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AMS-BRU Trip

I am considering an open jaw trip to AMS and BRU with my 21 year old son at the end of this year. I am a somewhat experienced European travelers (five trips in last six years), but would appreciate any guidance on a trip to this region:

-Order of airports: Does it matter which airport we arrive to and which we depart from (probably a stupid question)? Does one city offer a better New Year's Eve experience? Does the order matter based on other cities (Bruges and Rotterdam) we want to visit (i.e. train travel more efficient)?

-Itinerary: We are considering seeing Bruges and Rotterdam in between visits to AMS and BRU. Are those the best cities to see in the region? Are they day trips or worthy of an overnight stay?

-I have been to AMS, but my son has not, so I expect 3-4 days in the city. I am not familiar with BRU, thus I am curious how many days we should spend in the city.

Any shared wisdom is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Posted by
4237 posts

Don't know much about the Netherlands, so I'll just respond about Belgium.

Brussels gets some very divided responses on this helpline, but I enjoy it. The big issue with Brussels is that the attractions are too widely spread for a day trip, so I would suggest at least two days. Major highlights, as far as I'm concerned, would be the Grand Place, the main Museums of Art (Old Art, Modern Art, and the specialist Magritte Museum, which are all in one large building complex and which you can easily spend most of a day in), the Horta Museum and other art nouveau buildings in the area. If you are into Atomic Age kitsch the Atomium is worth visiting.

Brugge (the local name, Bruges is used by French and English-speakers) is worth a day at least, more if you like medieval and renaissance-era art and architecture. Another alternative is Gent, which is only slightly less picturesque than Brugge and is less tourist dominated. Note that Brugge is not on the direct route between Amsterdam and Brussels, you will have to change at Antwerpen. Antwerpen itself is popular among some people on the board, but I find it less interesting than the other three.

The only rail ticket that it is worth buying in advance in Belgium is the one from Amsterdam to Antwerpen/Brussels, if you want to use the high-speed Thalys trains. Otherwise, there is no discount for buying tickets in advance on Belgian domestic trains, and seat reservations are not available either.

Posted by
3473 posts

christ, you might want to get some comments from the Search box for this forum. The key to understanding the reason to go near Brussels is the number of close-by cities that are easy to get to by unreserved, frequent local trains, at low cost and without advance purchase. It is, in fact, unnecessary to change hotels - unless you have some high-priority reason, like seeing Bruges before the daytrippers arrive. (I'm not that entranced by Bruges, but I'm in the minority.) Don't forget to research Monday closures.

Please explain how you picked Rotterdam. There are alternatives to Kinderdijk. Rotterdam is a swell place, but there are so many attractive cities in the Netherlands that you didn't mention. And many of them can be visited by easy daytrips from Amsterdam. These include Leiden, Delft, Den Haag, Amersfoort, Haarlem, Alkmaar, Utrecht. (I have no information on New Year's Eve.)

In Belgium, you need to look into Brugge, Gent, Antwerp, and Leuven, with lower priority given to Lier, Mechelen, and maybe Turnhout. Of course, you can't visit all of those in just a few days, and you don't need to. But you can pick the places that interest you most. I find Antwerp much more attractive than Brussels, and would sleep there-not Brussels. However, while the biggest art museum (not the only one!) in Antwerp is currently being renovated, it may be easier to see a lot of major art in Brussels. But for daily living amid fragments of history, Antwerp is pleasanter. (Opinion.) And there are plenty of other nice museums in Antwerp. Some of the big KMSKA museum's art is up at the MAS museum, for example.

I don't quite understand why everyone pairs Brugge and Amsterdam. Brugge is not that far from Brussels, but does require a train change and a substantial local ride from either Antwerp or Brussels. I would be satisfied with a trip just to Belgium, where the food is better than in the Netherlands. (Amsterdam may be an exception to that statement.) But you're right to buy an open-jaw air ticket. Although it doesn't have canals, Antwerp is equally good for a young man's first (?) trip to Europe-in terms of English usage and different street culture. Antwerp even shares some of Amsterdam's ills.

Posted by
786 posts

christschieder,

I can't answer any questions about your destinations, but I wanted to comment on your question about order of airports
(does it matter which airport we arrive to and which we depart from). No that is not a stupid question. It is, in my opinion,
quite bright. There are many people who come on the forum with airline reservations and then find out they should have flown into Venice and out of Rome instead of the opposite.

It sounds to me like you are asking great questions which I think means you will end up having a great trip.
I hope your son enjoys it a lot and appreciates all the time and effort you have put into a bonding experience!!

Posted by
42 posts

Philip, Tim and Mimi

Thank you for your replies, which gives me food for thought and additional questions:

-My AMS-BRU open jaw itinerary is based on flight availability (using Delta Skymiles) and locations my son has not visited. I am open to a different combination (AMS & FRA, AMS & CDG or AMS & CPH), but probably have to include AMS because its a Delta hub.

-I envision a AMS-Rotterdam-Bruges-Brussels timeline, but am now reconsidering based on your replies. Maybe just stay in AMS and BRU (or Antwerp) and do day trips to Rotterdam, Bruge or the other cities you mentioned (Leiden, Delft, Den Haag, Amersfoort, Haarlem, Alkmaar, Utrecht, Gent, Antwerp, or Leuve).

-Is Luxembourg City worth a visit (day trip or overnight)?

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!!

Posted by
3473 posts

I would put Mimi's reply another way: many travelers fail to consider the departure time of their homeward flight, and what it means for their last night of vacation. In Brussels, in particular, car services (as opposed to public transportation) are very expensive. But you can't spend the last night in Bruges and safely leave on a midday flight from BRU, for example. (Same with Positano and Rome.) Without a car (which carries its own problems) there is no solution to the location of Bruges!

I've only been in Luxembourg City briefly. I didn't find it rewarding enough, or different enough from bigger, busier cities to warrant the side trip you describe. Although Trier is harder to get to, it's in the same general direction and is more unique and rewarding. But I do NOT advocate adding either of these to your list. You are being too ambitious. You will be spending too much time on the train as it is. (Have you given total number of nights in Europe yet?)

A thrilling city that CAN pair with Brussels is Cologne, but it's still a long ride that needs to be booked in advance to be a low price. I don't think you have taken full account of just how rewarding are the day trips in Belgium and the Netherlands. And each daytrip is very different. We haven't even listed "all" of them. Because my wife and I both garden, we loved the morning flower auction at Aalsmeer. There's a wonderful national park (Hoge Veluwe) with free bicycles and a world-class art museum in the Netherlands. Both countries have "Open Air" museums of historical buildings. The one in Belgium has its own rail station for convenient visits. Do you see that Den Haag and Delft can be paired, maybe even with an overnight if you love art museums?

"End of the year" Are Christmas markets involved? You should do some climate research - I don't remember being in these places in the winter. A bike ride is no fun in the cold rain.

Posted by
42 posts

Tim

Thanks so much for your continued interest in my trip. You raise some good points - thus I am sending you a private message seeking additional guidance. Thanks again.

Posted by
183 posts

-Is Luxembourg City worth a visit (day trip or overnight)?

I made a trip thru there the same time of year that you are looking at. I would advise you pass. It's pretty, but dead except for the Christmas market, which was not extraordinary. You have lots of other places on your list that will be more bang for your time this trip.