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Torn between Bruges and Ghent

New York City, New...
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Torn between Bruges and Ghent

I'll be traveling to Europe in February with my parents - - their first time overseas - - and our trip begins in Belgium. We arrive on Sunday morning (to Brussels) and head to Paris (from Brussels via Thalys) on Monday afternoon, so we essentially have a day and half to spend. I had originally thought we'd head straight to Bruges spend the time there, but I've heard such wonderful things about Ghent. I'm also slightly turned off by hearing how "touristy" Bruges has become (I live in Manhattan and deal with my share of tourists every day!!) It also sounds like some of the main attractions in Bruges will not be possible in February as the Bell Tower will be closed and the boat tours do not run. My other concern is that it sounds like a lot sights are closed on Mondays.

I'm in my earlier 30's and my parents late 50's. Our interests are good food, good beer, taking in the scenery, and getting a feel of Belgium. Which is the better choice? Would it make sense to do Bruges on Sunday and Ghent on Monday? Our tickets to Paris are based on ABS to Paris. Appreciate any thoughts or comments!

Brussels, Belgium
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1. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

For your first visit to Belgium, I would go to Bruges: February must be just about the lowest season there, so I wouldn't worry about crowds, except perhaps during the Brugs Beer Festival, 4-5 Feb 2012 - although as you say you are interested in good beer and good food, this features 278 beers from 67 breweries, and lots of food, and is held in the Historic Rooms of the Belfry complex (Grote Markt), on Sat 4Feb from 12.00 till 22.00 and Sun 5 Feb from 11.00 till 21.00 (www.brugsbierfestival.be/). Also in Brugge, there's an interesting exhibition on at the Groeninge Museum in February, see brugge.be/internet/…index.htm

As for the boat tours not operating (which they sometimes do if it's a particularly fine weekend), that is equally true of Ghent. In Ghent also - indeed throughout Belgium and much of the rest of Europe - municipal museums and public monuments are closed on Mondays, although the Mystic Lamb in St.Baaf's Cathedral is an exception, if that was on your list (www.visitgent.be/smartsite.dws…).

In any case, asking a question about other people's opinions is only going to get you a batch of different opinions, neither more nor less valid than all the other different opinions already expressed, and providing no more insight into what YOU might prefer. Personally I find it necessary to research a place myself (google city name and sights), decide what I want to see where, and make my choice on the basis of what appeals to me most.

Edited: 22 December 2011, 21:56
Amsterdam, The...
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2. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

Bruges is really the place to go. Where would you send a first time visitor to the USA, to New York or Chicago?

Ghent, Belgium
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3. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

As a non biased inhabitant of the Greatest city in the world, your choice is obviously going to be Gent. All kidding aside you cannot go wrong with either city. If you find out that certain place that were of interest to you, then maybe base your decision on that. And don't forget, Gent is some 30 minutes closer than Brugge if you are coming from Brussels, extra hour of sight seeing.

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4. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

>>We arrive on Sunday morning (to Brussels) and head to Paris (from Brussels via Thalys) on Monday afternoon, so we essentially have a day and half to spend.<<

Re having a day and a half of sightseeing time - don't forget to factor in travelling time for arrival and departure. Your flight from NY may run behind schedule, there's baggage to collect and immigration to clear, there's the time that it takes to catch a train into the city and then take another train to Brugge (apparently you can catch a train directly from the airport to Ghent), there's the extra travelling time involved with that and check-in at your accommodation, then shower and refresh time - so depending on what time your flight arrives, you could lose half a day.

As it's your parents' first overseas trip, they may suffer a little from jetlag, too (I know that a lot of Americans on the Paris forum mention this - to me, the trip across the Atlantic is so short compared with the long haul from Australia that the idea of jetlag is a bit strange, but I thought I should mention it!).

And what time in the afternoon does your train leave for Paris? You'll also have to allow time at the train station in Brussels (I'd say 20 minutes, others might say less) to find your carriage and board the train etc etc, after the travelling time from Ghent or Brugge.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is - you may not have quite as much time to spend as you think you have. Which might make your decision on which city to visit a little easier one way or the other! Just something to consider.

(The Brugge vs Ghent decision aside, is there any reason why you wouldn't think about spending the time in Brussels? It's much maligned - particularly on this forum, and unfairly I think - but it could easily keep you occupied with things that are of interest to you for a day.)

Brussels, Belgium
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5. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

You will get as many different answers as you will get replies.....You have to decide yourself between a quite touristy small Bruges or a less touristy, more cosmopolitan Ghent. And of course...why not Brussels, why not Antwerp....:-)

Here a vote for Ghent.

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6. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

Sounds like I have more research to do... but also sounds like I can't go wrong with either decision! Also good to know that our time may be more limited than originally thought.

And in response to "Where would you send a first time visitor to the USA, to New York or Chicago?" , that's a tough question!! I would have to go with New York. Although it's much larger and more crowded than Chicago, the subway system makes it a lot easier to get around without a car than in Chicago. You'll spend more on hotels & meals in New York, but if you're looking to shop New York is the better deal. Chicago has the highest sales tax rate in the USA @ 10.25%!! NYC has many more historical sights, performing arts, museums, etc. as well.

Amsterdam, The...
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7. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

Well I meant it as a joke. People who visit the USA for the first time always would goto NYC instead of Chicago.

London, United...
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8. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

My wife and I were in Brussels over NYE and spent the day in Bruges today.

We came away with the understanding that we should have spent NYE in Bruges as one day just isn't enough to take in the beauty of the town and that we will certainly be visiting it within the next 6 months and staying there for couple of days.

Never been to Ghent but I know you will not be disappointed with Bruges.

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9. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

Kate,

I suggest you re-define your question.

1)What does "taking in the scenery" mean to you.

A Shop till you drop landscape?

Innovative architecture?

River views?

Ole World appearances?

Photographic opportunities?

(I'm sure others could add to this small list)

2)Are you looking for restaurant recommendations according to culinary type?

3)What does "beer" mean to you?

Edited: 02 January 2012, 11:42
10. Re: Torn between Bruges and Ghent

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