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Three Nights in Ghent - Which Cities Would You Choose To Visit ??

I would welcome any advice / recommendations.

This stay is part of a 4 week holiday in Western Europe in September / October 2015

Specifically, which cities and why in three nights time. I was thinking about spending time in Ghent, Brussels and Bruges.

I was considering replacing Bruges or Brussels with Antwerp

My wife and I do not spend very much time indoors ( e.g. museums ). We prefer "acting as locals", trying to immerse ourselves in the local culture more than anything else. We enjoy walking, biking, hiking, people watching, cuisine, landscapes, parks and "architecture".

Thanks in advance !!

Posted by
15312 posts

Having been to all four cities, I would have recommended 3 nights in Bruges as the architecture is wonderful, and there are probably more opportunities for some biking and walks in or along green spaces. All the cities/towns you listed offer people-watching, food, walking and, yes, architecture but Bruges was an especially interesting and very pretty place for long wanders. It's especially lovely in the early morning before it gets busy.

We weren't especially taken with Brussels (but didn't give it a lot of time, either), did Ghent as a (nice) day trip from Bruges, and spent 3 nights in Antwerp but the museums there were our main focus so our interests were a little different than yours.

Posted by
6915 posts

I'm a bit unclear as to what your question is. Are you planning to stay in Ghent, as your title suggests? Or are you asking which city to stay in?

If you're planning on staying in Ghent and just asking which other cities to day trip to I would suggest, based on your stated preferences, that you skip Brussels and visit Bruges and Antwerp. Add Brussels if you have the time.

Last year I stayed in Brussels and day tripped to Bruges, Antwerp, and Ghent. If I were to go back again I would probably stay in Ghent and visit the other cities as time permits - 1. Bruges 2. Antwerp 3. Brussels.

I enjoyed a whole day in Bruges but did not feel drawn to stay there for the night (or multiple nights). I only had a 1/2 day in each of Ghent and Antwerp and would like to go back and spend more time in each of them. I had mornings and evenings in Brussels and that was plenty for me. I didn't spend any time in museums except in Bruges where I went to both the Memling (Sint-Janshospitaal) and the Groeninge, both of which were wonderful.

Posted by
15477 posts

I enjoyed staying in Ghent. I day-tripped to Bruges and while I enjoyed it, it was too touristy and I was happy to return to Ghent at the end of the day. Ghent is beautiful after dark - the medieval buildings and bridges over the canals are floodlit.

Posted by
11613 posts

I spent 2-4 nights in each of the four cities, always in the historic center. Loved Bruge and Gent, liked Brussels very much, Antwerp not so much.

Posted by
68 posts

I love Antwerp. It is a lot 'grittier' than Bruges - it seems more like an actual city. Bruges (which I really liked) has a lot of tourists and is a city based on tourism to some extent. I have never gotten that feeling in Antwerp. I have upon occasion been a little bit nervous (I am a small town girl, I also have felt that way downtown Des Moines). Probably some of the best meals of my life have been in Antwerp. The architechture is also beautiful.

Posted by
6832 posts

I have mostly stayed in Antwerp on repeated trips to Belgium. Other posters have noted that Ghent has more to do after business hours than Bruges. There's no denying the attractiveness of Bruges, but I wouldn't want to waste a night sleeping there.

Antwerp is much larger than Bruges or Ghent, but that means it has a lot more variety. There's a charming more-or-less medieval section, a student district, redeveloped areas, Art Deco/Nouveau neighborhoods, an opera house, many kinds of parks, a nice culture of evening walks, food of every kind and price, and hotels of every kind and price. There's good tram coverage of the city, and a nice riverwalk (and under the river pedestrian tunnel, an unusual sight.) It is true that Antwerp has some of Amsterdam's urban ills, but it's actually cleaner and less crowded. What urban center doesn't have ills?

The only downside to your plan can be the long line to purchase daily train tickets from a live agent with American credit cards or cash. That's the same in every city.

The reason for leaving out Brussels (which does have some nice architecture) is that you only have three nights, and you don't care for museums, which are world-class in Brussels. It doesn't really merit your specific itinerary.