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Netherlands Itinerary questions

Hi, I've been reading through all the posts and the advice here is great! I have a few questions - I will be traveling to Amsterdam mid-May of 2018 (too late for Keukenhof, I'm afraid) and my itinerary is as follows (so far):

Day 1 (Tuesday) - Leave Cincinnati for Reykjavik - 2 nights there
Day 3 (Thursday) - Arrive Amsterdam from Reykjavik - spend 4 nights in Amsterdam.
Day 7 (Monday) - Train to Ghent, Belgium - spend 2 nights (day trips to Bruges and Antwerp)
Day 9 (Wednesday) - Leave Belgium, train to AD for remainder of trip (on the way, stop in Delft, The Hague, and/or Leiden).
Day 10 (Thursday) - Day trip to Haarlem
Day 11 (Friday) - Day trip to north of AD (open to ideas - thinking Marken, Hoorn, Enkhuizan, Monnickendam, Broek - possibly bike for part of trip)
Day 12 (Saturday) - Utrecht
Day 13 (Sunday) ???? - (flight leaves at 6:30 pm)

I plan to concentrate the first portion of my trip in AD. I've traveled through most of Europe and this is my first trip to the Netherlands. I love cities, so I want to make sure I cover AD thoroughly, including some of the outlying areas (I'm staying in the De Pijp neighborhood for the first half - not sure about the second). After my quick trip to Belgium, I'd like to focus on day trips when I get back to the NL, but still plan on staying in AD, mainly for the quick train connections (I will not have a car).

So first, I really want to visit The Hague, partly for the museums but also because I am a lawyer and The Hague Conference is interesting to me (and sometimes applicable in my work). However, in addition to The Hague, would I have time to visit both Delft and Leiden that same day? And if not, which would be better? RS says that Delft is prettier, but I've heard some interesting things about Leiden on this board and I'm not particularly interested in Delft pottery. I should mention that I'm an early riser so plan on leaving Ghent around 9 am on that Wednesday.

I planned my Utrecht trip for Saturday since there is a fabric market I am very interested in but if it makes more sense to move it to another day, I'm good with that. Also, I will have some time on Sunday - any thoughts for places worth visiting that aren't too far? Or should I move Haarlem to Sunday, since I can train from there to the airport, and add an extra day for visiting the towns north of AD on Day 10?

Thanks for any help you all can give me!

Posted by
2487 posts

Nice plan.
If you move your day trips to the area north of Amsterdam to the first part of your trip, you can stay somewhere else at the end. My personal favourites in North Holland are Hoorn and especially Enkhuizen. They are easily combined (Enkhuizen is some 20 mins further on the same railway line).
I might be prejudiced, but even after four decades living here, I still find Leiden a nice lively city with one of the largest historical centres, and not so crowded as Amsterdam. It has some reasonable hotels, and is only 15 mins from Schiphol airport with at least 4 trains/hr.
Having said that, there is nothing wrong with Delft. As the typical »quaint« Dutch city it is more touristy than Leiden. You can easily combine it with a day trip to The Hague (Den Haag), being only 15 mins from the station Den Haag Centraal. In The Hague you should't miss the Mauritshuis museum: a manageable museum with all the top pieces of the Dutch Golden Age.

PS. »AD« is a most unusual abbreviation for Amsterdam.

Posted by
3932 posts

We did a bit of what you did - Amsterdam, stayed in Ghent...I just wanted to mention you may think of stopping/sightseeing in Antwerp on your way to Ghent, that way you don't backtrack. I think you change in Antwerp anyway to get to Ghent.

We were only going from Dordrecht (where we spent 3 nights) to Ghent, so it wasn't as long a train ride, but you can get a train from Ams to Antwerp anywhere from 1h15m (Thalys) to 2h. We dropped our luggage in a locker and spent 5 hrs wandering around Antwerp then hopped back on the train to Ghent. Easily walkable from the train stn.

Two nights in Ghent is only going to give you one full day - train from Ams to Ghent takes anywhere from 2h15m to 3h30m. So if you go all the way from Ams to Ghent, by the time you get to wherever you are staying, get yourself sorted out, you've already lost half a day. (maybe you planned on stopping in Antwerp anyway on the way to Ghent, I just didn't read it that way).

Posted by
3932 posts

PS - we also stayed in the De Pijp area - it was nice and the tram ran just from the end of the street we were on to the center or only 5 min to the Rijks - great area, lots of restaurants! Unfortunately, the street was under construction when we were there, so the tram wasn't running (we could get to the Rijks, but not to the first ring of the canals)...walking was pretty easy tho (other than all the construction barriers along the sidewalks).

Posted by
1464 posts

Do you already have your flight booked? If not, consider flying open jaw (into Brussels, out of Schiphol) so you don't have to backtrack.

Assuming you can't make that change, I think your plan is good but overly ambitious. Two nights in Ghent gives you no time at all for day trips to Bruges or Antwerp, let alone both of them, especially since you'll want to get an early start on the 9th in order to make some stops on your way back to Amsterdam. Even if you make an early start on Day 7, you'll have about a day and a half, which is fine for Ghent.

I spent two nights in Delft in May of 2016. I did a day trip to The Hague, primarily to visit the Mauritshuis. And I stopped in Leiden on the way to Amsterdam. I picked up a guidebook at the TI and followed their extensive self-guided walking tour for about five hours.

I did not find Delft to be very touristy. I didn't visit the pottery factory or stores. I really enjoyed wandering the streets along the canals and visiting the two big churches. I enjoyed Leiden too, but not nearly as much.

Since you say you like cities, let me throw another one into the mix: Rotterdam. I stopped there on my way to Delft from Antwerp and did a walking tour (with another guidebook obtained from the TI in the train station). Largely destroyed during WWII, rebuilt Rotterdam is filled with interesting modern architecture plus some great public art. I also stopped in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and was extremely impressed by the collection there. Rotterdam is a city that doesn't look anything like other places in the Netherlands, so for that alone I think it's worth at least a few hours.

The only places north of Amsterdam that I made it to were Hoorn and Edam. Even though distances are short, don't underestimate the time needed to get from place to place and thoroughly explore. I had grand plans of seeing four or five of the destinations you list, but it just didn't happen.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
960 posts

@tonfromleiden, thanks! That sounds like a good option to move my base outside Amsterdam for the last couple of days (now I'm afraid to abbreviate - I have no idea how I came up with AD). :) I didn't realize that Leiden was that close to the airport. I will look at hotels/B&Bs there.

@Nicole P, I like the idea of stopping in Antwerp on my way in. As I said, I will get an early start so could easily spend the morning through mid-afternoon there before heading to my B&B. I know that two nights in Ghent won't give me a lot of time in Belgium, but I am really attached to the idea of spending as much time as possible in the Netherlands and figured this way I would get a taste of Belgium. And I can always come back!

@Lane, yes, I already have my flight booked - it was a budget flight and when I booked it, I was originally just planning on going to the Netherlands. As I told Nicole, I realize I won't have much time in Belgium, but I am mostly interested in the Netherlands - I don't know why - it just appeals to me (and I realize that's no guarantee). :) I will take a look at Rotterdam - it looks interesting. It's so hard trying to decide where to go. And I get what you mean about making grand plans and being foiled by logistics which is why I appreciate the help here.

Posted by
3932 posts

We quite liked Belgium. Probably because we had no expectations. Antwerp was lovely. We didn’t do a whole lot in Ghent...based there for daytrips to Ypres and Bruges. We had an Airbnb right downtown on a canal. We went to gravensteen castle (only a few minutes from the Airbnb), popped into the churches and wandered around the Center in the mornings and evenings.

I would def recommend stopping in Antwerp first to maximize your time.

Posted by
960 posts

Nicole, I will definitely do that - it's a great idea! I had been toying with the idea of seeing Ypres or Flander's Field but there's not enough time. Next trip!

Posted by
1727 posts

You may be a bit ambitous in doing so many day trips. We find that going slower and spending a few days+ in key cities lets us really experience them and not exhaust ourselves.

Posted by
2829 posts

Keukenhof closes in the fourth weekend of may, generally

Posted by
2487 posts

The train from Haarlem to Leiden (and beyond) goes right through the bulb fields.

Posted by
5017 posts

Wow, yes, thanks, Ton! We're going to be there then, as well, and probably staying in Leiden. Maybe.

Posted by
5859 posts

My thoughts, some similar to others...

With just two nights in Ghent, and really only an afternoon, a full day, and then a bit of a morning, it does not make sense daytripping elsewhere from there as a base. Figure out what you want to see in Antwerp, do that as a stop for part of your day. Move on to Ghent, then maybe still day trip to Bruge, or stay in Bruge and hit Ghent on the way to Amsterdam.

For your second time in Amsterdam consider staying in one of the smaller towns, Haarlem is nice with easy access to the airport, Lieden works as well.