December 10th, A friend and I are going to Paris for 3 days and would like to go somewhere else for 2 days before heading to London. We are considering going to Brussels and possibly an afternoon in Brugge. Is there a better place to go? We like quaint shops, Christmas markets and good food. What about the Rhine river between Mainz and Koblenz? Any suggestions?
Perhaps you could clarify. How are you getting to London? Do you have to traverse back to Paris, or could you leave from Brussels or, let's say, Frankfurt? And do you have two full days free, then you head to London on the third day, or do you need to be in London on the 2nd day?
It's about 1.5 hours by train to Brussels, then you can take a local train to Brugge or Gent, or both. Eurostar goes from Brussels to London frequently every day. You could stay in Brugge and day trip to Gent, or vice versa (hotels are generally a lot cheaper in Gent).
Another thought is heading east to Strasbourg. It's 2.5 hours by train, and you'd have to return to Paris to get to London on Eurostar. The Christmas markets there - and in Colmar, another 1 hour by local train, are lovely, especially Colmar.
I would consider just adding those 2 days on Paris, especially if you have never been there before. How many days are you staying in London? In my opinion, both cities deserve at least 4 nights each. I spent a whole week in London and still managed to not see everything I wanted to see.
I also wonder if going further east on your trip will make it more cumbersome to get back to London, especially if coming from Germany.. Were you planning on flying from the 2 day city into London?
Don't get me wrong...Belgium is my favorite country; been there twice including for my honeymoon. We spent 5 nights in Bruges and 3 nights in Ghent. It was during christmas market season and it was wonderful with lots to do. I think there is a Eurostar that will get you from Brussels to London.
Belgium is an easier option: you can take a train in Bruxelles-Midi directly to London. It is also easy and fast to get from Paris to Bruxelles.
What you don't make it clear is whether are you counting travel days or not.
In any case, you can optimize you trip like this: buy a Paris - Brugge train ticket, which will require a transfer in Bruxelles-Midi. Store your luggage in Bruxelles-Midi and head to Brugge immediately. Spend the better part of the day there, return early evening, pick up your luggage and head to your hotel.