I have two weeks - what's the smartest and most i can try to see/do?

My husband has a job in Ghent in June for 2 weeks and I will be going because -duh - he's not going without me! He'll be jobs all during the week with the exception of Whitmonday so we will have a three day weekend in the middle of the trip so we thought we would go to Paris together for those three days? Then I have a friend in London I might go see for a few days during the week while he is working. As far as the last weekend, should we try Amsterdam? South of France? I can't even begin to look at Italy and Greece - that just may have to be another trip someday :( But I want to try to fit in as much as possible but also be reasonable and having never been, I am clueless as to what is doable. We could also fly out of somewhere else other than Belgium and perhaps extend a few days somewhere to make it worthwhile. But we will have a lot of luggage and tech equipment we will be lugging along for his work - is that reasonable to take on the Eurorail? Leaving May 30 - June 14. Any advice of a decent itinerary would be appreciated! SOOOO EXCITED! Oh, and I am a fine artist and college art professor by trade so OMG...

Thanks for any advice!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10050 posts

1) Italy and Greece are too far unless you fly.

2) Use the Deutsche Bahn (German rail) website to estimate traveling times. This will provide you with a reasonable expectation of how much you can fit in. BTW, "Eurorail" is an agency that sells marked up tickets and passes to gullible travelers from outside Europe. They do not operate the trains. These are run by the respective national rail companies of each country. For example, Deutsche Bahn for Germany, NMBS/SNCB for Belgium, NS for the Netherlands, SNCF for France, etc. There's aslo a few specialized services that provide high speed links between several countries, like Thalys, which runs the high speed corridor from Amsterdam to Paris (through Brussels) and east from Brussels to Köln, and Eurostar, which mainly links London to Paris.

3) You can potentially fit in quite a lot, because that region of Europe is fairly compact and the rail links are generally frequent and fast. Once you start venturing beyond Belgium, NW Germany, the Netherlands and northern France, however, you'll chew up too much time in transit.

4) Start reading and come up with your own priorities.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
4446 posts

Wow, what a treat. I think you are excellently situated. The trains in Belgium and Holland run well, so you can also take day trips - even on weekends. . . . Bruges, Antwerp, The Hague, Rotterdam . . .

If you want to go to London and/or Paris, try to lock down dates now and buy the tickets immediately. You will get the cheapest prices (there can be huge savings).

The problem with lugging all your stuff isn't so much the train itself, but getting to/from the station and then you'll have it in your (possibly quite small) hotel room, so you will want to be in one place, not traveling around. With your background, I think Paris is the place for you. Use your 3-day weekend to explore the Netherlands or maybe a bit of Germany (use a map and the bahn.de site for train schedules), then head to Paris for as long as you can.

Posted by Wil
IJzendijke, The Netherlands
410 posts

In Ghent you can visit the museum of contemporary art SMAK which has an international reputation, they have a very open policy for art to the public. They certainly will help to look around for interesting art, have a talk with them. On top of the roof at the entrance you will see “The men who measures the clouds” from Jan Fabre, well.....I like his work. There are a lot of nice museums: in Bruges are Dali en Picasso exhibitions, M HKA in Antwerp, René Magritte / BOZAR in Brussels, Stedelijk Museum in The Hague and Amsterdam, Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Kröller-Müller near Otterlo/Arnhem, and many many more, with groundbraking art, just the tip of the iceberg all waiting to be discovered. If you like Matisse, there is a museum in his birthplace Cateau-Cambrésis in northern France, you will need a car for that. Ofcourse are you excited! :)

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
10735 posts

Are you a musician per chance? Saxaphone? Or perhaps you like the sound... The town where Adolph Sax is from is not too far from Gent - but in the land of the Walloons.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
4381 posts

As Chani said, you are well-situated for daytrips snd weekends. London. Paris, Amsterdam, and the major cities in Belgium (Brussels. Brugge, Gent, Antwerp) your two weeks will yield so many memories. Save your other places for future trips so you can minimize travel time and really enjoy where you are.

Posted by Kevin
Rick Steves' Europe
124 posts

Paris, London, Amsterdam and Brussels will be the easiest cities to connect with. You could explore small towns in Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) or get to the German Rhine region pretty easily using trains. You can use the Bahn to look up schedules and connection options. Two weeks will fly by pretty quickly so don't try to do too much in one trip. I would try to spend some time in the cities and don't try to visit too many small towns.

You can watch any of Rick's TV programs to get an idea of what each city or area offers. If nothing stands out near you then you can then fly within Europe for fairly cheap. To get to Italy or Greece you can look at flight options using Skyscanner.

Posted by Wil
IJzendijke, The Netherlands
410 posts

Jamrtay – I think was a bit too quick with my post, giving a list of contemperary art museums to visit, actually are not the same as fine art museums. But maybe you can give more precise what interests you most in the field of fine art, because there is also a lot to discover, so please respond first.

Posted by hava212
6 posts

Don't miss the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in Ghent. It's mesmerizing, even for a person like me who is not that "into" art.

Posted by Lee
Dallas
1014 posts

Brussels has the Grand Place, Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, fine museums and a very good food scene. It would be a shame to miss it when you'll be so close.

Posted by jturie
Valley Forge, PA
42 posts

I also had a two week work period in Ghent, right around the same time. First of all...don't pass up Ghent during the week with your husband. Lots of nightlife, pubs, restaurants. Du Dulle Griet on the Vrijdagmarkt was my favorite beer stop, but you can find all kinds of pubs (including a lively Irish pub) and coffee shops (not the Amsterdam version!) throughout town due to the large student population. Tourism wise during the day, there are some nice churches, a castle and at least one art museum. Tons of great restaurants too, and an opera house if that's your thing.

For the weekend in between, I jumped train to Amsterdam and managed to see much of the top sights in two days...although the Rijksmuseum was closed for renovations at the time, which was a bummer. I think Amsterdam is about as big a stretch as you could do for a weekend unless you want to pay large Euros for the fast train to Paris. If I had to do that weekend over again, I think I would have taken the train to Bruges one day and then Brussels the next. I was worn out the following Monday in the office!

Given your "cheap" vacation due to your husband's expenses being paid, I would seriously consider extending a few days and hit either London or Paris.

Enjoy Ghent....I miss it and its fantastically nice people.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
3994 posts

I'm not a fan of Brussels, but with two weeks, you have a high likelihood of being able to do the one thing that I really loved there - my Art Nouveau tour through ARAU: http://www.arau.org/en/tours

As you can see, they only run a few times a month. But the Art Nouveau sites are spread around town, and the tour gets into buildings otherwise closed to the public, so the tour really gives added value compared to what you could see on your own. Since Ghent is so close to Brussels, you can even just go in for the day to do this tour.