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Netherlands, Belgium & Germany Itinerary Help

I'm planning a 18 or so night trip to this region for next April/May. The last trip I planned this length was solely in Italy, at either 2/3 nights per location and it was excellent. Current plan: Amsterdam 3 nights Stay w/ family for 3 nights in Heiloo - see lots of sights Drive to Brugges (necessary to include Belgium?) Drive to Bacharach? (would like to see some Germany countryside)/Rhine Valley? Might want to include Heidelberd/Alsfeld/Waldeck? Drive to Rothenburg 2 nights Fussen 2 nights Munich 2 nights We are not big-city people. But I feel like we should at least see 1 large city and visit some museums in Munich. I want to see castles, countryside, etc. We love to drive, so that isn't an issue (wouldn't go back to Italy w/o a car!) Thoughts on the itinerary? Anything you'd add/remove/change? Suggestions in the locations I mentioned? Thanks!!

Posted by
1976 posts

Hi Lauren. I can comment on the first part of your itinerary. Three nights in Amsterdam is a good amount of time. The city is very walkable and also has a nice network of trams and buses. I was in Bruges for a day and had plenty of time to see what I was interested in. Most of the touristy things to do (Church of Our Lady with Michelangelo's "Madonna and Child" sculpture, Memling Museum, the Markt, canal boat tour) are in and around the Old Town which isn't far from the train station. I'm not sure what you mean by "necessary to include Belgium?" Are there any historic sites or other cities you want to see in Belgium? If not, don't worry about it.

Posted by
198 posts

I can only comment on the Germany portion of your trip. Driving along the Rhine is very nice. Lots of sights to see. The Mosel is also very beautiful. I think 2 nights in Rothenburg is too much. We saw everything in about 1/2 a day. Even though you say you are not a big-city person, you will love Munich. For us 2 days would not be enough. You will also not want a car there. It is very difficult to park. You may want to consider staying in a small town on the S-Bahn line and take the train into the city. Dachau is very interesting and only about 20 minutes by train.

Posted by
3696 posts

I agree that 2 nights in Rothenberg might be too much. I've seen all I needed to (4 different times) in a half day. If you take a look at a map and you like to drive (I do too) you might want to go to Lake of Konstanz. It is absolutely beautiful, surrounded by mountains, spectacular. I am also not a big city person but did love Munich. It's a vibrant city with a great energy. I love the southern Germany and Austrian area, so having been to all the places you are going I would opt out of Belgium and go on to Austria. Also loved Wurzburg in Germany and Auschaffenberg and Dinkeslbuhl on the Romantic Road... It's all wonderful. Heidelberg was also a favorite. If you love castles and the beautiful mountains go for the castles in the south of Germany. And have some of that great spatzel and goulash suppe!

Posted by
951 posts

I think that 3 nights in A'Dam is perfect. I feel that 2 nights in Bruges is the bare minimal ( I am planning on returning and staying about 5 nights as we loved it sooooo much). I have been to Rothenburg 2 times. The second time, we spent 2 nights and loved every moment of our time there. We are also thinking we may return to Germany this year and we will stay at least 2 nights there again. I feel that Munich deserves at least 3 nights, with a side trip to either Dachau or to Mad King Ludvig's castle down south. As for Bacharach and other mentioned places, I can not comment as I have not been there. I love my big cities but I definitely dig my small towns and usually side with the minority on this forum board when it comes to how many days to spend in them.

Posted by
74 posts

wow thanks for all the comments and suggestions...looks like I need to dig a little deeper into what exactly we want to do. I'll definitely look into that lake, and keep Munich. Still on the fence of keeping Belgium - I'd love to see Bruges but it's a bit out of the way. I was trying to stay at least 2 nights in each location, mainly for our sanity for being in & out of hotels. If not 2 nights in Rothenberg, we might just do a day there while driving to our next destination...hmmm

Posted by
249 posts

I wouldn't exclude Bruges; a highlight of our 3 weeks added on to Rhine/Mosel river cruise. Take away the 1.5 days others suggested from Rothenburg, and added them to Mosel. We loved that portion of the sailing. Good luck.

Posted by
1358 posts

I wouldn't exclude Brugge. It's a great little town, but, also, Belgium has the best food, beer, and chocolate I've ever had. I'd fly there today just to eat and drink if I could.

Posted by
164 posts

Hi Lauren, I have been to Bacharach (stayed in Mainz with my husband for work), that area of the Rhine is beautiful. Along the Mosel and Rhine are several castles - Rick does a great job describing this area in his books. If you like castles and countryside you would probably really enjoy this area. Burg Eltz is a castle along the Mosel River...and if you like Riesling, the Mosel River area produces some of the best Rieslings I've ever tasted. bernkastel-keus is where my all time favorite Riesling is produced. As for Rothenburg, while it is easily seen in half a day, my husband and I enjoyed spending the night there. Lots of day tours come through but once they leave the town is much quieter and different. We walked the town walls in the early morning and had them to ourselves - magical! Don't miss the Crime and Punishment Museum in Rothenburg - I came home and threatened my kids with some of the punishments they had for fighting women! Don't know if your itinerary allows you to go this far south, but my husband and I spent a weekend in Berchtesgaden last fall and it is gorgeous. The Konigsee lake is gorgeous and we spent the day hiking and taking a boat around the lake. We did an Eagles Nest/WWII historical tour which we also quite enjoyed. It's about a 2 hour drive south of Munich. I love Munich also so you can't go wrong choosing that city to visit. Good luck with whatever you choose!

Posted by
790 posts

On our recent trip to the Netherlands and Belgium, we spent 3 nights in Amsterdam, 1 night in Brussels and 2 nights in Bruges. That worked out pretty well for us. I am a big art/history person, and the museum in Brussels had some pieces that I really wanted to see. To my surprise, I really liked Brussels, even though many people don't seem to. Very good food, and prettier than people said it would be. Bruges was as beautiful as everyone says, but very touristy (as is Rothenburg). We really only spent one full day in Bruges, and that was enough time for us (though the Groeninge museum was closed when we were there; I would have spent a lot of time there if it had been open).

Posted by
74 posts

Okay I think I have an itinerary (updated - thanks to all the input here!) Day1 (fly in around 8AM) - Amsterdam Day 2 Amsterdam Day 3 Amsterdam/drive to family in Heiloo Day 4/5 sights in Holland Day 6 drive to Bruges Day 7 Bruges Day 8 Drive to Bacharach thru Bernkastel-Kues - tasting Riesling! Staying at castle - Castle Hotel Auf Schonburg Day 9 Visit Burg Eltz castle, Bacharach Day 10 drive to Heidelberg, stay for 2 nights (still up in the air - not overly excited about what to do here though haven't researched it much) Day 11 Heidelberg Day 12 drive to Schloss Sommersdorf to stay - near Rothenberg/Nuremberg. Spend day in Rothenberg. Day 13 visit grounds of castle, spend day either in Nuremberg or Rothenberg Day 14 Head to Fussen on the Romantic Road, stopping along way Day 15 Fussen, Neuschwanstein castle, THEN either 1) stay another night in Fussen OR head to Munich Day 16 Either morning in Fussen & evening in Munich, or day in Munich Day 17 Munich Day 18 Munich Day 19 Head home What are your thoughts? Ideas on Heidelberg? Should I just stay extra nights in either Bacharach or near Rothenberg and visit Heidelberg for a day (only 1.5 hour drive), or should we spend the 2 nights there? 2 nights in Fussen/2 nights in Munich or 1 night in Fussen/3 in Munich?

Posted by
12040 posts

"Ideas on Heidelberg? Should I just stay extra nights in either Bacharach or near Rothenberg and visit Heidelberg for a day (only 1.5 hour drive)" Because you'll have a car, see my posts under the thread 'Germany this March" for a scenic day drive outside of Heidelberg through the Odenwald... I wrote it for the benefit of someone visiting Mannheim, but the two cities are very close to each other, so you could also use it. I bumped it up so you don't have to search too hard for it. The Odenwald is very similar to the Black Forest, but sees only a tiny trickle of foreign tourists. Also right down the street from Heidelberg, there's a large baroque Schloss with a huge formal garden in the town of Schwetzingen.

Posted by
74 posts

Tom - thanks! That's wonderful - perfect for our Bacharach-Heidelberg day. No drinking and driving here! My current plan involves me possibly being pregnant (keep your fingers crossed) so I'd easily be DD so DH can enjoy the rieslings. On the subject, if anyone wants a wonderful wine vacation, visit the Finger Lakes! Supposedly the oldest riesling in our country, and really fantastic wine :) PM me if you want more info - we had a blast in Sep 2009! So looks like my updated itinerary looks good! I'm excited! I don't really know what to do in Munich or Heidelberg (besides the castles) but I'm sure we'll figure something out!

Posted by
34 posts

You will have a lovely time at Castle Hotel Auf Schonburg, and eating in their restaurant is a wonderful treat. We stayed in the "Wedding Suite" there back in '08 and to this day it was one of my favorite hotel experiences. Really beautiful place, I'm always delighted to see that someone is staying there!

Posted by
9 posts

Brugge is touristical, but it is a tourist mecca for a reason. It is very beautiful and interesting. We've been twice for about 1-1/2 days each time eight years apart and enjoyed it both times. Since you're not city folks, if you can squeeze in a couple of days in Alsace near Ribeauville (French side of the Rhine) you would probably enjoy it.. We spent two weeks in Bergheim (little town in Southern Alsace) and loved it, but you're on a trip to cover more ground. Have some dry riesling or gewurztraminer on me...

Posted by
18 posts

We visited Holland family there last summer, as well. We stayed in Haarlem (as Rick suggests) and had a wonderful time at My Dream. Hennis (sp?) and Leonise were very welcoming, and even took us to the airport at 4:00 am. The prices were reasonable, and they're located on a canal, across the street from the bus stop for a bus into Amsterdam, or a lovely walk of about a mile to the train station. The train runs several times an hour, and takes about 15 minutes to Amsterdam. There's a bus stop at the Haarlem station, as well, along with a taxi stand. Here's the link for the B&B: http://www.bedandbreakfast.nl/bed-and-breakfast/5305/
Haarlem was very walkable, with wonderful restaurants, great market streets, and free organ concerts in St. Bavo's.

Posted by
64 posts

What a wonderful itinerary! Our family did something similar a few years back while attending a family reunion in Hoog-Soeren. If you are not into big cities (we aren't either), and since you are going to Burg Eltz, consider the Mosel valley. We stayed 3 nights in Beilstein and day tripped around the region, the highlight of the trip! Last summer we again visited for a family reunion and this time included 3 nights in Brugges. Most tourists arrive on buses so the town is more crowded by day and wonderfully empty at night. Lots to see but very small and easy to get around. I would say Brugges was the highlight of this trip for us.
Bon voyage!

Posted by
74 posts

Tiffany – thanks for the good recommendation for Castle Hotel Auf Schonburg – I'm really excited about that place! The other one I haven't heard much about Schloss Sommersdorf and am still on the fence about staying IN Rothenberg or staying outside...hmmm Bill – I keep hearing wonderful things about Bruges, definitely going to spend 2 nights there just to see it. I'll look into the area you mentioned, not sure if we can stuff that in too, or if we'd have to remove something to visit. Thanks, Glenn! Ah more to add to the itinerary – haha. I'll look into it though, definitely want to choose the best places we can. Glad to hear our evenings in Bruges will be much less touristy! And that it was a highlight of the trip! Now...to find a place to stay in Bruge! Not too many options from VRBO. Hi Evelyn – thanks for the tips! Though, I definitely want to stay IN Amsterdam, since we will be staying with my husband's family and seeing some highlights nearby afterwards. I have heard great things about Haarlem though, we'll definitely be visiting!

Posted by
74 posts

Looking into further options... I'm now thinking Bruges - stop in Luxembourg (Vianden Castle) - Trier -?? by removing Heidelberg (just spend a day there between Bacharach to Rothenberg)... I looked into a couple locations just over the border into France but since we have a whole different France trip planned I'd like to stick with just the 3 countries I already have. Maybe I'll try to add back in Konstanz or something...or maybe it can be a bit more relaxing and we could spend 5 nights or so around Trier/Bacharach? I don't think I want to spend 2 nights in Heidelberg since RS states it is one of the world's biggest tourist traps...ouch...

Posted by
9010 posts

It is no more of a tourist trap than Rothenburg.

Posted by
12040 posts

In my opinion, Rick Steves' Germany book is one of the weakest in his series, for his outright dismissal of Heidelberg, Mainz, Wiesbaden, many glaring ommisions, and several questionable inclusions. Heidelberg is a beautiful city, and I would argue it's far less touristy than Rothenburg or almost any of the other towns in Mr. Steves' book. There are a few souvenir stands around one of the churches, and Käthe Wohlfahrt shop (and the main, original store is in... Rothenburg!) but that's about all I would really consider "touristy". Rothenburg survives because it's been mothballed for tourism. Heidelberg is a living, vibrant university city that just happens to also attract a lot of tourists. I sometimes wonder, because he probably hasn't visited this area of Germany in decades (if ever)... in his memory, has he confused Heidelberg for Mannheim? Both cities are very close and both host major universities. Whereas Heidelberg is stunningly beautiful, Mannheim is, for the most part, stunningly ugly.

Posted by
989 posts

I agree with Tom's comments on Heidelburg. It was a lovely city. Two night s might be too much, but I wouldn't pass it by. I have not been Rothenburg myself, but there have been a fair number of people here who were underwhelmed by it.

Posted by
1986 posts

I would not miss Rothenburg- comfortably worth 2 days/nights. We have ben there a number of times and enjoy it- but you must sleep over and see it when the tour busses have left for the day. (PS its not difficult to avoid the busloads, they all congregate in the center of town). Dinkelsbuhl is also definitely worth a few hours. We like being there for lunch. Nice little walking town

Posted by
33140 posts

I don't think I want to spend 2 nights in Heidelberg since RS states it is one of the world's biggest tourist traps...ouch... I don't fundamentally disagree with Rick on many things, but his dissing of Heidelberg is one thing I just don't get. Tom's comments are right on. While I'm at bat, can I also say that Reutte really doesn't deserve the big push Rick gives it. There's lot just on the German side of the border which is far superior. And while I'm on a hat trick, RodT has been so Rickified that it has lost much of its value. I remember when RS wrote a few years ago when he discussed how it had been ruined by its success. It seems to me that in some cases RS re-views what is in the towns in the book but doesn't re-evaluate which towns to include based on current trends. oh.... and off the board for 80, Cinque Terra is also a victim of its own success and Rickification. Maybe it needs a vacation from RS for a few years so it can catch its breath. ... btw ... yes I have spent time at all these places...

Posted by
9010 posts

See, I would rather stay in a medieval town where I don't have to wait for tour buses to leave in the evening to have some atmosphere. I would rather have it all day long, and not just at night. There are sooo many lovely, walled towns all over Germany, and they are NOT filled with tourist stores or Käthe Wohlfarht stores or tour buses. Check out almost any of the towns on the Fachwerk Route. In my opinion a much better choice than traveling the Romantic Road. My choice would be Buedigen for an authentic village, surrounded by the original town walls, where people really live and work.

Posted by
1358 posts

Now, it's been a while since I've been to Heidelberg, but I wouldn't say it's anywhere near as touristy as Rothenburg or Füssen. Do it.

Posted by
1986 posts

Maybe we should prepare a list of towns for Rick to delete and another for him to include in his next series of books. Then maybe i can go back to Rothenburg in peace like it used to be

Posted by
182 posts

it looks pretty good to me. i have been to most of these places at least twice. i would consider at least one night in haarlem, to offset the business of amsterdam. i love amsterdam for a million reasons, but the serenity of haarlem is cool. brugge is amazing two nights is not too much. rothenburg is awesome after the tourists leave. so at least one night and at least half a day. bacharach is cool, surrounding rhine towns and castles awesome. if you could fit in zell on the mosel you would love it and the surrounding burg eltz. super cool. fussen and the castles two nights great. munich you could spend a week. bmw museum very nice. have fun, be safe.

Posted by
34 posts

We just got back from 2 nights in Heidelberg, I may be a little partial to is considering I was proposed to at the top of the tower at Heiliggeistkirche. We very greatly enjoyed bumming around for 2 days in the Alstadt area. We stayed at the more budget friendly Hotel zum Pfalzgrafen and it was basic and fine. They served a lovely breakfast. We knew next to nothing of Heidelberg when we arrived, which I'm often a big fan of doing. I like knowing what not to except at times in travel. We had great food, encountered wonderfully nice people. Enjoyed the Heidelberger Schloss and the nice little Apotheke museum within the castle. There's a lovely little rail line that takes you right up to the castle. Two of the best meals of our entire trip were at Hackteufel, which was a bit higher end and the very casual Zum Weissen Schwanen. I love food, cooking, trying new things, food is often a major point of our travel, lol. The city just has a really nice feel to it, we struggled a bit getting to our hotel, we were relying on a GPS and he was getting a bit confused, but overall driving through Germany is very easy. We're car travelers, we don't like being bound to train schedules and the freedom the car offers. For Bacharach are you planning to go Burg Stahleck? We walked up there, it's actually quite easy as long as you're averagely fit. There are stairs and then it goes to a easily walkable dirt path. It was nice enough, but Marksburg and Rheinfels are certainly more interesting in my opinion. I saw Burg Eltz back in '08 and that's my favorite, Marksburg is a very close 2nd for me. Enjoy your trip! Sounds like it will be incredible!

Posted by
9010 posts

Wow, Tiffany, are congratulations in order? How romantic and now Heidelberg will hold a very special place in your heart forever and ever.

Posted by
34 posts

Yes! Thank you Jo, and yes, Heidelberg definitely will hold a very special place! He was waiting and waiting for the perfect time and that happened to be in Heidelberg! Very excited.

Posted by
2 posts

Sounds like you have a wonderful trip to plan. It's nice you can drive, that way you can stop and adjust your itinerary if you like one place. You shouldn't have too much trouble with finding a place to stay, especially if you are in smaller towns. I would think that traveling from Brugge would be a very long day, or 2 day drive. If you can get to Trier, for an over night, and then make your way up the Mosel. If you can, be sure to see Burg Eltz- and if you can find it, on the Rhine, take the hike to the seven or is it 5(?) castle view point. You can see for miles up and down the river. For sure you'll be able to enjoy some Reisling--just do it when you are done driving for the night. When we did Rothenburg, we arrived in the afternoon, stayed overnight and left mid day then next day. I think that was about the right amount of time. We did enjoy Nurenburg- a great town, one I would go back to for a day or two. If you do get a chance, Lake Konstanz, in particular Lindau Germany is a wonderful little town to stay, and beautifully situated on the lake. We spent 2 nights there last fall, and I could have spent longer there. It was very relaxing and a nice little town. You probably don't need to spend 2 nights in Fussen, if you got there in the evening, or late afternoon, you could probably leave again the next afternoon. Stop by the Weiskirche if you get a chance. There is a lot to see in Munich, can spend several days there, but parking is expensive. You can best stay a little out of the city and take the SBahn in for the day. Dachau is very sobering and worth a visit ( probably 2-3 hours). Check out the churches, St Peter, Frauenkirche, Daamenstift and the Asamkirche too, and don't forget that bier in the Englisher garden. What ever you decide to do, have fun, and enjoy the planning. Prost!