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Where To Stay For One Day Stopover

Hi, I am heading to Germany in January, but when booking my flight, I was able to schedule a 24 hour stopover in Belgium. I arrive at the Brussels airport at 9 am and fly out again 24 hours later. Initially, I had planned to stay at the airport's Sheraton airport and spend the day in Brussels after dropping my bags at the hotel. However, I am now considering other options. I have been to Brussels before and would prefer spending the day somewhere new. I was looking at train times, and it seems I could go to Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges, etc. instead.

So my questions are:
1. If I love smaller cities that aren't very touristy and I love walking around and soaking everything in, which town would be the best place to spend the day?
2. Would I be better off staying at the Brussels airport Sheraton, dropping my bags, and then just traveling to my destination town and back in the same day OR should I travel with my bags and stay in the destination town? How soon before my flight would I need to get to the airport? And would there be trains that early?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions! :)

Posted by
767 posts

Standard advice, if you fly out around 9 am stay in a hotel near/at the airport. Weather? I would go to Bruges, but that's because I just love it. Being a train friendly country getting a train home after dinner to the airport from Bruges should be easy enough. 5 trains after 9 pm listed on the Belgian train website - Seems to take about 2 hours so maybe head home earlier since you may be jet-lagged.

Posted by
1766 posts

Bruges is pretty, but the "not very touristy" spec has to rule it out. Tourism is all it's got.

If I were back in Belgium I'd want to spend a night in Ghent.

But I share the concern about getting to the hotel for a 9 am flight. I think some of the trains from Ghent go to the airport ofter passing through Brussels? that would alieve some of the concern for me...

Posted by
676 posts

I would go to Ghent and sleep either near the airport or Brussels city centre (anywhere i could catch a direct train to the airport) whichever is cheaper.

Posted by
750 posts

It seems to me that the wonderful city of Mechelen has all you want. It’s a lovely historical city, that’s somehow not on the radar of tourists from outside Europe or even from within Europe. Which is a true shame, because it has a very rich history and is well worth a visit. On top of that, it’s only a 12 (yes twelve) minute direct train ride away from Brussels Airport.
See here for things to see and do in Mechelen https://visit.mechelen.be/en

Posted by
144 posts

Thanks, everyone, for the great suggestions! I’ll definitely stick with the airport hotel to make the morning flight less stressful. Now I just have to pick which town. All of your suggestions sounded wonderful!

I’m leaning towards Mechelen because it sounds interesting and is so close! @Dutch_traveler, any restaurant recommendations if I go to Mechelen?