Visiting Bruges and Ghent Marriott using Free Night Certificate + our Flixbus experience from Paris to Belgium

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Flixbus from Paris to Ghent, Belgium

We had a 9am bus ride from Paris t Belgium. We opted to get a private car service from Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile to Bercy-Seine where we caught our Flixbus ride. We were so glad we opted for this car service vs having to deal with public transportation in the early Monday morning hours. Our car service dropped us off very close to the tunnel where the buses were waiting. I purchased our Flixbus tickets online while we were still in the US. I remember Googling the words “Flixbus discount” and also found a 20% off discount code. Our bus ride was around $18 per person. Not bad. Taking the train would be faster but it was also going to cost us so much more between 50 Euros per person to over 100 Euros. We figured, we had no reason to rush so we opted for a bus.

Flixbus

At the station, we had an option to go directly to the bus itself. But we chose to go inside the waiting area. I wanted to confirm with a Flixbus agent if I had everything I needed to show before boarding the bus. She looked at my ticket, and issued me a new set of six tickets – this time, they had seat numbers. Glad I stopped by.

Boarding the bus was a breeze. All we had to do was give our luggage to the driver and showed him our ticket QR codes to confirm we had tickets for the ride. We boarded the double decker bus, and found our seats on the 2nd level. There was a public bathroom downstairs, and I did see some signs inside the bus that you could purchase drinks, chips, etc. The bus ride was so relaxing. We were able to sleep during the 4-hour bus ride to Ghent. I remember only stopping one time at a gas station for a quick 10-minute break. Other than that, the 4 hours swiftly went by and we arrived at Ghent-Dampoort station by 1pm.

Ghent Dampoort Flixbus stop

It was really nothing more than a huge empty parking lot. There was one other bus that came along while we were there but it was not busy at all. I admit I wasn’t that ready to tackle the public transportation in Ghent, and again, since we had 6 carry-ons and backpacks, and with whatever it was that that we saved from not taking a train from Paris, I decided to splurge on another Uber ride to Ghent Marriott.

A Mercedes Benz minivan came by to pick us up, and in less than 10 minutes we made it to our hotel. I have seen videos of Ghent Marriott on YouTube so I had an idea what to expect.

But wait. Why Ghent?

In preparation for our trip to Belgium, we spent many nights watching YouTube videos. Some folks have suggested skip Brussels. So we were left with Antwerp, Ghent, and Brugges. I had initially booked Lindner Hotel in Antwerp, but that would mean that we would need to take an hourlong train ride from Antwerp to Ghent, and another ride to Bruges. We decided to skip Antwerp. This actually worked out because Flixbus has a Paris to Ghent service, and it was perfect. So the plan was to stay in Ghent, explore Ghent. Next day, head to Bruges, and come back to Ghent.

This is the back entrance to Ghent Marriott.

How we booked rooms for our party of six

We were fortunate that we had Marriott free night certificates (FNC). For our 3 days, 2 nights in Belgium, the rates at this hotel varied from 35K per night up to close to 50K. Fortunately, we used our 35K FNCs and our 50K FNC Marriott Bonvoy points.

We booked Ghent Marriott’s Family Room which was perfect. It fits 4 per room. It was your typical hotel room with two queen beds. Having those two rooms gave us enough space for all six of us. If we paid for those rooms, each night per room would’ve set us back nearly $300- $400 per room per night. But thanks to credit card miles and points, specifically with our Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit card, we didn’t have to pay a single dime. Ghent Marriott was our home for the 2 nights we were in Belgium.

Ghent Marriott Family Room (2 queen beds) sleeps 4

 

NOTE: We got lucky that a Family Room during our stay was only going for 35K -50K per night. The rates at this hotel will vary. Having these FNCs surely helped us.

Image courtesy of Marriott

 

What to expect at Ghent Marriott

It’s your typical hotel with a restaurant and bar downstairs. It has this atrium with glass walls. The hotel never felt packed or crowded. If there was one thing I will always remember, the hotel always smelled clean and fresh whenever we’d walk in from the outside.

Center of it all

Right when you walk through the back doors, you immediately set foot in everything that Ghent has to offer. You are steps away from the many restaurants and bars. Lots of shopping abounds in this area. You will also notice the trams and buses that will take you around town. We did take the tram to Ghent’s St Peters Station. It was the station where we rode the train towards Bruges.

Boat tour

Just outside of Ghent Marriott, to the left, you will see a stand for one of the many boat tour companies. Ghent Boat Tour is usually €9.50 pp. but with our Marriott stay plus having students in our family, we ended up paying €44 for all of us, around €7.33 each. It was a 45 minute tour that took us to many parts of Ghent It was very relaxing. Some parts of the tour were also in English. I highly suggest going on a boat tour to get a feel of the area.

Food, food, plenty of food

I was surprised to see the different types of cuisines in Ghent. Of course, there were lots of chocolate shops, fries, and Belgian waffles. But I also saw an array of choices from Thai food, Mexican food, Portuguese, Chinese, and so much more. You better find something that suits your taste.

Easy day trip to Bruges

The next morning, as part of our plan, we made our way to Bruges. We took a tram to St. Pieters Station, and from there, we took an easy train ride to Bruges. The ride last for about 25 minutes. You have to remember that from Bruges train station, it’s about a 20-minute walk to get to heart of Bruges. But it was not a boring walk. There were lots of restaurants and shops to see. We started our trek by going to the Old Chocolate Factory, famous for their hot chocolate. What is Belgium without having chocolates? Then it’s not Belgium

We just kept walking and walking found ourselves getting lost at times. And that was the best part when we found little gems. When we got tired we just found empty chairs at a park, and watched people go about their day. For the must eats, we went to

Do not miss

Ghent
  • Ghent Graffiti Alley

  • Ghent Belfry Tower
  • House of Waffles (next to Leonida’s Chocolates)
  • Friitur Filip – lines could be long
  • Restaurant Jinjiang – delicious Chinese food

Bruges
  • Nakhon Thai – delicious Thai food for lunch
  • Chez Albert – the waffles

  • Dumon Chocolate – chocolates galore
  • Old Chocolate Factory – must-try the hot chocolate
  • Beer Wall

Final thoughts

We were so glad that we went to both Bruges and Ghent. They were both close enough to one another that one could easily do a day trip to visit the other city. Other asked if you could do both of them at the same time. Anything is possible, but just know that I will be a very long day. I suggest starting very early. When you get to Bruges train station, it’s a good 20 minute + walk to get to the heart Bruges. So you would need to factor in the time it will take for you to get back to the station. They were both charming. Bruges had lots more to offer, but Ghent made it easily accessible for us since we had a Flixbus ride that stopped at Ghent. So in the end, it was all about convenience.

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