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Netherlands & Belgium - Trip Report

Hello all,

Our family of four (kids 12 and 17) just returned from a week in Belgium and the Netherlands. A few random thoughts/comments:

  1. We flew in and out of Amsterdam, with 2 nights in Bruges, 3 nights in Leiden and 3 in Amsterdam at the end.

  2. We loved Bruges, though it is touristy (crowds dissipated after 4:30 pm or so for the most part and were non-existent before 8:30 am or so). We stayed at Hotel Aragon, a 5 minute walk from the the main square. Very good option, they have rooms with separate sleeping rooms and 4 beds total which was perfect for our family. Best canal boat ride of the week in Bruges (even better than the one in Amsterdam).

  3. Leiden is great! The canal-side charm on walks without the intensity of Amsterdam. We stayed at Boutique Hotel d'Oude Morsch, which is very nice with a great location next to a windmill and city gate (not far from the train station either). The town can be quiet at night, but has a huge student population so there is a certain energy in Leiden. There's probably not 3 days of stuff for a tourist in Leiden per se (at least not in a 1-week trip), but it is a great home base and feels like it's not overwhelmed with touristic attractions - it feels like a city that's been well lived in.

  4. We visited Delft as a day trip from Leiden. I think Delft feels a little better organized for a tourist than Leiden and is also lovely (with a beautiful town square, interesting history, etc.). We did not visit the Delftware manufacturer (it's on the edge of town it seemed), but there's plenty to see and do there even without that. After considering it, we thought Delft might be a better option for a short stay than Leiden honestly, so we'll keep that in mind next time.

  5. We were in Amsterdam for 2 full sightseeing days (Van Gogh museum, Our Lord in the Attic, tiny Houseboat Museum, and the Museum of the Canals were some activities we enjoyed most). We stayed at Hotel de Hallen. This is outside the canal belt, but very nice and immediately adjacent to the Foodhallen (a lively food hall where we enjoyed lunch and dinner on separate days - great energy and some good food options - watching the opening night of Euro 2024 on Friday with the scene in there felt like a very authentic brand of fun). Also, I would highly recommend Restaurant Jun for those looking for a non-tourist focused neighborhood place for Indonesian food and rijkstafel. Amsterdam is of course very busy, and probably too intense for our family in certain spots - but usually we could take a 10-minute walk and be in the middle of relative calm without too much effort.

  6. We visited Marken as a day trip from Amsterdam. Very tiny and not too busy the day we were there (blustery weather). A short train and bus ride and you're visiting a lovely fishing village with a cute harborfront with a few restaurants. It looks like there's a lot of tour groups that filter through based on how the town is set up, but you can stroll away from the main bus stop to the other edge of town in less than 10 minutes and we enjoyed that.

  7. The "tap in / tap out" system for all public transport within the Netherlands is great. We were a little nervous about using it the first time, but forcing ourselves to use it early on (1st day) changed our whole trip. We realized it was easy to get just about anywhere and as a result we expanded our travel plan on the fly. We used our credit/debit cards all week to use trams and metro connections in Amsterdam, as well as intercity trains and buses between Delft, Leiden, Amsterdam and Marken. It makes using public transport so easy. The system has some kinks at times (e.g., our card wasn't read on particular tram, etc.), but it's easy to roll with the punches and get out and see more using public transport.

Despite the weather at times, we enjoyed our visit so much. Lots to see and do. Cheers!

Steve

Posted by
5167 posts

We were in those countries this past April, 2024, and enjoyed the tulips. Always a pleasure to read a TR of a place I've recently visited.
So even June weather can be a challenge. They all told us that April was the crazy weather month.
Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
7473 posts

Thank you for sharing your trip report! I haven’t been to Delft for almost fifty years. It’s good to hear it’s still a nice destination!

Posted by
4005 posts

Thanks for your trip report. It’s also fun to read about places you’ve been to visit. We never made it to Leiden.
We just returned from the Netherlands on June 12. We decided to base in Rotterdam for 6 nights since we had spent 10 days in Amsterdam in 2015 and we were taking a cruise in between our stay.
We did day trips to The Hague (our only rain day), Utrecht, Kinderdjik, and Gouda. Previously we visited Delft, Haarlem (our favorite), Edam/Markam/Volomdam.
It is one of my favorite countries to visit. Interesting, diverse history, clean streets, beautiful foliage in any nook & cranny possible, fun architecture (especially in Rotterdam - our first hotel, New York Hotel, was previously offices and our second, the Motto by Hilton, was a converted bank), affordable, trains easy to use, fantastic art, great shopping (I actually purchased some clothing this trip), and innovative restaurants.
I recommend anyone to put The Netherlands on their travel list.

Posted by
2258 posts

Sounds like a really nice trip. We always traveled with our kids when they were growing up, and still do even though they are adults. in February, my daughter and I went to The Netherlands. We did a day trip to Delft and absolutely loved it! We did go the factory/museum and then walked back to town. It is a short walk and quite nice. We also did a day tour that included Marken. Yes, we were part of the sheep being herded groups, and hated every minute of it;) We never do those, but did it on a whim, and it was just not a good experience. Glad you did it differently;)

Posted by
1 posts

What a great report, thanks! We are looking to go May 2025. A couple of questions - do you rent a car at all? Or did you take public transportation the entire time?

This might sound corny, but did you see the windmills? Or the dikes? I am just starting to do research so don’t know, yet, the locations of some of these favorite destinations.

And …. If you had the time/$$$ to stay longer, how long would you spend on this same itinerary?

Jim and Deb
Palm Harbor, Florida

Posted by
2490 posts

Thanks for sharing. Delft is one of the most charming places I've seen.