Netherlands, Belgium, France Itinerary Help

Hi! My husband and I are planning an April/May springtime trip. We will have a total of 11 days for travel enjoyment (plus two for leaving and getting back to the states). We are looking at flying open jaw into Paris and out of Amsterdam, or the reverse of that. I have just started planning and we are considering five nights in France (two days to see Normandy and D-Day sights, three days in Paris), three days in Bruges, and three days in Amsterdam. Does this seem like a decent itinerary? We want to see a good amount of sights but still relax a little along the way. I know some will say it's short for time for Paris, but we will probably come back at some point to do an entire tour of France, including Paris again. I have been once to Paris in my college years; my husband has never seen it. Neither of us has been to Belgium or the Netherlands and we feel like Bruges and Amsterdam have a lot to offer. Should we day-trip to Delft one of the days in Amsterdam? We also want to go to one of the tulip farms outside of the city. Except for Paris, all the rest of the areas (Bayeux & D-Day, Bruges and the places in the Netherlands) are all new to us and I'm hoping we are allowing a reasonable amount of time for each area, considering the time-frame we have to work with. Other questions--which city we should fly into first...Amsterdam or Paris? That leads to my next question...would it be better to see the flowers in the Netherlands in the middle-to-late April instead of early May? Any must-see, must-do things that you loved for these places? And for lodging in Paris...I have found a surprisingly, reasonably-priced hotel close to the Eiffel tower that is well-reviewed, would you recommend booking in that area?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
5297 posts

I would just like to comment on your plan for 3 days in Bruges. I love Bruges but 3 days is a lot, really. However, if you use it as a base and visit say, Antwerp (which i found interesting for a day visit) or Ghent, your 3 days will be well used.

By the way, if you have found a hotel you are pleased with, book it. Being close to the Tour Eiffel is OK but not necessarily a recommendation for me, but if you like the idea and the price is right who am I to quibble.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

Welcome Julie,

Since you already know Paris could take more time i think youre Good to Go (GTG). Its great you have allotted more time in Normandy since a tour or visiting most of the USA sectors will take at least a day.

I havent been to Bruges, yet so i cant say.

Amsterdam can be done in 2 fast days but it will depend on what you all want to do/see. Since i use it as my hub, i can checkoff things everytime i stay there. Also, most of the things inside the city are in my opinion easily accessible and arent that spread out.

I was in Amsterdam in March and everyone said there would be tulips everywhere. Well, i guess i didnt go everywhere or the places i went to didnt include everywhere. Not that it didnt affect my vacation. Just something i was expecting, but didnt happen.

Paris is someplace i can go back to over and over again. If you like art, i would spend at least some time in the Louve and other museums. the Musee D Orsay really impressed me since i wasnt expecting the awsome furniture exibit in the upper floors. the craftsmanship was something you dont see everyday.

With regards to local in Paris, I go for Location first and then Cost. But i the cost is too much, then i have to compromise. To me, if you find a place to stay within your price range and it somewhat central to where you want to go, go for it. I liked the area near the Eiffel tower, but with me being there only once so far, thats all i know for now. Everyone starts from 0 and once youre there, you will find out if you like it or not.

To me, since youre time is short everywhere, i would make a list of "must do" and try to plan my time around them to maximize your trip.

happy trails.

Posted by Julie
Wichita, KS, United States
207 posts

We are open to the area that we stay in...I should perhaps elaborate upon the experience we would like when we stay in Paris. We would like to stay in an area with cute cafes, romantic, and walk-able, easy to explore. We prefer charming instead of fancy. We would like a location close to Metro so we can navigate the sites. Walking some distance is fine with us. Do you have suggestions for a certain Arrondissement based off those thoughts?

Norma, I think it's a wonderful idea to day-trip from Bruges. Perhaps if we are ready for a change of scenery, we will go to either Ghent or Antwerp. I have read that both cities are very interesting, so we'll have to do a little research ahead of time before we go to know which is more intriguing for us. Or would you perhaps recommend adding a day to Amsterdam?

Ray, I'm hoping that we'll find the flowers since we'll be in late April. It sounds like it's a good time for them? But, since I've never been, who knows? We definitely want to spend some good time in the Louvre. I had limited time there my first trip and we'd both like to spend some good time there.

Many thanks for your thoughtful replies!

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2893 posts

I would start in Amsterdam myself as mid-late April is usually the best tulip time (of course can't guarantee anything weather related). If you plan on visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam you'll need advance tickets/reservations, the lines can get long. Don't miss the Van Gogh museum if you're a fan, blew my mind.

Based on your statements I think the 4th or 5th in Paris would fit the bill a little better than the Eiffel Tower area. I loved staying in the 4th (Marais area), very walkable and easy to see a good number of sights in a compact area. Main thing is to be near Metro stop so you can get anywhere in a short time. I was there in late May and there were flowers everywhere, the gardens were beautiful to wander in, I should think early May would be about the same - unless you're yearning for "April in Paris".

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
6564 posts

Hi Julie,

Since you are only in Paris for a short visit, I think you'd do much better to stay closer to the center. The Eiffel Tower is a bit farther away and not well connected by metro. I love staying in the Marais Quarter (partly 3rd, mostly 4th arrondissement). On my next visit, I hope to stay on the Left Bank (5th, 6th) - St. Germaine-des-Pres and Latin Quarter. Both of these areas are close to major sights with good metro connections and lots of cafes, bistros, etc. I'd spend a bit more for a room with a better location, just to maximize my time. The Marais is more residential and yuppie, the Left Bank, students. [arrondissement = zone. Look at the zip code of the hotel, the last two digits are the arrondissement]

From Bruges, take a day trip to Gothic Ghent. Delft is a nice day trip from Amsterdam. You could even combine Delft (not really enough for a full day) with The Hague - it's a 20 minute tram ride from one to the other. If the tulips aren't in bloom, you could still visit the flower auction in Aalsmeer one morning. Last year I spent a "museum day" in Amsterdam (day trip from The Hague), went to the Maritime Museum, then the Portuguese Synagogue, the Dutch Resistance Museum, and finally the Hermitage. I was surprised at how interesting the Maritime and Dutch Resistance Museums were. Across the street from the Van Gogh Museum is the House of Bols, an interesting half-hour with a cocktail of your choice at the end (and discounts on a second).

I don't know that it matters where you start. Maybe Amsterdam, just because I wouldn't want to be jetlagged and in Paris.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
11071 posts

The tulip garden you want to see is Keukenhof. It's only open in the spring when the tulips are in bloom. Mid to late April is usually the best time to visit.

The polderland where they grow the tulips can be colorful, but the bulbs usually haven't opened yet before they harvest them. That's why you really should see them at Keukenhof.

1 day is usually enough for me in Brugge, so consider the before-mentioned daytrips, or Ieper or the Belgian coast.

Posted by familygiles
7 posts

As others have stated, one day in Bruges is enough! Ghent, Antwerp, Amsterdam, The Hague - all lovely places. Whether you fly into Amsterdam or Paris - I would make my decision based on the price. Last year was a difficult year for tulips, this year the weather is much more on target, April should be fine.

Posted by Deanna
Piedmont Triad, NC
161 posts

What a great trip! I heartily agree with Tom's recommendation to see Keukenhof Gardens - we were there two years ago in mid-April and it was so incredibly beautiful! Easy to get to from Amsterdam and they also rent bikes right at the gate to cycle through the tulip fields. We took a picnic - the bike rental place has maps and between the gardens themselves and the cycling/picnic, we had a full day! I haven't been to Bruges, but you could easily add a day to any of your other destinations if you decide to cut a day from Bruges as others have suggested. You don't say if you are traveling in 2014 or 2015, but Keukenhof's Flower Parade this year is on May 3rd, so if you end in Amsterdam, you might be able to see this beautiful sight! Here is the link - With three days in Amsterdam, I'd spend one at Keukenhof and the other two in Amsterdam. With a fourth day, I'd add in a day trip to the surrounding area. You probably know to make reservations at the Anne Frank house, and it is open in the evening, which frees up some daytime hours for other sightseeing. We thought the Dutch Resistance Museum was wonderful - we went there before our visit to the Anne Frank house and found it enhanced our experience. Also, the Museum of Our Lord in the Attic was lovely - it's a secret Catholic church hidden in the attic of a townhouse. We only spent an hour or so but it was a favorite experience. As for lodging in Paris, I can recommend Hotel Cluny Sorbonne - it's on the Left Bank, in the 5th arrondissement. Less then two blocks from the RER B which goes directly to/from the airport, so no transferring trains with luggage. Just off Place de la Sorbonne (cute cafes), and Blvd St Michel, but surprisingly quiet at night. Extremely well-located - numerous bus/metro stops within a 2-3 block radius, and a ten minute walk to Notre Dame. I'd highly recommend buying a detailed bus map (at any newsstand for about 4-5 euro) - my daughter and I found busses just as convenient as the metro, sometimes more so. Eiffel tower area is beautiful but a little farther out from the tourist center. I hope these ideas help you to have a marvelous trip!