on offer in any city you visit plus tasty cuisine). The city that many Europeans put at the top of their list- Antwerp- is one I could picture myself living in with its pedestrianized old town radiating outward from the 14th-century origins of the Cathedral of Our Lady. The Grote Markt with its Brabo Fountain is every bit as spectacular as Brussels’ Grand Place. The gothic City Hall building is over-the-top Flemish architecture. . There are fantastic museums such as the Vleeshuis and the mansion housing the art collection of Fritz Mayer Van den Bergh in the patrician’s neo-gothic mansion. And then there’s Antwerp’s Centraal Railway station that you arrive at with its fusion architecture created around the turn of the 19th century. “The most beautiful railway station in the world” is what one publication called it. Antwerp’s other railway station, the Berchem Rail Station, is near the Cogels-Osylei neighborhood filled with mansions of every imaginable architectural style built by wealthy Belgians at the turn of the 19th century.
The other city tied for first place I would say is Bruges/Brugge. Bruges is the French name; Brugge the Flemish name.
The town is a living museum frozen in time several centuries ago when it’s harbor silted up.
From its 12th-century City Hall to its 13th-century Belfry offering views over the city, Brugge is a masterpiece. Burg Square is its equivalent of Brussels’ Grand Place with Saint Salvatore’s Cathedral just steps away.
Like Amsterdam, Brugge/ Bruges is a medieval canal town with the Rozenhoedkaii being the confluence of two canals merging together. You can have breakfast or lunch in the dining room of the Hotel Duc du Bourgogne ( “Duke of Burgundy”) and see swans swimming in front of the 16th-century Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel. This was the hotel where Colin Farrell’s fictional character lodged in the 2008 movie “In Bruges.”
You could also dine at one of Bruges’ many Michelin-starred restaurants- there are more than a hundred of them around town.
On the way to the Groeninge Museum with its paintings by Hieronymous Bosch and other Flemish masters, you can see Nuit Blanche, the 16th-century guest cottage which has hosted the likes of Belgian royalty and Winston Churchill. Today, it hosts anyone who cares to make a reservation.
The list of attractions in Bruges goes on and on.
While it can get crowded- especially in summer and on weekends— there’s a reason so many are drawn to this beautiful city in 🇧🇪 Belgium.
Whichever city you choose, you can’t go wrong.
Wow! Great answer. Thank you!!
If it were my first time, my thoughts range...
Brussels: Easy to get to, the Grand Place is nice, but it thins out pretty quick. Some good beer destinations, but central Brussels is dirty, crowded, and just about every storefront a waffle shop, souvenirs, knock off chocolates, or a bar restaurant. I think you would be a bit bored after a couple hours. I think Brussels is well worth a visit, and if I only had a few hours, then sure, but you maybe have more options.
Bruges: A bit overload of the cute and quaint, but in a nice way. Certainly tourism driven, but some nice options given that. I think for 10 hours, it is maybe a town too far. It is certainly a great place to spend a few days, but realistically, with your schedule you would need to whittle your time in central Bruges to about 3 hours, with more time on the train than seeing the city.
Antwerp: Great city, easy to get to, you can walk from the station. Great pedestrian shopping, a bit of old world "quaint" mixed with newer big city life. I think Antwerp is what Brussels would like to be (much cleaner, crowds manageable, less tourism driven businesses) Lots of great beer bars, good food, very pleasant, maybe what it is lacking is more "quaint Belgian town" feel when compared to Ghent and Bruges.
Ghent: If you want old world quaint, good beer options, decent food, some things to see (The Mystic Lamb, Ghent altar piece) and not excessive train time, then this would be a good fit. The town itself is well maintained, has a student population, so seems livelier, just a pleasant place to be.
Basically I would opt for either Ghent or Antwerp, depending on my mood and interests.