I will be in Belguim from 12/28/16 to 1/3/16. Instead of changing hotels every couple of days, do you have a suggestion in what city (Ghent, Brussels, or another one) to make a home base.? It's easy to catch the morning and evening train back and forth. It's our second visit to Belguim but we would like to revisit Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels, and Ghent to our list. Over ambitious? Suggestions. Thanks
If you're going to stay in one place and visit the other three as day trips, it is not too ambitious. I would stay in Brussels because it is so easy to get to the other three from there, and I just love Brussels. But as you may know, not everyone does. Ghent would be my second choice. But if you've been to all four, why not choose the place you loved the most.
If you're planning to get around by rail, everything goes through Brussels. You might as well get a hotel near the station.
I'm a Bruges fan (not so big on Brussels) but enjoyed Ghent and Antwerp very much. If looking at a base, I'd probably choose Ghent for its location between the other two.
Maybe you'd want to make the decision on where you can find an affordable, attractive hotel within walking distance of the train station - considering possibly cold and damp days. I wish I could tell you which city has the shortest lines to buy tickets in the morning; I've had trouble with the lines for human counters in Antwerp when I didn't have a card that would operate the ticket machines. (Haven't been to Belgium lately - I would explore that issue, regardless of city chosen.)
One advantage of Antwerp is that you can easily add Lier or Turhout (or both in one day), two good cities you HAVEN'T been to, because their train originates in Antwerp. I'd also observe that Antwerp and Ghent are much livelier in the evening than Bruges. Although not at the level of the other cities mentioned, Leuven is very nice, with several historic sites (even though the University Library has been rebuilt twice!)
This is not too ambitious, it's entirely appropriate.
As an Antwerp nut, I'd ask if you have already been to see Zurenborg, or the Middelheim Sculpture park? They are good for three hours each - maybe not if it's cold and windy, though.
While your Sunday is Jan 1, it's worth checking whether a city hall you want to tour has a once-weekly tour running that day. I've been to Antwerp's and Leuven's.
I'd go with Ghent myself. It's very easy to get to all of the others from there and it's a better place to base in my opinion. I based in Brussels and visited Ghent, Antwerp, and Bruges and if I were to do it again, I would stay in Ghent and just visit Brussels. I really liked the atmosphere and vibe in Ghent (a college town) more than the business bustle of Brussels.
There's no real advantage to any of the places mentioned in terms of transport, as Belgium is relatively small and has a non-centralised rail network. There is a direct route from Antwerp to Ghent and Bruges that you can take without having to go through Brussels.
Basically Bruges is the one to pick if you want to stay somewhere picturesque (and maybe more picturesque in the early morning and late evening when the day trippers aren't around). Ghent is basically Bruges plus actual city life, and Brussels and Antwerp are more big commercial cities.
Thanks for all the help. We visited Belgium 4 years about 6 months after my wife had a brain aneurism. She doesn't remember the trip. So, we want to go back and see if it comes back or whether it will be a whole new experience for her. She has made almost full recovery e crept for some memory glitches, but she is back to teaching. So it will be a special trip for us.
That's awesome. I hope you have a wonderful trip!