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First Time in Brussels and planning for a 6 day trip to Europe

Hello All,
Background: We are 2 adults with 2 children ( 11 & 6 ) flying into Brussels and will be flying out from Brussels. We have 5 nights/ 6 days in hand.
Though it is my first time, i wanted to drive while i was in Europe, so, will be renting thru a rental car company and i'm comfortable with the stick shift.

Just wondering if some of you can help me guide/suggest a doable trip within my 6 days starting in Brussels and ending in Brussels.

Thinking of Brussels and surroundings ( no idea on the surrounding attractions )
Paris and surroundings ( no idea on the surrounding attractions )
If possible some places in the Switzerland as i heard that driving there is very scenic.

Looking forward for your suggestions/advises/precautions.

Best Regards,
Shanti

Posted by
1666 posts

You can go to Switzerland in one day with a car or train from Brussels. How much transport will costs in terms of time depends also about arrival (necessary rest?) and departure time of the flight. So if you really want to see the Alps, I think you loose a lot of precious time with travelling that can be better spend to my opinion in the surroundings of Brussels and/or Paris. Plenty of info to read about that here on the forum as questions appears often.

Posted by
11286 posts

When is your trip?

If your flights are fixed, and you only have 5 nights, and you want to rent a car, those parameters will significantly shape/limit/focus your itinerary. That's not a criticism, just a fact. Some more points to consider as you make your itinerary:

  1. Two nights in a place equals one full day. One night in a place means less than a full day.
  2. The day of arrival is often a jet lagged haze, and the last day is taken up with getting to the airport for your departure (unless you have a VERY late departure, in which case you can genuinely have a half day of sightseeing). So, if you have 5 nights, you only have 5 days, and the first day you shouldn't plan anything too strenuous. Jet lag hits everyone differently (I find it's different on every trip); don't plan too much on the arrival day.
  3. It takes at least a half day to change places - checking out, getting from one place to another (including the inevitable time spent finding your way out of town in the beginning and finding the location of your new hotel at the end), and checking in. I had read and repeated this for years, but having just taken a driving trip in Sicily, it really took on new meaning. Even places that were only two hours apart on a highway took longer than that to reach door-to-door, because once you're off the highway and on surface roads, things get harder and slower (yes, even with a GPS). So, we really lost a half day with driving between destinations.
  4. With only 5 nights to play with, I'd have overnight stays in one or two different places, tops.
  5. Cities like Paris and Brussels are best connected by train, not car. If you are going to drive into a city, allow €20-25 per day for parking, not to mention lots of time for traffic. Or, stay out of cities and focus on rural areas and smaller towns. Or, give up on the car and take trains instead. You can always stay in a smaller city (like Bruges), use the car to see the countryside, and take the train if you want to see cities (like Antwerp, Brussels, or Ghent). In fact, if I were flying in and out of Brussels and only had 5 days, that's probably what I'd do - focus on Belgium. I know you want to see more, but you just don't have time.
  6. Driving in Switzerland may indeed be very scenic, but in your short time, it's quite far to go from Brussels, unless you make that the whole trip (which of course you could do, if you want). To estimate driving times and costs, use http://viamichelin.com (note that they key word is "estimate").
  7. Don't look at a guided tour (Rick Steves or anyone else's) and assume you can duplicate this pace. On a tour, someone else is taking care of logistics and knows where they're going, so they can go faster than an independent traveler can.

Again, I see that this sounds harsh, but it is just the reality of travel. We all have to make these difficult decisions on what to see and what to omit, how to get around, etc. Ultimately, less is more; if you try to see "everything," you will end up not remembering anything but the inside of your car.

You should get some guidebooks on France and Belgium, figure out what interests you, then base your plans on that.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you Wii & Harold for your suggestions.
Will be in Brussels on May 28th morning. Will fly out on Jun 2nd evening at 6 pm.
So, I will rent car in Brussels and visit Bruges,Ghent ,Antwerp in 2 days.that takes me to May 30th.
On 30th, will take train to Paris and will stay there 3 nights for local attractions and will take train from Paris to Brussels on June 2nd afternoon to reach Brussels by 3 pm as I have to check in 3 hours prior for my onward international journey.

Is this a reasonable for my short stay.? Took out Switzerland as I'm not driving out of Brussels .

Still have to book hotels, train,car etc...

Posted by
921 posts

If it was me, I would want to do the Paris part first and end in Belgium so I didn't have to train from Paris to Brussels the day of my 6pm flight. If not, I would plan to be back in Brussels earlier just in case there was some delay on the trip back to Brussels. You won't see much of Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp in just one full day, but it depends on your goal. If you just have one or two things you want to see in each place, it would work. I would prefer to cut one or two of them out and spend a little more time in the others. I would definitely leave Bruges in there.

Posted by
1666 posts

If you stay in Brussels, it’s just one hour with the train to Bruges and an additional 20min walk to the main square. Ghent is on the same railway line as Bruges, you can visit it first or on the way back to Brussels. Ghent – Brussels is just an 1/2hour and for visiting the centre (Korenmarkt) take one of the frequent trams on line 1, will take some 10min / €1,30 pp ticket machine.

You can do Antwerp the next day and also combine it with a visit to nice Mechelen on the same railway line to Antwerp.

As Ghent is more centrally located you can consider it as a base to stay for doing the daytrips to the other cities.