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Overnight in Antwerp or Ghent?

In March/April, I am heading over across the pond to London and then onward to Belgium. For the London portion, I will be with a friend. For the Belgium portion, I will be alone. Here is what I have so far:

March 28 - April 1 (4 nights): London

April 1 - April 5 (4 nights): Bruges. I plan to do a day trip with Quasimodo to Flanders Field on the Wednesday.

April 5 - April 9 (4 nights): This is the part I need help with. While I want to limit moving hotels a lot, I am torn on whether to do 2 nights in Ghent and then 2 nights in Antwerp, or should I just pick one city as my base and then day trip to the other? Thoughts? Not sure if one city is more "lively" than the other - since I will be alone I am not looking to party/stay out late, but will want to go to a pub/bar at night for a beer.

April 9 - April 13 (4 nights): Brussels. Any suggestions for a possible day trip?

I have been reading Rick's Belgium book and have a list of sights/things I want to do in each city. Based on my list, I don't think I will be lacking for things to do. I am also ok with a down day at some point to just sit in a cafe and read a book, and maybe do a bit of shopping. Thanks for any help.

Posted by
2244 posts

Bruges and Ghent are only 30 mins apart. No reason to change accommodation.
I had once Mechelen (Malines) as a base for Antwerp and Brussels. Amazingly attractive historical city, totally overshadowed by its neighbours to the north and south, which are both some 20 mins away on very frequent trains.

Posted by
4071 posts

As a personal opinion, having day tripped to Ghent and spent two nights in Antwerp, I would overnight in Ghent or elsewhere. Didn't care for Antwerp much at all, though it certainly has museums that are worth seeing. For "charm" and overall appeal, Ghent would win hands down.

I also day tripped to Leuven for half a day - really liked the town too, would not have minded an overnight there. There's a direct train between Antwerp, the Brussels Airport, and Leuven (or at least there used to be).

However, given how many nights you have elsewhere, I don't think a few nights in Antwerp is a mistake - it's not an awful place at all, just not the favorite place I visited in Belgium.

Posted by
213 posts

Consider basing in Ghent, spending some time there as well as Bruges. Can easily access by trains that run every 30 minutes.
Recommend the Carlton Hotel in Ghent. The proprietors were a big help to us when we needed advice on local pubs and cafes and sightseeing. They also arranged for city bus tickets which were good in both Ghent and Bruges and they also offer a fantastic breakfast to start the day.
Bruges is a great browsing town; you will enjoy your trip.
Have fun!

Posted by
1867 posts

Was there in the spring and we spent 3 nights in Bruges, 2 in each Ghent and Antwerp, and the last night in Brussels. To my wife and I, that was plenty of time to see the main sights. We had been to Brussels previously, that’s why only one night there. The train was easy to use. The Quasimodo tour was well worth the money.

Posted by
632 posts

We spent four nights in Antwerp and four in Gent. We took day-trips from both and also liked both cities. But, I preferred Gent as a more attractive city, especially in the evenings, when they light up the centre, so if you want to choose just one for accommodation, then that was my preference. However, it's simple to get between the two so I wouldn't rule out two nights in each.

Four nights in Brussels seems a lot given its remarkable lack of attractions; an obvious day-trip is to Waterloo to celebrate the great victory over the odious Napoleon.

Posted by
3788 posts

No hotel change is needed, but Gent or Antwerp might be more central. Key factor is hotel access to train station if you stay in one place. Gent and Leuven might be cheaper hotels. Same transit (tram, bus) card in all these EXCEPT Brussels. Except for the art museums, Brussels deserves less time.

Don’t forget Monday closures. Check each museum separately. Antwerp is my personal favorite. Remember that Rick’s books have to leave out a lot.

Posted by
10520 posts

As you're learning, everyone has varying opinions about the Belgian "big four" (Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, and Ghent).

Personally, I loved Antwerp, liked Bruges a lot (despite the tourists), was slow to warm up to Ghent but enjoyed it enough by the end of my day there, and didn't care for Brussels at all except for my wonderful Art Nouveau tour with ARAU: https://arau.org/en.

I don't think you can go wrong with 4 nights in either Ghent or Antwerp with day trips, or 2 nights in each.

I enjoyed my day trip to Tournai; as a French smaller city, it was a nice contrast to the Flemish cities and Brussels.

Posted by
248 posts

We recently stayed in or day tripped to the destinations you mention, and agree with the posters who point out that Bruge and Ghent are only 30 minutes from each other by rail, therefore 4 nights home basing in Bruges and 4 nights in Ghent probably doesn't make the most sense. 1

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you all for your responses! I have a lot of think about, but am slowly moving away from overnighting in Ghent for a lot of reasons people mentioned. I will look into some other options, like Leuven, before making any final decisions.

Posted by
3788 posts

Leuven is nice, I've daytripped from Antwerp twice. But it's not a rich enough destination to sleep there eight nights. The city had a disastrous fire about 100 years ago, so it's not as antique as the other listed places. Highlights: Very lovely small Beguinage, Sunday-only tour of town hall interior, city art museum, rebuilt university library (look up the story), parks. Beguinage church has an unusual contemporary, abstract Stations of the Cross. Excellent cathedral across from town hall.

Posted by
992 posts

I happen to adore Ghent, but 1/2 day does it
guild houses on the river, Gravensteen, Van Eyck polyptic - all close to each other

Antwerp merits much more time.
Brussels, however, beyond the Grand Place has little appeal IMO