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Bruges or Brussels as base?

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canada
posts: 46
reviews: 3
Bruges or Brussels as base?

My husband and I will be in Paris in January of 2014. W'd like to take a train from Paris to either Brussels or Bruges. and spend 5 to 7 days in the area. We w'd also like to take day trips to Ghent, Antwerp, and Leuven. ( no Amsterdam .been there). We have never taken a train so we don't care which one of the mentioned cities we go to as base as long as it is a direct train ride from Paris. Qs:

1. Bruges or Brussels as a better base in terms of ease to get us to the other cities on day trips?

2. Are there frequent trains from my base ( either Bruges or Brussels, or even Antwerp) to the others?

3. Cost wise, which city provides nice and clean accommodation at the most reasonable price so I may consider it as one of my criteria for choosing a base.?

We went to Osaka 2 years ago and found it an excellent city as a base to go to Kyoto, Nara , Himeji and Kobe using the train system in Japan. Very easy to use. I am hoping that one of these cities does have a good train system that we can use like the ones in Japan.

Thx for info.

Brussels, Belgium
posts: 21,052
reviews: 3
1. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

Firstly, as you fix the condition that the city in question has to be reached by direct train from Paris, unless the one Thalys a day that goes directly to Brugge is convenient for you (dep. 18:25 on weekdays, arr. 20:54; 08:01 on Sat and 11:25 on Sun), it would have to be Brussels (or Antwerp, although that would mean staying on the far edge of your "range").

1. Both have trains to all the others but Brussels is more central between Brugge and Antwerp and only 14 mins from Leuven. Brussels-Antwerp takes 40-50 mins, depending on which train you take, Brugge-Antwerp takes 1h24-1h32 and Brugge-Leuven, 1h24. The distances are also reflected in fares, of course.

2. Yes, although if you use Brugge as a base, at some times you have to change in Ghent for Antwerp. Frequency is of course variable, there are 2 IC (the fastest) trains an hour between Brussels, Ghent and Brugge (and vice versa) and the same between Brugge and Leuven, while direct trains from Brugge to Antwerp are hourly; from Brussels, on the other hand, there are more trains on those routes, 5 an hour to Leuven and 4 or 5 an hour to Antwerp.

3. I have never seen any comparison of niceness and cleanliness of hotels between Belgian cities, but Brugge is a tourist destination and Brussels a business destination so their high seasons are exact opposites of each other. Brussels is probably more expensive than Brugge in general, but hotel prices here - at least for those hotels of a standard used by official and business visitors - drop at weekends and in July/August. In January, hotels in Brugge would be cheaper than in Brussels.

If basing yourself in Brussels, you need to stay near Gare centrale, which is also near the Grand' Place. Hotels in the area include the Méridien, Novotel "Off Grand' Place", Ibis ditto, Le Dixseptième, Royal Windsor, St. Michel, Aris Grand' Place, Madeleine, Moon, Scandic Grand' Place, Arenberg, Sandton Brussels Central, Centrale...

canada
posts: 46
reviews: 3
2. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

Thank you so much for the info. It is very helpful.

Another question re:timing:

My meeting in Paris is from Jan 28 to Feb 1,2014. Is there any difference in terms of weather if I visit Belgium before or after the meeting? Will Jan . be a tad warmer than Feb.?

Brussels, Belgium
posts: 21,052
reviews: 3
3. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

3 days between Jan/Feb makes no more difference here than it does (I guess) where you are. Theoretically, Feb should be less cold (8°C) than Jan (7°C), but those are median temperatures for the whole of each month, not the difference between, say 27 Jan and 2 Feb!

canada
posts: 46
reviews: 3
4. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

Hi qaminari,

it is more then 3 days difference. :-)

It is the difference between Jan 21to 28 ( 1 week prior to meeting) and Feb 2 to 9 ( 1 week after meeting). I guess it does not make any difference then.

canada
posts: 46
reviews: 3
5. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

I read that there are a few train stations in Brussels. I am looking into hotels in Brussels, using it as my base.

. Which station does the direct train from Paris go to? Any recommendation of hotels?

Brussels, Belgium
posts: 21,052
reviews: 3
6. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

Thalys stops only at Bruxelles-Midi, however this is a horrible area to stay in and your ticket is valid on any local train (e.g. those going to the airport) to continue to Bruxelles-Central, which is much nicer, and a 5 minute walk from the Grand' Place.

Hotels near Gare centrale include the Méridien (right across from the station), Novotel Off Grand' Place, Ibis ditto, Best Western Premium Carrefour de l'Europe, Le Dixseptième, Royal Windsor, Aris Grand' Place, Madeleine, Moon, Scandic Grand' Place, Arenberg, Sandton Brussels Central, Centrale.

As I don't use Brussels hotels, I can only advise on location, although I have visited someone at Le Dixseptième which seemed very nice.

canada
posts: 46
reviews: 3
7. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

thank you. Does it mean that I do not exit from Bruxelles-Midi, but board firectly another train that goes to Bruxelles Central, and then to my hotel,? ( I will look into hotels you suggested and book in the area).

Also , which station s'd I use to take the train to Bruges, Anthrop, Ghent ,Colonge , and Leuven? Are they all from Bruxelle centrale?

Thx for info. They are very helpful for people like me who has never been on a train in Europe.

Brussels, Belgium
posts: 21,052
reviews: 3
8. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

Indeed you don't go out of Gare du Midi, you will arrive by Thalys at platform 3, 4, 5 or 6 and you just exit into the main concourse, look at the departure board, monitors, or yellow timetable boards, and identify the next convenient train (not Thalys or ICE) heading North (airport, Antwerp, etc.), which will have to stop at Gare centrale: note the platform, and go to it. Northbound trains GENERALLY (there are a few exceptions) depart from odd-numbered platforms.

The Eurostar terminal that will be on your left as you come into the main concourse, on the rue de France/Place Horta side of the station, covers platforms 1 and 2, so you will see that for higher number platforms you need to head for the Avenue Fonsny side of the station. You will see signs indicating which is which, but the Eurostar Terminal is the most obvious feature that will help you orientate yourself.

I think the destination and time of the next train from each platform is given at the bottom of the escalator up to the platform; but at any rate once you are on the platform, it is given in a sign overhead. It will also be announced by loudspeaker, in French and Dutch.

For Brugge, Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven - in fact any destination in Belgium, and all non-high-speed trains - you can depart from Gare centrale. For Cologne, on the other hand, I would guess that you are taking Thalys or ICE, and these depart from Gare du Midi (ICE also from Gare du Nord): but again you can use your ticket on a connecting train from Gare centrale.

canada
posts: 46
reviews: 3
9. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

wow, thx for the very helpful info re: stations and platforms. I will print it out to help me along.

10. Re: Bruges or Brussels as base?

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