Amsterdam and Belgium help

Feb 23rd, 2007, 12:09 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Amsterdam and Belgium help

My wife and I are going to Europe for our 1 year anniversary in August and wanted to get some help with an itinerary.

We are planning on spending 5 nights in Amsterdam, exploring the city and doing a couple of day trips to surrounding areas.

We have 4 nights to go down to Belgium and was wondering if you think we should get a home base and do daytrips from there (if so where?) or if we should stay for a night or two in each place. We are interested in checking out Brugge, Antwerp, Brussels and any other cool places you could suggest. I also like the looks of Maastricht but it seems out of the way. Also our flight leaves at 11 am from Schipol, would it be feasible to catch an early morning train from Belgium to make it or do we have to stay in Amsterdam the night before?

We enjoy walking around and exploring "old things" as well as parks and off the beaten track gems. We also love good food and drink and all around good times. Museums are fun but we don't want to spend all of our time doing that.

We are on a fairly tight budget in case you're wondering.

Thanks for your help!
aguila22 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 01:04 PM
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It sounds like you are going to rent a car and if so, you can drive through Belgium very quickly. You can drive from Brussels to Liege (the east side of Belgium) in about an hour and a half. There are many day trips from Brussels if you want to use that as your base but some places you probably want to stay at. Brussels itself is easily done in a day or a day and a half. You should see the Atomium, the Mannequin Pis and the city center. Outside of Brussels is Waterloo and also Ostende, if you want to see the English Channel. If you are really adventurous you could hop on a hydrafoil and take an hour and a half ride to Dover and see the cliffs and the castle and then ride back that night. Brugges is a beautiful city and they have many romantic hotels there. Aachen, on the other side of Liege in Germany, is a neat town to visit, especially the town centre. Charlemagne is buried there. Maastricht is a cool town and can't be more than two hours at the most from Brussels. That is really a city you should visit. Another hour east from there and you can be in Cologne, home of the Cologne Cathedral. I better stop before I put you to sleep. Enjoy Belgium!
Hefeltraveler is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 01:17 PM
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I would advise staying at a couple different locations in Brussles, instead of staying put and taking the train, or driving. My one regret, when there three different times, was that I didn't stay in Bruges, so that I could explore the medieval town to see it as it must have been, before all the tourists arrived. I would think you would appreciate this, since you enjoy exploring "old things".
LoisL is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 01:20 PM
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I think you mean a couple of different locations in Belgium.

Even though I like to sleep in one place where possible, I was thinking of 2 nights in Brussles, 2 in Brugge, and the rest in Amsterdam.
missypie is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 01:53 PM
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I just checked, and the Thalys (sp?) train from Brussels to Koln takes slightly over 2 hours, one way.
missypie is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 04:42 PM
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yes, you are right. I meant Brussels. Honestly, two nights in Brussels would be sufficient, but then, it was one of my least favorite places of the many I've been to. However, I know people who love it there. Grand Place is certainly spectacular, and there is an on/off bus that is worth doing, to see the city.

In Bruges [there are two spellings, and I may not be right on either], there is a great restaurant, Den [or Dan?] Dyver, which has wonderful atmosphere, and an optional menu that pares either wines or beers, with a set meal. We know many who've been there, and everyone was wowed with the place. You will need a reservation though. Good luck with your plans.
LoisL is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 05:33 PM
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I'd stay two nights in Bruges, and maybe one night in Ghent. I loved both places, and Bruges is especially nice after the tour buses go home...or before they arrive! Make sure you see Van Eyck's famous "Ghent Altarpice." Yowee! Ghent also has some funky shops and a nice cafe scene.

Be sure to rent a bike in Bruges and pedal up the tree-lined canal to Damme, a tiny can have lunch and pedal back. Quite fun.
NanBug is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 05:35 PM
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Excuse me, that was supposed to read "altarpiece".

I'd also spend no more than a day in Brussels. Not a bad city at all, just not one of my faves. There's much more to see, I think, elsewhere.

Also, I haven't been to Antwerp, but I've heard very positive things about it.
NanBug is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 12:01 PM
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Yes Nanbug, there is a lot to see in Brussels, but you have to know what and where, and not be afraid of crossing that ugly full-of-traffic square and enjoy the the beauty of the streets behind it.
Bury is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 12:54 PM
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I just moved to Belgium about 6 months ago and find Brussels has a lot to offer. But of course it depends on your interest. If there are specific things you'd like to see I think a 2 night stay is sufficient.

I'd definitely recommend the Sablon area for dining out. The area is about a 10 minute walk from the Grand Platz and is filled with wonderful restaurants. The area also has many antique shops and there are about 4 chocolatiers in the neighborhood as well. I would definitely recommend a trip to Pierre Marcolini's chocolatier shop. In my opinion, it's the best chocolate I've tested. Since moving to Belgium I've eaten more dark chocolate than I ever imagined! lol! The prices you'll pay here in Belgium are an absolute steal compared to the New York City shop (the only Pierre Marcolini shop in the US). You'll pay about 15Euros for a wonderful box of ganache chocolates compared to the $75 you'll pay at the NY store. And the hot chocolate is fabulous! It's a great place if you want to buy loved ones a gift from Belgium.

Personally, I stay away from the restaurants located on Rue de Bouchers. You'll get some amazing photos at this location but as far as food goes in my opinion, the restaurants are overrated and overpriced. But again that's just me. Small, non-touristy, personal type of restaurants are more my style. Two weeks ago I dined at "Sister Act" (located in the Sablon area) and it was fabulous! Very hip, trendy type of restaurant. I'd also recommend a restaurant called Le Petit Boxeur (very tiny restaurant with great food and a nice romantic feel).

I've also made a few day trips to Brugge and I never feel like I have enough time in this charming city. So I would recommend an overnight stay. Brugge has a very comprehensive Chocolate Museum compared to Brussels that I highly recommend. I'd skip the Chocolate & Beer Museum in Brussels. Both are very small and really not worth the time especially if you're only going to be in city for 2 days.

Also, if you do decide to visit Aachen, Germany definitely make a stop in Monschau. It's a beautiful little town!

Hope this information helps. I'm actually journaling my experience here in Belgium on my blog.. in case you'd like to read more about my Belgium adventure.

Good luck and hope you have a wonderful trip!
javacurls is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 01:47 PM
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Sorry you took offense at my Brussels comment, Bury.

You INcorrectly assumed I haven't crossed the "traffic square" and haven't explored the back streets.

I have, quite thoroughly, and no, I wasn't "afraid" to explore. Never am.

My opinion still stands. Beautiful? Yes, it's beautiful. But did it light my fire like other places in Belgium? No. Far from it. I'm not alone in my opinion of this city, as I'm sure you've read on this board many times. As I said before, there are other places that are higher on my "list" to see and experience than Brussels.

I've always felt badly when I see posters get criticized for voicing their opinions. Now I know what it feels like.
NanBug is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 01:59 PM
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My wife and I did exactly what you are considering two years ago. We spent four nights in Belgium as part of a longer trip to Holland.

We stayed all four nights in Leuven, a small town near Brussels, which is much easier to get in and out of than the larger city (we have stayed in Brussels twice before). Hotels in Leuven are generally less expensive than those in Brussels, and parking is less of an issue.

From Leuven, we made four daytrips to Antwerp, Brugge, Dinant & Namur, and Luxembourg. We have a lot of fond memories of those four days and nights.

If the southern Belgium seems appealing and you only have time for one town, I recommend Dinant. Namur is not as picturesque nor as interesting.

Antwerp is definitely worth a visit. Just be sure that you make it all the way to the river from the train station. The area near the river is where all the most scenic neighborhoods are located.

I have not been to Maastricht, but it certainly seems doable from the vicinity of Brussels - we've made longer daytrips.
smueller is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 01:41 PM
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As of now, I'm thinking:
Amsterdam 4 nights
Maastricht 2 nights
Brugge 2 nights
Antwerp 1 night

We had originally planned on travelling by train but I'm now considering a car because cost seems similar.
Would a car be a bonus or more of a hindrance considering parking, etc.?

aguila22 is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 01:52 PM
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If you have time for Maastricht and the surrounding area, it would be a good contrast to your other targets. South Limburg is the only hilly part of the Netherlands and looks quite different. I liked my short visit to Maastricht and found the town to be full of beautiful buildings and good restuarants. There are boat rides down the Maas River to Liege in Belguim, also visits to the famous caverns where painting from the Rijksmuseum were hidden during WWII. Travel time from Amsterdam on the train was just under 2 hours.
dovima is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 04:49 PM
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We had originally planned on travelling by train but I'm now considering a car because cost seems similar.
Would a car be a bonus or more of a hindrance considering parking, etc.?

I think a car would be a hindrance since the 4 places you want to visit are cities with limited parking, particularly Amsterdam.

BeNeLux has a very efficient train system. We find travelling by train to be a more relaxing way of getting from city to city than driving. It gives both my husband and I a chance to look out the window at the landscape, instead of one of us driving and the other navigating. (It probably also eliminates alot of bickering about directions).

That said, I think your selection of places to visit is right on, with the right amount of time allotted for each location. However, I would buy a 3-day Benelux Rail Saver Twin Pass to use between Amsterdam to Maastricht, Maastricht to Brugge, then Brugge to Amsterdam. I would leave Brugge early in the morning, and since you have to change trains in Antwerp anyway, I would stash my luggage in a locker, and spend the day exploring the city, before I headed off to Amsterdam. That saves you an extra day on the rail pass.

Also our flight leaves at 11 am from Schipol, would it be feasible to catch an early morning train from Belgium to make it or do we have to stay in Amsterdam the night before?

I wouldn't want to be that far away from Schiphol for such an early flight. There is a Holiday Inn near the Amsterdam Zuid train station, which is only 7 minutes train ride from Schiphol. I would make that my destination coming from Brugge/Antwerp. Although the hotel is not located near the Centrum of Amsterdam, the trams & buses run over to the Leidesplein area. Someone posted recently about getting a room there for $85 USD on Priceline.

Enjoy your travels in the Netherlands and Belgium. Peace, Robyn >-

artstuff is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 09:00 PM
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artstuff, thanks for the feedback.
I looked at passes and I couldn't find 3 day passes only 5 days. It looks like it will be cheaper to buy tickets individually.
I appreciate the Antwerp last night advice. Do you think I could do a different Dutch city for the last night, maybe Leiden or Utrecht (or any other options)? Are those easy to get to Schiphol from?
aguila22 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 02:01 AM
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If your flight leaves at 11 you will need to be at Schiphol by 8am I'm afraid, so I would stick to somewhere close to Schiphol. Getting from Leiden or Utrecht would be easy but would means leaving at an even more ridiculous time of the morning and it will be rush hour.
hetismij is offline  
Apr 5th, 2007, 05:38 PM
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I would be concerned about an 'easy' trip to the airport from Utrecht. My daughter has been working there for the past several months and commutes back and forth to London from there weekly. She has had nightmare stories of trains cancelled [after she has already boarded], trains delayed, etc. The most recent of these episodes was just last week. Considering the number of times she's had to deal with it, I'd say it's not that unusual. It might create unnecessary stress before your fight home.

I am surprised to hear you were not able to find information on the three day pass. I'm fairly certain that I had seen one and two day passes, and we used a three day pass on two different occasions, the last being not quite two years ago.

Enjoy your trip. It sounds wonderful!
LoisL is offline  
May 6th, 2007, 07:12 PM
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Thanks for all of the help so far. Based on feedback, our trip will be:

3 nights in Amsterdam - Hotel Brouwer
2 nights in Maastricht - Per Sempre Bed and Breakfast
(stop in Brussels for few hours)
2 nights in Brugge - Lut and Bruno Setola Bed and Breakfast
(possibly stop in Antwerp)
2 nights in Haarlem - Bed & Breakfast De Telescoop

We will be doing this by train.
What do you think of this itinerary?
Do you think we are trying to do too much or does this sounds doable?
Are stopovers in Brussels and Antwerp easy? Worth it?

aguila22 is offline  
May 7th, 2007, 02:07 AM
Join Date: May 2007
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If you like birdwatching. It is easy to go birding both Amsterdam and Brussel.

Amsterdam: Go to the nature reserve Oostvaarderplassen to see birds and other nature, just 40 km outside Amsterdam to see white tailed eagles.

Brussel: Take a daytour to Knokke to see the Nature reserve "het zwin"
There is a nice visitor centre in Knokke and a white stork breeding station.

We have done both. Excellent and relaxing !
birdsounds is offline  

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