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Brussels, Ghent and Bruges

Hello! I know that we should spend lots more time in Belgium, but we're looking at possibly 1 day in each of the cities.

What are some recommended sights for each place?

Posted by
11613 posts

If you are only spending one day in each place, base yourself in Brussels or Brugge and do daytrips to the other two.

RS guides give very good suggestions for walking tours and sights. I like the canal boat ride for a different perspective. All three cities have compact historic centers, Brugge and Brussels have the best museums of the three. Recommended sights depends on what you like.

Of course, don't forget the waffles, beer, and chocolate.

Posted by
1976 posts

What are your interests? For Ghent, I recommend Jan van Eyck's "Ghent Altarpiece" in Sint-Baafskathedral, and Gravensteen Castle. The castle has undergone extensive Victorian renovations, which is unfortunate in a way because the Victorians renovated it according to what they thought it should look like, and not what it most likely looked like.

Yes, do take a canal boat ride in Bruges. Bruges also has the Memling Museum, housed in a former (medieval) hospital, which features painting by the Flemish Northern Renaissance artist Hans Memling. The museum also has medical instruments and other objects. Visit the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieuwe-Frauenkirche, I think) and see Michelangelo's "Madonna and Child" sculpture, the only one of his sculptures north of the Alps.

Posted by
70 posts

Thanks for the advice! I'll plan to base in Brussels and do day trips from there.

Posted by
12040 posts

Brussels: The Musical Instrument Museum is one of the most interesting of its kind that I've seen, mainly because the audioguide allows you to hear what the instruments sound like. If you have any interest either of the world wars, check out the huge display of material they have at the Royal Museum of Military History (the half of the museum devoted to the Belgian military is of considerably less interest). The Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the district of Koekelberg, as far as I know, is the world's only Art Deco cathedral. Some hate it, some find it fascinating (count me with the latter). Everyone goes to visit Mannekin Pis, but don't miss his sister Janneke Pis and his dog Zinneke Pis ("Zinneke" roughly translates as something like "Little house trained dog"). For a quick outing outside the city, if you want to visit a decently preserved Medieval castle (although the keep is ruined), check out Kasteel van Beersel in the suburb of the same name. There's a commuter rail station right across the street, so it makes for a very easy visit.

Brugge: I don't get the hype of the Memmling museum. I found it rather uninteresting. Much more worthwhile to me was the Groenigemuseum. AVOID the frituurs that are usually set up under the Belfry. Their fries aren't that good and their sanitation practices are suspect... as I learned to my misfortune last summer. There's no reason not to visit the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk, but I'm of the opinion that if you didn't know à priori that the rather small statue was a Michelangelo, you'd never give it a second look. If you have more time and the weather is pleasent, consider a daytrip to the nearby coast, particularly De Haan or De Panne.

Gent: I haven't read Mr. Steves Benelux book since he added Gent, but does he mention something about the Victorian rebuild of Het Gravensteen? It seems that everyone who posts about it on this website mentions this, but I don't see why this should be a complaint. Had they not rebuilt it, it would have probably ended up as nothing more than an archaelogic cruriosity in someone's basement. And compared to the fanciful Romantic-ear rebuilds in Germany (or in other parts of Belgium), it looks like a pretty good example of a medieval fortress to me. Anyway, just around the corner, Kornlei is one of the most beautiful streets in Belgium, although it only takes a few minutes to appreciate. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb needs no introduction, but get there early. The small room where they display it fills up quickly, and the line can get quite long by mid morning during busy tourist season. Try a bowl of Waterzooi, a local specialty. On a sunny day, Citadelpark provides a nice cool refuge. You could do much worse than plop down on a bench around the duckpond for people (and dog) watching.

Posted by
4684 posts

Your revised plan is excellent. Bruges isn't really that far, and the trains are frequent. I don't recommend it, but if you don't find Bruges enough to keep you the whole day, Gent is halfway back, and you could get a start on the exteriors and what's still open there. (Not suggesting this, only talking about a contingency plan.) It's possible that you might find a cheaper room in Antwerp or Gent, but it depends on whether the many, many attractions in Brussels are important to you. For example, some people aren't into museums.