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December in Belgium: Breweries, Beer and Relaxation

Heading to Belgium around Christmas. Husband loves Belgian beer and also asked for a relaxing vacation without as much running around as we normally do trying to see all the “must see” sights. We are flying in/out of Frankfurt. Planning day trips and brewery visits...but worried from some of the posts we might be a touch bored? Allows a little flexibility for bad weather and closures (and Christmas!)
Planning on spending first and last night in Frankfurt.

Brussels , 5 nights-
Brugge, 4 nights-
Ghent or Brussels, 2nights

Thank you!

Posted by
6488 posts

Personally I wouldn't stay in Bruges and then move to Ghent for 2 nights - they are only 1/2 hr apart on the train, so anything you can see on a day trip from Bruges you could probably see on a day trip from Ghent also. I'm one of those that loved Bruges but would probably choose to spend more time in Ghent than there. You might want to look at an area in Belgium that's a bit farther from Bruges for your add'l nights, maybe Liege or Namur both of which have Christmas markets and I'm sure both have a nice selection of beer venues.

Posted by
9 posts

Frankfurt flight was a matter of money..could get much less expensive flights.

Yeah, wondering if Luxembourg City might be a good choice. Could see the breweries down south and closer to Frankfurt. Maybe even drive straight to the airport.

Posted by
7196 posts

If you get a chance you might check out staying at the St Bernadus Brewery and Guest House
https://www.sintbernardus.be/en/guesthouse-en

When it comes to Brussels, a couple nights by the Grand Place is all you need or just do it as a day trip from Bruges or Ghent Not unless you know of some other interests you have there that you did not mention here. The word relaxing does not come to mind when I think of Brussels.
I would also look to spend a couple of nights in Dinant. It is a nice small relaxing town with good scenery by the Meuse river.
The Leffe Brewery is nearby.
https://iamaileen.com/exploring-dinant-hidden-gem-belgium/

Posted by
9 posts

Jazz,

Brussels is supposed to have some great beer bars and seems to be a good base if we want to see Antwerp, Leuven, or Mechelen?? Brussels also has a big Christmas market. Doesn’t seem to get a lot of love from forum posters though..

Posted by
7196 posts

I am not one of the Brussels bashers here. I've been there 3 times, including during xmas. Yes the Grand Place is striking at night that time of year.
Ok I can see using it as a way to take daytrips.

Actually the last time I was there I brought back 6 bottles from this store
https://biertempel.wixsite.com/debiertempel

Generally all of Belgium and part of the Netherlands has great beer places not just Brussels.
Here is a guide to places https://www.beeradvocate.com/place/directory/6/BE/
Anyhow just stick with what you have already planned.

Posted by
5484 posts

Because you mention "bored", I suggest you see this past post:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/belgium/day-trips-from-brussels-besides-bruges-and-ghent

I don't think Brussels is worth five nights, but it's very easy to get to Leuven, Mechelen, and Antwerp on cheap, unreserved trains, several times an hour. So there's an easy solution to your boredom. I'm astounded that busy, visit-rich Antwerp wasn't on your first list. Only because it sounds like your first time in Brussels, you might want to check on negative reviews of Rue de Bouchers restaurant business policies. (No current information available from me ... ) It's still worth seeing, if you can reject the touts.

I'm not that interested in breweries, but I wonder if you will miss having a car to get to smaller ones. I don't imagine that a giant brewery in Belgium is that different from a giant brewery anywhere else. You should also research tour hours in advance, so you make a good use of time and travel. This section of Belgium can have very bad business-day traffic jams.

You don't say if you like museums, but Antwerp and Brussels are full of excellent museums and interesting churches. Check on closing days. Note my remarks on a few Sunday-only excursions in the linked discussion. I don't follow Christmas Markets.

Posted by
9 posts

Tim, Love museums, churches and castles...just wasn’t aware of them I guess? We will have a car but understand that many breweries will be the same..we will do more research. I just want to be sensitive to my partners desire not to constantly change hotels. Maybe a few nights in Antwerp and less in Brussels?

Posted by
306 posts

Would pick either Ghent or Bruges for the reasons stated above. We stayed at the Hotel Carlton in Ghent, less than 1/4 mile from the train station. Reasonably priced; the proprietors give great suggestions for getting around both Ghent and Bruges.
What I enjoyed most about Belgium was that each beer is served in a specific glass made specifically for that particular beer. Lots of fun!

Posted by
9 posts

K, now thinking....

Frankfurt, 1 night

Antwerp, 3 nights

Brussels, 2 nights

Brugge, 5 nights (base to visit Ghent, also be there Christmas Day so imagine everything closed)

Luxembourg City, 2 nights

Drive from Luxembourg City straight to Frankfurt for Flight Home

Posted by
5484 posts

The point we're making is that Bruges, Gent, Antwerp, Brussels, Leuven, and Mechelen are (maybe not Bruges) within an hour or less of each other, and there is NO NEED to change hotels at all, if you hate changing hotels. You should pick the most luxurious or cheapest or whatever you like the the best, and and stay there. Unless you are certain that your romantic life will be changed forever by waking up in Bruges... .... (NOT MY opinion, just a common one.)

You certainly can get by with two hotels in NW Belgium. I would look at Google Maps to see how long the walk or bus to the train station is. I also think Antwerp is more central, but I am prejudiced towards Antwerp. Trains can be crowded at both school times and rush hours, but can you stand if you have to?

Posted by
962 posts

If you are planning to visit breweries make sure they have retail hours. Some will let you make a tasting reservation like a winery would but some of the best breweries don't actually have public tasting hours. If your hubby wants to try Westvleteren the monastery does not have tasting but the café down about 2 blocks does and has great food as well. St Bernardus has a beautiful tasting room but check for winter hours. We did a BeerCycling trip last year in Belgium and got to taste some great beers.