London, Belgium, .... and then?

Hello,
My husband and I are planning to head to Europe in July in a bit of a last minute trip decision. The trip will be 11 days long. London was the cheapest place to fly into, hence why we're starting there (we had originally planned to do Barcelona and southern france). We then plan to catch the train to Belgium, but need some help from there....

Neither of us are big city people, but he's never been europe so London (while being cheap to fly into) is a natural choice to start. We figure we'll spend a day and a half there so we can acclimate to the time and see a few sights. I've been there twice before and really just would like to see the crown jewels again (i'm a girl after all). We then hope to catch the bullet train to Brussels. How long is appropriate to spend there? From there, we planned to head to Brugges ...or maybe Dusseldorf.

Anyone have advice on whether to hit The Netherlands vs. Germany? Also, any advice on what train options are best and where to get them (U.S. wait until we land in London)?

We don't have many days and London will be our arrival and departure city. Any tips are appreciated.
Thanks in advance.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5691 posts

How much did you save flying round trip to London? Often it's a false savings if it's not where you really want to go. You will now be spending money and time to travel from London and back. Does your 11 days include your travel days? You can't count your departure day, and you will arrive in London the following day. You also can't count the day you fly home, as flights generally leave early in the morning. You will need to spend your last night in London. Rather than spending your time in London at the beginning of your trip you might consider spending it at the end. Please let us know how many days you will actually be there. As far as where you go, it would help to know where you've been and what your interests are.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
8591 posts
  • If you plan to travel by Eurostar train from London to Brussels, then book that soon for a shot at a better price. 2nd-class prices range from about $75 to $300 one-way, per person, and the cheapest sell out months in advance. French trains also get pretty expensive if you don't book ahead.

  • The Netherlands is small and train tickets are relatively cheap to buy there. If you also cross Germany by train a couple of times, you could save money with a German Twin pass, sold here or at stations in Germany, starting at $230 per person for 3 travel days within a month, and extra days $15-20/each.

  • Or you could fly pretty cheaply from London to Spain, or to Berlin, etc; see www.skyscanner.com.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5372 posts

I recommend Ghent over Bruges. Ghent is between Bruges and Brussels, so it's convenient for day trips to both and Antwerp too, it's a lot less touristy than Bruges, in the evenings all the Gothic buildings are illuminated - really nice. Lodgings are cheaper too. After that you could head for the Netherlands. On my last visit there, I stayed in The Hague, much quieter and cleaner than Amsterdam - and hotels are a lot cheaper too. It has some interesting sights. It's easy to day trip to Amsterdam to see the sights, but there are small Dutch towns that are worth visiting too. Delft is charming and only a 15-20 tram ride away, for instance.

I would plan to spend the last night in London, even if you have a late flight out the next day.

Posted by seebeach1216
Florida, USA
26 posts

I would recommend Cologne or Amsterdam as the additional city. Book your train tickets now if you are sure of your dates because they will be more expensive if you buy them the day of. With only 11 days it would be difficult to do more than 3 cities, especially if you have to transfer back to London for your flight home.

If you really want Barcelona, you should be able to book a cheap connecting flight from London on a budget airline like Easy Jet or Monarch (I found roundtrip tickets from Gatwick on Monarch for 130 GBP per person.)

Posted by Diana
Mount Pleasant, SC
25 posts

thanks everyone. we planned just stay in belgium, the netherlands, and maybe a trip to germany. i think we're going to look into an open jaw flight and figure something out. i've been to europe several times, so i know that 11 days isn't ideal and we'll only be able to hit a few places, but it's all we've got time-wise.

thanks again everyone!

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
1164 posts

When researching open-jaw, don't overlook the possibility that a big airline like United or Lufthansa might charge you almost nothing extra for a two-segment flight from, say, Atlanta to Cologne or Barcelona. You have to do the "research", but it's just pointing at clicking, in the Internet age ...

Posted by Diana
Mount Pleasant, SC
25 posts

NEW ITINERARY!!

okay - i think we're going to fly into Dusseldorf (we have a friend from there) and fly out of Brussels.

This new itinerary means we'll take a train from Dusseldorf to Amsterdam (because that's really the only option to get onto an easy train route to Brussels to fly out). So, from Amsterdam what should we NOT MISS in The Netherlands and Belgium before we head out to Brussels? We'll arrive in europe on the 17th of July and fly out the 26th - so 9 days of sightseeing time (11 days total).

Here are some options:

The Hague
Rotterdam
Delft
Antwerp
Ghent
Bruge
Brussels

Posted by Maggie
Moose Jaw, SK, Canada
102 posts

I'm not a big city person either and this is what I would do. Pick a couple of highlights you want to see in Amsterdam (for me, it would be Anne Frank's house and the VanGogh museum, with a canal boat ride in between) then head toward the coast: Zaanse Schans open-air museum, Haarlem, Zandvoort, Leiden, The Hague, Schevenginen, Delft, then over to Bruges. All smaller places and not too crowded, except for Bruges mid-day. But, there are lots of quieter back streets and canals to wander in Bruges and the main areas are lovely morning and evening.

Posted by Diana
Mount Pleasant, SC
25 posts

Thank you, Maggie!

We are going to fly into Amsterdam and then fly out of Brussels, so I'm hoping to enjoy the smaller stops and spend less time in the big cities. Of course, we're going to have to do get acclimated to the time difference, but i'm hoping some good sleep on the plane will help. we'll probably spend two nights in Amsterdam. i can't wait to see the Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum. I spent some time in Arles, France and it was just so neat to see the view he saw when he painted and I gained a bigger appreciation for the man after seeing what he could do. After Amsterdam, I hope we just find smaller places we love and decide while there how many nights we want to spend there. that said, i'm going to have to jump on some places to stay in Amsterdam and maybe Ghent...wish me luck!

thanks!

Posted by Wil
IJzendijke, The Netherlands
543 posts

From 18th July till 27th July there will be the “Gentse Feesten” , the Belgian equivalent of the Munich Oktoberfest, so be aware that most places are fully booked in Ghent and the city centre will be noisy till somewhere in the early morning and packed with visitors. It’s possible that this kind of festivities is just what you like, but for a sleeping place look well ahead.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5372 posts

I recommend staying in The Hague and day tripping to Rotterdam by train and Delft by tram. It's easier and less time than changing hotels. I'd say the same for Belgium, staying in Ghent, but with the Gentse Feesten, that doesn't seem feasible. It sounds like you'll pretty much have to stay wherever you can get a place. There are frequent trains in Belgium, so it's pretty easy to day-trip around anyway.