Hi. Arriving in Belgium end of May on a Mon. Plan to train to Amsterdam on Sat. Want to do day trips to Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and was planning home base in Brussels. Mid-40s and want to be able to have dinner/drinks in evenings. Is Brussels my best bet for home base or one of the other towns?
All of these cities are an easy train ride away from each other, so it doesn't really matter where you stay for convenience purposes. If you want a little nightlife, Gent would be best, followed by Antwerp. If you want the town nearly to yourself after dark, Brugge. Brussels is sort of a mix, and depends on the neighborhood.
This is a very contested question, and you'll only know how you feel after you've seen all four places. For me, I loved Antwerp, liked Bruges a lot, was slow to warm up to Ghent but liked it enough in the end, and didn't care for Brussels at all, except for the Grand Place and my Art Nouveau tour with ARAU: http://www.arau.org/en/tours
But that's just me. Brussels certainly allows convenient transportation to the other three, as well as to places like Tournai and Leuven, so even if you don't like it, you can easily "escape" every day.
In general it don´t really matter, but regarding travel time Ghent is most conveniently located if the interest is only the four cities you mention. From there with the train to Bruges or Brussels is 1/2hour and to Antwerp 1hour. As Harold already says it´s a very contested question, so using the search button above can be helpful to learn more.
I agree with Harold and Wil. I love Brugge, but Gent is more centrally located. Any city with a Neuhaus chocolate shop is okay by me.
Zoe - we were all agreeing that opinions about Belgian cities were contested, and now you throw chocolate into the equation? [g]
I, personally, like the value at Leonidas. They're much cheaper than the others but still delicious, and at those prices I don't care if more expensive places are better.
Harold, I probably shouldn't mention this, but there are Leonidas shops in the US, too.
Heidi, I don't want to get into an argument over the best city to sleep in, in Belgium. Does your train ticket offer Antwerp and Brussels at the same price? That might help you decide. You'd probably need ABS (Any Belgian Station) to use the same ticket for a second train to Bruges or Gent. I personally prefer Antwerp.
Your sightseeing plans are of paramount importance. For example, the main art museum (but not the many other excellent museums ... ) in Antwerp is closed for renovation. But there are many important art museums in Brussels (most closed on MONDAY, as elsewhere) especially Ancient and Modern art, and Magritte, and Bozar - but it only matters what you want to do.
Although I prefer Gent overall to Brugge, in the chocolate argument, Brugge wins with Moeder Babelutte.
As noted, Leonidas shops are just about everywhere in Belgium, even in very non-touristy areas.
Thanks for all the responses! Since I have 4 full days, I will have a day in each city. I think I am leaning towards getting my hotel in Antwerp. I will definitely comment back and let you all know how it ends up! :-)
Just wanted to follow up after my stay in Belgium. I did make my home base in Antwerp, and took a train each day to Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges. In agreement that it becomes a personal choice of which place to make your home base, but I was really happy with my stay in Antwerp. Easy to get to the train station from the Hilton..I walked it each day. Enjoyed all the cities, but of course one day in each is not nearly enough time to see it all, but got a taste of each place. I would say that Bruges would probably not have been a good choice as a solo traveler to stay but as a couple would be calm and romantic. I found great places to go in the evenings in Antwerp and met some great fun people. Thanks for all the feedback! Hope these comments help another solo traveler..with limited time, no choice is a bad choice! :-)
Thanks for your feedback!
Thanks for sharing your experiences in Antwerp. I was trying to make the same decision for our Aug. trip. After reading your insights and talking to a friend, have decided Antwerp gives us flexibility and a great location. Happy travels!