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12 days The Hague, Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris Itinerary Advice

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Jul 9th, 2014, 11:12 AM
  #1
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12 days The Hague, Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris Itinerary Advice

Hello everyone,

My husband will be in The Hague on business and we're planning to do a little touring/sightseeing. Would really appreciate your advice on our tentative itinerary, as follows:

13-16th (4 days stationed for business) in The Hague--possible day trips to Utrecth, Delft, Den Bosch, or Maastricht
16th take train to Amsterdam in the evening
17-18 (2 full days) Amsterdam
Night of 18th or morning of 19th (?) take train to Antwerp
19-22 (4 days) based out of Antwerp day trips to Gent, Brugge, possibly Brussels (I've read mixed things. worth seeing?)
take Thalys from Antwerp to Ru de Nord statin in Paris night of 22nd (safe?)
23-24 and until 4pm on 25th (2.5 days)-- Paris
25th- fly out of Paris

Any advice on what to see or not see or where to stay longer/what to cut short would be appreciated. We are traveling in November and I have been advised that it rains a good deal in Holland and Belgium and it might be cold. The cold doesn't bother me and neither does the rain, unless it is pouring. Hopefully that won't be the case.

As far as touring, we are mostly interested in walking the cities, architecture, churches, nature, and of course plan to visit some museums (Van Gogh in Amsterdam, the Louvre in Paris).

I really wish we did have more than 2 days in Paris...do you guys think we should cut a day off of Belgium and spend 3 days in Paris instead?

Also, I've been researching getting from Antwerp to Paris' Nord station and have read some horrific things about pickpockets, thieves, and tourists being harassed on the Thayls by people who were not ticket agents but were demanding to see travel documents in order to extort money.

We are careful but do not look imposing. Our plan was to take an evening train out of Antwerp on Saturday night so we could have 2 full days on Sunday and Monday in Paris but now I'm not sure this is the safest thing.

I traveled through Spain for 3 weeks with my friend a few years back and didn't have much trouble. I felt a little harassed when I was in the metro in Naples (albeit with a group of friends) but we were able to handle it.

Thanks so much in advance!
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Jul 9th, 2014, 12:35 PM
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Yup I'd take a day out of Belgium if never been to Paris before - and I'd base in gorgeous Bruges as most do (maybe that is a drawback to you but this town, to me one of the most medieval looking ones in its historic core north of the Alps) but it is especially a gem after the daytime bus groups have left and the ancient city, once one of the most prosperous in the city and

the city's ancient quays lined by stately Flemish facades of old warehouses attests to this one-time important (until the port silted up gradually leaving it far inland as is it todya and the hectic port activities moved to Antwerp, still today one of the world's busiest ports).

Brgues is a great base for trips to Antwerp - one day there enough for most though this is a fascinating city with some neat sites like Osylei Cogl (sp?) a street lovingly lined by art nouveau facades and Middleheim Statue part, also in the outer area.

And with the Thalys ABS fare you can take any train from Bruges and Antwerp to Brussels, spend the day there and then take the Thalys to Paris - with little or not extra fare over the Thalys fare - which you should book ASAP because there are deep discounts but they are sold in limited numbers and sell out quick.

For lots of great info on Thalys and trains in Benelux and France I always spotlight these IMO superb sites: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat62.com - www.thlays.com of course for Thalys booking - very easy to do IME.

https://www.google.com/search?q=coge...w=1455&bih=952
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Jul 9th, 2014, 12:50 PM
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I would add at least 2 days to Paris. It's November and you can expect weather similar to NYC or Philly - chilly but not very cold (40s) and some rain is always possible - in 12 days at lest a couple of days of rain is likely.

Make sure you have a sturdy folding umbrella, waterproofed comfy walking shoes and either a lined raincoat or a mid weight coat that won;t be ruined by the weather. (A friend took a new suede jacket on a similar trip and it was never the same.)
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Jul 9th, 2014, 01:13 PM
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Thanks for the advice guys! I'll take away a day from Belgium and tack it on to Paris.

PalenQ, in Belgium was thinking of being based out of Antwerp because it's more convenient to get to Paris from there and also because we don't want to have to schlep our suitcases from hotel to hotel every day.

So far I think I've narrowed it down to:

4 days in The Hague (day trips to Delft, Utrecht, maybe Den Bosch, Maastricht would be nice but probably too far)
2 days in Amsterdam (maybe small day trip to Haarlem or Zannse Schanse to see the windmills if the weather is good)
3 days in Belgium (Antwerp, Ghent, Brugge, Brussels if there's time but probably not)
3.5 days in Paris
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Jul 9th, 2014, 02:37 PM
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For Belgium: basing in Antwerp is indeed more convenient to get to Paris. That being said, basing in Brussels might even be better because Brussels is more centrally located for visiting Bruges. Bruges definitely is NOT a good base for a trip to Antwerp (one and a half hours, whereas Brussels-Antwerp is only 40 mins.).

Antwerp: the art nouveau street mentioned by PalenQ is called Cogels-Osylei. It is really worth seeing, but with only one short day I would stick to the historical part of the city.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 02:57 PM
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Gent may be the best base from a centrally located basis and is also a neat old town with bits of Bruges-like quaitness and canals - an old-world flare rather lacking in a bustling more modern and more commercial center Antwerp -

smaller cities or a larger town - pluses and minuses to each.
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Jul 9th, 2014, 03:18 PM
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Thanks Myriam! Will definitely check out Cogels-Osylei and the historical part of Antwerp. The reason I chose Antwerp over Brussels is that I heard it was more "worth seeing" and that Brussels had a pretty town square but not much else (even though it is the capital). What was your opinion of Brussels?
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Jul 10th, 2014, 02:00 AM
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I agree about Antwerp. But then, I may be a bit biased ... being Antwerpian. ;-)
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Jul 10th, 2014, 03:14 AM
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Hey olgap,

I was in these countries in 2012 and loved it very much. I much preferred Antwerp over Brussels. Brussels was a major letdown for me. I even had my wrist sprained due to a car backing into me hand while I was crossing through the pedestrian zone with a green light to go. The guy didn't even check to see if I was okay, just sped off. Delft is amazing, be sure to buy some delft china. Instead of going to Zannnse Schanse I would go to Kinderdijk. It has 19 windmills and you can enter a working one for a price of course. Bruges and Ghent are amazing. Have a great trip!
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Jul 10th, 2014, 04:34 AM
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Actually timewise Bruges is a tad closer to Paris by train then from Antwerp - though from Antwerp you can get a direct Thalys train - but if you go Bruges-Lille-Paris you may find that a bit quicker than Antwerp-Brussels-Paris and if you do not score a very cheap Thalys ticket then that other route, with a fairly flat fare structure could be much cheaper on a walk up basis and you can get discounts on the Lille-Flandres to Paris-Nord train too.

But if you get one of the cheaper Thalys tickets that route could be cheaper and more convenient as it is direct.

I would consider stopping in Brussels for a half day or so en route to Paris - the ABS (All-Belgian-Stations) fare lets you go on any train within 24 hours (maybe 48?) of your Brussels to Paris train at no extra cost - put you bags in a locker at Gare du Midi in Brussels (AKA Brussels-Zuid or South Station) and hop a train to nearby Brussels Centrale station (not the main station in Brussels but a secondary mainly commuter one but a short walk from the fantastic Grand' Place, one of Europe's classiest town squares and the Mannequin pis - statue of a little boy peeing - the two major sights in the town center - you may even have time to take in one of Brussels touted art museums though you will have had your fill perhaps of those in Antwerp, Gent and Bruges!
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Jul 10th, 2014, 09:46 AM
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Brendonb29, that's terrible!

Thanks for all the advice, guys! It has been a big help.
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Jul 10th, 2014, 10:58 AM
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Actually timewise Bruges is a tad closer to Paris by train then from Antwerp - though from Antwerp you can get a direct Thalys train - but if you go Bruges-Lille-Paris you may find that a bit quicker than Antwerp-Brussels-Paris>

Let me correct myself for a brain malfunction - Antwerp is closer timewise from Paris by train than in Bruges - I was thinking from Bruges it is just as quick to go via Lille as to go via Brussels. Sorry about that rather stupid mixing up of things.
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Jul 10th, 2014, 11:22 AM
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No problem PalenQ. Thanks!
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Jul 10th, 2014, 11:38 AM
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Hi. We just got back from a somewhat similar itinerary (no work in The Hague, though).

I will work on starting a trip report. And, even though I am very fond of Belgium, if you have never been to Paris, add time to there.

We discovered on this trip (thanks to a helpful ticket agent in Gent) that there is a direct Thalys train from Brugge to Paris - 2.5 hours.

We were in Amsterdam, took the train to the Hague, then to Gent, then to Brugge (stowed our luggage for the day) and a 7pm Thayls train to Paris.

We were warned about pickpockets, too. We had no issues - husband wore a money belt and I wore a small cross-the-shoulder bag. We thought the Thayls train was very civilized - we had no problems on there.

We just couldn't fit in Delft - that's super easy from the Hague - a 20 min or so train ride.

I really liked den Bosch b/c I love the painter Bosch. There is an amazing cathedral there.

Belgium has amazing chocolate - and extremely reasonably priced compared to similar stuff in the US.

I was underwhelemed with Brussels overall, but I love art and their art museum is excellent. I also thought the Grand Place was one of the, well, grandest, squares in Europe.

I have fond memories of Antwerp b/c I was hanging out there when my husband was on a business trip, and it's so convenient to get to places from there.

Brugge is your Belgium priority, IMO, but it's not that big and with a day you can see a lot.

Also, I would spent all your 2 days in Amsterdam.
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Jul 10th, 2014, 11:54 AM
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We had a wonderful trip through Belgium last year and loved it all, though didn't go into Brussels. I only mention one fly in the ointment because you brought it up: we had one shoulder bag of my husband's stolen from him while we were near the ticket window in the Antwerp train station. We didn't let it spoil our view of Anwtwerp or the great trip.
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Jul 10th, 2014, 01:54 PM
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Thanks, PhillyFan. Yeah, that's what I hear about Brussels too (beautiful square, good museums). We'll try to do a few hours there if we can but if it's tight I'd rather spend time in Bruges. We're spending an extra day in Paris and might be able to tack on another one. Can I ask you what day you traveled to Paris? We're planning to leave Antwerp for PAris on a Friday (also around 7 pm). I read somewhere that you're more likely to encounter problems on the weekend because people are either going out to party or coming back. Comforting to know that you felt safe on the train though. Was definitely planning to see Den Bosch (Den Bosch over Maastricht I decided, primarily because of the cathedral) from The Hague when my husband is working.

m34aggie: good to know! We'll definitely keep our wits about us, everywhere.
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Jul 10th, 2014, 02:04 PM
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Also, where did you stay while you were in Paris? I found a cheap hotel close to the Gare de Norde train station but it's in the 10th arrondissement and I hear it maybe a little seedy? Far from the center of Paris as well but we dont mind taking trains, though we do slightly prefer walking. I also found a cheap hotel in the 8th arrondissement close to a bus that would take us to CDG airport on our flight back to NY. How easy is it to get a taxi from the train station?
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Jul 10th, 2014, 04:31 PM
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The Gare du Nord area is not that seedy but not the prettiest or most convivial section of Paris IME - kind of lacks a neighborhood feeling you often like - like boulangeries and ordinary cafes but instead full of establishments catering to the hoards of folks traveling via the Gare du Nord or nearby Gare de l'Est.

And it is a little more remote but if into walking a bit about a mile or so from the Pompidou Center, Notre Dame even the Louvre area or maybe a tad farther - I've always found walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods to get to say the Louvre from your hotel was often more enjoyable than what I found in my famous destination place - all the little shops, cafes, street markets, etc.

But the Gare du Nord area to me is rather sterile but OK - safe enough it seems - rooms fronting the main roads could be loud due to incessant loud traffic coming and going to the stations.
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Jul 10th, 2014, 04:49 PM
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We just returned from three weeks in Belgium and The Netherlands and we have been to Paris on many occasions.

Here some general impressions. Paris is one of the most glorious cities in the world and deserves as much time as one can muster.

Delft was unqiue in that is a charming cities without the multitude of people like us-tourists.

Brussels is an almost interesting city. The pastries, breads and chocolates are spectacular, however.

Brugge is a beautiful but a town overwhelmed by tourists during the day but the city has done an elegant job of lighting the canals for night viewing. Gent is more interesting, more layered. Antwerp has many worthwhile sights including a most clever and aesthetically pleasing renovation to its central train station.

Amsterdam is a fabulous walking city with world class museums and disappointing restaurants.

Thus, it all depends what is important to you.
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Jul 10th, 2014, 04:52 PM
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Brussels is not terrible, but as someone once said here on Fodor's, it takes longer to give up its charms. If you were there for a week, eating and drinking locally and seeing its museums, you might have a different view of it. But by all means make a flying visit - drop your belongings in a locker at Central Station, and see the Grand Place. Most people are underwhelmed with the Manneken Pis because he is really so tiny. He also only takes moments to see. I would possibly add on (or substitute) a visit to the Grand Sablon's chocolate shops (there are numerous ones clustered here), or to the Dandoy tea room at Rue Charles Buls 14 for a waffle. Even better, if you can squeeze it in, a visit to a nice restaurant for lunch. If you have more time, the Horta Museum in St.-Gilles is a remarkable, intact Art Nouveau house designed by Victor Horta, who was responsible for much of the Art Nouveau in Brussels. It is really spectacular - no detail has been forgotten.

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