Easter in Wallonia or Northern France?
January 25, 2014 7:31 PM   Subscribe

I will be in the Brussels area over Easter weekend and I need tips on where to go.

I am planning a trip that will take me to Brussels over Easter weekend (April 18-21). I want to go to a French-speaking city that is within a short train ride (1-2 hours) of Brussels. I would prefer a place where I am unlikely to hear a lot of English.

Difficulty: Not Brussels or Paris. I have been to both and would like to try something new.

Are there any special events or festivities for Easter that would make one place or another worth visiting? If not, is there a place within the area that is must see?

I know that I could take day trips from Brussels to any number of places but I want to do more than the usual one-day blitz through each city. I want to find one place and take my time checking it out.

So far Liège looks interesting, as does Lille.

So what do you think? Where should I go?
posted by Gringos Without Borders to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Brussels, alas, is the least interesting and charming and friendly and beautiful city in Belgium (though it's still pretty interesting, charming, friendly, and beautiful). Find a village and hunker down. The people are great, friendly, funny. You'll hear no English (unless you want to).

And I'd remain in Belgium. The food's better than French (there are more Michelin starred restaurants per capita in Belgium than in France, and Belgian cuisine predates French and is, IMO, a lot more interesting...plus: beer. chocolate. pommes frites. Mussels. Those little shrimp). Much less snobbish. And more affordable.

Sorry to be vague, but literally anything outside Brussels...any small town or village....will make you happy. Not cuz there's great museums or annual events to catch; just a real warm cultural experience. I'm pretty sure you know what I'm saying, given "I want to do more than the usual one-day blitz through each city. I want to find one place and take my time checking it out."

Also, while I suggest you plant yourself, everywhere in Belgium is a 20 min train trip from everywhere else. So it's super easy to change channels. Should be beautiful that time of year.
posted by Quisp Lover at 8:25 PM on January 25, 2014

This the time leading up to Easter, not quite the time frame you are looking at but the town of Binche has a famous festival just outside of Belgium.

For where to spend Easter, Lille might not be a bad place. Just remember that most everything will be closed on Easter Sunday and, most likely, Easter Monday.
posted by Dagobert at 1:50 AM on January 26, 2014

Hello, 8-year Brussels resident here.

Seconding Dagobert, Lille is lovely - plenty to see, do and eat in the city and surrounding area, and well worth a weekend.

Namur is another great option. It's smaller, a picturesque, historic city with a fort overlooking the confluence of rivers. You could combine it with a trip to some nearby towns to see a bit of the Walloon countryside too. There is always a little beer festival somewhere, and Wallonia is great for that.

The only other real cities in Belgium where French is spoken are Liège and Charleroi, and neither is particularly exciting for a whole weekend.

As Dagobert says, a lot may be closed in the cities on Easter weekend. It might be worth considering somewhere more rural to take advantage of the potential nice weather, rather than ending up in a ghost town. The Rochefort area, the Orval abbey and brewery, Villers-la-Ville, Bouillon/Botassart and Malmédy/Hautes Fagnes are all nice possibilities.

Getting around by train is definitely the best option, and although it is relatively easy, it's by no means 20 minutes to everywhere. To get into the Belgian Ardennes from Brussels takes 2-3 hours by train.

(The carnaval de Binche is in Belgium (not just outside!) but it's in early March this year.)
posted by creeky at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2014

Rochefort has a brewery as well.

Of course the length of the country is more than 20 mins. My point (poorly stated) was that wherever you are, you're close to a plethora of villages and towns. Belgium is a small country.
posted by Quisp Lover at 8:47 AM on January 26, 2014

Namur. Interesting city. Great food. Not touristy.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:44 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by mumimor at 3:26 PM on January 26, 2014

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