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Two weeks in Netherlands and Belgium

We are going in early September and flying in and out of Amsterdam (to get a nonstop and to take advantage of frequent flyer miles). We are staying the first five days in Amsterdam. My interest is primarily art museums, so we are staying in the museum district there. We leave Amsterdam on Sunday. I'm thinking of spending three days in Delft (trying to think of things I can enjoy when the museums are closed on Mondays), with side trips to The Hague to go to the Mauritshuis Museum (must see!) and to Rotterdam for its architecture and design (or stay in The Hague with side trips to Delft and Rotterdam?). From the Netherlands, I'm planning that we take a train to Ghent, from which we can easily go to Bruges, where I must see Sint-Janshospital for the Memlings and the Groeninge Museum, as well as the charming town. Ghent has the Museum voor Schone Kunsten and the Stedelijk, as well as St. Baaf's for the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. I'm thinking our stay in Ghent would be three days, with one day in Bruges. Unlike many others, I would like to spend time in Brussels, going to of course the Musee Royale des Beaux-Arts (which may involve more than one day), as well as the Horta Museum, Musee des Instruments de Musique and the Cinquantenaire Museum. Then there is also all the wonderful Art Nouveau architecture to seek out, plus the typical tourist destinations such as the Grand Place, etc. The prior trip schedule gives us three days in Brussels, with our last day being the dreaded no museum Monday. Our flight leaves from Schiphol at 2:50 pm on Tuesday, so an early train is doable, although I'm also toying with the idea of a short flight from Brussels to Schiphol, but that might end up not saving any time. Thoughts please on this itinerary and plane versus train?

Posted by
2487 posts

Nice programme.
Logistically it doesn't make much difference whether you stay in Delft or the Hague. It's all so close to each other. Delft, though, is a much more pleasant place.
Have a quick look at Schiedam, between Rotterdam and Delft. An undeservedly totally overlooked city.
I am a little bit worried about your idea to travel from Belgium to Schiphol to pick up your flight. Problems on this railway line are not unknown. If it happens on your travelling day, you're in deep trouble. Why not put Belgium between Amsterdam and Delft/the Hague? In that way you'll be much closer to the airport and a lot safer.

Posted by
30 posts

Ah, that had been my first instinct, to end up closer to Schiphol. I was unaware of delays on the train line from Brussels. It had just seemed logical to lump all the Netherlands travel in one week, Belgium in the next. I don't want to be stressed over missing our flight. Do you know if there is direct train service to Schiphol from Rotterdam/The Hague/Delft?

Posted by
307 posts

I agree with tofromleiden.
It is better to be closer to Schipohl regardless of your departure time. While you don't have to stay at the airport proper, being a short train ride away (hour or less) is good planning.
Since your last day is a Monday, consider an outdoor activity such as Zaanse Schans which is open daily.
When it is recommended arriving 3 hours prior to departure, heed the advice. A lot of people are processed through Schipohl.

If staying in Ghent, can recommend the Hotel Carlton. The proprietors provide excellent service and are well-versed in the area of Ghent and Bruges. The accommodations are comfortable, reasonable and the made to order breakfast is excellent.
In Bruges, be sure to view the Madonna by Michaelangelo at Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk.
Finally, consider reserving a spot at Martine's Table in Amsterdam.
Have fun!

Posted by
2487 posts

Rotterdam/Delft/the Hague (all on the same line) has four trains per hour to Schiphol, alternatingly direct or with a change at Leiden (on the other side of the platform). Besides Rotterdam has a direct high-speed connection, bypassing Delft/the Hague. Consult the NS train planner.

Posted by
7567 posts

Are you going to Haarlem? It’s not clear if you want to see much art after 1850 or not. I’m surprised you couldn’t fly home from BRU for the same miles or dollars. Your time has value!

I would not sleep three nights in Delft, but it does have good access to The Hague. It may be useful to think about visual comparisons between Delft and Bruges, which Bruges probably wins.

Do you understand that you have to change in Brussels or Antwerp to get to Bruges or Gent? You might save some backtracking there. Note that Bruges is “far” by train from Amsterdam.

Edit: I was referring, for example, to the Gemeentmuseum in the Hague, which is huge and outstanding, but leans towards the twentieth century. The Mystic Lamb in Gent is open seven days, but not all other attractions in Gent are. I think Antwerp has enough for a Monday because it's so big. In fact, I've been to Gent (long ago) on a Monday, and the worst problem was that some retail businesses also chose to close Monday as well. I don't know if that's still true today. It's still a lovely place to walk and dine on Monday.

Posted by
2487 posts

the dreaded no museum Monday
With Delft/the Hague at the end of your trip, that Monday is not lost.
The Mauritshuis only closes on Monday mornings. You're welcome from 13.00.
The morning can be put to good use in Delft with the wonderful Old and - not so new - New Church.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks to all for your suggestions. I booked Ghent for the three days following Amsterdam, and then Brussels for the next three days, both at Pillows hotels, which sound wonderful (I love my creature comforts and central location). Yet to be decided is where we will end up back in the Netherlands at the end of our trip. The Mauritshuis in The Hague is high on my list of must see museums, but Mr. Wonderful might have museumitis by that point in our trip.

The choice to fly out of Amsterdam meant we could fly nonstop from SFO both ways, plus I found a flight in business class that went for fewer miles than usual. We always fly to Europe business class and then economy plus returning.

Posted by
380 posts

“The choice to fly out of Amsterdam meant we could fly nonstop from SFO both ways, plus I found a flight in business class that went for fewer miles than usual. We always fly to Europe business class and then economy plus returning.”

That’s how we try to travel, Delta 1 on the way to AMS is da bomb!

I think you have things planned out pretty well. My suggestion, though, is to have a base in Netherlands and a base in Ghent. Hopping over to Brussels from Ghent is quick and easy. While I don’t have the negative feelings of Brussels that some regular posters on here have (I actually enjoy Brussels), I would much rather spend my evenings in Ghent or Bruges. It is just so easy to day trip in these two countries and checking in and out of a hotel or AirBNB can be hectic. I also agree with the others, I would feel more comfortable staying within 30-40 mins from AMS on your last night, which could be any of the areas previously mentioned. Have fun.