Someone asked 2 days ago which Belgian town would be better for a sidetrip when you
donít have a lot of time, Bruges or Antwerp. Tough call. I would go with Bruges. I
will tell you why.
Both towns are interesting but Bruges is more charming and medieval. The only
drawback is it is getting so many tourists that we arenít far from trademarking the
"I survived Brugges, Summer of 2009" T-shirts. Antwerp is the largest town in the
Flemish (Dutch-speaking) part of Belgium. I believe it was the home of Rubens and
some of Beethovenís ancestors lived there. It has a some bustle and some charm.
There is a big railroad right of way bisecting the city in a north-south direction,
and there are lots of old shops clustered along the right of way. It has the feel of
Old Europe, but not as much as Bruges which is like a museum city.
If it makes any difference, Belgium reportedly now has coffee houses, although not to
the extent Amsterdam has them. Beer is everywhere and is excellent.
I spent about a month in Olen, Belgium - @20 miles east of Antwerp.
While there, I visited Antwerp (often), Ghent and Brugge (I prefer the Flemish
Brugge is very charming, but almost too charming. It has almost a fake feel to it -
like a Disney version of medieval Europe. Everything is kept neat, clean and well
restored because tourism is basically the only industry left in Brugge.
That is why I prefered Antwerp and even Ghent over Brugge. Those places still feel
like living, breathing cities.
And regarding the beer, I didnít enjoy the fruity lambics that much.
But any of the abbey or trappist beers were wonderful!
more Belgium comments
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Both cities have their charms. Iím not exactly an expert on Belgium, but have been
there a few times.
Brugges is very historical/tourist oriented, and farther away. I drove, Iím not sure
about train travel there. City is full of old guild houses and has canals
throughout. Our problem was we popped out there on a bit of a lark and then couldnít
find a hotel room, so ended up driving back to Germany very late.
Antwerp was also a lark. I was on business with some colleagues from Geneva in
Brussels, and we decided to go to Antwerp for dinner. We just walked through town.
This was in fall, so a bit cool and a week night, so not crowded. We ended up in a
few places for drinks and foods, walked around, and finally caught a late train back
You might do well to spend a day in both. I even like Brussels, at least parts of
it. Have a beer at Morte Subite (sp. Everyone should probably see the Grand Place
once. It will be filled with tourists in the summer, but Europe is like that.
I spent some time in Belgium for work a couple of years ago. I made three trips into
Germany. The best website I found for driving directions in English was
I never had any trouble driving on the Autobahn as far as reckless driving is
concerned. However, Iíve driven in many of the major cities along the east coast
(NYC, DC, Boston, Philly) and never have become too unsettled there neither.
Anyhow, I do remember substatial traffic jams on my way from Antwerp to Hamburg.
Traffic was especially bad through the Dusseldorf, Essen, Duisberg, Dortmond,
Gelsenkirchen megapolis. I donít think I ever crossed 50kmh in this area. I only
crossed 100 kmh twice, and only @10 min at a time, on the stretch between
Gelsenkirchen and Bremen. The northwest part of Germany is very highly populated and
traffic is considerable.
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Rijks Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, WWII Resistance Museum, Heineken
Experience, Hermitage (amsterdam branch), Ajax Museum, Amsterdam History Museum
(great temporary exhibits), Royal Palace...... And this just scratches the surface.
RLD, Rijks Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, WWII Resistance Museum,
Heineken Experience, Hermitage (amsterdam branch), Ajax Museum, Amsterdam History
Museum (great temporary exhibits), Royal Palace...... And this just scratches the
Amsterdam is a very compact city itís easy to get a lot done in a short period of
Itís also the 400th birthday of Rembrandt and there are lots of special events
commemorating the event.
I think staying in Amsterdam for part of your World Cup trip is a great idea. There
are not any great cheap hotels. There are now so many tourists from so many places in
Amsterdam that prices have been going up, more than in the rest of Europe. We have
stayed in and can recommend the Museemhotel near the Rijksmuseam and Leideslplein. I
think they have doubles and triples, very clean with small private bath, for around
100 dollars. The City Hotel, overlooking Rembrandtsplein, is a little cheaper than
Museemhotel but the rooms are smaller. Both neighborhoods are delightful, only 3 km
apart as the crow flies but around 7 km by splendid tram due to the spoke with few
hubs tram system. Halfway between the Rijksmuseum and Leidesplein is the Cafe Bale,
one of my favorite bars in the world. Actually it is a traditional half kaffe house
half bar with a mixed clientele and movies being show on the third floor. Senior
citizens and students and young couples on early dates. Light meals served, refined
There are many hostels in Amsterdam. Most are not that good. I have stayed in one,
the official hostel at Kluiberwegswej, or something like that, near the ever popular
Goa Coffee House. That was in 1975 and it is different now. I have not stayed in the
famous/infamous official hostel in Vondel Park, still open after all these years and
has its many fans. The ubiquitous Bobís Youth Hostel, clearly visible just outside
Centraal Station, like many Amsterdam hostels, has gotten mixed reviews.
You could stay in the university town of Leiden 30 minutes away and save a ton of
money. Leiden is beautiful. It is like Amsterdam without 1100 Amstel signs.
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