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2+ Weeks in The Netherlands and Belgium

Hello,
(I also posted this on the Netherlands' forum)
My wife and I are going to The Netherlands and Belgium for a little over 2 weeks this April/May. We would love anyone's input or advice on our initial plan. We are both mid-30's, and have traveled a good bit. My main interest are art and culture and hers are art and culture. We also love great beer, but are not aficionados by any sense. I have been to Amsterdam, but it was over 15 years ago, but that is the only 2 places in either country. She hasn't been to either.

At this point all we have booked so far are our flights. We would have preferred to have done an open-jawed flight, but we found round trip flights in and out of Brussels for basically half the price.

I wouldn't normally post the exact dates, but we are trying to do a couple of things that makes that necessary. Two of her bucket list items (and big reason she wanted to go to The Netherlands to begin with) are bike riding in the tulip gardens/fields and touring windmills. The tulips are seasonal, so I know that is somewhat of a gamble either way, but that is the primary reason we are doing the Netherlands’ part first. I have read a little about Keukenhof Garden and it seems as good as place as any for the tulip and bike riding. We haven't done any organized bus tours on our previous trips, but the tour offered by Viator seems to be a good option for the windmills. Does anyone have experience with either of these or better alternatives?

We will also be in Amsterdam for Koningsdag. While this wasn't our intention, it seems like a nice bonus. I have to assume that this will be a day of reveling city wide, and not much of what we would have done will be possible (other than Rick Walk type things).

Is this a good division of time? Is there something you would add, condense or remove? I would like to check out Haarlem while we are in Amsterdam, but we might run out of time. While in the Belgium portion of the trip, I would also like to visit some of the Waterloo, WW1, or WW2 sites, but we do not plan on renting a car.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Friday, April 26
• Arrive in Brussels
• Train to Amsterdam (should be there by noon)
Saturday, April 27
• Koningsdag
Sunday, April 28
• Day trip to Keukenhof to bike ride through tulip gardens
Monday, April 29
• Viator tour->Zaanse Shans Windmill, Volendam, and Marken
Tuesday, April 30
• Amsterdam sights
Wednesday, May 01
• Amsterdam sights
Thursday, May 02
• Train to Delft
• Sights in Delft
Friday, May 03
• Day trip to the Hague, Rotterdam or Utrecht
Saturday, May 04
• Day trip to the Hague, Rotterdam or Utrecht
Sunday, May 05
• Train to Antwerp
• Sights in Antwerp
Monday, May 06
• Sights in Antwerp
Tuesday, May 07
• Train to Bruges
• Sights in Bruges
Wednesday, May 08
• Sights in Bruges
Thursday, May 09
• Sights in Bruges
Friday, May 10
• Train to Brussels
• Sights in Brussels
Saturday, May 11
• Sights in Brussels
Sunday, May 12
• Sights in Brussels
Monday, May 13
• Fly home

Posted by
2105 posts

An organised tour to see the Zaanse Schans? It is a 20-min direct train ride from Amsterdam Centraal and then a 15-min walk from the station Zaandijk.
Skip Volendam and Marken. These tourist clichés can be very, very crowded with coach parties. Instead you can go to wonderful historical Enkhuizen with its open air museum. Around 1 hr from Amsterdam Centraal with a half-hourly train.
The most famous windmill complex is indeed that of Kinderdijk. Nicest way to get there is to take the train to undervisited historical Dordrecht and from there take the Waterbus river ferry.
For your planning it might be good to know that Delft is only 15 mins from The Hague (station Den Haag Centraal).

Consider staying in Gent: only half an hour from both Brugge and Brussel with a very frequent rail service. Saves you changing accommodation and Gent is worth for its own sake.

Posted by
3339 posts

Kinderdijk is much more authentic than Zaanse Shanz but farther away. Take the train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, then a tram #7 from train station to the riverfront, the last stop, where you take a waterbus to Kinderdijk. May 3 or 4 you are considering Rotterdam and could add Kinderdijk there. We spent about 2-3 hours there on a beautiful day. The OV Clipkaart can be used on both the tram and waterbus.
You can easily combine small town Delft with The Hague. In Delft visit both the Old Church and the New Church in that order, one ticket covers both. The Dutch Royal Family are buried in the New Church. Visit the Royal Dutch Porcelain Factory and Museum and ship a piece home.
In Amsterdam , obtain tickets online well in advance for Anne Frank House Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum( specific day and time) The Rijksmuseum advance ticket is good for any day or time. The Dutch WII Resistance Museum is very interesting.
Seeing the tulip fields in bloom is one of my very favorite travel memories.

Posted by
163 posts

Sounds like a great trip.
Keukenhof will be beautiful and your timing should be very good. We visited the third week in April and it was stunning.
The tulip fields nearby are worth the bike ride.
Visiting Zaanse Shans is fun; the inside of the operating windmills is very interesting - and the cheese tasting is great!
Would consider Enkheuzen and also Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Friesland. A bit out of the way but definitely worth the trip.
On the Belgium side, might take one of your Bruges days to explore Ghent. St. Baaf's Cathedral is worth the trip.
Consider staying in Ghent at the Carlton hotel. This is a well-run establishment with a terrific breakfast. The proprietors are also excellent guides to both the cities of Ghent and Bruges. And enjoy all the chocolate and beer...
Finally consider dinner at Martine's Table in Amsterdam.
You will enjoy this trip.
Have fun!

Posted by
378 posts

I agree Kinderdijk over the Viator tour it's easy enough to do on your own. And you can do Rotterdam and Kinderdijk the same day
I'd add Haarlem as a day trip from Amsterdam and skip Utrecht
The is a great walk/beer tour in Amsterdam - check out Rachel's tour
We did Delft and the Hague the same day - check out the Escher Museum in the Hague

Less time in Brussels -maybe one day

If you want beer tasting ideas PM me - I have a lot to say on the subject :)

Posted by
86 posts

We were able to tour a windmill in Bruges. There are several along the canal, and one was open for tours. We were the only people there.
From Bruges we took a day trip to the coast to see the Atlantikwall Museum, which I highly recommend. A car is not needed. Train to Ostende, then the tram along the water. We had lunch and a stroll in DeHaan, which was very charming.

Posted by
3 posts

Sounds like you have prepared a nice schedule! I see you plan to visit Utrecht, Rotterdam and Den Haag. All three cities are within one hour from each other so you can easily combine these in two days.

As a Dutchman living in Amsterdam I would recommend two of these cities: Utrecht (coasy and lively old university town close to Amsterdam) and Den Hague (including Scheveningen to visit the beach). That said, if you are looking for something completely different you may indeed visit the city of Rotterdam. Not an old beautiful city but it is interesting with its modern buildings and big harbor.