Non-city experience in Belgium

Old Jul 31st, 2022, 01:50 PM
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Non-city experience in Belgium

Hello,
We will be visiting Belgium from the UK for the first time (we're Canadians who moved to the UK a few years ago). We will be taking the Eurostar and have 10 days to spend starting on 23 August. We would like to visit Brussels and Bruges (the other cities look great too) but I think we will be all citied out with our little ones. Our kids are 5 and 10 and as much as they love cities, squares, museums, food etc (have just started planning so any advice welcome here too), we would like to spend a few day somewhere relaxing. Especially as our 5 year old is a runner! as in she run in different directions in cities making the experience not super relaxing. Where do locals holiday in Belgium? Ardennes? coast? any other recommendations?
thanks in advance
Raghida
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Old Jul 31st, 2022, 02:08 PM
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Hello Raghida, yes, you are right, Belgians love the coast and the Ardennes. De Haan is a good beach for families, but there is a tram that runs the length of the coast (de Kusttram) so you could check out other beaches. You can do it by train also (trains to Knokke-Heist), and it's just a short hop from Bruges.

People go camping in the Ardennes (lots of campsites), but there are a few towns there that are very picturesque there - La-Roche-en Ardenne, Rochefort, Durbuy (Belgium's "smallest city"), Bouillon on the border between France and Belgium and numerous others. Dinant is not yet Ardennes but is the 'gateway'. You will need a car there, no question, because there are no trains there. Kids all find each other in the campsites and practise their languages (yes, even at that early age ).

Lavandula
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Old Jul 31st, 2022, 02:41 PM
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Also - you might think about giving a dose of bandes dessinées (comic books) to the kids before they go. Tintin, the Smurfs, Marsupilami should all be accessible from the UK. In Brussels there is a Tintin shop near the Grand' Place, a comic book museum (which probably won't completely thrill the 5 year old TBH, it's still an adult's museum, although there are a few displays that s/he might like, BUT it has a fantastic shop with comic books even in English), and a comic book walk which is free, but would necessitate you doing a lot of walking if you wanted to see all the murals. In Brussels also: a musical instruments museum which is cool for kids (and which has a restaurant on the top floor with views that would be good for families), and in the Porte de Hal (metro: Porte de Hal / Hallepoort) there are suits of armour on display. A park good for 'runners' - Parc Cinquantenaire, which has two museums at the far end, a military museum and a car museum (metro - Schuman or Mérode). In the centre of town, a sit-down waffle meal from Maison Dandoy in Rue Charles Buls. Frites from anywhere. There is a traditional marionette show (Théâtre royal de Toone) which is in a tavern (estaminet) close to the Grand' Place.

Lavandula

Last edited by lavandula; Jul 31st, 2022 at 02:57 PM.
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Old Jul 31st, 2022, 08:56 PM
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If you don't have a car, the coast is a better option. Knokke is just 15 minutes by train from Brugge. Look beyond the ugly seafront; if you rent a flat there, you will only see the huge beach and sea, not the ugly facade. Rent bikes to explore the Zwin nature reserve. There are lots of playgrounds and go-carts on the seafront Zeedijk. Last week in August is the last week of the school holidays, it will not be so busy on the coast as people get ready for school to start on September 1.
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 12:38 PM
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Thank you so much. We don't mind renting a car if needed. Might be welcome to strap my 5 year old daughter in after running after her for a few days . It's so hard to decide now, I want it all My children love languages so that would be very nice for them
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 12:44 PM
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Thank you both for the great advice. It's refreshing to see travel advice involving children that's not amusement parks and Aquariums. lavandula I grew up with Tintin and the Smurfs so actually I would love that! Marionettes also. and Tulips I totally would've gotten stuck on the ugly seafront bit so good advice there. 10 days feels like too short of a time now so need to rethink, so maybe drop Bruges and just do Brussels and Ardennes instead of spreading ourselves too thin.
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 01:34 PM
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There are rental cars available at Bruxelles-Midi / Brussel-Zuid station, which is where the Eurostar arrives. If you do Bruges, a car is less helpful because you have to find parking outside the town. Last time we went we were on a driving trip and stayed outside the town, drove in to the station area and parked at the huge parking station there. There are buses from the car park to the centre of town.

However, if you do Brussels and the Ardennes, pick up your car when you have finished Brussels. You can walk Brussels in the centre-ville part quite easily but if you go to Mini-Europe or the Atomium (also fun for little kids), make friends with the metro as they are both at Heysel/Heizel metro station. The metro is easy to use and fairly cheap, and will open up the city to you considerably.

For novelty, there is a hotel with a big smurf outside it (the Novotel, near the Grand' Place).

Lavandula
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 12:24 AM
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Thank you. Yes we would only drive on the way out. Having trouble finding accommodations now we normally do Airbnb. It looks like we will do either Brussels, Bruges and Dinant or Brussels and Dinant. Any hotel recommendations welcome (2 connecting rooms perhaps). Budget around €300 max
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 08:28 AM
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We were planning a trip to Brussels again for December and had booked the Citadines Aparthotel Toison D'Or at Louise (we travel as a family and aparthotels suit us). Unfortunately we had to cancel the trip for now as we just received a AUD$6000 vet bill (yes, the dogs are OK, they took a packet of ibuprofen tablets off the table and together they chewed some of them up. 48 hours in the vet hospital, and they will survive, but now we have to monitor them and also lock away all meds in case they can get them from the table!). But I digress - the point I was going to make is that this hotel is like an apartment, some apartments have two double bedrooms, and some have just one bedroom with a double bed and a sofa bed in the lounge room. The location is actually pretty good - Louise is an upscale area outside the centre (on the ring surrounding the centre, in fact), and you can just take the metro to De Brouckère if you want to access the main tourist sites in Brussels. There is also nice shopping at Louise, and easy access to Gare du Midi by metro or taxi. If you feel like a walk it's about 20 mins from the centre on foot. And the budget is reasonable, I am quite a stingy traveller so it should make your EUR300 easily. You also get a kitchenette, and there are small supermarkets within a stone's throw. We regularly stay in this district rather than in the centre-ville.

I would also look at the Accor chain of hotels - there are hotels of various kinds and pricepoints and if you join their loyalty scheme and ring to book with them directly, they can get you a 10% discount or some other upgrade and make suggestions based on your needs. You can ask if any of their hotels in Brussels have interconnecting rooms. I know another of their hotels, the Adagio Aparthotel Grand' Place, which may be a possibility for you, but you would have to research this option a little. But the rooms do have a kitchenette and there are supermarkets within 5 minutes in three different directions, including just across the road. It has a fantastic location for tourism (above the metro at De Brouckère), but I don't think it's quite as nice as the Citadines. Accor also look after the Novotels and Ibis hotels; you can get some pretty nice Novotels.

Otherwise looking for an aparthotel on booking.com might be up your alley. I obviously don't have direct experience of them all but I can usually give an opinion of locations and access.

Lavandula
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 10:33 AM
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https://www.marriott.com/en-us/hotel...rter/overview/
Steps away from Luxemburg train station, about a 5 to 10 min walk to Troon metro, numerous bus stops at Square Luxemburg.

Brussels has a lot of parks that can easily tire out a 5 year old;
Parc Du Cinquentenqairere, the ground of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren (tram 44 from Montgomery)
Bois de la Cambre in Ixelles (Ixelles Cemetery is worth a visit)

It is easier to drive out of the airport than city center.

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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 02:09 PM
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Certainly the Bois de la Cambre becomes possible if you stay at the Louise property. - the Bois is just at the end of Avenue Louise. You can catch tram 8 down from Place Louise as far as Legrand and hop off there and just walk to the end of the street where the entrance is. There are various eating options in the park including Chalet Robinson, which is a very nice restaurant on the island in the middle of the park, but with kids you might prefer one of the kiosks. Then if you want to go up to the Cimetière d'Ixelles, tram 8 again from Legrand or better, Cambre-Étoile, can take you up the hill to the stop ULB and then you are pretty much at the street (Avenue de L' Université) where there are a number of shops and restaurants, including Le Pain Quotidien, a chain café which will be good for kids. However, this is an area you might visit after you have done all the sights in the centre-ville, a nice neighbourhood. I would not try to walk from the Bois to the shops there, you have the very busy Avenue Franklin Roosevelt to cross and a hill to climb.

If you go to Parc Cinquantenaire (Mérode metro), there is another nice little street of shops and cafés just where you come out of the metro (Rue de Tongrès), possibly a little more accessible if you are staying in centre-ville. Another LPQ here again.

Lavandula

Last edited by lavandula; Aug 2nd, 2022 at 02:27 PM.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 02:25 PM
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Lavandula, thanks as always for your good advice on Belgium. Interesting to read above your recommending the town of DeHaan as a good beach town for families. We are going there from Bruges (5 nts) as that is my husband's last name! Looking to buy some swag for the grandchildren with the name, which I presume we can find. We'll also visit Ghent from Bruges, before returning to Brussels for 2 nts, where our hotel is small but in the Grand Place area. The Horta Museum is on my list, aside from that, not sure where/what we'll get to do before training over to France. Thanks for your advice! Been researching restaurants, and we're all set!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2022, 02:37 PM
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Awesome, aliced, De Haan means 'the rooster'. I don't know the history of the name as it applies to the beach but there is also 'Koksijde' which I suspect is related to roosters as well (le coq in French). Enjoy your time in Belgium, there is much to like!

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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 02:50 AM
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sorry to hear that about your dogs lavandula . Glad they are ok.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2022, 02:53 AM
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Me too!

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