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Day trip out of Brussels

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Belfast, United...
posts: 16
Day trip out of Brussels

Hi...I've just come across a fantastic deal for a February weekend in Brussels (ex Dublin) for just over 100euro (inc flights & accom for 2 nights).

We would arrive in CRL at 9.30am on a friday morning and depart at 21.00 on sunday night. Keen to pack as much into the weekend as possible. 99% sure w, giving us 3 whole days to explore. Have looked at Ibis St Catherine but think we will be booking the IBIS at Gare Midi because it seems to make sense for CRL shuttle plus the ease of catching a train for a trip out of Brussels.

We're trying to work on tight budget, - love quirky/eccentric shops, unpretentious pubs & restaurants, flea markets, live music, art, trying local delicacies (mmmh chocolate and beer) and don't mind a bit of walking/biking for sight-seeing off the beaten-track. Would love your recommendations for a day-trip...Bruges, Ghent or Leuven on a Saturday in february?...Many thanks in advance! -Lex

Brussels, Belgium
posts: 19,417
reviews: 3
1. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

Gare du Midi is a horrible area, I think if you stay there you will not enjoy your 3 days in Brussels, even if one of them is spent elsewhere, and you will be constantly taking the metro into the centre to see anything of the city. While it is true that the CRL shuttle leaves from rue de France, on the opposite side of Gare du Midi from the Ibis Hotel, the only trains you can ONLY take from that station are high-speed international ones like Eurostar and Thalys. Trains to/from each of the 3 cities you mention, as well as Charleroi-Sud if you choose to travel to/from CRL by local bus and train, leave/stop at Gare centrale (by far the best area to stay in, check out Ibis "Off Grand' Place") or Gare du Nord, as these 3 stations are all in a row and connected by trains passing through the city.

You don't explain on what basis you are seeking a recommendation as to which city to choose for Saturday day trip. If you have read up on these places and can't decide, what factors would help you to do so? You can get chocolate and beer in any of them: all 3 have a city-centre brewery that can be visited: Domus in Leuven, Gruut in Ghent and De Halve Maan in Brugge. In terms of distance from Brussels, if this is a factor, Leuven is the closest, then Ghent then Brugge (1 hr on the fastest trains), which is Belgium's top tourist destination and therefore most obvious recommendation. Although of course canal-boat trips will not be running in February.

Belfast, United...
posts: 16
2. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

Many thanks for your reply qaminari. Will definitely rethink the Gare du Midi hotel plan.

Sorry, maybe i should have emphasised the fact that we would prefer to visitthe city that best aligns with the things we like, as listed in my original post i.e.(quirky/eccentric shops, unpretentious pubs & restaurants, flea markets, live music, art, trying local delicacies and sight-seeing off the beaten-track). Perhaps to be more frank, i'd be grateful if you could recommend the most 'bohemian' of these cities?

many thanks - lex

Brussels, Belgium
posts: 19,417
reviews: 3
3. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

You can find/do all of those things anywhere - at the right dates of course, as regards flea markets and live music. Both Ghent and Leuven are student cities, but Leuven is perhaps more dominated by its student population, and also less visited by tourists. On the other hand, being larger, Ghent has more "art" and, having more shops, more chance of something you might consider as "quirky/eccentric".

Belfast, United...
posts: 16
4. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

Thanks again for your swift response. Leaning towards Ghent. Might book one night in Brussels and one night in Ghent.

Portland, Oregon USA
posts: 2,381
5. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

I've stayed at the Ibis Ste. Catherine and it is a decent hotel in a fine area. I'd book both nights there and avoid the time and effort to change hotels.

I like Ghent and you could easily visit the city on a daytrip from Brussels.

posts: 449
reviews: 21
6. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

Ghent is just what you're looking for.

Belfast, United...
posts: 16
7. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

Many thanks fo all the helpful advice folks.

We are going to go ahead with Ibis Ste. Catherine for 2 nights.

Really looking forward to it all...apart from the Ryanair flights!

Brussels, Belgium
posts: 19,417
reviews: 3
8. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

I know what you mean, I've had to book with Ryanair for a trip in February (only airline that flies direct to my destination) and I'm already worrying about it!

For Ghent specialities see http://www.visitgent.be/en/ghent-specialities - which you can get from the delicatessen at what that webpage calls the Great Butchers Hall (Oud Vleeshuis). However, the Tierenteyn mustard shop might be one of the quirky ones you are looking for.

posts: 10
reviews: 42
9. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

I can only also recommend NOT to book anything in the Midi Station area. Furthermore, most trains going to Leuven, Bruges or Ghent also go through the three major Brussels train stations (North, Central and Midi/South).

Enjoy Ghent!

posts: 51
reviews: 3
10. Re: Day trip out of Brussels

We just returned from our holidays in Brussels. We went on a day trip to Brugge and simply loved it. The town is very pictureque and great for photo shots. We stayed at Le Meridiens which is just opposite the central train station. Got it at a great discount via priceline.