My husband and I are looking into this tour for next July. Thoughts on this of those who have been before?
My wife and I enjoyed this tour. I really liked that their were fewer days on the bus. I'm glad we went over before the tour and stayed a few days in Ghent to get over our jet lag (Hotel Harmony was great). We went into Brussels for one day from our home base in Ghent before the tour, others on the tour stayed a day or two in Brussels before starting the tour (we liked Ghent as a much smaller city than Brussels). Lot's of art museums on this tour. I would definitely take the tram to see the Mauritshuis art museum in the Hague during free time while staying in Delft. We went in April so that we could see the Keukenhof garden flower show which was great, the first few tours of the year have this as a stop. It was a little cooler at that time of year but I enjoy that type of weather for touring. We flew into Brussels and out of Amsterdam. I will warn you that leaving from the Amsterdam airport involved several very long lines. They advised getting to the airport three hours ahead of our flight and that was definitely very good advice (we checked our luggage and that did add one very long line). If you have another option than flying out of Amsterdam, I was suggest taking it. Watch out for bicycles in Amsterdam, they are everywhere :) I felt very safe on this tour (although I do use a moneybelt around my neck).
Thouroughly enjoyed this tour. Loved staying in Ghent - great hotel and included canal cruise. The tour of Flanders Field American Cemetary iand Tyne Coy Cemetery are excellent. Very moving to learn the history of this area during the war. Bruges is a charming town with a lovely canal boat ride, too. Visit and tour the brewery. I especially loved pretty Delft with the blue and white Delftware. Great main square, canals, and restaurants. The visit to the flower/bulb auction hall and one of several huge distribution centers outside of Amsterdam was fascinating. Of course, Amsterdam is wonderful. The Anne Frank house and Rijksmuseum are part of the tour. So important to see. The Van Gogh Museum definitely an added bonus to do on your own. Loved walking along the canals and bridges. Also, learned a lot about how the Netherlands reclaimed their land protecting it from flooding. All and all a very worthwhile tour. Highly recommend!
I agree with the other posters. We went April 2016 right after Belgium bombing. That’s when the tour changed taking Brussels off. We had three days prior to start in Brussels. We were to fly into Brussels and out of Amsterdam. United cancelled our flight and changed to in and out of Amsterdam. Had to take thayls train to Brussels since we already had prepaid hotel and plans. Then took train to Ghent day of start of our tour. Ghent (harmony hotel was awesome). Bruges was a favorite,. This was probably our favorite tour (along side the Scotland one).
We want to figure out how to get back to Bruges.
We took this tour when it still started in Brussels. We loved the tour, and thought it should have been longer. (But we've thought that about all the RS tours we've taken.)
We spent a couple of extra days in Brussels, and had no trouble filling the time. We did wish the group had spent more time in Ghent; we were only there for about half a day.
We also stayed on in Amsterdam a few days after the tour ended, and again, had no trouble filling the time. We particularly enjoyed the Van Gogh museum, and the Resistance museum, neither of which was on the tour.
Thank you guys so much for your responses. I have not been to Europe before, and this tour especially sounded interesting. My husband has been to a couple of places in Europe, so we were trying to find a tour that would be new to both of us. We were looking at going in July of 2019 and that seems to be when the weather is the warmest.
I did this tour in May of 2018 and really enjoyed it. It has a great mix of sites and activities. I highly recommend. It was my third RS tour.
If you aren't on a tight vacation schedule and can add extra days, here is a suggestion: Look for an Amsterdam round trip ticket.
I got a terrific price on a round trip flight to/from Amsterdam (most people fly into Brussels since the tour starts in Ghent). I wouldn't have gotten that good fare that with an open jaw flight. However I traveled in May, not summer when fares are usually higher.
I spent 3 days in Amsterdam doing things not on the tour, then took train to Rotterdam (stopping in The Hague during the day), two nights in Rotterdam, two nights in Antwerp, and then on go Ghent one day before the tour start. The three train fares totaled €28.40. The savings on the plane fare covered the extra lodging costs and train fares.
Private message me with any questions. I'd be happy to share my experience.
Is this the same tour as the Heart of Belgium and Holland 11 days for 2019? If it is, I would like to know the hotels used at the different cities. From what I can tell, it looks like a great tour. Thanks, Joe W.
The itinerary looks the same as 2018. However the tours do not always use the same hotels, even in the same year.
We did this tour in 2012 on a whim and it is still one of our favorites. Our guide was Rolinka, and seriously we would take any trip, any where, any time with her. She was just fantastic and made the tour even better with her deep understanding of the countries and willingness to discuss what it's actually like to live there. She is such a truly nice person and the group bonded around her.
You'll have a wide variety of experiences all of which are memorable. This tour is the one we always recommend for people doing their first Rick Steves trip. We loved Brugges and its wonderful chocolate and medieval buildings and have gone back on our own. Amsterdam is a fantastic city and we've been back twice. The impressive Maeslantkering movable storm surge barrier was incredible to see and understand how other countries have handled horrible flooding events.
In July you'll probably go to the Aalsmeer Flower market. Picture the worst traffic in your busy town; now picture the cars replaced with electric vehicles pulling trams of flowers. This place is crazy. Thousands and thousands of flowers speeding around large warehouses, being sorted and shipped around the world. We watched in amazement at the organized chaos.
The museums you'll visit are excellent and have a variety of art no matter what you like. We didn't use to like still life paintings, but our art historian guide at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels provided the first real understanding of what to look for and how to look at them. Now we actually look at such paintings instead of passing by them.
The day at Ypres was truly heartbreaking. This town has many WW1 cemeteries. We toured the area with a local guide who specializes in history. Our whole group was quiet and reflective on the way back to the hotel. Farmers are still finding live ammunition from both World Wars in their fields. We got to speak with locals about how this is dealt with.
You'll love this tour. Paris is a reasonable train ride away and doing a 7 day city tour back to back with Heart of Belgium is quite easy to do.
celticmythos, your post brought our Belgium/Holland tour rushing back. Love your descriptions. And yes, we did this tour back-to-back with Best of Paris, and loved every minute of both tours.
That's a great tour that covers a lot of interesting sights in the two countries, and I don't think you'd be disappointed. You'll need to be a bit flexible when travelling with a group, but the RS tours are well paced so that shouldn't be an issue. You can always schedule a few days before and/or after the tour to see other places you're interested in.
I'd suggest arriving at least one (and preferably two) days prior to the tour, to allow you to get over jet lag and get up to speed. Of course you'll have to pay the extra nights at the hotel on your own. I always try to stay in the first tour hotel so that I don't have to change hotels.