time in Belgium

My husband and I are beginning to plan our summer trip and would like to spend some time in Belgium. We plan on visiting Bruges and Brussels but are unsure of Antwerp and Ghent. We're planning on at least 4 days in Belgium but can add if necessary. Thoughts about Antwerp or Ghent or our length of stay? Thank you!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4742 posts

If you only have 4 days in Belgium, you can have one or two bases, and visit other cities from there. Therefore, you don't need to plan in advance; trains among these 4 cities are frequent and don't require reservations or advance purchase. So, if you want to take a day trip, you can, and if you don't, you can stay put. If you do a search on this board (search box is on the upper right of the page), you can find lots of threads with people's varied opinions about the four Belgian cities you mention. Like all such "rivalries" (Paris vs London? Prague vs Budapest vs Vienna?), there is no right or wrong answer. For myself, I loved Antwerp, found Bruges highly worthwhile, was slow to warm to Ghent but ended up enjoying it enough, and didn't like Brussels. But that's just me. The one thing I loved in Brussels (besides the inexpensive yet high quality Leonidas chocolate, of course) was my Art Nouveau tour with ARAU. They get into buildings normally closed to the public, and if I ever go back to Brussels, I'd schedule my visit around the availability of an English language ARAU tour.

Posted by T.
Seattle, WA, US
321 posts

I was impressed with Antwerp when I visited it last September. There's some great architecturethe train station and cathedral are superband a new, very mod museum call MAS. Even if you don't want to see their exhibits, the ride up the escalators to the viewing platform is free. There are lots of fashion designers in the city, which gives it a slick, modern gloss that you won't find in Bruges. The food is better in Brussels, but it's quite good in Antwerp as welland it seems everyone speaks English. Ghent is also great, but it's more of a college town than a major city like Antwerp.

Posted by Brendon
Auburn, Washington, USA
513 posts

My parents and I flew into Brussels from Iceland in June and spent about 3 hours in Brussels. The outskirts of the town in hideous and full of graffiti and trash. We rented a car for our 4 days in Belgium and 4 days in Luxembourg. We got our car at thr airport and drove to the Grand Place and saw the Mannekin Pis. We got lost so many times, and swore a lot aswell. We stayed in Ghent at the B&B Waterzooi next to the castle. the town around the castle is nice, but the actual city in pretty ugly. Brugges was AWESOME!!!! We also spent a day in Holland seeing the 19 windmills in Kinderdijk and saw a nice canal city called Delft. Like Amsterdam but smaller. We also drove to Knokke, a nice little beach there. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10505 posts

If you and your husband are relatively young and enjoy some nightlife, stay in Ghent and use it as your base to visit the other cities. If not, probably stay in Brugge. All of the cities you mentioned have advantages and disadvantages. The historical center of Brugge is compact and very attractive, but a bit of a dead zone for anything other than tourism (most of the population of the city actually lives outside the historic center). Ghent's historic core isn't as well preserved, but because it hosts a large student population and has a thriving business community, it's a much more lively city. Antwerp is a large, modern port city, with all the highs and lows that go along with having a thriving shipping industry. The preserved historic center is very attractive, but not very large. There's also plenty of remnants of Belgium's late 19th century Art Nouveau binge, but also plenty of modern grit. Brussels tends to divide- people either like it or hate it (nobody really seems to love it, though). To me, it has the most eclectic variety of architecture of any European capital, but the interesting buildings are scattered across the city, and it takes some effort to appreciate. It also has a pretty good trove of museums and parks, and the restaurant scene is one of the best in Belgium. In my last two visits over the past year, I have found that they have cleaned up the city significantly, although some neighborhoods remain pretty dingey.

Posted by Kathleen
Reston, VA, USA
498 posts

We spent a day in Antwerp at the end of a river cruise and LOVED it - I definitely want to go back and spend more time there. We did a fun beer tasting at an old pilgrimage inn (arranged by our tour so I'm not sure if that's something one can arrange individually), did a walking tour with a local guide, and I spent several happy hours in the Plantin-Moretus museum, an old house that is also a museum of early printing and books. Some of the rooms are restored and furnished as rooms, and others are full of early books and printing technology. The ground floor had a temporary exhibit of drawings when I was there. I did a day trip to Bruges a few years ago and enjoyed that very much; have not spent time in Brussels or Gent. If you can tell us what your particular interests are - art, history, beer, whatever - you'll get great advice here.

Posted by Jon
Cincinnati, OH, USA
330 posts

You mentioned "some time in Belgium" but didn't say what precedes or follows Belgium. I thought Brendon's comments were on the right track. If you were not already including either the Netherlands or Aachen-Cologne, you might want to consider either. Several years ago my wife and I spent 5 days in Amsterdam and Haarlem (both were great) then took the train to Brugge for a 2 day stay on our way to Paris. The train trip to Brugge was brief, based on what others had said (on RS Helpline and other sites) prior to our trip; we didn't leave the train station in Brussels.