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dilema: Amsterdam/Brussels

I am traveling with my brother and nephew as a celebration of his graduation from college. We will be in Iceland for 5 nights and the Munich area for 7 nights. At the end of the trip there are 5 nights I had planned to spend split between Amsterdam and Brussels. Plane reservation is already made to leave from Brussels.

Now I am torn between the original plan of 2-3 nights in Amsterdam and finishing in Brussels or just putting one lodging into those last 5 days.

Have always wanted to see Amsterdam if nothing else than it is talked about so much and the Van Gough museum. However, Belgium sounds wonderful with architecture and culture. Bruges, Ghent and others sound great.

Opinions from travelers experienced in visiting Amsterdam and Belgium?

Thank you

Posted by
4630 posts

Stay 3 nights in Amsterdam
Take the train to Brussels
Stay 2 nights Brussels with a day trip to Bruges or Ghent on the last day before the flight.

Posted by
3867 posts

Yep, what Jazz said.

A couple (welll-planned, fairly full) days in Amsterdam is enough to hit the major spots (a museum or two, Ann Frank House, do some canal walks and a cruise, maybe rent a bike and ride outta the center to some windmills, etc.). Brussels is worth a day, but I think most visitors are not quite as wowed by it as they are by the alternatives. By all means, spend a day in Brussels (or at least part of a day - you can at least get a look at the top sights in an afternoon). I'd happily trade off a day (and perhaps a night as well) there for Bruges, which seems to push most people's buttons.

Posted by
2115 posts

Brussels is not an immediately attractive city. Consider having Gent as a base. Half an hour from Brugge, one hour from Antwerp, half an hour from Brussels, and one hour from Zaventem airport.

Posted by
835 posts

Thank you, Tom.
It is so hard to discourage newcomers to skip Brussels.

Posted by
292 posts

Brussels is not interesting, at all. Bruges and Ghent, however, are. You might stay in Brussels and take day trips to B & G via bus/train, but as far as sightseeing and interesting stuff to do, Brussels thus far has been my least favorite European city (tied with Monte Carlo area in Monaco!).

Posted by
1369 posts

I have not been to Ghent or Bruges. Brussels is the most skippable European city I have ever visited.

Posted by
3482 posts

I agree with all the previous posts, but it is true that Brussels has very fine museums, and some very important art. Amsterdam is a must-see, Brussels is a secondary choice. Even Leuven (which is very close to the airport) is nicer than Brussels, if tiny in comparison. I would stay in Antwerp and take the hourly bus to BRU from the Centraal Station, if it suits your departure time. Gent might be cheaper than Antwerp. I personally find Antwerp more attractive than Gent. But the Mystic Lamb altarpiece is very important (and open on Monday.)

Posted by
1653 posts

My thoughts are in line with Tom, David, and Andrew’s. Ghent, or even Antwerp are nicer to visit than Brussels.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you, everybody.

We decided on: 3 nights in the Amsterdam area, with lodging fairly close by in Utrecht. Most likely go into the city for 2 days. We'll spend our last 2 nights based in Ghent. Probably with a trip to Bruges. I was pleased to see there is a direct train from Ghent to the Brussels airport, about 1 hour.

Thank you all again. Your opinions really helped me decide what to do both in general and with ideas on how to spend our time in the area.

Posted by
3 posts

Perfect choice!
And if after a few days you feel like Amsterdam is a bit too busy, don't hesitate to check out Utrecht. Lovely student city with even a canal: 'Oude Gracht'!

Posted by
2115 posts

And if a city has an Oudegracht (»Old Canal«) it also has a Nieuwegracht (»New Canal»). The one in Utrecht is an oasis of tranquillity.