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2 weeks in Amsterdam, Belgium and France

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Jul 20th, 2016, 11:28 AM
  #1
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2 weeks in Amsterdam, Belgium and France

Hi!

My 4 friends and I are traveling to Europe for the first time in September and are needing help on an itinerary and have transportation questions.

We have 4 nights in Amsterdam, 3 nights in Belgium (cant decide on Brussels or Bruges), and 6 nights in Paris.
We are thinking taking the train from Amsterdam to Bruges (stay there 2 nights) then train to Brussels for one night, then train to Paris.
Is it worth renting a car and going to Champagne, France? or a Paris night train to somewhere else. Just 7 days in Paris alone seems like a lot?

Also, would anyone recommend airbnbs over hotels? We were thinking that originally but if plans change quickly those are harder to cancel.

And any "must-do's" you could recommend in those cities would be great!! Or things to avoid that arent worth it?
Thanks!
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Jul 20th, 2016, 11:37 AM
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7 days in Paris is not a lot for me, and I've been dozens and dozens of times over 40 years. If you must get out of the city, there are hundreds of wonderful daytrips you can make.

You don't need to rent a car to get to Champagne. It would be a useless, inconvenient expense. There are regular, inexpensive trains.

I wouldn't do airbnb in Paris. Don't know about Amsterdam, Bruges, or Brussels, but for such short stays there why hassle with apartments?

Sounds like you need to read a guidebook or two and peruse the official websites of the cities you plan to visit. There are no "must-sees" anywhere. It's all about what YOU want to see and do, and until you do basic research you won't know that, and we certainly won't.
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Jul 20th, 2016, 11:57 AM
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Rather than moving for one night to Brussels, stay in Bruges and do a day trip; you'll see more of Brussels by not wasting the time of packing in the morning, and getting to the hotel and registering once in Brussels.

Day trips are easy from Paris. There is a TGV to Reims, which might be better than renting a car for a day. We went to Rouen for a day, which I recommend. Giverny (Monet's house and garden) is also a day's trip. Versailles will take a day. Just these suggestions take 4 days out of your seven in Paris.
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Jul 20th, 2016, 12:00 PM
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I think for the average first-time tourist 3-4 days is enough - Paris is a big tiring in many ways city- see some of the more typical France by yes taking a train to base somewhere else - a night train to Nice may be just sweet in September when the crowds there have dramatically thinned out- still swimming weather.

Reims is best as a short day trip from Paris - about an hour each way- see the astounding cathedral and tour one of the Champagne caves and return to Paris at night.

If traveling on trains much in France and also Belgium and Netherlands check out the Benelux-France railpass, valid on trains in Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and France- could be especially viable if you are under 26 and can get a youthpass cheaper.

For loads of great info check www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com.

all those cities have some really cool youth hostels and youth hotels - cheaper than hotels and a good meeting place for meeting younger adults from all over the world at the ubiquitous hostel bar.

Other jaunts from Paris would include Mont-Saint-Michel and Normandy D-day beaches - stay in Bayeux, rent bikes and cycle to the most famous beaches near Bayeux - take the train to Mont-Saint-Michel (Pontorson station) and then a bus to Rennes for TGV trains back to Paris- each can be done as a separate but long day trip too.

The Loire Valley is just an hour from Paris by train- day trip possible or longer stay in a base like Amboise.
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Jul 20th, 2016, 04:02 PM
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London is just a couple of hours from Paris by Eurostar trains - fly into Amsterdam and out of London maybe?
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Jul 20th, 2016, 08:33 PM
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I agree with Michael- do Brussels as a day trip from Bruges(which we loved when we were there a couple of years ago; Brussels was just so-so in comparison) and use Paris as a base also for making a few day trips by train if you think 6 days are too much (I have made multiple trips there and still haven't exhausted all the possibilities...). As noted, Versailles and Giverny make awesome (and easy) day trips, as does Chartres. I think going on to London (admittedly another awesome destination) even by Eurostar might be pushing it, although it is certainly doable.
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Jul 21st, 2016, 08:09 AM
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... or stay in Gent. Nice, lively city from where it's 1 hr to Brugge and 30 mins to Brussel on very frequent trains.
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Jul 21st, 2016, 08:38 AM
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Yes. Gent. Lovely and ideal to do Bruges and Bruxelles
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Jul 21st, 2016, 09:52 AM
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For non-Europeans nothing can be so romantic as Bruges, especially at night when the canal bridges and ancient flemish facades are wondrously illuminated.

Gent is a nice but larger busier city lacking the citywide charm of Bruges - but some folks prefer a more 'real' if you have it town and Gent may offer more things for some.

You can't go wrong.
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Jul 21st, 2016, 02:07 PM
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There are two ways between Bruges and Paris - via Brussels and Thalys trains to Paris (www.thalys.com) and via Bruiges - Lille Flandres and TGV to Paris (www.voyages-sncf.com) - book early for neat discounts - each way takes about the same time - about 3 hours or so.

take whatever is cheapest - both end up at Gare du Nord.
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Jul 21st, 2016, 03:16 PM
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2 weeks in Amsterdam, Belgium and France
Posted by: marly_g on Jul 20, 16 at 2:28pm


I would make sure to see Bruges 2 nights but prefer Antwerp over Brussels. Make another night in Amsterdam and include a day trip to Haarlem. Cut Paris to 5 days, though you could spend a month there and be just getting started. As for renting a car and driving, that works great if you are going to ramble around the countryside for a week or so. As a means of getting from one city to another however, take the train for comfort and economy.

For an illustrated introduction to trains in Europe see http://www.enjoy-europe.com/hte/chap17/rail.htm.

Recommend airbnbs over hotels? Neither. I would go with hostels or dorms. In fact on my visit to Bruges many years ago I stayed in a university dorm. After staying in hotels and BnBs for decades I have become a fan of hostels. You can't beat the price or the experience of joint tenancy with people from all over the world. I highly recommend Hostelling International, https://www.hihostels.com/. Their Paris hostels are not ideally located but you can get Metro experience traveling to the major artifacts and the beehive in the 5th and 6th.

Must-do's and must don't's depend a bit on your age and gender. Let us know. I'd suggest that you also say a few words about what you like to do or hope to see and do. Right now get yourself copies of the Michelin Green Guides to Holland, Belgium, and Paris. Few bookstores have these but you can get them on line. Used copies are almost as good as the last edition. Notre Dame has not moved since it was built about a thousand years ago.

Two things that many Fodorites recommend for Amsterdam is a canal boat tour and an Indonesian restaurant meal. For me that is UGH and double UGH. If you're looking for nightlife let us know what you like. If you want some of that infamous evil weed I'm sure PalenQ can guide you right. I can tip you for Haarlem, a city I know well.
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Jul 21st, 2016, 03:23 PM
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Don't forget that you have to factor in travel time. Four nights in Amsterdam is three full days, plus a few hours (maybe) on two other days, likewise, 3 nights in Bruges is two full days, and 6 nights is Paris is 5 full days.

I think your Amsterdam time is just right. I'd be bored silly with that much time in Bruges, but I found it sterile and Disney-esque. Some people love the place. Five full days in Paris is enough for a good introduction. Wait until you are there to decide if you want to take a day trip. We spent 10 full days in Paris and couldn't tear ourselves away for a day trip.

Do spend some time with guidebooks to help you decide what you want to do/see/experience. Fodor's has an excellent Paris guide.
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Jul 22nd, 2016, 09:54 AM
  #13
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Thank you all so much for the info!!

A little more info: we are all in our mid-late twenties. Would love some night life recommendations
We all love different foods, beer/wine, and being adventurous. I had a coworker recommend a bicycle tour from Paris to Versailles? Would that be worth doing?
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Jul 22nd, 2016, 11:07 AM
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I had a coworker recommend a bicycle tour from Paris to Versailles?>

I've biked that - a long long uphill climb from the Seine to Versailles.

Rent bikes at Versailles to cycle around the vast park but can't see a Paris to Versailles ride being that much fun.
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Jul 29th, 2016, 10:13 AM
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If you want night life, definitely stay in Brussels, not Bruges!!!
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Jul 29th, 2016, 10:26 AM
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http://www.worldtravelguide.net/bruges/nightlife

Bruges has more than enough nightlife for young people than many would think who think of it perhaps as mainly a museum town.

I took hundreds of American college kids thru Bruges and many found lots of nice places around t'Zand square - near the train station area.

Who would want more?

Bruges is also a real city - a fairly big city around a museum-like centrum.
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Jul 29th, 2016, 12:15 PM
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Brussels has a very exciting alternative scene, lots of interesting techno acts, edm in general, indie bands etc. During summer there are lots of outdoor festivals too, with great lineups.

I'm not talking pubcrawls here, but a really evolved scene

bonnefooi always has good stuff
https://www.facebook.com/bonnefooi

drumroom
https://www.facebook.com/drumroomevent

flirt
https://www.facebook.com/pages/F-L-I-R-T

libertine supersport
http://www.libertinesupersport.be

lowup
http://www.lowup.be

and most things that are on at Botanique.

I can assure you that Bruges doesn't have this. Plus Brussels has more beer places than Bruges will ever have
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Jul 29th, 2016, 12:24 PM
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If nightlife means finding a cafe and drinking beer then Bruges is enough
For anything above that menachem nailed it.
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Jul 29th, 2016, 03:09 PM
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If you trip revolves around night life on type menachem mentions then Brussels would be a better base - but believe those college kids I led thru Bruges had plenty of fun on 't Zand- just saying Bruges has enough nightlife for the common young guns -like any regional Belgian town- a lot of it - Amsterdam of course would be the ultimate base for eclectic night life and music and vibes.

One thing the Dutch and Flemish seem to have - tons of nightlife - especially on weekends and Sunday nights - one reason perhaps many places don't open on Monday morning I was told.
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Jul 29th, 2016, 04:50 PM
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A little more info: we are all in our mid-late twenties. Would love some night life recommendations>

What kind of night life - live music - jazz - blues - shows - places where you can legally smoke pot (Amsterdam has zillions of these) or what?

Amsterdam has something for everyone - especially folks your age - things don't start until 10-11pm really though like in much of Europe.
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