Armistice Day (and More!) in Belgium
September 28, 2018 11:26 AM   Subscribe

We're going to be traveling to Brussels Nov. 6-15, and I have a few questions about our plans (especially regarding Armistice Day on Nov. 11, and what will be open Nov. 11 and 12).

We're landing in Brussels Nov. 6, and are trying to decide what additional cities we want to go to. I'm most concerned about Armistice Day and how it will affect our plans--Armistice Day (Nov. 11) is on a Sunday (the only Sunday we will be there); will markets still be open on that day? I've also heard that, if the holiday falls on the Sunday, it will mean it is observed on Monday, so a lot will be closed then too; is that so, and if so will museums/restaurants be affected? (The 12th is my birthday, so I want to be sure we have something to do.) Is there a better city among our prospective cities (Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Lille, or even Rotterdam/Amsterdam) to be on one of those days, or any especially interesting places to be on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day?

I've seen this question and this question, but am also interested in any tips related to the cities listed above, especially with regard to architecture/walking tours, food, etc. We're also contemplating staying in only two cities (one of which would be Brussels); which of the above cities would be the best base for day trips to the others? (I'm leaning toward Ghent.)
posted by carrienation to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't really speak to the Armistice Day portion of your question, but when I traveled to Belgium a couple of years ago, I picked Ghent as my home base for the Flanders portion of the trip since it seemed to be conveniently located geographically. I would highly recommend it for that reason alone -- train jaunts to Bruges and to the Westvleteren monastery/brewery were fairly short. (I imagine Ghent is probably most conveniently located for trips to Ypres / other WWI sites if you wanted to visit those on Armistice day.)

I had planned to take a day trip to Antwerp as well but wound up forgoing that to spend more time in Ghent since I loved it so much. It's a funky little university city wrapped around a 1000-year-old castle and some gorgeous cathedrals. Lots of music and art going on; it reminded me of a scaled-down cross between Paris and Amsterdam. If your group drinks, I'd recommend checking out the city brewery, which makes some tasty hopless beers, as well as Jigger's, where I had a couple of the best cocktails of my life. Other highlights: Le Bal Infernal used book cafe, the House of Alijn museum showing how middle-class Ghent lifestyles changed over time, and the art and design museums.

Bruges was gorgeous and definitely worth visiting. However, like one of your linked questions said, it's definitely very touristy, and I'm glad I chose to stay in Ghent in a neighborhood where people actually live.
posted by bassooner at 12:49 PM on September 28, 2018

The Netherlands observe May 4th and 5th as the end of WWII so if you're concerned about things being closed in Belgium this would be a good time to go to Rotterdam or Amsterdam. If you book the Eurostar well in advance you can get a relatively cheap ticket for high-speed rail.

I wasn't terribly impressed with Brussels but I loved Ghent and Antwerp - both are far more charming and walkable cities. Bruges is worth a day trip too. Unless you have a really compelling reason to spend a week in Brussels I would definitely spread that time around.
posted by Gortuk at 1:16 PM on September 28, 2018

Ypres for the Great War commemorations. And yes, Ghent. Everywhere in Belgium is pretty close to everywhere else, especially by American standards.

Most museums in Belgium are closed on Mondays, a common thing in continental Europe. The royal museums in Brussels are closed on November 11, though the Magritte museum may be open.
posted by holgate at 4:38 PM on September 28, 2018

To clarify my question about museums on Monday, Nov. 12, what's unclear to me is, if a museum is usually open on a Monday, does the holiday before it affect their schedule? Some guidebooks say that it would, but I'm not sure how I would know. Thanks!
posted by carrienation at 6:23 AM on September 29, 2018

If you have specific museums in mind, call or email them? English is fairly widely understood in Flanders and Brussels, and I'm museums are likely to have English-proficient people among their staff.
posted by holgate at 6:57 PM on September 29, 2018

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