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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
873 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
2267 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
691 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
1393 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

Posted by
148 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?