We are planning a trip to Europe in August 2023. We want to split 5 days between the Netherlands (minus Amsterdam, we have separate time allotted for Amsterdam) and/or Belgium. Any suggestions on where we fly into and how we plan the itinerary? We are not super into museums but will hit the most important ones. Our priorities are beautiful scenery, any historical value and good food.
Your proposal needs to account for how many easy daytrips by unreserved train are possible from Amsterdam and from Brussels or, better, Antwerp. You could do five days from Amsterdam and never look at Amsterdam: Leiden, Delft, den Haag, Rotterdam,Haarlem, Utrecht, Amersfoort, Alkmaar ...
See this current thread to start your Belgium research list:
AMS & BRU are likely airports. Where are you coming from and going to?
We will be flying in from London and flying back from AMS to San Francisco. We were looking at 3 days in the Netherlands and 2 days in Belgium. Would this give us ample time to hit the major spots?
With just five days. I would spend all your time in the 🇳🇱 Netherlands and hit a few of the towns mentioned above—Leiden, Den Haag (“The Hague”) and maybe Utrecht. You could travel to Naarden from Amsterdam in 25 minutes and see Naarden’s star fort and travel to Muiderslot —40 minutes from Amsterdam— to see one of the most impressive castles in the Netherlands.
With only 3 days in the Netherlands and only 2 in Belgium, you don’t even have time to “hit” the major spots, let alone to actually see them. Compared to the USA, the Netherlands and Belgium may seem small, but they’re not that small that you can see the major spots in just 2 days.
I would suggest you to limit yourself to one country and either visit Belgian cities like Ghent, Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp. Or stay in the Netherlands and visit Haarlem, Leiden, Delft, Utrecht, Hoorn, Enkhuizen etc.
Bohr, it may be unfair, because we still don't have the full picture of the trip. But there's an apocryphal newspaper headline joke about bad English weather: "Fog In Channel; Continent Cut Off". Neither Amsterdam nor Brussels is "right next to" London. I say that despite the fact that I, twice, took Eurostar from Antwerp to see a favorite American dance company in London. (My wife had business in Antwerp for two weeks.)
The point is that going from Ansterdam to NW Belgium for two nights is not a good use of travel. The two countries are not "alike", it's just that the overhead for the project is too high. Especially when your research eventually tells you that people at cocktail parties are going to ask you about Bruges. That's even less "next door" to London - despite map straight lines.
These two areas have more beautiful architecture than beautiful scenery, in my opinion. The five nights in the Netherlands idea is a good one.