What's a great vacation spot between London and Brussels?
January 1, 2009 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan a connecting leg in my winter trip to Europe! My wife and I are going to visit friends in London for a week and then traveling onward to Brussels to stay with another friend. What are some great ideas for places on the way from the first to the second that might make for a great stop-over for a few days of just the two of us?

We're going in February because that's what works for the friends who will be hosting us on either end and we can afford it. It was my hope that the two of us might visit somewhere neat and different in between for a few days if at all possible.

(We've both been to Paris and will probably be visiting it again with our friend from Brussels so that's off the list.)

So lay out your suggestions for wonderful spots betwixt the two cities that we can get to easily. I imagine we'll be taking trains from one city to the next. Bonus points for romantic, unique, or picturesque even in winter.

If you don't have any ideas for that, I wouldn't mind hearing suggestions for the area around Brussels (I've heard that by itself it's not much to look at). I've been to London a few times and know all the big sights but my friends are newly arrived there and might want to check some of them out.
posted by canine epigram to Travel & Transportation around London, England (15 answers total)
Brussels is a lot of fun! I prefer it to Paris. How many days do you have?
posted by k8t at 6:30 PM on January 1, 2009

Response by poster: Our trip is going to be two full weeks in total - how that's divvied up is pretty flexible at the moment. Our friends are happy to host us, but we don't want to impose for over-long on each end and would love to find a great mid-point stop for the two of us.
posted by canine epigram at 6:36 PM on January 1, 2009

Here are photos from our trip to Brussels and Bruge, if it helps at all.
posted by k8t at 6:47 PM on January 1, 2009

posted by fire&wings at 6:47 PM on January 1, 2009

Amsterdam. Sure, you'll pass through Brussels if taking the train from London, but it's a great city and it's not that far away.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 6:50 PM on January 1, 2009

Bruges is very lovely - and relatiely close to Brussels. Lille is also very nice... some great restaurants.
posted by mattr at 6:52 PM on January 1, 2009

Bruges is very much on the way, very beautiful and great for a romantic weekend. Two days is probably enough though.

Amsterdam is wonderful and will keep you entertained for longer, but its not as charming as Bruges IMHO. That's comparing apples to oranges btw, they have very different appeal!
posted by Joh at 9:15 PM on January 1, 2009

Yes, two days in Bruges/Brugge is perfect. An hour by train (12€) from Brussels and I highly preferred it anyway - Brussels struck me as dirty and uninteresting, sadly, though I accept there were parts I didn't see that were better. I recommend Paul and Roos' bed and breakfast for a central but quiet location, good prices, nice rooms, and a friendly if reserved host (Paul is a quiet architect, Roos is a more outgoing and charming art restorer).

If you like beer, you must do this. Cambrinus is a must-go for a gastropub with a huge beer list, and The Bottle Shop has an incredibly friendly staff and huge selection for buying on your way to the next hop.
posted by kcm at 9:24 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I recommend Bruges as well. I loved Amsterdam as well -- did it as a day trip while staying near Brussels. You'll be tired at the end of the day, but it's completely worth it.

Brussels also has a good selection of museums if you like that sort of thing.
posted by fantine at 12:54 AM on January 2, 2009

Eh? Brussel is 110 minutes from London, and I don't think they allow you to break the trip. Are you planning on leaping from a moving train?

Canterbury and Brugge and Gent and Antwerpen are lovely, but they are not exactly "on the way" from London to Brussel. You would be much better off planning day trips from London or Brussel.
posted by mr. strange at 3:02 AM on January 2, 2009

Agree with Mr Strange - are you looking for day trip options, local area sightseeing options, general area (Low Countries & South East England) recommendations... would help us give you better recommendations if you narrowed it down a bit more.

What sorts of things are you interested in? Culture? Drinking? History?
posted by Grrlscout at 3:21 AM on January 2, 2009

Bruges for sure. Perfect for a couple of days - a great place to lounge around and fantastic food and drink.
posted by zemblamatic at 4:16 AM on January 2, 2009

Response by poster: *facepalm* Apparently I'm a total idiot. I didn't realize there's a direct train to Brussels, and thought it'd be way more complicated to get there than it apparently is. So it sounds like if we want a break between staying with friends, it might make more sense to take a trip from one of the spoke cities instead, like Bath from London (where I've stayed before, so I might pick somwhere else) or Bruge from Brussels.

I'll have to look into Bruges!

We're interested in history, culture, museums, good food (not so much the drink), and places a little off the beaten path.

So now that I've shown how ignorant I am, if people have:

1) cities or towns easily reached from either London or Brussels that would make a great hide-away for a few days - should be really walkable but not so small that we'd be bored in a single day.

2) particular day trip suggestions for Brussels and surrounding area (I know London and environs a bit better, so don't need so much help there)

I'd be really grateful!
posted by canine epigram at 10:16 AM on January 2, 2009

From Brussels, you can't really go wrong with any of the major towns around - Brugge, Ghent, Antwerpen, Maastricht, and Lille. The prettiest is Brugge, but that's also the most touristy. The other ones are beautiful too, a bit less preserved, but you won't have to fight against busloads of senior daytrippers.

Lille, as previously mentioned, has fabulous restaurants, a lovely old town that's not huge but perfect for a day, and lots of baroque/art nouveau art (see La Piscine), plus the second largest fine arts museum in France. It's also home to 40,000 students, so there's a lot of night life and concerts, although if you don't sleep there you probably will have to take the train back before midnight. I studied there, if you want more info just send me a mefimail and I'll dig some things for you.
posted by Spanner Nic at 12:19 PM on January 2, 2009

Response by poster: Oops. Somehow my resolved reply didn't make it. I ended up sick the last week of the vacation and that and some other drama derailed some of the plans. That being said, I did end up seeing Bath, Greenwich, Amsterdam, and Delft. Thanks for all the advice!
posted by canine epigram at 4:58 PM on March 1, 2009

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