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Ghent, Liège, Charleroi, or ??

Looking for suggestions or advice on a side trip from Brussels between Christmas and new year's. Maybe for a night or two, preferably accessible by train, though we may have use of a car. Ideally within an hour or two, that's why we were looking at Ghent, Charleroi, or Liège... or any other recommended town/city.

This will be our sixth trip to visit friends in Brussels, so we've seen many cool cities and towns already: Bruges twice, Amsterdam, Zaandam, Delft, Durbuy, La Roche en Ardenne, Dinant, Namur, Monschau (Germany), Luxembourg.

It will just be my husband and me. We are not really into museums and churches. We love walking around, taking photos, experiencing local food and drink, shopping.

Give us what you've got! Many thanks!!

Posted by
1833 posts

You have seen much more of Belgium than I have, but I did spend a few days in Ghent this past May, and I think it's a good choice. It's a lovely city to walk around (in fact, I preferred it to Bruges), and it has some excellent restaurants. It's especially pretty when lit up at night.

Posted by
12040 posts

Easy decision amongst the three you listed. Charleroi is probably the ugliest, most run-down city in Belgium and Liege isn't a whole lot better. Ghent, although not as immediately pretty as Brugge, still has a well-preserved historic core, and because it's a more lived-in city, it doesn't feel deserted at night like Brugge. It hosts a large university as well, although it won't be in session during your visit.

I would also give consideration to Hasselt. It's a pleasant, walkable small city, if not particularly remarkable. However, during the holiday season, Hasselt hosts "Winterland", a sort of Christmas market/ winter carnival hybrid. Always a lot of fun and best visited in the evening.

Posted by
7072 posts

I've not been to the other two but I'll put my hat in the ring for Ghent. I really enjoyed it and would like to go back and spend a couple of nights there.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks so far. We were leaning towards Ghent, but were interested in Liège because of the Christmas village. We will check into Hasselt, too. Perhaps we can do that as well!

Keep the ideas flowing...

(BTW, Tom, I'm from WNY originally- Amherst)

Posted by
2019 posts

One of the few things that can be worth in Liège is a visit to Cristallerie Val Saint Lambert, the Belgian equivalent of Baccarat in France. There is a museum and demonstrations of glassmaking, never visited it, but looks interesting.

Don’t see Antwerp, do you overlook it? If you like shopping don't miss that place. Mechelen and Leuven are both nice and a short trainride from Brussels. Also smaller places like Ypres (Ieper), Doornik (Tournai) and Bergen (Mons) are worth to mention. But maybe each to small for a daytrip, better if you can combine it with other places. And I liked very much my visit to Lille last year a few days before Christmas just across the border in France, btw good place for shopping too.

Posted by
2393 posts

We loved Ghent! It is a working city - not so touristy. Where ever you go you will be rubbing elbows with residents of the city.

Posted by
11294 posts

I'll second Tournai, which was interesting and not at all touristed (at least, in April 2002, when I was there).

Posted by
12040 posts

Third vote for Tournai (Dornick). The most underrated city in Belgium, in my opinion. What Harold stated about the lack of tourists in 2002 held true for my last visit there in 2013.