2-3 Days in Amsterdam?

Old Aug 28th, 2023, 06:49 AM
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2-3 Days in Amsterdam?

We are hoping to take a river cruise along the Rhine and Mosel in the autumn of 2024. It ends in Antwerp, Belgium and our traveling companions are keen on visiting Amsterdam before we fly home. On the cusp of turning eighty, they are thinking this might be their last overseas trip and have always wanted to visit Amsterdam. Their main goal is to see the Van Gogh museum, take a canal tour, and explore Amsterdam a bit. They would also like to go to Vondelpark (or a similar place) and walk there a bit.

Questions
1. Transportation from Brussels to Amsterdam? Take a train? Fly? Rent a car (if our Amsterdam hotel has parking available and we just park it there while in Amsterdam)?
2. Are the new restrictions on tourism going to make it harder to find a hotel room or determine length of stay?
3. My husband and I had an overnight layover in Amsterdam in 2008 (enroute to Ghana) and stayed at the Ambassade Hotel which seemed a good location. Our friends heard that the Oud-Zuid area might be a nice place to stay.
3. If you were going to take a day trip to one area near Amsterdam, where might you go? Haarlem, Utrecht and Amesfoort have been suggested as possibilities. We will have already visited Willemstad, Kinderdijk, and Nijmegen on the river cruise.

Thanks for any help you may be able to give us!
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Old Aug 28th, 2023, 07:29 AM
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1) Train is 2 hours from city center to city center. Plane is 2 hours but drive time, arrival time before flight, distance from town. Train is better.
2) Apply online when time is right. I've checked it out and extremely easy. I believe over 70 there is no fee.
3) I was there in April 2023 but stayed in a floating house on a canal, so have no recommendations for a hotel area. Transportation is superb.
4) I would draw a radius of about 30-45 minutes around Amsterdam and go from there. Utrecht is delightful but google the towns and see what appeals. With the few days you have also make sure the "delightful cobblestone streets" or "hilly city center" (probably not in The Netherlands), aren't a problem.
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Old Aug 28th, 2023, 07:44 AM
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Train without a doubt. It will be called Eurostar - they have taken over Thalys, and book it as soon as you can next year.

Staying in a hotel will not be a problem. Who knows whether the EU will have introduced ETIAS and EES by then, but you will have to deal with those before your cruise if they have.

I've never stayed in Amsterdam so I can't help with hotels.

Get your tickets for van Gogh and Anne Frankhuis if you want to go there online with timed entry.

I would say Haarlem is probably the easiest of those three though all are worth a visit. Amersfoort centre is a long way from it's station so unless you are up for a long (boring) walk you would need to get a bus into the centre. It has a proper shopping street, nice squares with plenty of eating opportunities, a couple of old city gates, some remaining walls, and you can also take a boat trip round it if it is running the day on a small open boat. In Utrecht you have to negotiate Hoog Catherine shopping mall to get to the old centre, but it is easy to do. Nice old centre, the Dom, boat trip maybe, museums too.
Alternatively take the train to Enkhuizen, visit the museum and and enjoy the old town, and harbour.
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Old Aug 29th, 2023, 04:23 AM
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If you're in Antwerp, a better option is to take the International Intercity to Amsterdam: turn up and go, less expensive than Eurostar/Thalys too. Good luggage space, it might be a good option to go 1st Class for more room.
Amsterdam is very expensive for hotels, Haarlem is a better bet, or Utrecht, Leiden or Den Haag, those 3 are about 30 - 40 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal. I can really recommend Utrecht, a lovely city that goes back to Roman times.
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Old Aug 29th, 2023, 07:14 AM
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Indeed, no need to go to Brussel, just take the train from the beautiful central station in Antwerp. If you book an InterCity train you can take any train to Amsterdam that day. 41 euro one way for first class. Thalys is a bit faster and more expensive.
Don't even think about renting a car and parking it in Amsterdam. It will be a hassle and very expensive.
There are no restrictions on tourism. The Etias registration is supposed to start some time in 2024, and is similar to what Europeans do when they visit the US (ESTA). No date has been announced for this.

Last edited by Tulips; Aug 29th, 2023 at 07:15 AM. Reason: typo
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 05:06 AM
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Originally Posted by jan47ete
1) Train is 2 hours from city center to city center. Plane is 2 hours but drive time, arrival time before flight, distance from town. Train is better.
2) Apply online when time is right. I've checked it out and extremely easy. I believe over 70 there is no fee.
3) I was there in April 2023 but stayed in a floating house on a canal, so have no recommendations for a hotel area. Transportation is superb.
4) I would draw a radius of about 30-45 minutes around Amsterdam and go from there. Utrecht is delightful but google the towns and see what appeals. With the few days you have also make sure the "delightful cobblestone streets" or "hilly city center" (probably not in The Netherlands), aren't a problem.
Thank you for your helpful input. Looks like we will take a train. Glad to hear that transportation is superb. One of our sons spent a week in Amsterdam and really enjoyed going to Utrecht and Amersfoort but I will google the various options.
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 05:20 AM
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Originally Posted by hetismij2
Train without a doubt. It will be called Eurostar - they have taken over Thalys, and book it as soon as you can next year.

I would say Haarlem is probably the easiest of those three though all are worth a visit. Amersfoort centre is a long way from it's station so unless you are up for a long (boring) walk you would need to get a bus into the centre. It has a proper shopping street, nice squares with plenty of eating opportunities, a couple of old city gates, some remaining walls, and you can also take a boat trip round it if it is running the day on a small open boat. In Utrecht you have to negotiate Hoog Catherine shopping mall to get to the old centre, but it is easy to do. Nice old centre, the Dom, boat trip maybe, museums too. Alternatively take the train to Enkhuizen, visit the museum and and enjoy the old town, and harbour.
Thank you for further input on traveling by train. We have only taken a train in Europe twice before (from Zurich to Lucerne and back many years ago) so this is new territory. It was reassuring to look at the Eurostar site for info on traveling from Brussels to Amsterdam, making it feel much more doable.

Your analysis of the ease of visiting Haarlem vs Amersfoort vs Utrecht is a great help. And it was fun to see what Enkhuizen has to offer!
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 05:48 AM
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"Are the new restrictions on tourism"

there seems to be some sort of confusion over this. There are none that should worry anyone, but red-tops like a fuss.

If walking is an issue from your friends then stay in the centre and swallow the price. If they are fit to walk then stay out of town or on the edge of town and use the public transport to get around.

When walking, of whatever fitness level, do not walk in the bike lanes. Imagine being hit by a 250 man on a bike at 20 mph, it will hurt and you will be in trouble. I watched an uncle walk out of the station backwards while talking to me straight into one of the bike highways and I managed to drag him clear.
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by menachem
If you're in Antwerp, a better option is to take the International Intercity to Amsterdam: turn up and go, less expensive than Eurostar/Thalys too. Good luggage space, it might be a good option to go 1st Class for more room.
Amsterdam is very expensive for hotels, Haarlem is a better bet, or Utrecht, Leiden or Den Haag, those 3 are about 30 - 40 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal. I can really recommend Utrecht, a lovely city that goes back to Roman times.
Last night I took a closer look at the cruise itinerary, and it does indeed end in Antwerp. (I think the cruise line then transfers people to the Brussels airport for flights home.) I think we will need to make our own arrangements for transfers and transportation to Amsterdam. If we took the International Intercity, it looks like we would need to change trains at least once? That might not be ideal with our group but we'll see. I appreciate your mentioning this other option for us to explore.

One of my sons traveled to Amsterdam just before the pandemic shut down international travel, and he loved Utrecht! I think our friends want to stay in Amsterdam (in spite of the cost for hotels) but will take a look at Leiden and Den Haag as well as the others for a possible day trip.

Thanks for your input!
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Tulips
Indeed, no need to go to Brussel, just take the train from the beautiful central station in Antwerp. If you book an InterCity train you can take any train to Amsterdam that day. 41 euro one way for first class. Thalys is a bit faster and more expensive.
Don't even think about renting a car and parking it in Amsterdam. It will be a hassle and very expensive.
There are no restrictions on tourism. The Etias registration is supposed to start some time in 2024, and is similar to what Europeans do when they visit the US (ESTA). No date has been announced for this.
Thanks for your input! The InterCity train looks like a good option apart from possibly needing to change trains with some luggage. (I suppose renting a car in Antwerp and turning it in Amsterdam is also not an ideal solution but it crossed my mind.)

I googled to see why I had the idea that Amsterdam is introducing measures to limit tourism, and I think it was news stories about efforts to discourage rowdy tourists, day trippers, and perhaps overnight tourists. But it looks like it wouldn't impact our trip apart from possibly increasing tourist taxes. Not concerned about the Etias registration.

Thanks again!
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
If walking is an issue from your friends then stay in the centre and swallow the price. If they are fit to walk then stay out of town or on the edge of town and use the public transport to get around. When walking, of whatever fitness level, do not walk in the bike lanes. Imagine being hit by a 250 man on a bike at 20 mph, it will hurt and you will be in trouble. I watched an uncle walk out of the station backwards while talking to me straight into one of the bike highways and I managed to drag him clear.
Thank you for your input. Hoping we are all in good shape for walking when we take this trip! I sent our friends several options for hotels and will see what they think of the various locations and cost.

Thank you for amplifying the warning about the bicycle lanes. I have seen lots of warnings about this and hope we all remember while in Amsterdam. I pulled a fellow traveler to safety in France once when she stepped out into a street and was about to be hit by a motorcyclist she didn't see.
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 06:55 AM
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Your input has been very helpful as I look at the feasibility of fitting in a trip to Amsterdam for our friends. I heard yesterday that our friends still want to include Amsterdam in spite of the cost and length of the overall trip. We have time to figure out the transportation details but I really wanted to make sure the trip to Amsterdam wouldn't complicate the transportation too much. We don't have much experience taking trains in Europe but your input has been reassuring.

While laying out the timetable, I realized that we will be in Amsterdam on a weekend arriving on a Friday and leaving on a Monday. So Saturday and Sunday are our two full days. I am guessing that this means everything might be more crowded - especially if the weather is nice?

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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 07:10 AM
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The IC Antwerp-Amsterdam does not normally require a change of trains. It stops at a few stations along the way, but you stay on the same train. It takes 1h51. You are free to take any IC train that day, there are no seat reservations. Check https://www.belgiantrain.be/en
For the faster Thalys train check www.thalys.com. This train takes only 1h14 from Antwerp to Amsterdam. You can book seats, but you must take the train you booked. So allow for enough time to take a taxi to the station.
Thalys and Eurostar companies have merged, so in the future the website for booking may change.
You are traveling autumn 2024, there may be changes in schedules before then. If you want to book Thalys, do so as soon as you can since prices go up closer to the travel date.
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 07:15 AM
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One last transportation related question: How is Schiphol airport these days? We had a negative experience in 2008 when taking a KLM flight to Ghana. We had booked our flights four months earlier but when we arrived at the airport, we'd been moved to standby status. It took over two hours to get checked in and through security. The airline found a seat for my husband first, and I wondered whether I would be able to board. They eventually found a seat for me, and shortly thereafter a Nigerian man boarded the plane and demanded his seat. The airline staff worked it out somehow but that was one of our worst travel experiences. (Not as bad as the time a driver taking us from Nairobi to Kisii Kenya had his car break down in the Great Rift Valley and had to find us another ride the rest of the way. Not ideal.)

Looks like we could get a direct flight home from Amsterdam or go to Brussels and take a British Airways flight with a stop at Heathrow. (We would add to our One World frequent flyer miles and have priority boarding, etc.) But there is a lot to be said for direct flights!


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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Tulips
The IC Antwerp-Amsterdam does not normally require a change of trains. It stops at a few stations along the way, but you stay on the same train. It takes 1h51. You are free to take any IC train that day, there are no seat reservations. Check https://www.belgiantrain.be/en
For the faster Thalys train check www.thalys.com. This train takes only 1h14 from Antwerp to Amsterdam. You can book seats, but you must take the train you booked. So allow for enough time to take a taxi to the station.
Thalys and Eurostar companies have merged, so in the future the website for booking may change.
You are traveling autumn 2024, there may be changes in schedules before then. If you want to book Thalys, do so as soon as you can since prices go up closer to the travel date.
Thank you so much! Traveling from Antwerp to Amsterdam would really be ideal and give us more time to explore Amsterdam.
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 07:50 AM
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Your experience with your flight from Amsterdam was with KLM, and has nothing to do with Schiphol airport. It would be crazy to fly from Brussel on a connecting flight, while you are in Amsterdam and can take a direct flight from there. You could fly BA Amsterdam-London-USA if you want to fly BA.
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Tulips
Your experience with your flight from Amsterdam was with KLM, and has nothing to do with Schiphol airport. It would be crazy to fly from Brussel on a connecting flight, while you are in Amsterdam and can take a direct flight from there. You could fly BA Amsterdam-London-USA if you want to fly BA.
Yes, of course. I really need to spend some more time looking at the various options. We prefer to fly out of PHL or EWR rather than JFK if at possible so I will spend some more time researching this. Initially, it was a given that we would need to take a connecting flight to get to Basel (BSL) but we may go to Lucerne before the cruise so we could fly into Zurich instead. If we take direct flights both ways, it lessens the chance of having luggage go missing. Thanks again for your input!
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 11:06 AM
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There is much to see and do in Amsterdam and of course book the Anne Frank Haus and the Van Gogh Museum early on but of course there is the Rijksmuseum and the Stedjilek, the Museum of Dutch Resistance, the Spanish Synagogue and the Jewish Museum. The park is lovely if you are there early in the month as last time I was there on a trip en route to a family wedding in Israel, it was the end of the month so the foliage was off the trees. Take a canal boat ride and wander around. You can also check the concert schedule.
For another day trip suggestion, consider the Hague. You can visit the Mauritshaus Museum as well as the International Court, I believe it is called the Palas of Justice. Last time I was there it was a Saturday and so the building was closed but I had the Mauritshaus practically to myself as it was soon to be closing for renovation which has of course now been completed. I don't think you will have trouble finding a hotel this far out.

In Antwerp, do visit the Cathedral. It is one of the Great Cathedrals of Europe.
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 11:14 AM
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With a more judicious use of filters (and not searching in the wee hours of the morning), managed to find direct flights PHL > ZRH and AMS > PHL on American Airlines! Hope the routes don't change!
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Old Aug 30th, 2023, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Madam397
There is much to see and do in Amsterdam and of course book the Anne Frank Haus and the Van Gogh Museum early on but of course there is the Rijksmuseum and the Stedjilek, the Museum of Dutch Resistance, the Spanish Synagogue and the Jewish Museum. The park is lovely if you are there early in the month as last time I was there on a trip en route to a family wedding in Israel, it was the end of the month so the foliage was off the trees. Take a canal boat ride and wander around. You can also check the concert schedule.
For another day trip suggestion, consider the Hague. You can visit the Mauritshaus Museum as well as the International Court, I believe it is called the Palas of Justice. Last time I was there it was a Saturday and so the building was closed but I had the Mauritshaus practically to myself as it was soon to be closing for renovation which has of course now been completed. I don't think you will have trouble finding a hotel this far out.

In Antwerp, do visit the Cathedral. It is one of the Great Cathedrals of Europe.
Hi, thank you for the additional ideas! Our son also mentioned the Hague. We are going to have to pick and choose what to do in the limited time we will have, knowing that the Van Gogh museum is the top priority for our friends. And we will want to choose activities that complement what we will have done on the river cruise. The Museum of Dutch Resistance is of interest to me but not sure about the others in our group. (The Ten Boom house in Haarlem also caught my eye.) My goal is to lay out various options and see how things evolve.

I was having trouble seeing hotel availability (unless I wanted to book directly), and I think it's because our trip is a long ways off. Thanks again for your help!
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