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What city to use as base in Belgium for six-day stay?

Which Belgium city would you recommend for a central base? And, which other Belgium cities would you choose to visit by train or bus from the base. The only city that we do not want to base in is beautiful Bruge; we have visited there before. Any advice would be appreciated! Thank you. Sandy

Posted by
4684 posts

I'd suggest Brussels: lots of people here hate it and say it's bland, high-crime, etc, but there are some very interesting museums and buildings there if you look. It's certainly the most convenient spot for rail trips to other Belgian cities. Alternatively Antwerp is only slightly less convenient as a base, and has some nice seventeenth-century art museums. Or Ghent is a bit more off-centre geographically but is basically Brugge with a bit less of an all-consuming tourist focus. I'd definitely suggest these three as the top Belgian cities to visit for at least one day, whichever you pick as your base.

Posted by
6033 posts

The first reply says it all. I'd add that Antwerp is such an attractive city (with so much to do) that it would be my choice. Ghent is beautiful, but adds too much travel timeThere are some long day trips in Belgium. For example, I went to Osteende from Antwerp, and you are kind of rushed if you want to get home at a decent hour. I also went to Lille, France, but saw very little of the city-I was aiming at the art museum. Cologne is a very easy two-hourish trip if you haven't been there, because the train station is right AT the major attractions. You've got to be Rick Steves style organized for such daytrips. Brussels will save lots of train time, but the city has little charm, if plenty of history. (Opinion!) Study the rail discount options you have, if it's not a Railpass. For example,the ten-trip ticket that can be used by multiple people. You may be able to do better depending on your age or school status, etc. I liked the Lonely Planet book for full coverage of the country. It does have strong opinions, like an alleged "fried chip odor" in Dinant-which I didn't get to.

Posted by
12040 posts

"It does have strong opinions, like an alleged "fried chip odor" in Dinant-which I didn't get to." My sense of smell must have failed me when I visited Dinant. I don't remember smelling anything in particular there. I remember my Lonely Planet-recommended hotel in Antwerp reeking of urine, though. Another suggestion for a base would be the university town of Leuven. It's only about a 20 minute train ride east of downtown Brussels. There's really only enough to see here to occupy perhaps half a day, but it has frequent rail connections to just about anywhere in Belgium.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all for the very helpful ideas and opinions! Really appreciate your quick response time too. Best Regards, Sandy

Posted by
313 posts

I second Leuven, also. It's a great little town, with all the liveliness that comes from the University. We were only there a short time since our flight home from Brussels was cancelled, but want to go back.

Posted by
951 posts

Ghent was absolutely fabulous. I found its charm to be slightly different than Bruges but equally as enjoyable. Lots to see and do. Its a great city to just walk around and take in the ambiance. We stayed in a great B&B across the street from the castle and were close to all the shops, sites, and eateries. We day tripped to Antwerp and were disappointed by it; gray and dirty. We left after 3 hours to just get more out of Ghent.