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Amsterdam and Bruges 10 day itinerary/area to stay in

My husband and I are going to Amsterdam and Bruges end of September/early October 2018. We are pretty committed to flying in and out of Amsterdam, as from Minneapolis they are direct flights with okay prices right now. We would spend the first 4 nights in Amsterdam, then do a mid-trip stay in Bruges for a couple of nights, returning to Amsterdam for 4 nights. Here is my tentative itinerary; I would appreciate some input!

  • Day 1 Thursday: Arrive Amsterdam late morning (sleep in A'dam)
  • Day2 Friday: A'dam sights (sleep in A'dam)
  • Day 3 Sat: A'dam sights (sleep in A'dam)
  • Day 4 Sun: Perhaps day trip to Delft (sleep in A'dam)
  • Day 5 Mon: A'dam sights morning, high-speed train to Brussels around 2:00/connect with IC train to Bruges (total time 4 hours or Arrive Bruges late afternoon. (I realize most museums are closed on Mondays in Bruges, thus later departure).
    Sleep Bruges.
  • Day 6: Tues: Sights Bruges. Sleep Bruges.
  • Day 7: Wed: Morning sights Bruges. Mid-afternoon train back to Amsterdam (IC to Brussels/connect to high speed to A'dam. Sleep Amsterdam.
  • Day 8: Thurs: A'dam sights, perhaps day-trip to Haarlem. Sleep A'dam.
  • Day 9: Fri: A'dam sights, perhaps day-trip to Leiden. Sleep A'dam.
  • Day 10: Sat.: A'dam sights in Amsterdam. Sleep A'dam.
  • Day 11: Sun: Depart Amsterdam late morning.

I feel the pacing is reasonable. I definitely want to do some day trips from Amsterdam--are Delft, Haarlam, and Leiden good choices? Also the museums are important to me, as is the Anne Frank House. Two nights in Bruges seems right. Another question: I am hearing good things about staying in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam, but also am wondering about the Southern Canal Belt. We will be doing Airbnb's, and could conceivably stay in two different areas of A'dam, before and after Bruges.
Any input would be most welcome!

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Posted by
1353 posts

For me - (maybe not for you:) that would be way to much time in Amsterdam. We are going for the 3rd time this summer. Our first trip we stayed in Haarlem for 3 nights doing one day trip to Den Haag and spending one full day in Amsterdam. That seemed about perfect. Last trip we were supposed to spend 2 nights, but after one night we found we were both more than ready to move on. This year we are again staying 2 nights, but won't arrive on the first day until mid afternoon. I'm really hoping we don't feel the same way this year! I feel like I have our time planned out a bit better and we are staying in a little nicer hotel.

We've been to Brugge twice. Stayed 2 nights both times and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves so that seems about right.

I feel like most people could see all of the major tourist sites including museums in 2 or 3 days at the most. Maybe you have a special interest in art and plan on spending a lot of time in the museums? The Jordan district is a good choice.

Posted by
370 posts

We did a similar trip in April but stayed in Haarlem for a week instead of Amsterdam. I would recommend the Jordan area if you want to stay in AMS. Bruges was one of my favorite spots (after the tourist leave). If interested in our itinerary PM me.

Posted by
7980 posts

For day trips by train I would add The Hague and it's Mauritshaus Museum as well. You can combine The Hague and Delft very easily.
Leiden is very special and we returned there for a week last year after seeing it as a day trip on an earlier stay in Amsterdam. It is where the Pilgrims lived for ten years before sailing to the New World. It is also a university town and Einstein and John Quincy Adams attended the university there. Haarlem is nice but I liked the I liked others I mentioned above a lot more.

Posted by
2487 posts

On returning to the Netherlands you could easily have another city for your accommodation. Leiden is already mentioned, but Utrecht is also a good place to be for a few days. Both have excellent connections to Schiphol airport (20 mins from Leiden, 30 from Utrecht, on very frequent direct trains).

Posted by
131 posts

Thank you all for your very helpful responses and input! It has really helped me to open up to wider possibilities. I have just booked our first 4 nights in Amsterdam, which will be plenty of time to do all the museums I'm excited about and just explore the city, since I've never been there. Maybe also make a quick day trip to Edam during this first leg of our trip. The first day will be jet-lagged so I think 4 nights will be welcome as arrival day will be low-key. I have also just booked the last 4 nights of our trip (after we do the 2 nights in Bruges). For those final nights I decided to book in Haarlem---different vibe, but still accessible to Amsterdam should we want to re-visit it. From Haarlem it will be even more accessible to do the day trips south I'd like to do--Delft, Leiden, perhaps Hague. Plus I found a perfectly charming house in Haarlem in a great location! And it's a 20 minute bus ride to the airport on our day of departure. So thank you for encouraging me to stay outside of A'dam for part of the trip. Now I hope to get lucky and score a good place in Bruges! Thank you all again--most helpful!

Posted by
1236 posts

Suzanne, I just got back from the Netherlands and had a similar itinerary - I spent 4 nights in Amsterdam, then two nights in Gent (with a day trip to Bruges), and back to Amsterdam for 4 nights. The second part of my stay in Amsterdam was spend mostly outside the city in day trips.

First, I loved Amsterdam and definitely think there is plenty to do there! The city is vibrant and has so many beautiful sights and people and scenery - I want to go back soon. I stayed in the De Pijp neighborhood, which is lots of fun, close to the center, and had loads of great restaurants and cafes and bars.

However, there are definitely interesting and scenic areas to see outside the city. I did a day trip to Leiden and Den Haag, which was perfect. I especially enjoyed Leiden - I spent most of my time there just getting lost in the city and walking around. It was extremely charming, but more important, it felt like a lived-in city, as opposed to Haarlem.

I am almost assuredly in the minority here, but I did not enjoy Haarlem - there were way too many chain shops and it felt very touristy to me. That being said, I loved the Church of St. Bavo, which was quite beautiful and historic. I also liked the Frans Hals museum and the Corrie Ten Boom house (although I ducked out of that a little early, because it was getting very claustrophobic with 22 people crammed in a small hot room).

A friend of mine lives in Heemskirt and she took me to Hoorn, which I really enjoyed. It's a very scenic town on the water. We took a water taxi around the area and enjoyed that, had some lunch and then went to the Westfries museum, which I recommend highly. It was a nice relaxing day, which was great after all my sightseeing.

Lastly, I would recommend a day trip to Gent while you are in Bruges. I actually preferred Gent to Bruges - I found it less crowded and much more charming. While I certainly enjoyed Bruges, I don't think that there is much to see after a day and night. It's a very quick train ride to Gent-Dampoort, which is close to the city center, and well worth a trip.

Posted by
131 posts

Thank you for the additional input, Mardee! We do indeed have very similar trips.

I have already booked our place in Haarlem the last four nights and I am very happy with our location there and the apartment itself, as well as the reputation of the hosts, which is always important with Airbnb. So I am sticking with that--in my mind the choice to stay in Haarlem was made in part because of its proximity to Delft, Leiden, etc. as day trips, while still having easy proximity to Amsterdam should we wish to return there for part of a day for some reason. So many charming towns to day trip to...!

I hadn't heard about Den-Haag so that is another place I'll look into, as well as Hoorn. As for a day trip to Gent (I think it's spelled Ghent?) from Bruges, it would depend on how early we arrive in Bruges the first day, which I haven't figured out yet. It might feel too rushy--I do want to just savor Bruges and not compromise our experience there, and we are doing a lot of day-tripping overall during the end of our trip. But I am curious about Ghent and will look into it as well! We also have already booked a great place in Bruges for the 2 nights.

I appreciate all the input and will keep investigating. I definitely want to use discretion and not overload the itinerary, which would be easy to do!

Posted by
1353 posts

Suzanne, The big reason we day tripped to Den Haage was to visit Madurodam as we had our then 11 y/o with us. My husband and I also thoroughly enjoyed it also:).

We've day tripped to Ghent on our way to Brugge on our 2nd trip to that area. If I only had 2 nights in Brugge I would skip Ghent unless like us you can do it coming or going. Spend the whole time in Brugge - it's a great place to "savor".

Posted by
1236 posts

Suzanne, the English spelling is Ghent, with an H, but in Belgium, it is spelled Gent.

Posted by
2487 posts

I hadn't heard about Den Haag
In English-speaking countries Den Haag is better known as The Hague. Go there if you want to see the first class Mauritshuis museum with Vermeer's iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring. Den Haag is easily combined with Delft (15 mins further on the same railway line) or Leiden (which you'll pass coming from Haarlem).
... as well as Hoorn
Hoorn is a beauty, but Enkhuizen (20 mins further on the same train) is maybe even better. Once one of the richest port cities around, it has nowadays a peaceful village feel. You'll love the open-air Zuiderzeemuseum.

Posted by
2487 posts

Those Belgian place names...
»Gand« is French for Gent, which the English-speaking world knows as »Ghent«.

Posted by
1236 posts

Ton, I am so sorry I missed Enkhuizen - my friend wanted to go to Hoorn so I was limited (since she was the one with the car) - and I eventually just ran out of time (and energy). :) But I definitely want to come back in the next couple of years and spend much more time in the north and go to Utrecht (which I also missed). I really love this country and the city of Amsterdam, and could easily spend a lot of time here.

Posted by
1236 posts

I'll say! My next trip I'm really hoping to explore the countryside and get to some out of the way places.