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Less obvious Ghent Day Trips

Hello.

My wife and I, along with a few friends, will be spending 5 nights in Ghent in October. It is our third stay in Ghent, as it is a delight. We are experienced with Ghent and have done various day trips or other stays in Bruges (and the bike ride to Damme and beyond), Antwerpen, and Brussels. Aside from the areas mentioned above, any other recommended day trips from Ghent? (after Ghent, we will spend 6 nights in Delft, so not looking for day trip ideas into Netherlands at this time)

We will not have a car and neither of us are real big fans of organized tours, so not sure if Ypres/WWI sights would work. We like to hike and bike and our interests include art, architecture/churches, museums, and beer. Any tips are appreciated. Thanks.

Jay

Posted by
12040 posts

I think Tournai (Doornik in Nederlands) is probably the most attractive city in Walloonia. It doesn't take particularly long to explore, however. If they ever finish the repairs on the main cathedral, which sustained a significant amount of structural damage during a storm several years ago, it will definately merit a visit.

I wanted to fall in love with Kortrijk and declare it the next great undiscovered Belgian gem. It isn't bad, but it didn't blow me away either. It's close to Ghent, so why not give it a look? The highlights are probably the Begijnhof and the belfry. Other than a few other old buildings scattered about, there's not too much to distinguish it.

I particularly like the lovely coastal beach town of De Haan. You likely won't be able to swim, but on a clear weekend day, the town is quite lively.

Perhaps give Leuven a look? The Stadhuis is particularly impressive (from the outside at least), and the town has a plethora of good restaurants (not exactly hard to find in Belgium, as I'm sure you've noticed by now). If you can figure out the bus network, the woods to the south (Heverleebos) offers plenty of walking trails. I know plenty of other good hikes in Belgium, but they're all in Limburg province.

Posted by
2047 posts

Although you will not have a car, Ypres as a day trip via train and seeing the Last Post service at 8 PM after an afternoon of wandering through the town would make an excellent day trip. We did this last year (actually, our itinerary for the whole trip was planned to include this). Train takes about an hour, as I recall. Ceremony is brief but moving, it is a short walk back to the train station so that you don't get back really late.

Posted by
1463 posts

What you want to do depends a lot about your interests. Using public transport only limits the possibilities to move around, but think there are a few places worth the effort.

Some 15km south-west of Ghent there is the Ooidonk Castle, the castle itself closes within a few days but the gardens are open whole year around, however not every day of the week. There is a busstop at 1 km from the entrance. Closer to Brussels Gaasbeek Castle is open till November 6 and garden till October 31 ,direct bus connection from Brussel-Zuid / Bruxelles-Midi railway station, bus stops at the entrance.

If making beer is of interest Brewery Huyghe in Melle just east of Ghent offers tours, but contact them first about the conditions. Bus stop a few steps from the entrance.

I agree with Tom De Haan is really to recommend to visit, you can combine it with a visit to the Atlantik Wall museum at Raversyde just outside Oostende, easy to reach with the coastal tram. As already said it is more lively (weather permitting) during the weekend and real adds to the atmosphere in a possitive way. Other days during the week in October depending the weather De Haan can feel lesser lively, even somewhat abandoned if it is chilly and windy. Einstein stayed for a half year in De Haan, there is a walking route to follow his footsteps. If there is time left add the former training ship Mercator and the Ensor House in Oostende to the daytrip.

The second weekend of October coast town Knokke hosts the annual Zoute Grand Prix, a gathering of vintage and new car top marks.

Agree also to put Tournai on your list. Mechelen halfway between Antwerp and Brussels is like Leuven another typical Flemish city. Not to miss there is Kazerne Dossin, Belgiums most well known holocaust museum. The tower of the Sint-Rombouts cathedral can be climbed for a nice view over the historic city centre. Mechelen is also the place where the Beethoven family originates from, have no idea how much to find there except a street named after them where they lived. Brewery Het Anker offers tours.

If you like shopping I can recommend Lille just across the French border at 1¼h with the train from Ghent. I have visited it during the week before last Christmas and liked it a lot. The birth place of Charles de Gaulle is now an interesting museum. Some people on the forum here are not so impressed by Lille, maybe the atmosphere is lesser pleasant during other periods of the year.

http://ooidonk.be/en/visit
http://www.kasteelvangaasbeek.be/en
http://www.delirium.be/en/brewery-huyghe
http://www.hetanker.be/en
http://www.zoutegrandprix.be/en
https://www.kazernedossin.eu/EN/

Posted by
203 posts

Guys,

Thanks so much for all of your very thorough responses. We will dig into your suggestions and no doubt try one or two of these. I will also try to do a better job of providing some follow up to the forum after our trip. Thanks.

Posted by
1463 posts

Jay,

Looking forward, like to add if it is of interest that there is a nice exhibition about “The Birth of Capitalism” in the Caermersklooster in Ghent till coming January 1. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
12104 posts

@ Wll....I have been to Lille at least twice as day trips from Arras. It is the cultural urban in northern France with its university and more. It is also different from Arras as regards to its atmosphere, a different feel in Lille.

Posted by
4691 posts

I don't think Lier was mentioned, and on the same train line is Turnhout. The latter is not as nice as, say, Leuven, but has an important Beguinage with a museum, a famous playing-card museum, a lovely cathedral with excellent wood carvings, and an art deco town hall.

Besides the doll museum, pretty Lier has a fine small art museum in/near the town hall. Try the local pastry specialty. There's an unusual clockmaker's life's work museum, with a massive multi-function clock at one end.

I went to Lille ("little Paris") for the major art museum. The train ride can get very long.

I'm also a big fan of Mechelen, Saturday market day. It's hard to find the Jewish Museum open, or the mansion-museum with a big Rick Wouters art collection. If you have enough time, Mechelen has an intriguing too-renovated "ghost" of a Beguinage. Very hard by public transportation, Fort Breendonk, a terrifying Nazi prison, full English audioguides. ( Google the Mechelen Trials.) The Mechelen town hall owns a lot of art, especially some gruesome "lives of the saints" panels that focus more than usual on their martyrdom.

Edit: I suggest you return to Antwerp for the museums you missed, like the Middelheim outdoor sculpture park, and the Cogels Osy Lei neighborhood. Watch for the massive KMSKA museum's reopening. The public park Rivierenhof is very nice on a warm day. Farther away, the Bokrijk open-air museum has a train station.

Postwar concrete Oosteende would be dull in October, but it still has a modern art museum, James Ensor's home and tomb, and a statue of Marvin Gaye at the piano in the Casino. Also good seafood. Coastal tram to the other shore towns.

Posted by
1463 posts

Yes Fred and Tim , how was the feel in Lille, I mean did you like it?

Posted by
4691 posts

It was a few years ago, but Lille is an aging, post-industrial city absorbing immigrants who can't afford the suburbs. It really is a little-Paris, of course with less history. I only had time for the Palais de Beaux Arts, which was worth the trip by itself. The NY Times had an article on formal restaurants featuring Flemish food. Note that the Chunnel train stops in Lille.

Posted by
12104 posts

@ Wll...For me being in Lille the last time was at least ten / twelve years ago. I find it an interesting city, liked going there twice, much more crowded than Arras and Amiens in the centre ville. It also makes a (positive !) difference since it's a university city.

Posted by
100 posts

A couple of towns on the coast of the North Sea have been mentioned, but I lovely day can be had exploring the coast, using the HOHO coast tram, walking boardwalks, etc....and visiting the Atlantik Wall fortress used by Germany in WW1 and WW2. I did it while visiting Bruges.

Posted by
1463 posts

Tim and Fred, thanks for responding. The wider streets like Rue Faidherbe or Boulevard de Liberté can give a bit the impression to walk around somewhere in Paris, but I liked most those narrow streets with their small restaurants, shops and Flemish touch giving a pleasant intimate character to the place. Combining with a visit to one of the museums like Palais de Beaux-Arts I think it will be easy to enjoy a full program. Have to say that the week before Christmas Lille was because of the numerous visitors very lively adding a lot to the atmosphere, so hard to say how it will be during a normal week.

Posted by
12104 posts

"...a normal week." Wll, both day trips I made to Lille on two different trips I did from Arras and were during June or July. I'm sure you are familiar with that big book store in Lille in the centre ville. ...well worth a visit.