We will be in Amsterdam next week for 4 days. Planning a tour out to the countryside one day and renting a car one day to drive to Belgium, should we go to Bruges or Ghent? Traveling with our 20 year old daughter. Any other suggestions while we're in Amsterdam? Good restaurants?
Umm, we spent a week on the ground in Amsterdam and still didn't see everything we wanted to see.
I can't imagine driving 2.5 to 3 hours each way to Ghent or Bruges respectively as being an enjoyable day, especially if you actually spend any time to see anything in your city of choice. I wouldn't want to drive home after dark.
I'd cancel that car and excursion and spend that day doing and seeing some of the magnificent and/or fun things in Amsterdam.
I used to take high school and college women's soccer teams to Amsterdam and have visited friends there a number of times since. If I were to prioritize things not to miss in Amsterdam, I would suggest 1) Anne Frank House 2) Canal House tour 3) Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh (both in one day would be too much for me) 4) Canal Boat tour 5) Amsterdam Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum) 6) A tram ride to any Pannekoeken Restaurant or an Indonesian Restaurant 7) Gassan Diamond Factory 9they would let your daughter try on any size or shape diamond she might want in a future ring 8) a tour of Ajax stadium (if any of you are into sports. I agree that to do both Ghent and Bruges is an overly ambitious day trip and I would find Bruges the more interesting (reference The Monuments Men return of The Madonna with Child) and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. As an amateur historian of WW II, I would suggest a brief internet search on how the war effected both Amsterdam and Bruges before embarking. Hope this helps. Please be a gracious visitor. We have always had a wonderful time, once the locals realize that your interests go beyond marijuana and you are not trying to Americanize them. All children take a lot of English in school and watch American TV shows with a passion, so communication is never a problem. Bon Voyage.
I was just in Amsterdam for 4 days & there was so much to see/do, we never left the city.
Count up the number of museums you want to visit & see if the museumkaart makes a difference. We bought ours at the Amsterdam City Museum and had a great (unplanned) visit.
If you can get advance, timed entry to the Anne Frank house, do so. We did and couldn't believe the lines for those who didn't - blocks long. We did the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh the same day. The kaart let us bypass some of the line at Van Gogh.
We had one dinner at The Pantry. Good, traditional Dutch food. A reservation is needed (stop by in the afternoon for one). While at The Dam square, we got lunch in the cafeteria at the de Bijenkorf department store. A very nice set up with multiple stations and fresh food and drink.
With only four days in Amsterdam, I can't imagine driving to another country like Belgium, unless you're a "country collector" and want to add to your tally. And as posted above, it will be a taxing daytrip.
Much of the Netherlands is an easy daytrip from Amsterdam, so if you have a specific interest or want a change of venue, that's a much better idea. Rick Steves Amsterdam, Bruges & Brussels has details of LOTS of options, including travel information. And unless you really want to, there's no need to rent a car, as the domestic trains in the Netherlands are very frequent and the price doesn't go up at the last minute. Therefore, you can wait until you're there to see if you want to take any excursions outside the city.
Basically just driving up and down to Bruges/Ghent in one day is possible, but makes to my opinion no sense. You have to pick up and drop off the car, likely to deal with the notorious traffic jams, so a train will be much more quicker and convenient. Amsterdam to Bruges takes in combination with the highspeed train just over 3 hours each way.
I can propose an itinerary to Bruges, but you will need to stay a night there. First I was thinking about a version in one day, but as you are not familiar with the ins and outs of the traffic situation here I think its impossible to make a sensible necessary acurate planning in such a short notice. So maybe you can think roughly about the following:
Start 10:00 am Having the car already, Amsterdam – Zierikzee in the Delta Region 2 - 3 hours driving (depending traffic conditions) and 2 hour visit, lunch including.
3:00 pm Zierikzee over Storm Surge Barrier to Veere 1 hour and 1 hour visit.
5:00 pm Veere to Bruges via Westerschelde tunnel 1½ hour and in Belgium E34 freeway.
6:30 pm Arriving Bruges, parking car, get to hotel, diner and walk in the evening.
10:00 am After breakfast visit Bruges as long as wished, in the afternoon drive back to Amsterdam, drop off the car.
You can include a short visit to Ghent driving along the E40 and Antwerp on the way back home. Plan at least some extra 3 hours for this, inclusive parking the car and leaving town. Ghent has a lot of options for diner.
Still it feels for me rushed, but can´t decide for you. If of interest I can give you some time saving tips.
Thank you everyone for your input, seems like a drive out to Belgium (Ghent/or Bruges) is not recommended for the day. If we rent a car for a day, can you recommend some interesting worthwhile areas to visit outside of Amsterdam.
Well, I think there's enough to keep you busy in Amsterdam for 4 days but if you want to venture out of the city, you might try Delft. It's a very cute, walkable town with lots of shops to buy chocolate and such. I enjoyed a tour of the Delft pottery store, met the artists, and bought a few souvenirs. Lots of nice restaurants for lunch.
Things with a car:
The counrty-side just north-east of Amsterdam is nice with cute little places like Durgerdam, Ransdorp, Broek in Waterland, Marken, little towns like Monnickendam, Edam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, De Rijp etc. You can drive further over the “Afsluitdijk” to Friesland with lovely country-side and more nice places like Sloten, Makkum, Hindeloopen etc.
South-east you can drive along river Vecht to Utrecht and “Kasteel de Haar”, further east to Kröller-Müller Museum (Van Gogh collection) near Otterlo and Palace Het Loo near Apeldoorn, nearby Zutphen and Deventer are lovely.
Cities like Delft is best to go to by train, quicker, cheaper and more convenient.
If you go to Delft with a car you have to get out of Amsterdam, drive south on a very wide and busy freeway (I forget, either 8 or 10 lanes at one point near the airport) through pretty plain countryside, near a few smaller windmills south of the airport, then into the busy area around Delft and then pay to park - which is difficult, unless it is market day when much of the parking is replaced by the markets and parking is even more fun. After all that, you have to do it all in reverse.
On the train, hop on at Amsterdam Centraal (at the end of all the tram lines), and in a few few minutes of scenic train ride you will be whooshed straight into Delft. The station is just to the side of Delft and just a few minutes walk to the centre with all the action. Then you could take a number 1 tram right into Den Haag and look around there, then train back to Amsterdam from one of 2 Den Haag stations.
I've gone both ways over the years. I prefer the comfort of the train in that corridor.