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Amsterdam or Paris?

We're flying to Amsterdam on a trip to London. We have a couple nights to spend on the continent before we take the Eurostar to London. At first I wanted to just spend two nights in Paris, since there is a convenient train from the airport in Amsterdam to Paris, only 3 hours. But I feel a little guilty to not at least see a little bit of Amsterdam since we're flying in there. But where to sleep? Rick seems to recommend going to Haarlem, which I think is only 10-15 minutes by train from Amsterdam anyway. We could walk around there for a bit and then take the train into Amsterdam. I'd like to see the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frank House. But I'm not so interested in Amsterdam compared to Paris, which seems to have a lot more to offer! And I worry that one night in Paris might be too little for a first time visit.

Posted by
9024 posts

I'm a little confused by your wording....you only have 2 days total to spare on mainland Europe before heading to London? Since you're landing in Amsterdam, IMO the obvious choice would be to stay there and visit the city. Also, since you only have two days and Amsterdam is a very compact city, it's easier to see/do more compared to Paris which takes more time. You don't really have time for both Haarlem and Ams. I would book a hotel in Amsterdam, take in the sights, and then either take the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Brussels, then transfer to the Eurostar to London, or fly easyjet from Schipol Airport to Gatwick.

Posted by
8648 posts

I love Paris and didn't like Amsterdam at all... so, since you're asking, my vote is for... Paris!

Posted by
2024 posts

Agree with above post. Am not sure how you would get from airport to Haarlem anyway, would you have to go into Amsterdam anyway. If so it doesn't make sense to me. Would stick to Amsterdam. We were there off season but I have seen many who say you need to book Anne Frank tickets ahead of time or long time in line. Check this out. Always think you will go back to Europe. Many of us only thought we would have only one shot and we were totally wrong. One night in Paris is not enough. Save it for another time when you can enjoy and not be rushed.

Posted by
643 posts

Well I'm leaning toward 2 nights in Paris too, but feel weird abandoning Amsterdam. I'm not at all interested in Dutch language or the red light district, marijuana, etc. And I think the Louvre beats the Van Gogh museum, and Notre Dame beats Anne Frank House. And since we're arriving at 8:30am at Schipol, we can be in Paris by noon (hopefully). I'd feel more guilty to skip Paris, when it's only a 3 hour train trip away!!

Posted by
3696 posts

I say go where you heart is telling you to go...will you regret it if you stay in Amsterdam and try to like it? Yes, you can assume you will come back...but it doesn't always work out for everyone. I know a lot of people who have gone once because life takes over. My first trip to Paris was a stopover for a day. Took a train from Strousbourg...saw the 'have-to' sights and left on the evening train. I never regretted it and I have been back 6 or 7 times since. I also spent a day in Amsterdam and have never felt the need to return, although I liked it, far more intriguing places for me.

Posted by
9024 posts

There's a lot more to Amsterdam than weed, and prostitution! In addition to the Van Gough, there are also the RiJks Museum,the new Hermitage Museum (currently Amsterdam's largest art museum), and the Stedelijk modern art museum is supposed to reopen this summer. Comparing the Van Gough (which features one artist) to the Louvre (which features evyone) is not a fair comparison:) In addition there are often excellent temporary art exhibits at the city museum, and the New Church. Another fascinating museum is the Tropical Museum with fascinating exhibits about third-world cultures. No visit to the Anne Frank house would be complete without also visiting the informative WWII resistance museum. The residential areas along the canals in the city center are stunningly beautiful. My personal favorite is the the FOAM photography museum with a constantly changing schedule of exhibits. At night there are lots of concerts at various venues across the city, and there's always the entertaining Boom Chicago Comedy Club:)

Posted by
4835 posts

While I prefer Paris to Amsterdam, your examples of Van Gogh vs Louvre and Anne Frank House vs Notre Dame gave me pause. I like the Van Gogh museum much more than the Louvre. And I've been to the Anne Frank house 3 times ... once on each of my visits to Amsterdam. I've been to Paris 4 times but I've only visited Notre Dame once and can't say that I felt there was any compelling reason to go back. The Anne Frank house is truly moving. However, if you only have limited time, I can see why you would choose just one city.

Posted by
2024 posts

Go with your feelings. Ten people will say Amsterdam and ten will say Paris. Do the one that feels right to you. Who says you will never get back to Europe again. One night in Paris you can see the Tower, the Arch and walk down the Champs (spelling?). See what is latest you can go up in the tower. Whatever you chose, do not have any regrets. Just enjoy.

Posted by
643 posts

Yes, I feel we will see Paris, perhaps for more time. Maybe staying in Amsterdam for a couple nights would be better. My wife is the one who isn't so motived to see Paris, but I think once she is there she will see how beautiful the city is. She loves London, but I think she may end up loving Paris even more! The only thing that makes me hesitate is that after we get in at 8:30am, we then go through customs and then have another 3 hour train ride to Paris, and then more customs. Might just be easier and more relaxing to stay in Amsterdam after the long airplane flight!! When we first went to London, we arrived at Heathrow at 3pm and had the short train trip to Paddington and then to our apartment before going out for a few hours in the early evening. If we stayed in Amsterdam (or Haarlem) we might have a more relaxing beginning to our trip. Lots to think about, and as we're not traveling until September we have the time too! We have already booked our apartment in London so that leaves us the two nights before we go there.

Posted by
9024 posts

Good thing you mentioned September. If the dates of your travel are between 9/8-9/13, you don't want to be in Amsterdam. This is when the annual International Broadcasters conventon takes place. It's one of the largest conventions in the world, all hotels will be full, and rates sky high. It's so popular some years that hotels throughout the rest of Holland are effected as well..including Haarlem. Also, when traveling via the Thalys train from Schipol Airport to Paris, there's no customs/immigration check.

Posted by
9116 posts

As Michael said, the only customs will be in Amsterdam. You will not go through again if you go to Paris. Now...Paris or Amsterdam. It is personal decision, but I can tell you that if I had to choose for you...Paris would win hands down. I have spent a total of 3 nights in Amsterdam during 2 trips. I have spent a total of 15 nights in Paris during 2 trips. Will I go back to Amsterdam? Maybe, if it happens to make sense. Will I go back to Paris. Yes, I am spending 6 nights there next October. If you plan your time wisely you can see quite a bit of Paris in a short amount of time. Wherever you decide, know ahead of time what you want to see and have it mapped out so you don't waste time. If you do go to the Anne Frank house (loved it - been there twice), I would reserve ahead. That wasn't offered in 2006 when I went the first time. I had to spend a couple of hours in the rain waiting to buy tickets. I went again in 2008 with advance tickets. Much easier!! Have a great trip!!

Posted by
643 posts

We'll be arriving in Amsterdam on September 5th, so we'll avoid the convention. Thanks for all your replies, will have to decide what to do. I know I'd like to spend more than two nights in Paris (just one full day) and so it might just have to wait after all.

Posted by
1986 posts

If your choice is now Amsterdam v Haarlem- Amsterdam all th way. There is much to do in Amsterdam, no need to go to Haarlem at all. Soemtimes RS seems to choose towns just to be different from the usual tourist. Two or three days in Amsterdam is comfortable. If you get really anxious you can take a day trip by train or organized tour to a number of nearby scenic areas (including Brugge)

Posted by
143 posts

Dave, If you decide to stay in Amsterdam, I recommend the Hotel Aalders. It is practically across the street from the Rijksmuseum and the VanGogh museum, only about a block from the Rijksmuseum tram stop, and within easy walking distance of one of the terminals for the canal tours. The rates are reasonable and the staff friendly. Enjoy your time in Amsterdam!

Posted by
1 posts

I enjoy both places though totally different--don't forget to think about the people you come in contact with--as a good part of your enjoyment . I enjoy the Dutch people's sense of humor--love jokes even when it is on them and when a parisean greets you with Bonjour madame--it is like music. The people makes the difference to me when I make travel choices.

Posted by
643 posts

Thanks for all your replies. I've decided we'll stay for the day and night in Amsterdam for our first day in Europe. And then the next morning we'll hop on the express train to Paris and spend one day and night there. And then the next day Eurostar to London!!!

Posted by
74 posts

I have been to and enjoyed both Amsterdam and Pris. I might be inclined toward Amsterdam since the plane lands there, and you'll probably not want to do a three-hour trip right after arriving in Europe. In Amsterdam, see the Riks museum and the van gogh museum, and take rick's walk around central Amsterdam. The Dutch speak English, so there is no need to know any Dutch beyond the phrases in the Rick Steve's book. I would also say that you will feel less stressed doing two days in Amsterdam than in Paris, where there is so much to do that you will feel rushed. Hope this is helpful.

Posted by
182 posts

right on guys and girls. paris my favorite city next to firenze. however, been to amsterdam five times. with such little time stay in amsterdam. go cry at anne frank's house like we all have. enjoy the depth of the rijksmusem (spelled that wrong?), then relax and take in the van gogh. the red light district is prettier than you would think. all of the worlds food is in amsterdam, waiting for you. the canals different from venice, but maybe even better. paris needs more time. if you could get to haarlem you would love it. carrie ten boom house, more tears, more respect for their efforts during the big one. have fun, be safe.

Posted by
655 posts

Both cities are wonderful in their own way. Given your time constraints, I think Amsterdam is the clear winner. Also, for the same reason, I would stay right in the city - going to Haarlem will, in my view, just be taking your time. Amsterdam is wonderful to explore. The canals are romantic. Take a canal ride. Don't be put off by the red light district and the coffee shops. Buy advance tickets for the
Ann Frank House using the web. Enjoy Amsterdam now - mostly likely you'll want to return.

Posted by
643 posts

Thanks again for your replies. Am now going to stay in Amsterdam for two nights and see Paris "next time". We will then fly from Amsterdam to London instead of taking the train to save time and money (5 hours by train including connections vs. 1.5 hours by plane).