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3 days in The Netherlands and Belgium

We are arriving in Amsterdam in June2022 and will have 3-4 days to see The Netherlands and Belgium. Does anyone have suggestions for a 3 or 4 day itinerary? We’ve seen longer itineraries but don’t have the time. We would like to see the highlights of both countries before we go on to Great Britain and Scotland. Also, we prefer to stay at Hilton properties using our points. Thank you for your help!

Posted by
6496 posts

Do not spread yourselves so thin. Spend all your time in Amsterdam perhaps add a day trip to Delft or Leiden by train.

Posted by
2080 posts

That is a very short time for two countries. I agree that you should focus on Amsterdam, but maybe add one night in Belgium, Brussels, Antwerp or Bruges.

Posted by
6384 posts

If i had three days in the Netherlands and Belgium, I would spend them all in Amsterdam.

Is one of those days your arrival day from North America?

Posted by
1529 posts

Welcome to the forum cdfarley7. In case you train from the Netherlands to London you can visit Antwerp and the "Grote Markt" in Brussels, a ten minute walk from Brussel-Centraal railway station. Otherwise combining both coutries having a few days will be as already said too much to my idea.

Posted by
213 posts

I tend to agree with the prior posters, however, if your plans are to travel to London from Brussels via high speed rail, then spending your final night in Ghent or Bruges (I prefer Ghent) could work out well for you provided your train departure time is not too early as you will need to to arrive for that train about 45 minutes before departure.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for your helpful suggestions.
We are arriving in the early morning by cruise ship to Amsterdam, so we will be adjusted to the time change and ready to sightsee. (We may have time to travel to Amsterdam early and see Amsterdam prior to boarding the cruise ship, since embarkation also happens in Amsterdam.). If we can arrive in Amsterdam pre cruise, which city should we focus on in The Netherlands before going on to Ghent or Bruges? Thinking that focusing on two cities max might be the limit for 3-4 days. TIA

Posted by
2080 posts

If you can manage to see Amsterdam before the cruise, there are other towns in the area that can be worth some time, like Utrecht, Haarlem, Leiden, Delft, the Hague or even 's-Hertogenbosch. Or if you feel that you have seen the Netherlands you can take the train to Belgium as soon as you are back and spend the days there. On the other hand, Belgium is also doable as a stop on the way to the UK, whether you spend a night there or just stop for an hour in Brussels to have a beer and get some chocolate.

Posted by
938 posts

In Amsterdam you want to stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam and visit the cocktail lounge on the top floor. The view doesn’t get any better than this.
From the Amsterdam Centraal train station, you can take a train to Brussels and change trains to get to Brugge.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you so much for your replies. It’s so fun to plan and dream prior to the trip. I love your suggestions and will pare it down so we can enjoy without rushing around.

Posted by
2080 posts

From Amsterdam Schiphol airport you can take a train to Brussels and
change trains to get to Brugge and spend one night.

The OP arrives by cruise ship, so connections from Amsterdam Centraal are probably more useful than any trains from Schiphol.

The next morning go back to Amsterdam.

That is in my opinion a really bad idea, since they plan to go to Great Britain after the Benelux, the train to London sounds like a much better idea assuming the destination is somewhere in southern England.

Posted by
12402 posts

Just my 2-cents but I don't think you can cover the highlights of either country in just 3-4 days, one of them being a partial even if the ship does arrive in Amsterdam the early morning. But we also don't know what sort of sightseeing you generally do? For instance, we spent 1 night Brussels, 4 nights Brugge (with a day trip to Ghent) and 3 nights in Antwerp and feel like we'd only covered Brugge (and maybe Antwerp) attractions with any sort of adequacy. There's much more of Belgium we've yet to experience! Spent the better part of a week in Amsterdam with a day trip to Edam, and should have done 1 additional trip out of the city. Anyway, we tend to sightsee with lots of stops to take in the details, and occasional sit-downs to rest the heels, have a beverage and enjoy the scenery. You may do your exploring at a brisker pace, with little interest in, say, the art museums and churches.

But If you do want to do the deeper dive into museums/key historic structures, history, architecture, neighborhoods, etc. then you'll generally need more than a day. If you are just looking for a walkabout with a pop into a couple of attractions, then a day may do ya. There's no wrong way if it works for you but you do need to be cautious of working around days/hours the top attractions may be closed, or to order tickets in advance for those - like the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam - which may require them.

Short story long? Consider picking just one country and just one city to sightsee in/day-trip from: probably Amsterdam for the Netherlands, and Brussels for Belgium (abt. 1 hour by train to Brugge, abt. 40 minutes to Ghent). Oh, and if Hilton properties are a must, I don't believe there are any of those in Brugge or Ghent but won't swear to it.

Posted by
2048 posts

I agree with Kathy... I'd limit my attention to one country. And as mentioned by many, Amsterdam is a great location to act as a base to see multiple cities in The Netherlands. I've stayed at many Hilton properties in both countries. Since you're using points, I'd opt for the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, located near Rembrandtplein. It's an amazing hotel.

There's a newer Hilton in The Hague. VERY modern and located just off the Old Town. In Antwerp, which we like better than Brussels, we stayed at the Hilton Antwerp Old Town. Great location in the heart of the city. And in Brussels, there are multiple Hilton products - our favorite was the Hilton Brussels Grand Place - and that selection was primarily location-driven. Years ago, I had 1+ million HHonors points (Those were the days!) and thus we stayed in many of their holes in Europe.

If you feel you have to see both countries, select TWO bases and go from there. As you've seen Amsterdam (perhaps in your earlier days), consider the Hague and Antwerp - two smaller towns rather than the metropolises of Brussels and Amsterdam. With train connections, you could use either of these and still see ALL the towns you might journey to for day trips. I think both are great big but SMALL towns. Twelve years ago, the Antwerp train station was the scene of this famous flash mob.

If you were to stay in Antwerp, check out, train to Brussels, and connect for your train to the UK. Have fun!

Posted by
4861 posts

->We’ve seen longer itineraries but don’t have the time

I like the last two posts. The shortest cheap trip (one change) from Amsterdam to Brugge averages 3:40. Do you have time for that? It's your decision. There are also questions of (possible) Covid restrictions that we can't know about today. I happen to like Antwerp, but the sad fact is that people back home are only going to ask you if you saw Brugge. There are many fine visits in the Netherlands, many already listed here, and except for Brugge, they are slightly parallel (I won't write "similar") to the Belgium visits.

The one plus for going to Belgium (and humping all your cruise luggage between two trains) is that you can get direct, fast trains from Brussels to London. They are expensive if you don't buy advance tickets that are non-changeable and non-refundable. The "Any Belgian Station" option for Eurostar saves buying the ticket from Antwerp or Brugge to Brussels, but isn't that important to save money.

It matters what your objectives are for your trip. I happen to love art museums, and it is not possible to exhaust the art available in Antwerp or Brussels in even one full day. But if you will be museumed-out after Amsterdam, that doesn't matter. Brugge can be done thoroughly in one overnight or a full day from sleeping in Antwerp or Brussels. I don't agree with the romantic souls who insist that three nights in Brugge is the minimum to "experience" it.

BTW, the historic part of Brugge is not at the train station. You have to take a bus or a taxi to see it or to get to your hotel. I don't know about bag storage-the rail station is quite small. But the local bus stop and ticket machines are right outside the station.

Edit: I forgot to note that the Eurostar to London leaves from a different (there are 3) Brussels station (Midi) than most tourists use (Centraal.) Trains to Brugge, for example, stop at all 3, and if you were going to Brussels (not Brugge) on Eurostar, you can do one free transfer on local trains within Brussels, but if you are making a sightseeing stop at Grand Place (Centraal), for example, you may need to plan on which direction you do that.

And remember that you have to check in at least an hour early for Eurostar, because of post-Brexit immigration and customs. They will not let you on the train at the last minute. Check online for exact rules.

Posted by
12402 posts

I'll go along with RNR and Tim about Antwerp over Brussels. We liked what we saw of the former much more than the latter, although we gave the former much more time so to be fair...

LOL, Tim, no romantic soul, me, but I'll cheerfully disagree about Brugge. 4 nights/2.5 days, what with that day trip to Ghent + PLUS arriving halfway through Ascension Day; a big dang deal with the UNESCO folks in this particular town. Look it up. Anyway, we trotted all over, including areas where we barely saw another soul (had Jeruzalemkapel all to ourselves!) and I took a lot of shots early in the day before many were out and about. Sint-Jansspitaal/ Memling Museum was fascinating, as was the Groeninge Museum, Basilica of Holy Blood, Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (the tombs in front of the high altar have interesting stories) and, well, more churches + some great squares + architecture + a stroll around the green ramparts with their preserved windmills and Medieval city gates + REALLY good beer....

Sometimes I wonder how far the average visitor wanders away from the Markt and Burg! Oh, and depending on how much activity your feet can take, you really don't "have" to take a bus or taxi to the historic center. We didn't use either a single time during our stay but we're also used to longer treks. . (Edited)

Posted by
4 posts

What great posts and ideas! You have all peaked my interest in Antwerp and many other smaller cities. I appreciate your thoughtfulness with hotel advice, Eurostar/train information and sights/museums to see. Thank you!

Posted by
28 posts

You could certainly make this timeline work for you. I'd suggest staying at the Schiphol Airport Hilton. From there its an easy and cheap train into Amsterdam. In one day you can, with proper planning, see the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and have time for a little wandering around. Since you're sleeping at the airport it will be easy to catch an early flight to Brussels (or take a high speed train. I check both for arrival time comparison. It's worth the extra money to not have to waste your valuable time). When you arrive in Brussels I'd suggest making your way to Ghent which is centrally located for exploring Flanders. It's possible to hit Ghent and Bruges in one day while doing Brussels and Antwerp on another day. The first few times I went to Amsterdam it was the "one day blitz" and it was amazing. It did, however, create the desire to go back and spend more time there. As far as Belgium goes we are planning (fingers, toes, arms and legs crossed) to go again this Christmas spending 8 nights in Ghent. We are going to give each city (Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels) a full day while reserving 3-4 days for alternate exploring. I really hope that both of our plans work out. I appreciate the venue to keep my travel dreams alive. I think that you will have an awesome time. I've done those multi-country trips before and they are great!

Posted by
2080 posts

I'd suggest staying at the Schiphol Airport Hilton. From there its an
easy and cheap train into Amsterdam.

I'd suggest staying in Amsterdam itself, from there you have the city just outside the door.

Since you're sleeping at the airport it will be easy to catch an early
flight to Brussels (or take a high speed train. I check both for
arrival time comparison. It's worth the extra money to not have to
waste your valuable time).

You have to be American to even consider flying from Amsterdam to Brussels. It is 1:50 by high speed train, flying is at least 3 hours city centre to city centre.

When you arrive in Brussels I'd suggest making your way to Ghent which
is centrally located for exploring Flanders. It's possible to hit
Ghent and Bruges in one day while doing Brussels and Antwerp on
another day.

For Gent, going via Antwerp (1:15 from Amsterdam) instead of Brussels would be even faster.

Posted by
49 posts

Hello,
All suggestions seem great and depends on the type of trip you want...

If you want a slow immersive experience then limiting to Netherlands would be ideal.. in Amsterdam see the negen start ( nine streets in Jordan area), and Vondelpark/westerpark for a picnic or local open air theatre. Drink coffee /beer in the terraces and visit zaanse schans or volendam for a windmill and sea side town experience. Hop on to Lieden or Delft for and explore Delft blue or just walking around the towns.

If you want to explore as much as possible then, 2 days in Amsterdam and then a day or 2 in Ghent or Bruges is also doable. We love bruges much more for the ccharms but Ghent is also a close second! eSince you are here in summer ,, and if you get a good sunny day.. you will have longer days , so a day in the city to get the highlights is good enough.

Do nkeep the weather into account since Netherlands can be notorious with rain and wind .

Feel free to ask any specific questions you might have.

Good luck with the planning. It's my fav part of any trip. Have a great trip.

Posted by
28 posts

Badger- I only offer suggestions and I’m surprised at someone being so judgmental on this forum. I prefer to offer people options. Being 45 minutes by air from Schipohl to Brussels can be practical especially if you are staying at the airport and you’re taking the train to Ghent as there is a connecting train at the Brussels airport. Also, some more frequent travelers have MilleMiglia (Alitalia) points or Flying Blue (Air France) points which make these flights even more affordable and comfortable. I’ve done it both ways several times and have found benefits to both. If you don’t see the benefits then please inquire further, I’m happy to educate. Have a great day!

Posted by
25552 posts

everybody does what is best for them, but I'm sad when we are trying to reduce the emissions into the atmosphere there are advocates for short flying hops, especially if the train is as fast for most people. When folks have a choice between options which are otherwise nearly equal (even if you are staying at the airport, including check in time and walking time the train is still faster) I prefer to advocate for the one with the much smaller carbon footprint.

Posted by
25552 posts

Another reason for not using the airport in Schiphol as a base is that the OP will be arriving in Amsterdam by cruise ship.

The airport would be out of the way. There are Hilton properties in Amsterdam. One at Apollolaan, but really convenient for cruise ships is the Doubletree, right near the cruise terminal, and very close to Amsterdam Centraal station for onward travel to Belgium.

Posted by
2080 posts

Being 45 minutes by air from Schipohl to Brussels can be practical
especially if you are staying at the airport and you’re taking the
train to Ghent as there is a connecting train at the Brussels airport.

Even if you are staying at the airport, you need time for check in and security. So the train will be faster. The Thalys stops at Schiphol and takes you to Antwerp in 56 minutes and Brussels in 1:35. So about 2 hours to Gent. You will not be able to beat that by flying.

Also, some more frequent travelers have MilleMiglia (Alitalia) points
or Flying Blue (Air France) points which make these flights even more
affordable and comfortable.

The train will also be the more comfortable option, no matter how many frequent flier points you have. And you can get train tickets for less than €40, I don't think KLM can match that price. And as Nigel mentions, the carbon footprint of train travel is a fraction of the footprint of flying.

I’ve done it both ways several times and have found benefits to both.
If you don’t see the benefits then please inquire further, I’m happy
to educate.

Please do. Unless you really enjoy airport security, I really can't see any benefit of flying in this case.

Posted by
12402 posts

Thalys: took it from Paris to Amsterdam (it stopped briefly in Brussels) and enjoyed the ride: very speedy, very comfortable (much more than a plane), no luggage fees, city center to city center without lengthy travel to the outskirts where airports usually are, no having to show up an hour or more in advance for security, faster boarding....

Have to give a shout out for Antwerpen Centraal too. While we arrived (from Brugge) on a different train than Thalys, the latter uses that same station and it's one HECK of a thing. Wow.