Please sign in to post.

Paris/Belgium/Amsterdam Itinerary

I am trying to develop a rough itinerary for a trip next summer. I am a teacher, so I can extend the trip for a couple of days if needed. I am thinking: 5-7 nights in Amsterdam 4-5 nights in Ghent (or Brugge or Brussels or Antwerp?) 7 nights in Paris
London? (or is that too much for one trip?) I have not been to any of these places, so I want to find a balance between "not enough time" and "too much time" in each location. I can budget up to three weeks fairly comfortably, if needed. I will be traveling solo and will not have a car. I just ordered both the Paris and Amsterdam/Bruges/Brussels guide books, but they have not come in yet. Thanks in advance for any timing suggestions! :)

Posted by
134 posts

I think it is way too much time in Ghent. You can see everything in the historic area in a day. I much preferred Bruges.

Posted by
56 posts

I was sort of thinking I could use Ghent as a home base to see Antwerp/Brugge/Brussels - would one of the others be a better home base? I don't want to uproot and move more than absolutely necessary.

Posted by
11294 posts

You can see all four of your Belgian cities from a base in any one of them. Which one to use is a matter of endless debate. I liked Antwerp best of the four. But if you don't stay overnight in Bruges, at least spend a long day there, leaving after dinner (of course, you'll need to check the train schedules carefully, but I believe this wouldn't be a problem). Bruges gets very crowded with day trippers, but in the evening the crowds thin (a bit, not totally, since you're going in summer). 5-7 nights in Amsterdam will allow time for several day trips, and there's lots of choices. In addition to the ones in the RS book, consider Leiden. He does mention Rotterdam and Utrecht, but only briefly; I liked both of them better than Delft, which he seems to like a lot. Similarly with Paris, you can spend your whole time in the city proper, or have time to see Versailles, Giverny, or other day trips. If you don't want to do day trips and don't want so much time in each city, you can cut the number of days. Some people like spending a week in a city, and others are "done" after a few days, even if there's more to see. If you want to go to London, you can certainly take some days away from your other locations. Four bases in three weeks is not at all a "if it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" itinerary that we see so often. Congratulations on your good preliminary planning!!

Posted by
7556 posts

There is no question that you can enjoy 7 nights in Amsterdam, but don't sell Belgium short. Antwerp and Brussels have a lot to see, so you could spend 6 or even 7 days day-tripping in Belgium. Look into train discounts (like the 10-trip ticket), because even if you don't save money (because of the short distances), you can save time waiting in line to buy tickets every morning. Other cities to consider are Mechelen and Leuven. In the Netherlands, Haarlem and Amersfoort, as well as the others mentioned. I agree that Utrecht and Leiden are nice visits. If it's a free stopover on your ticket, consider the art museum and "little-Paris" nickname of Lille, France, on the way to Paris. I suspect you can't consider whether you want to see Keukenhof gardens 2013 (8 weeks only) because you're a teacher and won't be off yet. Note that, attractions aside, Antwerp is very well-located for day-trips. Brugge is "farther out". You can even take a city bus to Mechelen or Turnhout. (Yes, I have ridden on from Bruges to Oostende, but I don't recommend it except for serious beach-partiers, in the deep summer.)

Posted by
33305 posts

Gent is very well situated for day trips by train. Brugge just to the west, Antwerpen just to the northeast, Brussel just to the east. I've even run down to Luxembourg for a day from Gent. In terms of places to stay, I disagree with a previous poster. There are some neat tiny B&Bs in Brugge that we found with the book, and we will stay in one again next month. We haven't found B&Bs that we like in Gent. We used to stay at Harmony (wow! - especially the room at the top overlooking all of the canal with terrace) before it got too expensive for us, there is the Marriott, and the Novotel and the two Ibises. And for drivers there are places further out.

Posted by
12040 posts

RE: Staying in Gent vs Brugge The best comparison I have read between the two summarizes them as such: Gent and Brugge are two modern cities that maintain a medieval core. Whereas modern Gent grew out from its historic core, modern Brugge grew around it. So, the center of Gent feels a little more lived-in and used, whereas Brugge's feels a bit moth-balled. Another consideration would be if you're looking for some nightlife. Gent hosts a large university and young graduate population, so you can expect plenty to do after-hours. Brugge can be a little dead after dinner.

Posted by
56 posts

Thanks so much for all of the great input! I have tentatively decided on 5/5/7 in Amsterdam/Bruges/Paris - I have found a couple of great (but a little expensive) B&B options in Amsterdam and Bruges and a studio apartment in Paris. I am a little disappointed to miss the Keukenhof Gardens, but spring break (first week of April) is just so short compared to the summer. And, Tom, I am a little dead after dinner, so a lack of nightlife in Bruges isn't a problem. :-)

Posted by
951 posts

I loved Bruges and Ghent. Couldnt wait to leave Antwerp and was glad that I did not chose Antwerp as a home base. I like Brussels better than Antwerp but not enough for me to stay there. I know lots of people like Antwerp but 3 hours was enough: it was dismal, dirty, it was sunday so nothing was open, and we are not huge Rubens' fans even though we went to his house. We visited the Rockox museum and then we ran to the train station to get back to Ghent. As for B&Bs in Ghent, we did not use a Rick Steves suggestion, which was the first time we did this. (And may not be our last). This place knocked us away. We stayed in the top floor, the loft apartment. It made our honeymoon even more special. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g188666-d1118855-Reviews-De_Waterzooi-Ghent_East_Flanders_Province.html In Bruges, we stayed at the Absoluut Verhulst. Benno and Frieda are the greatest. I would say 2 nights in Bruges, 2 nights in Ghent would be worth it.

Posted by
11294 posts

"never eat where he suggests nor stay where he recommends" I don't understand this. I certainly wouldn't follow any guidebook recommendation blindly. But many of his recommendations are in many other guidebooks, online forums, etc. Of course, you should do some due diligence, but his books have led me to far more gems than duds. And his most recent dud - the Hotel Sarnic in Istanbul - was also highly ranked on TripAdvisor, so even due diligence will not always work. (Amusing sidebar: the one negative thing that kept coming up in the TA reviews of the Hotel Sarnic was complaints about the breakfasts. Those were actually the BEST thing about our stay! It just drove home the point that even in things that seem more "objective," like breakfast quality, there is always subjectivity and opinion). I do always use at least one other guidebook for each destination. Rick always has the best logistics help, bar none. Other books will say that you can take a bus from point A to point B. Rick will say which bus to catch, where to catch it, how often it runs, and where to buy the tickets. But he covers only parts of each country, and as he says in each introduction, his view of " the best" is only his opinion, so I want to get other points of view. Speaking of which...Remember how I said above that opinions of the "big 4" Belgian cities is a matter of endless debate? You now see what I mean <g>.

Posted by
766 posts

Hi Nancy! We are planning a trip in November going to these exact same spots. Here's what our itinerary looks like: Paris - 4 days with side trip to Versailles.
Bruges - 4 days with side trips to Ghent and Ypres as well as a bike trip to Damme or Oostkerke Amsterdam - 4 days with side trips to Delft and The Hague. Other possibilties we considered in Paris were Giverney, Chartres, Rouen, Provins, Fontainebleu. Other side trip possibilities we considered for Amsterdam were Kinderjidk, the Waterland area (Edam, Volendam, Marken) and Haarlem. Some of these areas may interest you and some may not, but they are ideas to research. I read so many wonderful suggestions on this board and then researched on my own to see if they interested us. Sometimes I think planning is as much fun as the actual vacation! Have fun!

Posted by
56 posts

I probably get half of my trip enjoyment from the planning! It's part of why I decided to try a solo trip instead of joining up with a RS tour. I LOVE getting a new guidebook, researching online, planning out trains, etc. In a way, it's nice that I've never traveled until now - there are so many things to see that it seems like it's going to take me YEARS even to work through my top ten!

Posted by
43 posts

Hello We are visiting similar places in December - 3 nights in Amsterdam, 3 in Bruges and Paris for 3 weeks as a base. Can you please advise best trains to get= planning to travel via train from Amsterdam to Bruges (maybe stop off for few hours at Antwerp ono the way) - then Bruges to Brussells for Paris stay. Many thanks
Leanne

Posted by
267 posts

We did AMS 4 nights Brugge 4 nights Paris 5 nights
Awesome trip ! Enjoyed all 3 spots . Did a day trip to Volendam, Edam, and Marken while in AMS. Did a day trip to Versailles while in Paris . Have a safe trip!

Posted by
24 posts

Loved Dawn and Bruce's replies. Having been to all the cities you mentioned, I'd recommend day trips outside of the cities for at least one day. I'd go for Brugge over Ghent. I'd spend fewer days in Amsterdam and include London. By all means, extent the trip if you can. But be sure to give yourself a day of rest inbetween to take it easy, do the laundry, shop for souvenirs, etc. Enjoy.
Cary T., Brea, CA

Posted by
18 posts

Hi Nancy, We just returned form a trip to Belguim. We stayed in Bruges for three days , tooka daytrip toGhent,and stayed outside of Brussels in Boortermeerk. We loved Bruges.We stayed at the Hotel Egmond. This hotel is very quiet and is next to the now closed Minnewater castle. It is about 15 minutes by a very pleasant walk to the train station. The downtown is about 5 blocks. If youlike peace , quiet, a old house feel this is the place.There are better hotels but this meets our criteria for being a hotel that feels like a small private estate.This is an oasis in a busy but beautfiul city.We went to Ghent by train. The centrla part ofGhent has beautiful cathedrals and a nice castle. It was very crowded. Outside of the old center,I didn't feel there was any reason to stay in Ghent .We like to stay in preserved middle ages villages like Bruges.We hate big cities like Ghent and Brussels. We stayed in Boortermeerbeck in the HOtel Classics.We took a train into Brussels.After you've been in the beautiful city of Bruges there is too much bustle and hustle in Brussels. The Great Market in Brussels and the Museum of Arts in Brussels was great. We would never again stay near Brussels or visit Ghent.Bruges is beautiful. peaceful, and does not have the ugly big city that Ghent and Brussels do outside of their historical disrict. Also I would go to Wengen in Lauterbreen valley and stay at the Hotel Alpenrose. If you love mountains go there . WE stayed in Rothenberg which is also like a small Bruges but also very protected and beautiful. You might consider touring the Alsac Lorraine. Do not stay in Colmar. Stay in Ricquiwihr. A protected village in the heart of the Alsac Lorraine. The big cities are nice for museums but do not give you a taste of small town historical fantasy europe. Good Luck
Roger And Diane

Posted by
516 posts

I would stay in Brugge and do daytrips to Antwerp and Ghent especially traveling solo. Nice, friendly town easy to get around and very safe. Brussels is ok. Palace is pretty at night but would not make a special trip to spend a lot of time there. Trains run back and forth between the different cities several times a day. I took a train late afternoon to Brussels to see the square and Palace at night and then trained back. Brussels central is close to the Palace. Canal boat ride is a must in Brugge. Amsterdam is so awesome. So many daytrips to do from there also. Delft, Leiden, Harleem. River tour of the windmills is fun. Great walking city with so much to see and do. The Dutch are extremely friendly and almost everyone speaks English. Be sure and walk the 9 streets in the Jordaan area. Lots of shops and cafes up and down the tree lined canals. If you google ninestraats Jordaan you'll get lots of info. Don't miss a canal boat ride. Take one in the day and one at night. night. I like St. Nicholos boat club the best. Easy to spend a week in Paris. Again so many daytrips to take from there if you run out of stuff to do in Paris. Be sure and take a boat ride up the Seine.
The night one is so beautiful. Comfy shoes and an umbrella. Lucky you with three weeks.

Posted by
56 posts

Thanks, everyone! I have booked seven nights in Paris, five nights in Bruges, and five nights in Amsterdam. And I have a friend at work that wants to come with me, which will hopefully be great. I leave for Italy tomorrow (nervous!), but when I get back, I'll have almost a year of reading/planning to do. I can't wait. :-)