Christmas: Netherlands and Belgium

Old Jun 9th, 2022, 04:52 AM
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Christmas: Netherlands and Belgium

Hello all,
Currently planning a Christmas 2022 holiday to the Netherlands and Belgium. Will be flying in/out of Brussels tentatively around the dates of December 14-28. I really want to see Maastricht and plan on staying there for 5 nights as my main stay and then shorter visits (2-3 nights) in Belgium. Will not be renting a car-all travel by rail. Looking at going directly to Namur from Brussels Airport for 3 nights (day trip to Dinant) then to Maastricht for 4-5 nights (day trip to Aachen). From Maastricht I am conflicted, trying to to visit 2 more Belgian cities (leaning towards Ghent and Antwerp) for 2-3 nights each or another 4-5 nights stay in1 city with day trips. Have been to Belgium on 2 other occasions and have stayed in both Brussels and Bruges so no interest in either. Have day tripped both Ghent and Antwerp but would love to stay a few nights to truly explore both locations. I guess my question is: How does my planned itinerary currently look ? Any "must see" locations that I am missing? Mechelen looks like it may be a great stop for 2-3 nights as does Leuven. Any insight into those 2 locations? Thank you!
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Old Jun 9th, 2022, 02:44 PM
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Hi Mike1728, Mechelen probably won't keep you for 3 nights, it's only small. Leuven is nice but maybe just a bit bigger. Fodorite Northie lived and studied there so she might have some good tips, if she sees your post. I would recommend a day trip to Lier, near Mechelen and Leuven. It's a well-kept secret. So you have covered Flemish cities pretty well.

So your trip might look like this now:

0 arrival day: Namur
1 Namur
2 Namur (day trip to Dinant)
3 travel to Maastricht
4 Maastricht
5 Maastricht
6 Maastricht (day trip to Aachen)
7 travel to Leuven
8 Leuven
9 stay in Leuven, visit Mechelen (morning) / Lier (afternoon)
10 travel to Ghent
11 Ghent
12 Ghent
13 Ghent (day trip to Antwerp)
14 Ghent (day trip to ?)

Ghent is more significant than Leuven so I have tentatively given you the longest time there. If you are visiting the west, I would also ask whether you have been to Ieper (Ypres). It's actually a pretty significant WWI site, lots of history and worth a visit. If you do go there, Ghent is a better base than Antwerp because it is closer to Ieper. But of course you could have more days in Antwerp, you should adjust those days (10 - 14) as you want.

The only thing I would say is that while you have done the Flemish architecture well, Namur and Dinant will be the antidote to that. I personally like Dinant a lot and there is the quirky saxophone history there as well (the inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, came from there .

For a future trip, in the east of the country I would also consider La-Roche-en-Ardenne, the caves at Han-sur-Lesse and maybe Tongeren (also Flemish), which you could even do this trip from Maastricht if you get tired of it (although I love Maastricht, it has wonderful shopping streets which will be lit up at that time of the year). Tongeren is the oldest city in Belgium, lots of Roman history.

So what do you think?

Lavandula
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Old Jun 10th, 2022, 12:29 AM
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Originally Posted by lavandula View Post
So what do you think?
I think that's a great plan, Lavandula. Leuven is a gem (as is Namur); Ghent is really worthwhile as a base, with daytrips to Mechelen (a small, easily done center) and Antwerp (a big, but a bit overrun center) from a really livable, comfortable, multifaceted town with great rail connections like Ghent.
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Old Jun 10th, 2022, 03:33 AM
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Thank you Lavandula and Dfourh for your advice! Lier looks beautiful, so definitely day trips to Lier and Mechelen. We had originally planned to rent a car for this trip but with the cost of rental cars/fuel these days the ease of rail travel prevailed. Of course the downside to not having a car limits some of the sights I wanted to see, especially WW II historic sites as well as La Roche-en Ardenne, Malmedy and Bstogne and some castles I wanted to visit. Yes, Lavandula on a trip several years ago we based out of Bruges with a car and visited Ypres and several WW1 sites. It was a great and historically informative trip. Trip was on my bucket list for several years as I am Dutch and travelled most of the Netherlands but Maastricht was always "a Bridge too Far" I have read that they have a wonderful Christmas Market which is unique to the Netherlands. Tongeren I never had heard of but it looks inviting and is on on the day trip list from Maastricht!

Thanks again!
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Old Jun 10th, 2022, 11:14 AM
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Valkenburg also has a Christmas market in the Gemeentegrot.
https://www.kerstmarktgemeentegrot.nl/en
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Old Jun 10th, 2022, 02:03 PM
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The Christmas market in Maastricht is only small, but the one in Aachen (naturally) is a really good one. But the street lights above the shopping streets are just beautiful. And there may be oliebollen! Geniet van uw tijd in Maastricht!

Lavandula
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