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Netherlands and Belgium Itinerary Help

Hello! My husband and I will be traveling to the Netherlands and Belgium in late June for 12 nights total in late June. I am unfamiliar with the area and would love suggestions for our itinerary.

We plan to fly into Amsterdam and depart from Brussels. We'll be attending a rock festival nearby Leuven the last night of our trip. We have an airbnb in Leuven for our last two nights. Everything prior to that is up in the air.

Do I just follow the itinerary from the RS Holland and Belgium tour? I figure we would spend at least the first three nights in Amsterdam. I'd love to spend time in Bruge as well. Are places like Rotterdam and the Hague best done as day trips? Are Antwerp or Ghent worth spending a few nights? Should we get crazy and pop over to Cologne?

Thanks, everyone!

Posted by
1660 posts

There are a lot of similar questions on this forum, so if you do a search, you will find lots of suggestions.

In a nutshell, though, it comes down to this: Between Amsterdam and Brussels (and vicinity), there are many delightful places to see. You have ten nights (excluding your time in Leuven). That's time for a maximum of 4 destinations, other than day trips. Since distances are small, you can easily stay in just a few places and take day trips to others.

The problem with getting advice about this area on this forum, at least based on my experience when I went last year, is that there's a wide range of opinions. For Belgium, some people love Bruges, others don't especially. Likewise Brussels. Ghent and Antwerp seem to be generally more well-liked. So I doubt you will get much consensus on where to stay and where to visit.

For the Netherlands, Amsterdam is such an obvious choice, but many people on here suggest staying in Haarlem rather than staying in Amsterdam. You won't get much consensus on that either. And as far as other destinations in the Netherlands, there's just no one right answer.

The good news is you can't really go wrong unless you try to do too much in too little time. If you're going to spend three nights in Amsterdam, then maybe spend three nights somewhere in southern Holland (like Delft), and four nights in one of the Belgian cities, allowing you to take day trips to the others. Or add more time in Amsterdam and visit southern Holland on day trips (or as stops en route to Belgium).

Posted by
2487 posts

In the Netherlands and Belgium the distances are short and the public transport is efficient. From Amsterdam to Delft takes 1 hr with trains running every 15 minutes (alternatingy direct or with a change). Den Haag (the Hague) is a few minutes less, Rotterdam a few minutes more. The same in Belgium. Gent to Brugge is less than half an hour on trains which in daytime also run 4 times an hour. For train schedules go to the websites of the Dutch and the Belgian railways.

Having said that, many like Dordrecht as a base for one or two nights. Historical city and a good starting point for the famous windmills of Kinderdijk (the ferry service adds an extra flavour).
A few years ago I had Mechelen (Malines) as a base for Antwerpen and Brussel, both some 20 mins away on very frequent trains. Nice and quiet with everything you expect from a historical Flemish city, including a market square for you late afternoon beer.
Gent or Brugge is an eternal debate. I prefer Gent as a more lively place and find Brugge somewhat artificial and sanitised.

Posted by
228 posts

I agree with Ton : Brugge is more of a museum , Gent a real city . After a trip through Europe hubby thought that Brugge was a lot like Amsterdam but Amsterdam was alive and Brugge was dead .

Posted by
6812 posts

Both Amsterdam and the big four in Belgium have easy, fruitful daytrips by commuter train from them. If you get a hotel not too far from the train station, you can go somewhere else every day. Some of the cities you name, like Rotterdam and Brussels are too big to say you saw them in one day. But that doesn't mean that what you can see in one day isn't worth doing. Also note that there are major attractions just outside some cities, like Kinderdijk near Rotterdam and Delft near The Hague.

I love Cologne, but you may as well save that for a trip to Germany. You'll be missing Aachen and Duesseldorf, anyway.

Posted by
2487 posts

Hubby thought that Brugge was a lot like Amsterdam
In defence of DH: Amsterdam is getting crowded to the point of not being a real living city anymore.

Posted by
37 posts

Thanks! This is really helpful. I'm thinking 4 nights in Amsterdam would be better, and now that I'm doing more research, it seems Ghent is a great base for day trips in Belgium. Tim, I think you're right- save Cologne for a big Germany trip.

Dordrecht looks adorable. I'll look into that city further.

Posted by
2059 posts

We chose to stay in Bruges to have easy access to the (highly recommended) Quasimodo Flanders Field tour, and were glad we did. We loved Bruges ... stayed in a B&B with easy access to downtown but also to the bike paths out of town. We enjoyed seeing the Bruges Madonna, and the De Haalve Man brewery, and a couple of great museums. It's very picturesque and, like Venice, if you wander a few blocks off the main tourist path, you can find lovely little bakeries and cafes without the tourist crush.

You might be able to travel from Ghent to Bruges early in the morning to pick up that tour, if you choose to stay in Ghent.