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12 days in Belgium and Netherlands

Hi all,
I am planning to fly into Brussels (29 Nov) and fly out from Amsterdam (10 Dec), would have about 11 days to cover this 2 countries. The only thing that is fixed is my flight out from Amsterdam on 10 Dec, other things are flexible and open for suggestion. I am a natural lover, good walker and not a museum person. Like to wandering around aimlessly to get a feel of city, cycling, hiking, and sight seeing.

The current plan is as follows:-

29 Nov (D1): Arrival day in Brussels (late morning)

30 Nov (D2): Brussesl (Note: Train to Brugges, every half hour, ~€14)

1 & 2 Dec ( D3-D4): Brugges

3 Dec (D5): Brugges , stopover at Ghent , proceed to Antwerp

4 Dec (D6) Antwerp

5&6 Dec (D7&8): Arrival day and a day for Amsterdam.

7 Dec (D9): Van Gogh musuem & canal cruise

8 Dec (D10): Delft & Hague

9 Dec (D11): Zaanse Schans & Volendam

10 Dec (D12): Fly out from Amsterdam

  • Appreciate if anyone could advise me: 1) Is doable to visit Ghent as stopover during my train ride from Brugge to Antwerp? Will it be too rush and easy to find luggage storage facilities? 2) Should I visit Brugges as day trip from Brussels? But I am doubt will this cause me spend excessively on the train ticket. 3) I am fine to drop any city in Belgium if my current plan is too rush. or just forgot about Belgium and fly to Netherlands directly. 4) I am so keen to go Giethoorn. Is it advisable to forgot about Belgium, and extend my stay in Netherlands to cover Giethoorn. Winter in Giethoorn, think it may not be lively. 5) Any other suggestions from the experienced travellers and locals are much appreciated.

Thanks for your advise :-)

Posted by
104 posts

Hello Grace,
The first thing that jumps out at me is that your itinerary is really fast with lots of town hopping. Consider picking a base or two in Holland for day tripping to Zaanse Schans, Delft, Hague or Volendam so you don't have to move hotels as often.
For Belgium: Stay in Ghent don't just day trip. Spend at least one night. I like Brugges and Ghent the best, all the rest can be skipped on a short trip in my opinion. :)

Think carefully about what you want to do. If you like wandering then you need to give yourself time to relax and do it. With a tight itinerary like this you will spend a lot of your time just trying to get to all these places or repack and move all your stuff over and over. Give yourself some relaxation on this vacation! Happy Travels!

Posted by
2030 posts

D1 If you arrive in the morning in Brussels and not interested in museums then to my opinion is only of interest the Grand-Place and just for curiosity Manneken Pis. Both are some ten minutes walking from Brussel-Centraal railwaystation, with a drink a few hours is enough.
But you have to deal with yetlag and probably not already enjoy sightseeing and store your luggage, there are lockers at the railwaystation. After that you can go directly with the train to Ghent (½ hour) or Bruges (1 hour).

D2 – D5 Now as Sara already suggested you can stay a night in Ghent, during the evening till midnight the historic city centre (of Bruges also) is stunningly illuminated. The area around the Castle of Ooidonk is nice for walking, there is a bus to there from Ghent.

The country-side and canal north-east of Bruges to Damme/Oostkerke is well-known for cycling, but you can go further to Sluis/St Anna ter Muiden just across the border in The Netherlands. The area to the coast north of Sluis is nice for cycling to Het Zwin and Retranchement with remains of old fortifications (info TI Sluis). South of Bruges there is a 50 km long castle route, mainly in neo-style except Wijnendale is original, nevertheless nice to do. In Bruges self there are enough possibilities for walking around outside the beaten path. At the coast tiny De Haan and walking along the beach is of interest.

D6 Antwerp, some like it, some less but just for walking around consider a daytrip from Ghent for instance. Zurenborg district is to consider for architecture, like Art-Nouveau. North-west of Antwerp in The Netherlands is of interest the “Drowned Land of Saeftinghe”, see www.saeftinghe.eu

D7 – D12 You can do all as daytrips from Amsterdam. The county-side just north of Amsterdam is lovely as also around river Vecht, info TI Amsterdam. You can do Giethoorn as a daytrip, but staying one night there is more relaxed, but check out first if the canal tours are still operational at that time of the year.

Early December wheather with low temperatures in combination with wind and rain can be very unpleasant here and for cycling you have likely to deal with wind in flat open terrain, so dress well.

Larger railwaystations have anyway lockers for luggage, in Belgium €2,50/24h for small bags and €4,00/24h for big backpacks, €3,00/24h in between.

I think combining The Netherlands and Belgium in 11 days is certainly doable without rushing to much if you limit the number of bases. Gives in this itinerary in particular more room to decide on the spot where, when to go, what to do.

Good luck

Posted by
100 posts

Hi. From my one recent experience with Belgium (July...3 nights in Brugge, one in Brussels), I agree with the others...fewer moves, more day trips, only one night needed in Brussels based on your interests/ambitions...a full day in Brugge is necessary and maybe two nights there if you add a day exploring the North Sea Coast via KostTram as I did (the Atlantik Wall fortification from the German military might be of interest). And from what I've read, you should stay a night in Ghent and skip Antwerp.

Posted by
11613 posts

I would choose a maximum of three base cities and daytrip from them. Trains are frequent and you would not be looking for lockers or changing hotels every other day.

Posted by
15686 posts

I agree with Sara about basing in Ghent. I did that - easy day tripping to Bruges and Brussels (and Antwerp too, I think, though I didn't try it). Ghent is roughly half-way between Brussels and Bruges. There are sights in Ghent, after dark it is wonderfully Gothic (all the buildings and bridges are floodlit) and rather quiet and charming. Best of all, lodgings are cheaper. What you save on hotels will more than pay for the train fares. I found Bruges quite touristy, though very photogenic.

Last time I visited the Netherlands, I stayed in The Hague and day tripped to Amsterdam, saving a lot on a hotel. If this is your first time, I'd split between the two, to have a couple of evenings in Amsterdam. The Hague is only slightly farther from Schiphol than Amsterdam, so either is good for your last night. Delft is only about 20 minutes by local tram from The Hague.

It's easier to day-trip than to change hotels (and cart your luggage around), especially in these two countries that have good train service.

In the Netherlands you can rent bicycles by the day to get around. It will make you feel more like a local than anything else.

Posted by
7578 posts

I would suggest that there is a lot more to do in Antwerp than there is in Brugge. In the event that you discover (after prepaying for hotels) that you want more time somewhere in that part of Belgium, it is entirely possible to go back on the train for another day. Just to give an example, there are large parks (and a great sculpture garden) in Antwerp with wonderful walking. While Bruges in pretty, it is more of a (medieval) urban experience.

You have to consider the possibility that it will be damp, cold and gloomy in December. Since you don't care for museums, you need to have a list of indoor alternates. Are you interested in beautiful cathedrals, non-art museums (like the Silver Museum and Butcher's Hall or Photo, MAS, White Star, or Fashion museums in Antwerp?) So my suggestion is to stay longer in Antwerp and train to Brussels or Brugge if you didn't get enough time there.

Since museums (like the Mauritshuis) are not your target, would you pick another place than the Hague, which is a longer ride from Amsterdam? For example, Leiden or Amersfoort or Alkmaar. Delft is beautiful and historic, but not very nature-loving. You could say that Brugge is a substitute for Delft, if you don't care about Vermeer.