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General questions for my 2-week trip to the Netherlands, Belgium and France

My husband and I are planning a 2-week trip in May to the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Our initial itinerary is flying into Amsterdam, work our way down to Antwept, Bruges, Ghent in Belgium, then Paris and fly out from there.

In the Netherlands, we were thinking of staying in Amsterdam for three nights, do you guys think that’d be enough? Where else in the Netherlands would be worth a visit?

In Belgium, does it make sense to skip Brussels entirely? Do you think 5 days total in both Antwerp and Ghent are enough?

In France, we definitely want to visit Paris. We possibly want to add Versailles and Loire to our itinerary. How many days would be enough if we want to stay in Paris-Versailles and Loire?

Is it possible to add Normandy to our 2-week trip? If so, we would really want to visit Mont Saint-Michel. Would there be any trains to get to Normandy from Paris? We prefer not to rent a car if we don’t have to.

Thank you in advance for your input!

Posted by
5849 posts

I think the Loire or Normandy, and certainly both would be a bit too much. Your original rough itinerary is fine. Three nights in Amsterdam is fine, figure your first night you will be out of it, giving you two good days to see things and relax.

Skipping Brussels is fine, others will note you are skipping Bruges, you will be going into Brussels, so you could either add a night to check things out, or plan some time to wander around for a couple hours. For that matter, a side trip to Bruges from Ghent, or planning 2 nights in three towns would work as well.

Paris by itself is worth 3 nights or more, if you do Versailles, figure adding a night and a day to Paris for that.

Overall, just that is plenty for two weeks.

Posted by
36 posts

Thank you, Paul! That’s good to know. Between Loire and Normandy I would rather do Normandy. I just wasn’t sure if I have enough time for that. It sounds like I could give France (Paris, Versailles and Normandy) a full week of stay. And another week for Amsterdam and Belgium combined.

Posted by
1687 posts

If you're in the Netherlands in the early part of May, you can visit Keukenhof (the 13th is the last day).

Posted by
4928 posts

Five days (four nights?) for Belgium - including Bruges? I loved Bruges, had two nights and day tripped to Ghent (also really nice). But you might want to figure out from other people's impressions (why they liked it or didn't) if you're likely to like Antwerp and want to devote much time to it. Some do, some don't. I sure didn't - it was a great disappointment to me, and although I think it's worth a visit for some of the museums, I wish in retrospect I'd based somewhere else and just day tripped to Antwerp.

Amsterdam is surely worth at least three nights if it's your first visit, especially if it's your first stop in Europe after the transatlantic flight. If you had more time, I can recommend the lovely town of Delft for a night as well - much preferred it to Amsterdam actually.

I wouldn't add Normandy to the limited time you have - it's lovely but best seen with a few days, so maybe add it only if you can extend your trip by just a few more days. I rented a car just in Normandy (train from Paris) and found driving there very easy. It's hard to get around Normandy by public transportation - better to take a tour if you don't want to rent a car.

Posted by
4928 posts

(And yes - I would be fine skipping Brussels, though if you happen to pass through, it's well worth a few hours to stop off the train and go see the Grand Place, etc.)

Posted by
7182 posts

You can do Brussels as a day trip easily. The Grand Place is worth a look. Make that decision while you are there.
You can take the train in Paris to Pontoroson and then a bus to Mont. St Michel or Paris to Rennes and then a bus to Mt St Michel.
But it take at least 4 hours to get there that way. So you should consider staying in a nearby town or on the Mt St Michel itself.
I would not try to cram in going to the Loire and the Mt St Michel with a visit Paris. I would pick on or the other.

Posted by
6609 posts

I think Amsterdam is the perfect 3 night town; we often finish a trip with three nights there because we prefer to fly out of Amsterdam rather than CDG. I would have a week for Paris including Versailles and maybe on other day trip (Chartres, Giverny, Auvers sur Oise?)... That leaves 4 nights for Belgium stops. Less is more.

Posted by
2466 posts

I think 2 or 3 days in Amsterdam is enough. I would go to Brussels, instead of Antwerp - it's a shipping city, not very interesting - and spend 2 or 3 days there.
If you want to go to Mont Saint-Michel, you should take the train - maybe stay on the island in a hotel.
There are a lot of things to do in Haute-Normandie. Here's a list, including lodging:
http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/normandy-tourism-1-2.html

There are trains to and from Paris to Normandie. Look on this website, you have lots of time. If you can be flexible with your time, look for the "Flexible Calendar".

You can get to Versailles on the RER C, and walk about 10 minutes from the station. Buy 2 tickets each - for coming and going - and "compost" your tickets in the yellow machine.
Here's the official Versailles website - it will take you about 6 to 8 hours to see Versailles properly: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/plan-your-visit/practical-information

I don't think you have time to go the Loire valley, unless you rent a car. Spend the rest of your time in Paris.

Posted by
4125 posts

Yes, Loire and Normandy is a different trip. As for time in France, you can't spend too much.

Personally, I would not even consider Versailles unless it were one of at least 4 full days (not partial) on Paris. And try to honestly assess if it is really your thing, and how much. I'd rather spend the day in Chartres, but its purely a matter of taste. And you will hardly exhaust Paris.

Posted by
14891 posts

Here's the problem. 2 weeks sounds like a lot . . . . until you try to fit a 4-week trip into it. You have good choice, just too many of them. Decide what your priorities are and count how many nights you have. If you are flying to Europe on Friday evening and leaving on Sunday morning, that's 15 nights, 14.5 days, counting your first day as a half. Every time you change locations you use about 1/2 day (packing, traveling to/from train stations, etc.). If you choose 3 bases, that leaves you about 13 days for sightseeing. I'd say minimum 2 for A'dam, 4 for Paris, 2-3 for Belgium. That gives you 4-5 days for day trips and/or Normandy or the Loire Valley - both of which really need to be overnight stays and will use up about a day traveling to/from Paris.

Netherlands - 2 full days is enough to see the main sights in A'dam and give you a sense of the city. If you want to see more, you can day trip to Haarlem, Utrecht, Delft, the Hague, Rotterdam . . . there's lot more to see and enjoy.

Belgium - like the Netherlands, it's easy to stay in one place and day trip to others. My choice is Ghent because it's lovely after dark and located between Brussels and Bruges, not far from Antwerp. Another way to maximize your time could be to leave A'dam early to Antwerp or Brussels, check your luggage at the station (if there is storage available) and spend the day, then take an evening train to Bruges or Ghent.

France. I suspect the best is to take the fast train from Brussels to Paris. If you decide to spend 1/2 nights in Normandy or the Loire Valley, then leave your luggage at the hotel and take a small overnight bag, then return to Paris.