Hello, we will be visiting the Netherlands & Belgium this August. The initial plan is to arrive Brussels (via train) from Amsterdam on Aug 15 and make Brussels as our base and take day trips to Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp. We fly out of Brussels on Aug. 23 back to USA. Someone had suggested that I do this instead; Amsterdam - Antwerp - Ghent - Bruges - Brussels. Seems logical but too many times having to check in and out of hotel or BNB's. Any help mapping this out will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Make Ghent your base, and do Antwerp and Brugge as day trips from there. You are then already in the right place for one of your three destinations and lightly less travelling to other two.
Amsterdam to Ghent is as easy as Amsterdam to Brussels. Ghent to Brussels airport is alos no issue.
Thanks Chris F. Sounds good! How many days do I need just to see Ghent, not including days for the day trips?
Keep in mind that August is vacation month in Europe. The problem isn't closures, it's crowds.
It is unnecessary to change hotels for that small area of Belgium. But there can be lines to buy train tickets each day. There's walking from your hotel to the train station (and in Gent and Brugge, the scenic center is not next to the train station.) All Flanders cities except Brussels use the same bus/tram card, which is convenient. I personally believe there is so much more to do in Antwerp that it makes more sense to stay there than Gent. But Gent probably has cheaper hotels and food than Antwerp.
You didn't give the time of day of your flight home. Don't overlook that it can be a three-seat ride from your hotel door to BRU. Even in a country with better public transit than the U.S., it's nothing to sneeze at. If your Americanski credit card doesn't work in the rail ticket machines, you'll be in rush-hour lines for a human agent. Just saying ....
Note that there are a tiny number of Sunday-only attractions. My partial list of them is: Inside the Antwerp Town Hall. Inside the Leuven Town Hall, the village (Doel ??) abandoned to build the new, current, massive Port of Antwerp, occasional entry for Fort 5 in Mortsel, Antwerp, the folksy "Volksmuseum" behind a bar in Antwerp (comparable to a Barn Museum in New England USA.) Except for the last, I'd start a ticket search at a bricks-and-mortar T.I. (not the substation at a train station.)
Other towns to consider if needed are Lier, Leuven, Mechelen, and Turnhout. There is a chilling Nazi-era prison (Breendonk, not a camp) near Mechelen, but it's very hard to get to without a car. They have audioguides with English available.
Thanks to all for your great advice!
Agree with Chris - make Ghent your base and travel from there.
Recommend the hotel Carlton in Ghent - a family owned hotel with great service and reasonable prices.
I am making a similar trip in July, and everyone I've asked has said that Brussels should be skipped. I think Ghent might be a better option as a base. You can get to Antwerp, Bruges and, yes, even Brussels from Ghent.
Thanks to everyone for their responses and I will be making Ghent as my base.
I have a couple more questions.
My travel dates have changed and am arriving Amsterdam on Saturday, August 18 and flying out of Brussels on Friday, August 30.
Which of these cities would you recommend I visit since I don.t have enough days to go to all of them. Haarlem, Delft, Ultretch, Rotterdam, The Hague
What should I be doing about train tickets - should I buy a rail pass? When we went to Germany last year, I had a rail pass that I used between all cities. If not rail pass, can I buy my tickets now here in the USA for each destination I plan to visit.
Thank you again for your help
Select the ones that are the most appealing to you.
You might do a quick tour of the Hague and Delft since they are in close proximity to one another.
Rotterdam is also on the way.
Consider spending most of your time closer to Ghent and see all that Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp (and yes even Brussels) have to offer.
Would recommend the use of Thalys. It is a little pricier, but will give you more time at your destinations in the Netherlands. Time may be a consideration driving your decisions.
There are lots of options for the purchase of your train tickets, including Thalys, Belgian Rail and the Dutch Railway.
Last year I used Rail Europe to make all of our bookings. The web site was easy to use. It may cost a little more but you can purchase all your tickets in one place.
Sounds like a wonderful adventure!
What should I be doing about train tickets?
There is only one connection for which it pays to buy your tickets in advance: Amsterdam to Gent if using the high-speed Thalys service via Antwerp or Brussels. The slightly slower Intercity Brussels service is fixed price, and tickets are valid for all trains that day.
All other connections are domestic services which in both the Netherlands and Belgium are fixed price, are (with a few exceptions) the same for all types of train (intercity or local) and come without seat reservation. In the Netherlands the most expensive travel day would be from Amsterdam to Delft, a return ticket being around EUR 28. Amsterdam - Haarlem (and back) is EUR 9, and Amsterdam - Utrecht (nice city, by the way) is EUR 16 return. For Belgium check at the NMBS/SNCB site for prices. If I remember correctly they have a weekend offer: return ticket for the price of a single. Buy those tickets at the railway station, either from a machine or - in the Netherlands with a small surcharge - at the window.
Thank you for all your responses - much appreciated