If you have been following my blog for a while, you would have realised that I am the ‘go-getter‘ when it comes to travelling. Whilst I donot believe in just rushing through cities and towns, I do have an inclination for a rather packed itinerary, because after all I am the working class and have only a limited number of leaves to see this world with. So once again I am back with a compact tour of Belgium if you only have a weekend to spare. If you are my kind of a traveler, follow on, if not may be you could still follow on and leave your comments on the blog.
This itinerary will be possible with a car but can definitely be done with public transport as well. However it is best to do this trip in the summer when the days are long. So without further adieu lets start on.
I am starting the itinerary from Brussels as it has much easier connection to most European cities and elsewhere.
Arrive as early as possible on a Friday evening in Brussels and because you are short on time, it is advisable to stay within walking distance of the Grand Place. This will provide you easy access to most of the things to see in Brussels which are around the Grand Place itself. Some of the hotels that I have stayed in at Brussels are the Ibis Hotel off Grand Place, the Motel One and the Hilton Brussels City which are all in walking distance to the main square.
Once you have checked in, walk to the Grand Place square which is the the heart of Brussels. No matter what season of the year, there is always something happening at this square. You can then walk around the Grand Place covering the Tintin Comic mural, the famed Mannekin Pis, walk through the city centre alleys through to the Royal Galeries Saint Hubert, the hard to find Jeanneke Pis and finally back to the Grand Place. Suggested walking map here. This entire circuit at a very leisurely pace shouldn’t take more than an hour. You can end the day with a nice dinner of mussels (or whatever fancies your palate) at one of the many restaurants lining the Grand Place.
Today start early to cover two of the most beautiful places in Belgium, if not mainland Europe – Bruges and Ghent. Read on my separate picture blog post of these twin cities (as I call it) here. I always prefer starting out from the the farthest place, so would start from Bruges and then checkout Ghent on the way back. Direct trains to Bruges depart regularly from the Brussels Centraal station (which is also adjacent to the Grand Place) and take about 1hr 20 mins to reach. You can buy the tickets from the many vending machines at the station.
Once in Bruges, head straight to the tourism office in the train station itself and arm yourself with the most important thing you need – a walking map of the place. One thing that we usually do when doing such day trips on the train is check out the return train schedule before leaving the station. There are usually these yellow time tables stuck to the walls of the station, just click a picture for later reference.
Now, well equipped, follow the hoards of people crossing the road to the other side and walk into a town preserved in time. All of Bruges is completely walkable and while there are a number of places on the map to see, the most important in my view are the Belfry, the Basilica of the Holy Blood said to have a cloth with Jesus’ blood on it, a walk around the canals of Bruges and the Lover’s Bridge and Lake of Love in Minnewater park. At the square where the Belfry is, you will get the most iconic shots of Bruges and also the staple food when you are in Bruges – Frites with Curry sauce. For a photo blog on Bruges, click here.
After spending a few hours in Bruges, its time to head to Ghent which is about a 45 mins ride on the train. Ghent is bigger and slightly more spread out than Bruges so you may need some more time here. Also personally I like Ghent more than Bruges. Once at the Ghent station, head to the bus stop and buy a single ticket for the tram from the kiosk because you cannot buy tickets from the tram. Tram #1 leaves from the station and goes to the city centre – get down right in front of the Gravensteen. The tourism office is opposite the Gravensteen castle and like always arm yourself with a map of the place. For a photo tour of Ghent and must visit places check out my blog here.
Finally after a long hard but rewarding day, its time for you to get back to Brussels.
Today you have two options – spend leisurely time in Brussels visiting the Atominium and Mini Europe or take a quick day trip to Antwerp which is an hours train ride from Brussels. If you are feeling adventurous, visit the Atominium and Mini Europe in the morning – this trip should take a couple of hours and then you can take the train to Antwerp.
In Antwerp, head straight to the Grote Markt with the iconic city hall and the fountain which symbolises the city. Nearby is the Cathedral of our Lady also known as the Antwerp cathedral which houses some of Ruben’s paintings. Don’t miss the newest art installation in front of the Antwerp cathedral depicting the Boy and his Dog inspired from the book about Nello and the dog, Patrasche. Also nearby is Ruben’s house which is now turned into a museum housing not just his but some of this contemporary’s art works too.
With that you have ticked of almost an entire country in Europe in a single weekend. Hope you have liked my blog and that it will inspire you to book your next tickets to Belgium.
Till then, happy travels!!