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Can we do Amsterdam, Brussels and Bruges in 7 days

Hi Everyone,

My husband and I only have 9 days to travel this summer. The 9 days include our flight days, so we'd have 7 days on the ground. We have never been to Amsterdam, Brussels or Bruges and are wondering if we could have a fun trip in 7 days without overly rushing everything.

It seems that flying both in and out of Amsterdam is the most cost effective, but perhaps it's still better to fly into Amsterdam and leave from Brussels.

What would be a good itinerary for us? We are interested in the canals, medieval history, museums (history and art), historical landmarks, and would also love to see some countryside, if possible. Plus, we definitely want to take at least one bike tour.

Thanks!

Posted by
1806 posts

I've spent longer than 7 days just exploring Amsterdam and not been bored, but yes, I think if you are just trying to see Amsterdam, 1 city in Belgium and spend a little bit of time in countryside biking you can do that in 7 days and not feel terribly rushed - especially if you fly open jaw into the Netherlands and out of Belgium (or vice versa).

Some people aren't fans of Brussels. I thought it was nice. Bruges was pretty, but I found it to be a bit dull in the evenings after the sun went down and felt one can cover most sites in Bruges in less than 2 days. I also feel like you may feel a little underwhelmed by the canals there if you are just coming from Amsterdam. I actually would suggest spending time in Antwerp or Ghent and if you still feel like you must see Bruges, then you could always spend 1 of your days there (basing in one city and taking the trains to visit others in Belgium is very easy).

Or maybe start in Amsterdam, head to The Hague, take a side trip to Kinderdijk to spend a day biking around the windmills, move on to Antwerp, Ghent or Brussels.

Posted by
2487 posts

You could easily have 2 full days for the highlights of Amsterdam and the 3th day to explore the countryside north of it, using the Waterland Bus service.
It is only some 3 hrs by hourly train from Amsterdam to Belgium, and even just 2 hrs with the high-speed Thalys service.
Opinions vary on the best place to stay in Belgium. Many find Brussels not an agreeable city to stay. Personally I find Gent, a historical lively university city, a more pleasant city for accommodation than Bruges. Other strongly prefer Bruges. Gent is half an hour on very regular trains from both Bruges and Brussels, and has also an easy rail connection to Brussels airport (some direct, some with a change at Brussels).

Posted by
2440 posts

Based on your interests, I would spend most of the time in Amsterdam. I think you should be very specific about what you want to see - Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank Huis - and decide where to spend your days based on that.

You can't see everything - but you can still have a great trip.

Posted by
5752 posts

Yes, with 7 full days (not including arrival or departure days) you can do a quick, tight trip to those cities.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks for all of your replies and feedback. After reading your comments and doing more research, we are thinking of just staying in the Netherlands. We'd like to see smaller cities, the countryside, and possibly even go hiking (any suggestions on this?). Then, perhaps we will take a train for the day into wither Brussels, Antwerp, or Bruges (please tell me your preference for the must see. It seems likes Bruges is actually a bit more popular).

So, if we do stay in the Netherlands, we'll probably just get one hotel and explore Amsterdam and take day trips. With that, do you have recommendations? Haarlem seems really nice and so does Rotterdam. Should we visit a coastal city?

We'd prefer to use public transportation instead of renting a car.

Thank you!

Posted by
228 posts

If you are thinking of Haarlem you are very close to a popular coastal city : Zandvoort . Brussels was disappointing : too many 'Eurocrats ' . I did like Ghent . Bruges is like a museum : Lots of historical buildings but not much to do . Weather permitting ( NO cover ) , a canal boat tour of Bruges gives you more info about their history . Antwerp is ok .

Posted by
2487 posts

With your new plan get a TripKey public transport card. It makes the use of trains, trams, buses and whatever a lot easier.
Scheveningen is a good place for the coast. As a suburb of The Hague it is easily combined with the wonderful Mauritshuis museum by taking a tram.
Rotterdam might come as a disappointment: most of the city centre is postwar. But you can combine it with a visit to the World Heritage windmill complex of Kinderdijk with taking the Waterbus (the TripKey card is also valid for this river ferry), and maybe continue to undervisited Dordrecht.
Instead of a day trip to Belgium, consider the string of former Hansa cities in the eastern part of the country: Zwolle (1 hr from Amsterdam), Kampen (an extra 10 mins), Deventer (25 mins) and Zutphen (35 mins). Kampen has a beautiful river front, and Zutphen is possibly the most picturesque.
Use the real-time public transport planner 9292.

Posted by
5568 posts

Amsterdam is ideal for daytrips to some cities within one hour by commuter train, like Haarlem, Leiden, Alkmaar, Utrecht, Amersfoort, with Delft and (less urgent) The Hague and Rotterdam just over an hour. So you will not feel like you were stuck in one city during your short vacation. I think the eastern Netherlands cities are a little too far, but it's up to you. (I enjoy a long stay in one hotel, as long as it's a nice one.) It is true that you could spend seven days just seeing Amsterdam, but you don't need to know it in quite that much detail!

Although Brussels is not nearly as attractive as Amsterdam (I prefer Antwerp to Brussels), you could also do seven days in Belgium, because the most popular cities are easily daytripped by unreserved train. Unfortunately, no one will ask you "did you see Delft?", but they will ask, "did you see Bruges?" While the smaller medieval town centers of the Netherlands are no substitute for Bruges, they are reasonable taste of the idea. For your restricted time, I vote for Amsterdam.

Posted by
46 posts

Thank you so much everyone! I like the idea of going to at least one coastal city. From the sound of it, I think we'd prefer Bruges (even for just a day trip and back to Amsterdam) over Brussels.

Which areas of Amsterdam do you recommend staying in? We aren't familiar. Would like something pretty, safe, close to the train and around restaurants (we are both mostly vegan).

Do you have recommendations for canal cruises and/or bike rentals?

When we went to Europe last, we purchased most of our museum/attraction tickets beforehand and didn't wait in any lines. Do you recommend this for Amsterdam, too?

Posted by
5568 posts

"coastal"

Keep in mind that Bruges is poorly connected to Amsterdam, as a single journey. Think about just how much of your time you want to spend on the train.

Many disagree with me, but I would be bored after the first night in Bruges. I caution you that Osteende, the beach city substantially (but the next train stop) beyond Bruges (which is not strictly on the coast), has an unattractive postwar reinforced concrete look, and a party culture in the summer. There's a magnificent wide beach, but also a casino. There is a convenient tram to other beach towns, once you get to Osteende. I personally don't go to Europe to go to the beach.

Posted by
2927 posts

There are so many charming cities in the Netherlands, I don't see the point of heading to Bruge/Brussels for this trip (but just my opinion and to each their own). Haarlem seems to be a favorite of Rick's who seems to not want to stay in Amsterdam. I enjoyed Amsterdam, having stayed in both. While the Frans Hals museum is interesting and the main square entertaining for a bit, Haarlem would be low on my list to visit had I known. The countryside of the Netherlands is charming, lovely. In a May biking vacation north, etc., I had never seen so many domesticated animals and their babies. Some of my favorite towns were Amersfoort, Volendam (although sounds like it is much more tourist oriented now), Enkhuizen, Hoorn...off the top of my head. The Netherlands also has the loveliest harbors on the Zuider Zee, IMO, as they are full of sailing vessels, not motorboats; I consider the Zuider Zee the coast as well.

Having stayed minimally in Amsterdam/Haarlem, twice, I am heading back next week for 7 full days in Amsterdam (well, with a day trip to Delft for my husband), and my list of things to do there is very long... Again, I'm an art, architecture and history person, so there is plenty to do in Amsterdam for me.

Posted by
2487 posts

we purchased most of our museum/attraction tickets beforehand
Instead you can buy the Museumkaart: at EUR 60 it gives free access to some 400 museums all over the country. It is already a good deal when you plan to visit 4 major museums, but the main advantage is that it invites you to visit places which you otherwise wouldn't have thought about. It can be bought at most of the participating museums (here a list, arranged by province).
As far as I know only the Van Gogh Museum works with timeslots. At all other museums you just show the Museumkaart.

Posted by
5568 posts

Wray, I was glad to hear someone else mention Amersfoort. It can be argued that too much of the town is "new", but the overall feeling of a destination that's actually lived-in by real people partly makes up for that. I've been there on the train from Amsterdam more than once, even though Amersfoort can be said to be a much less "rich" destination than, say Delft. I think there were plenty of tourists on the old-town square, so it's not exactly "undiscovered!" But it's much less touristy than Alkmaar.

I would remind the OP to consider the year-round early business-day morning flower auction at Aalsmeer. It could move to the internet in the future, and the spectacle would be lost.

Posted by
5149 posts

I hope I'm not hijacking oyserized thread, but Ton's post just caught my eye. Are timed reservations required for the Van Gogh, or just recommended? We're planning to buy our Museumkaarts as soon as we settle in in Haarlem.

And as an aside to another post, some years ago we spent 4 full days in Haarlem, and didn't run out of things to do or visit. So it's your own personal tastes, as always.

Posted by
5149 posts

Thanks, Ton. I was hoping to just be able to drop in, even with standing in line.

Posted by
46 posts

One more question - where are the best areas to stay in Amsterdam? We are sort of on a budget. Just want clean accommodations in a safe area.

Posted by
4162 posts

Short answer; yes. 1 days in Brussels is plenty. Spend the rest of time in Amsterdam and Bruges, or Ghent with a day trip to Bruges.