A Day Trip to Bruges
Ghent looked a lot different from Brussels and Antwerp. It felt like a sleepy medieval kinda city and had a charm of its own. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Ghent. Our hotel was a bit away from the main attractions, however, a bus stopped pretty close making it easy for us to get around.
Most of the popular attractions in Ghent were concentrated in one area ... including the Christmas markets. We visited the Gravensteen - a picturesque 10th century castle that has some amazing views of Ghent.
We even enjoyed walking along the canal and admiring Ghent's medieval architecture.
Ghent has a number of Gothic churches and we visited two of them. One was St Nicholas Church ... a 13th century church which also happens to be one of the largest and oldest churches in Ghent. The other was St. Bavo's Cathedral.
Ghent's Christmas markets are really beautiful and all pretty close to one another. We spent out free time under the giant ferrous wheel exploring Ghent's Christmas markets.
A Day Trip to Bruges
I have to admit, Bruges was my favourite city in the whole of Belgium. Lucky for us, the bus to Bruges stopped right outside our hotel in Ghent. So this was pretty convenient.
Bruges was totally different from Ghent, even though it was like a 30 minute ride away. Most of the buildings here were red brick buildings and we could see horse carriages roaming around. It felt like as though we stepped back in time.
We checked out the really cool St. John's Hospital at Bruges, which in reality didn't even look like a hospital! I mean, this hospital is about 800 years old and is now converted into a museum. We visited the wards, chapel, pharmacy, etc and got to see artworks and medical instruments from the good ol' days.
And if you visit Bruges during the holiday season, be prepared to take a lotta pictures. Each and every store here was super, duper cute and so beautifully decorated. Just walking around the place and by the canal made it all the more special.
We even checked out the Bruges Beer Museum. This wasn't one of those boring museums, because you could test your knowledge here by answering a quiz. It was more of an interactive museum and we got to learn about the history of beer and of course sample beers too!
The Choco-Story Museum was also located pretty closeby. There's not much we could here other than learn about the history of the humble cocoa bean. Sadly, there were no chocolates to nibble on at the end (unlike the beer museum).
Both the museums were located within walking distance of Bruges Market Place where there had a lovely Christmas market and an ice rink. We spent the rest of our time here nibbling on some goodies before heading back to Ghent.
After spending 2 days in the French speaking city of Brussels, we were off to the Dutch speaking city of Antwerp. Antwerp is merely a 45 minute train ride from Brussels. A friend from Belgium told us that it wasn't necessary to book our inter-city train ticket in advance, so we ended by buying it on the spot. We spent 1 day in Antwerp ... that was just the day we arrived. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Antwerp City which was easily accessible from the main station (a bus stops pretty close to the station and in front of the hotel). Here's what we did during our stay:
Antwerp Railway Station - We didn't try hard to find this place, as our train arrived here. And I couldn't believe my eyes. It felt like as though we were in one of those clockworks movies! Till now, I keep telling everyone that it was one the best stations I had ever seen. Mr. D and I spent nearly half an hour analyzing every minuscule detail of station and of course clicking lots of pictures.
Street Art - With regards to street art, we definitely had more luck in Antwerp than we did in Brussels. The art scene here is totally different. Its isn't comic street art like Brussels. These were more like paintings.
Grote Markt - Just like Brussels, Antwerp had its own central square with a town hall and closely lined buildings. In the middle of the square, was the Brabo Fountain which consisted of a man holding a hand! We loved the Christmas market in the square. Some of the buildings here were built around the 15th and 16th century.
St. Anna's Tunnel - An usual looking tunnel that runs under a river and connects two parts of the city. We loved walking over the age old wooden escalator that led to the tunnel. It seemed to go on forever. This pedestrian tube-shaped tunnel was built is the 1930's and is about 500 metres long.
Shopping Stadfeestzaal - I do not always encourage everyone to visit a shopping mall when they travel, however, this one is worth visiting for its amazing architecture. It had a dome shaped ceiling and houses a number of stores.
St. Carolus Borromeus Church - There are a number of churches in Antwerp and we pretty much had a tough time deciding which one to visit. Unfortunately, we couldn't visit the very popular St. Paul's Church as it was closed. So, we visited St. Carolus Borromeus Church instead. This Baroque church had a beautiful facade and interior.
Getting around in Antwerp is pretty simple. We used a bus to get close to the main square and then just walked around the whole time. Everything is within walking distance of each other and you can see quite a lot in a few hours.
Don't miss a single post, subscribe to my blog.
Follow me on Instagram for some visual inspiration!
I am a bit ashamed to say this, but this post and a few posts to follow are from my Eurotrip in December (yup thats the shameful part). So please excuse me if you find a little bit of Santa Claus, red bows and all things Christmassy in my posts. Basically, I've been procrastinating like a boss! Think of it as an inspiration for your upcoming Christmas trip :P.
Anyway, we usually plan our winter vacation based on Christmas markets, and this trip was no exception. Last year, we visited quite a few cities ... countries to be precise. The 1st on our agenda was Belgium, and our first stop was Brussels, where we spent 2 days. We stayed at the amazing Courtyard by Marriott, which was barely a week old back then and got to have breakfast buffet for only 3 Euros per day! This was a steal. Getting around Brussels and even its neighboring cities is relatively easy. Within Brussels, we used the subway to visit the various attractions.
The first place we visited was the Market Place ... which is sorta like a central square with important buildings such as the Brussels Town Hall. It is especially beautiful at night because everything is lit up. And if you are visiting around November, you'll see a giant Christmas tree.
There's a Beer Museum in the Grand Place area as well. You wouldn't notice it at first as its well hidden. It just a little museum that shows steps on a how beer is produced. And you end up getting a free beer with your tickets. I would suggest visiting this museum only if you do not have time to visit a proper, full fledged museum/factory.
We also visited the Manneken Pis. This statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain is symbolic of Belgium. Oh! And around that area, you'll find a number of waffle shops selling waffles for only 1 Euro!
The Atomium is another fancy structure worth checking out. Its this giant metallic thing with atoms joined to each other. Kinda reminded me of my chemistry class. If I'm not mistaken, people can actually go inside those giant balls and possibly have a meal. However, we decided to admire it from the outside
And right next to it is Mini Euro. Here, we saw miniature exhibits of various cities in Europe ... basically something popular in that country, eg. Eiffel Tower for France.
Brussels is also famous for its comic street art scene. Before leaving for Belgium, I promised myself to hunt down as many murals as I could. Unfortunately, they were scattered all around the city and it wasn't easy to spot them. We ended up seeing only a few.
Another favourite place of mine was Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. Its like this typical French gallery housing many high-end shops and even restaurants. I found some amazing confectionaries inside here. You do know that Belgium is famous for chocolate!
We checked out a really beautiful Gothic Cathedral known as the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula. It had a very impressive interior, however, it wasn't too different from other Gothic cathedrals that we'd seen in Europe. Nevertheless, its worth checking it out.
Personally, I found 2 days to be good enough to touch upon all the major attractions within Brussels.
FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM!
CONNECT WITH US ON FACEBOOK!