I'm traveling to London on business for a conference next week and was thinking of taking a week of vacation after the conference. I've never been to countries like France or Belgium and was wondering if people had suggestions about how to figure out where to stay, what to make sure to see over the course of a week, whether to go solo vs find a tour (and if a tour, which tour), etc. Not a backpacker, but also don't need to stay in the best hotels... Any advice would be welcome!
My advice would be to take 2 weeks vacation and visit Holland, France (Paris minimum 4 days) then on to Brugge, Belgium for 2 days.
We stayed here when in Brugge and loved it.
It is within walking distance of the train station - between old and new area of town. There are many buildings in pristine condition dating back to the 1200's. Many canals.
I would suggest the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Paris - the Louvre, D'Orsay and Versailles.
Enjoy your trip!!
The first time we went to Europe in 2000, we were very concerned about where to stay, etc. locations, values. After the 1st trip I bought Rick's Best of Europe book and it laid out little maps, rec places to stay, best ways to get there, etc. We've been 11 more times and follow his advice totally. You can absolutely trust all the things he tells you so just go by it and have fun!
Just get a rick steves book and travel on your own. I do that on all my business trips. I make sure I get a couple days off plus a weekend and get a free stopover in london, amsterdam or paris.
I highly recommend that you take the chunnel to Paris on a train. Paris is so interesting, just like london you really need a week to do it justice.
take the open bus tour for 2 days to see all the sights and hop on or off. The most interesting sights are the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Couer, Notre Dame, Arch du Triumph, the museums not to be missed are D'Orsay and the Louvre. If you have an extra day, then visit the Palace of Versaille just outside Paris. I suggest that you stay around the Eiffel tower so that you can visit it nightly. lol
Amsterdam, Brugge with its canals and Brussel with its most beautiful city center.
Enjoy your wonderful business/pleasure trip. London and Paris are my 2 favorite cities in Europe.
If you can arrange to fly "Open Jaw" as Rick suggests that would be the best.
For a week or so I would suggest 2 days in Bruges and then head down to Paris and fly hom from there.