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Bruge, Ghent, Brussels

Hi everyone
This is my first post in this forum, though I am a long time Rick Steve's guidebook reader and podcast listener!
I am travelling to Europe from Australia in September this year with my husband and we are visiting Belgium for the first time, on our way to Amsterdam.
Our itinerary is flexible at the moment. We want to visit Bruges and Ghent the most, and maybe have a day in Brussels. I am unsure about Brussels as if we go there it will only be a day trip and I am not sure if that makes it worthwhile or if it will just be too rushed.
This is what my itinerary looks like at the moment. I am unsure if I am allowing long enough in these cities or if we'd be better sleeping in one and day tripping to the other. If anyone has any recommendations for small hotels or bed and breakfasts, that would be brilliant.
We enjoy walking tours, history, photography, good food and exploring.

As it stands:
Belgium day 1: London - Brussels - Bruges (half a day travel) - afternoon / evening in Bruges - sleep in Bruges
Day 2: All day Bruges, sleep in Bruges
Day 3: Travel to Ghent - All day Ghent, sleep in Ghent
Day 4: Ghent or a day trip to Brussels
Day 5: Travel to Amsterdam

Thank you for any suggestions :-)
Cathy

Posted by
2487 posts

With those small distances and frequent train services I would choose one place as a base for day trips. Personally I prefer lively Ghent, nicely in the middle of Bruges and Brussels, both cities only 30 mins away.
In Ghent I had once the very agreeable Hotel Erasmus, in a historical house a few minutes' walk from the very centre.

Posted by
4013 posts

I agree that Ghent would be a nice base with a day trip to Bruges and Brussels. The train station in Bruges is a mile from the historic center, and only a few minutes from the Grand Place in Brussels. I think the amount of time you’ve selected to see the locations is right; a full day to day and a half in each place is adequate. The historic centers of both Bruges and Ghent are fairly small and can be seen in an afternoon. In Ghent we stayed at Aplace hotel, about a minutes walk from the castle and old butchers hall, and right on a canal. To me, the only place worth seeing in Brussels is the Grand Place, since I’m not into museums. Rather than Brussels, Antwerp would be a good alternative. The grot markt / square by the town hall is every bit as nice as the Grand Place in Brussels. The historic center in Antwerp is also small and can be seen in an afternoon.

Posted by
111 posts

Thank you both! I had contemplated Antwerp after seeing it on the Amazing Race - it looks really pretty and I'll definitely lok into it more - thanks for the idea.

Posted by
4013 posts

The train to Ghent and/or Bruges from Brussels airport goes through the Gent- Sint-Pieter train station. That station is about 3km from the historic center of Ghent. We took the tram from the station to very close to our hotel. If you decide on going to Antwerp, that train leaves from the Gent-Dampoot train station, about 2km from the castle. A taxi from our hotel to it was €8.5.

Posted by
3933 posts

We stayed in Ghent and daytripped to Bruges and Ypres. We stopped in Antwerp (which we did like) for an afternoon as we were transiting from Dordrecht to Ghent, so you could look at that as an option - it was an easy walk from the (gorgeous) train station to the centre. As the others have said - I wouldn't bother with switching places - just decide where you'd rather spend the few nights. I imagine Bruges would be very nice at night and early morning before the day trippers arrive. (Caveat - we were there in mid-April, so it wasn't crazy busy).

We only had a few hours in Brussels while waiting for a train to Paris, so we didn't get much of an impression of it. We had 3 nights in Ghent, no expectations of Belgium at all, and we really enjoyed it.

We stayed at an airbnb in Ghent - he was right in the center and about a 3-5 min walk to the 3 churches/Gravensteen. It was a room in an apartment - we liked it. If you are interested in airbnb's, I can send you his info.

Posted by
459 posts

Great B&B in Bruges: Setola B&B. We stayed there several nights in 2016, cost was E80/nt including nice breakfast & kitchen use. Great owner with great English. On the third floor, no elevator, but views! Charming old building in quiet neighborhood, good restaurant nearby, & very near the main plaza.

Posted by
433 posts

Huis Konig is a wonderful B&B in Bruges! Beautiful rooms and setting; warm hospitality and fabulous breakfast. The owner, Lynn is a former chef and she has mastered the art of catering to her guests' needs. They do book up quickly. Brussels is our least favorite city in Europe, so if you do go, I would not spend a lot of time there. Belgium is terrific, enjoy your trip!

Posted by
111 posts

I so appreciate everyone'e thoughtful and very helpful replies. :-) Thank you so much.

Posted by
94 posts

I mostly agree with the others. Pick one location to base out of, Ghent or Bruges are both really nice. Brussels was not my favorite place. Though if you like art they have the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, which I enjoyed. I think how long you need in a place depends on how fast paced you are. We took a day trip to Ghent, so spent the bulk of the day there, and ran out of time. Wished we had been able to see a little more. We spent three nights in Bruges, and again didn't grow bored (we're fairly active late 30s folks). If you enjoy history and are willing to devote the time to it, we really enjoyed a full day tour we took to Flanders Fields through Quasimodo Tours. They leave from Bruges.

Posted by
306 posts

We recently visited Gent and Bruges. Suggest staying in Ghent. We stayed at the Carlton Hotel and highly recommend it. The hotel is about a 5 minute walk from the Gent-Sint Peters station. You can pick up a tram about 3 very short blocks from the hotel that will take you directly into the heart of Gent. The hotel also offers tram/bus tickets for your use. The cost of the ticket is added to your bill, depending upon the number of trips you take. The proprietors at the Carlton are extremely helpful and very gracious. The hotel offers breakfast and it is outstanding.

Posted by
306 posts

I would spend less time in Bruges and focus on Gent. Might try Antwerp instead of Brussels.

Posted by
111 posts

It’s so great reading everyone’s thoughts. We’re staying at Huis Koning which we are looking forward to! Definitely seeing if we can fit the Quasimodo tour in too

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Cathy,
I am a longtime Rick Steves fan. We visited Bruges and Brussels in March 2018. We bought the Rail Pass and have one leftover with 9 tickets. It is valid for travel anywhere is Belgium. Let me know if you are interested and I can mail it to you.

Thanks,
Cyril.B.

Posted by
111 posts

Hi Cyril,
I notice this was your first post here! Welcome. I’ve private messaged you.
I didn’t realise you could buy such a train pass in Belgium. I thought all tickets were point to point- so good to know. Can anyone fill me in on this type of pass?
Thank you.

Posted by
306 posts

I HIGHLY recommend the Hotel Carlton in Ghent..
It is a 5 minute walk from the train station.
The proprietors, two brothers Jeffrey and Steven are gracious and extremely helpful.

Getting into Ghent is very easy using their directions. They will even offer tram tickets.
The hotel rooms are spacious and the breakfast is top notch.

Have fun and enjoy!

Posted by
2258 posts

I think staying in one location and doing day trips makes sense. I would try to have dinner in the places you day trip to so you get an opportunity to see them in the evening when the crowds are gone. This is especially true for Bruges. I also think your idea of staying in two places works fine if you don't mind changing hotels.

Unlike most people on this thread, I absolutely loved Brussels. If you don't care to see the art and other museums, a quick day trip or even half a day would work. The Grand Place is just gorgeous, and there are many wonderful streets to wander on and window shop.

Posted by
4684 posts

Cathy

The "Belgian Rail Pass" (confusingly named as it covers a specific number of journeys and isn't an unlimited "pass") allows you to make ten one-way journeys within Belgium in one year for 77 euros. You need to write in the start and end station and date of each journey as you go. It is possible to share one between more than one person, but in that case each person will count for one of the ten journeys.

The only restrictions are that it cannot be used on international high-speed services within Belgium (eg Thalys or Dutch high-speed between Brussels and Antwerp, or Thalys or German ICE trains between Brussels and Liege), and you need to buy a special extra supplementary ticket if you want to go to Brussels Airport.