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Benelux and France in April 2023 Itinerary

Dear all,

My parents and I plan to visit Netherlands, France, Luxembourg and Belgium.

Since the pandemic, this will be our first trip to Europe. We’ll have approximately 3 weeks in April 2023. We’ve already had our airplane tickets, arriving in Amsterdam and then leaving from Brussels. We would like to travel by train because renting a car in one country and drop off in a different one is expensive for us.

Although we have little interest in museums, we enjoy city sightseeing and plan not to move accommodations multiple times.

Therefore, our starting plan will be as follows:-

DAY 1 : Arrive in Amsterdam around 14.00 pm (5 nights in Amsterdam)

DAY 2 : Day trip to Giethoorn

DAY 3 : Keukenhof and Haarlam

DAY 4 : Waterlands

DAY 5 : Zaanse Schans and Zaandam

DAY 6 : Amsterdam before take train to Rotterdam (3 nights in Rotterdam)

DAY 7 : Rotterdam and Kinderdijk

DAY 8 : Day trip to The Hague and Delft

DAY 9 : Take train to Paris (2 nights in Paris)

DAY 10 : Must do is Visiting Eiffel Tower summit. We’ve been to Paris before but this time we wanna make the ascent to the top of the tower.

DAY 11 : Take train to Strasbourg (2 nights in Strasbourg)

DAY 12 : Day trip to Colmar

DAY 13 : Take train to Luxembourg (2 nights in Luxembourg)

DAY 14 : Day trip to Trier

DAY 15 : Take train to Brussels (4 nights in Brussels)

DAY 16 : Day trip to Brugge and Ghent

DAY 17 : Day trip to Antwerp

DAY 18 : Brussels

DAY 19 : Leave from Brussels around 16.00 pm

Is it doable or what city should I skip?
I would love to hear any comments and suggestions.

Thank you.

Posted by
6021 posts

Where are you flying from? USA?

There is no need for a car for this itinerary, but it is very active. Can your parents handle this level of activity? Don't forget to avoid weekly museum closures in planning.

You don't seem very interested in the very rich cities of Paris and Amsterdam, but you are sleeping in the dull city of Brussels. Reservations essential for Eiffel summit and for Anne Frank Huis. I'd drop Luxembourg/Trier and add the days to Paris. You don't need both windmill sites. Rotterdam is fine but you might get more out of sleeping in den Haag 3 nights.

Most people would give Brugge and Ghent a day each. You don't need to sleep in Brussels to fly out at 16:00. Maybe sleep in Antwerp instead.

Posted by
6134 posts

You won't need but one day to see Brussels.

Also, don't miss the amazing Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Buy tickets in advance.

Posted by
336 posts

I would cut Luxembourg, enjoy more time in Alsace to both save yourself from a week of every other day changing hotels and have a more relaxed pace.

2 night stays can be useful but not back to back like that - it gets tiring.

I agree with base in Brussels and daytrip. It’s really the easiest way to see more but not move about.

Posted by
6104 posts

It’s a full on trip with many day trips. Two nights is only one full day, so you aren’t spending much time seeing your bases.

Why Luxembourg? It’s not the most exciting place in Europe. I would drop this and add a night to Strasbourg and one to Paris.

One night in Brussels is plenty - stay in Bruges or Ghent - you certainly can’t cover both in one day. I recently spent 3 nights in Bruges and 4 nights in Antwerp and had one day trip into Holland and looked at Ghent en route. It was sensibility paced.

Posted by
6 posts

To : Tim,

Thank you very much for your reply.

We are departing from Thailand's Bangkok.

I'll give this tight timetable some more thought, as well as what windmill site I should drop. I may say that this was a difficult decision. Given that one is a must-visit location and the other is a UNESCO site.

Perhaps I should combine Delft and Rotterdam in stead of Kinderdijk, and then take a day trip to The Hague, which offers a variety of attractions.

Because there are many direct trains to and from these major stations, we decide to spend the nights in Rotterdam and Brussels. We don’t want to carry our bags up and down from trains to trains.

Actually, Benelux was our initial itinerary, but my parents insist on going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Paris is so included in our plan.

To : geovagriffith,

Thanks, I'll include the Rijksmuseum in my travel plans.

To : Mary57,

I appreciate your comments.

Benelux was in our first plan, however, I understand your point. I'll talk to my folks about that.

To : Jennifer,

Thank you for your comments.

I completely understand. May I ask which day trip I should give up?

Regarding Luxembourg, many years ago I took a day journey from Vienna to Slovakia’s Bratislava. I love quiet surroundings, so I anticipate finding that in Luxembourg.

Let me give Brugge and Ghent another thought. I'll try to divide Brugge and Ghent into two days.

Posted by
10998 posts

I’ll just drill down a bit and say to me Keukenhof and Haarlem in one day would be too much for me. There is a huge amount of walking in the gardens and it’s very crowded.

I’ll also say that Amsterdam, Haarlem, Delft, Ghent and Bruges are all canal cities and after a bit there is some sameness to them. I enjoy Haarlem but I’d spend the afternoon back in Amsterdam.

I agree with the others that you have too many day trips. Give yourselves a break and enjoy the locations you’ve chosen to overnight in.

If you are going to spend 2 nights in Strasbourg but spend the day in Colmar, I’d just sleep in Colmar. I spent 3 nights there in April. Had intended 1day for Colmar and a day trip to Strasbourg but I liked Colmar so much I just stayed put. It’s another city with canals but it has a different feel than Bruges/Ghent/Delft/Haarlem to me.

Posted by
6021 posts

igg, I can't speak for Jennifer, but you have to take into account that she spent 4 nights in Bruges and 3 nights in Antwerp. That is not comparable to your itinerary. She was luxuriating in the wealthy, historic part of Belgium. You are, for better or worse, rushing through.

I would ask you to consider whether your parents have traveled at this pace before, or travelled at all? Do they know how much time it takes to get to the check out of a hotel room, get to the station, travel, find the hotel, check in .... And it's just an example, but the historic parts of Antwerp, Brugge, and Gent are not right at the (daytrip) train station. It's a 15 minute walk or a 6 minute bus ride ... each way. In a similar way, Keukenhof is a seasonal attraction (yes, a must-see) in a distant suburb. There are plenty of busses there, but they are a special service. And as noted, it's as crowded as DIsneyland (and not as big!) You can't speed up a visit because the paved walkways are too crowded. Kinderdijk is a city bus ride from Rotterdam, but it's still "a trip." Do you have any other must-sees in Rotterdam?

Posted by
8893 posts

Some recommendations for your trip:
Skip Zaanse Schans , a created village of buildings brought there from other locations. We were so disappointed that we had spent time there. Think “touristy.”
I am glad to see you have included Kinderdijk, 19 historic windmills in their original locations. You can get there by riverboat from Rotterdam. There is no comparison between Zaanse Schans and Kinderdijk.
Before you leave for Paris, add a visit to the canal laced university town of Leiden with it’s notable university attended by many famous people in history including US President John Quincy Adams and Albert Einstein.. It also was home to the Pilgrims for ten years after they left England and before they sailed on the Mayflower to North America, lots of history and charm there.
Day 11, give Strasbourg one more day. Visit the charming Wine Road villages such as Riquewehr, Eguisheim, Kaysersberg and many more. Then add Colmar if you want. We much preferred Strasbourg and the wine villages to Colmar but others seem to like it more than we did.
Amsterdam- take a canal boat cruise to get a better view of historic Amsterdam. A must do!
Skip Luxembourg to give you days for better use of your time.. Brussels, stay two nights not four, too much time allocated here.. Stay in Brugge or Ghent two nights, visit both small cities from whichever one you stay in.
Let us know the itinerary you end up with. I would have added the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam but you said you did not want to visit museums. Please reconsider.

Posted by
526 posts

Too many day trips. When you arrive and are jet-lagged, it's much nicer to be in a manageable tourist town where you just walk around and do things as opposed to needing to immediately be zipping all over the place by train.

I would visit Amsterdam first for a couple days. And then it's fun to take day trips when you are adjusted and ready to move along a bit.

Luxembourg - I was just there. It's cool, but not worth shorter time in Alsace.

Not that it's a big concern, but remember that in springtime in Europe it's still often cool and wet. That time of year it rains harder and more closer to the coast because the weaker storms dry themselves out a little as they move inland. The Normandy Coast for instance gets almost twice the rain of the eastern Loire Valley in April. That's such your best shot for nice weather is going to be farther inland like in Alsace. Alsace is east of a small mountain range that gives it some rain shadow effect, so that area across as far as Freiburg can tend to be a little sunnier in the shoulder seasons than a lot of places around it.

Of course spring weather in Europe is a wacky crapshoot and we're just talking averages. Best you can do is flex the odds a little in your favor

Posted by
526 posts

Also, do yourself a favor and stay in Ghent. It's a fantastic base city. To me it has 75% of the charming buildings and streets of Bruges, but 25% as Disneyland feeling and actually more tourist stuff to do. Also better restaurants and street life, and quite central to everywhere else you want to go (and many more) on day trips.

Posted by
526 posts

I might be in a minority on Leiden, but I'll pass on it for: Delft, Den Bosch, Utrecht, Amersfoort and/or many large Flemish towns.

Posted by
528 posts

I agree with previous posters; you have too many day trips planned. I get you’re excited and want to see as much is possible, but I find that when it comes to travel less is more.
You plan to stay 5 nights in Amsterdam, but you haven’t scheduled any time to actually see the city. In terms of hotel prices, Amsterdam is by far the most expensive city in the Netherlands. April is peak peak peak season because of the tulips and hotel prices are sky high. If you’re not actually planning to see Amsterdam and only use it as a base for day trips, it’s a very expensive base. There are other cities like Haarlem or Leiden that will be cheaper to stay in and are just as nice.
I would also reconsider visiting both Zaanse Schans and Kinderdijk. Zaanse Schans has windmills, but also shows old crafts like wooden shoe making etc. Yes, the buildings in Zaanse Schans were brought there from other locations, but they’re still original buildings. The windmills in Kinderdijk are indeed still in their original site. The row of windmills is impressive, but it’s just windmills. The boat trip from Rotterdam is very nice though. You can see windmills in other locations, even in the city center of cities like Amsterdam, Leiden etc.
I know that extensive promotion in Asia has made Giethoorn a must see location for tourists from Asian countries, but it’s a very long day trip from Amsterdam. Waterland, presumably Broek in Waterland that you plan to visit on day 4 is very similar to Giethoorn and is much much much closer to Amsterdam. If I were you I would skip Giethoorn completely and use that day to explore Amsterdam, although in 1 day you can only see the absolute minimum.

Posted by
6021 posts

I admit that I haven't been to both "windmill" sites, but one or two of the Kinderdijk windmills have interior access, there is an interpretive center with a video, and there is a contemporary (electric) dewatering plant to be seen. And a cafe for a meal, sometimes crowded.

I wish the OP would come back again. It's unfair to read between the lines, but I still wonder if the parents don't fully understand the implications of their requests for the itinerary. Have they traveled ever before? If they know what they're getting into, fine.

Posted by
9218 posts

I spent a week in Haarlem this past April, using it as a base to explore the region. We did a number of day trips. We only went into Amsterdam once, but we had been there before. Keukenhof was a highlight. We spent the better part of a day taking the bus there, taking in the spectacular gardens and taking the bus back to Haarlem. We went on King’s Day (April 27) in the hopes that some others might be doing other activities that day. I hadn’t been before so I can’t compare crowd size, but I found it to be manageable.

Posted by
6 posts

Dear Pam, Tim, Suki, Hank, Dutch_traveler and Andrea,

Thank you all so much for the thoughtful and helpful suggestions. I'm truly thankful for them.

After throughly consider all comments and concerns, I am thinking of skipping Alsace and save it for next time. I can add Alsace to France Trip as RS’s Recommended Itinerary, so that, I can get the most out of France.

The revised itinerary will be as follows:-

5 nights in Amsterdam, 3 nights in Rotterdam, 3 nights in Paris, 3 nights in Luxembourg, and 4 nights in Brussels, split into two day-trip for Brugge and Ghent. As a result, I have more time to enjoy Paris, discover Luxembourg and others.

Because my parents and I had already taken a guided tour of France, Germany, and Switzerland before the pandemic, we didn't have time to reach the summit of the Eiffel Tower, which is why we put this activity in our itinerary.

I'm aware that my revised itinerary may have disappointed many of you because I didn't take some of your suggestions into consideration, but please understand that I still want to visit Luxembourg, and the train from Paris to Luxembourg takes only 2h30 as opposed to 3h18 from Brussels, so going one-way to Brussels is fine.

However, I’ll go over my hotel selections one again. I decide to stay in Amsterdam since I think I'll be able to benefit from it at the end of each day and let me reconsider spending 4 nights in Brussels; perhaps I should have spent 2 nights in Brugge or Ghent.

Thanks again for your help!

Posted by
526 posts

Luxembourg City is pretty interesting. Crazy topography, excellent tourist office. Lot of native English speakers. Feel quite internationally corporate, not in a bad way.

Posted by
528 posts

First of all, I’m not disappointed. This is your trip, so your decisions. All I can do is give you advice, but in the end it’s up to you to decide what you do with it.
Having said that, I will say one more time that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay good money to stay in Amsterdam, but leave no time in your busy schedule to actually see it. You write that you think you'll be able to benefit from it at the end of each day, but I’m not sure if you’ve thought that thru. First of all, you will be tired from sightseeing in another place during the day. Secondly, the only touristy stuff to do in the evening is a canal cruise or dining in a restaurant. With the Anne Frank house being the only exception, all major museums (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh museum etc) close at 6 PM. So the only way you will be able to see those museums is from the outside. If that’s fine by you and your parents then go for it, but I think it’s a true shame to spend 5 nights in Amsterdam with no time to see much of it.

Posted by
4 posts

My wife and I are also planning a trip in Belgium in April. I've been thinking of getting an Airbnb in Ghent and visiting Bruges, Brussels, Oudenaarde (cycling museum there), and whatever other places may be interesting in Belgium. We would stay in just one place, and take the short and easy train rides (without suitcases) for day trips. This seems more relaxing to me, but also, the cost per night is reduced when you stay for multiple nights.
We will do a similar thing in Amsterdam, making it a kind of home base and doing some day trips to other places. We have a friend to visit in Utrecht, which is about a 45 min train ride. I sure hope the Fabrique des Lumieres still has the Klimt and Hundertwasser exhibit in April...our friend says it is awesome!
We are also going to take the Eurostar to London for a six day stay. Hopefully will see a show or two there!
Good luck with your plans!

Posted by
6021 posts

FWIW, I saw the Klimt/Hundertwasser show in New York City, and did not think it was as good as, for example, the one of (the two) Van Gogh video shows I saw. I think the location can make a big difference. I saw it in a mid-century classical-revival bank interior.

Posted by
340 posts

My wife is a musician so for us, a visit to Dinant was an obligation. No regrets! It is picturesque. There are good place to eat and most wonderfully, the nearby Brasserie Du BOCQ was an absolutely unpretentious and fun tour topped off with fine Belgian beer. We also enjoyed visiting nearby Namur.

Brugge is fun and a bit of a display. You should enjoy time in Ghent.
Keukenhof is a must do visit. If you get an early start, it is not unreasonable to visit Hoorn for a bit of a walk and dinner on the same day. Take the train.
Consider staying in Harlem.
I have enjoyed Luxemburg visits, but I would not make going there a priority if time is limited.
If Paris is necessary, I would completely change the plan, rent a car there and drive to Rheam's region on my way to Southern Belgium. Otherwise, I would leave this off the list and return there at another time.