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Belgium, Holland advice - help me create my itinerary

Belgium, Holland advice - help me create my itinerary

Jun 28th, 2008, 01:04 PM
  #1  
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Belgium, Holland advice - help me create my itinerary

I'm looking for some advice, mainly on Belgium and Holland. I'll be there in September and will have 16 solid days of travel (I've cut out flight days from this time.) We're flying into Berlin and out of Brussels. Here are some of the towns that interest me:

Berlin maybe 3 days

Holland:
Amsterdam
Voldendam, Marken and Monnickendam (could be side trip from Amsterdam)
Texel and other islands
Rotterdam (might be too big for a long stay for me)
Delft - (maybe we stay in Delft and visit Rotterdam/Utrect for a day or two)
Utrect - (seems a bit big and modern for my preferneces.)
Zierikzee and Middleburg

Belgium:
Brussels
Bruges
Meuse River Valley (possibly drive from Namur to Liege)

Help! This is too much to do in the time that I have. What should I keep and what should I cut? Please help me put timeframes to the places I should stay.
jlbartley is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 01:37 PM
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Volendam etc can be done as a day trip from Amsterdam, as can Utrecht - which has a lovely old centre once you get out of the station shoppping mall area, and some good museums too.
Rotterdam is great if you like modern architecture, but otherwise I would maybe give it a miss.
Texel is the easiest island to get to from Amsterdam, the others you will need to go to Friesland for the ferries, Harlingen for Vlieland and Terschelling, and Holwerd for Ameland and Schiermonikoog. If you want to visit two islands then maybe Vlieland and Terschelling are the best two to visit. Cars are not allowed on Vlieland so you will have to cycle or use the taxi or bus to get around. Make sure you book accomodation on any of the islands - they are very popular!
For the Maas (Meuse) you could go down to Maastricht which is a great city, very walkable, and then follow the valley to Liege, though Liege (Luik in Dutch) is not very inspring a city imho. From Liege you could then go up to Brussels Brugge etc.
Are you driving or doing it all by public transport?
hetismij is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 01:40 PM
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We're hoping to do most of the trip by public transportation although may get a car if needed. Bus or train would be the preffered method of travel for us.
jlbartley is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 01:51 PM
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Ok well all of my suggestons are doable by public transport.
As I said Texel is the easiest of the islands to get to from Amsterdam, and the quickest - the train or bus trip to Harlingen takes 2 and a half hours at least, and then the boat trip on top takes a good chunk out of your day.
I personally prefer Vlieand and/or Terschelling to Texel, but as I said Texel is the easiest to get to.

You could use Amsterdam as your base for pretty much all you want to do - including Middelburg and Zierikzee, though again they are a long (and complicated!) train ride away. Even from Delft they are a couple of hours away.

There is a train from Maastricht that follows the Maas valley to Liege I believe.
hetismij is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 02:08 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I'm a bit nervious about making Amsterdam my base for too long. From what I've read about it people aren't as impressed with it as they are with many of the other areas around it. I really want to spend some time there but I might move around a bit more just to get outside of the big city.
jlbartley is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 02:31 PM
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Most people really like Amsterdam. it isn't my favourite place it's true, but i don't like cities much.
Maybe you should consider Haarlem as a base - many Fodorites prefer it to Amsterdam.
If you don't mind missing out on Zeeland (Zierikzee and Middelburg) then you could try doing Amsterdam - with a trip to Volendam etc, then go to Harlingen, which is a nice old town in it's own right and ferry to Vlieland and/or Terschelling for a day or two, then train from Harlingen to Utrecht, stay a night there and then head for Maastricht.
A lot depends on how many days you want to spend in the Netherlands.

Alternatively get off the train from Berlin in Utrecht, then go to Amsterdam, up to Texel, then to say Rotterdam as a base for Zeeland and Delft before going to Belgium.
hetismij is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 02:33 PM
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We made Haarlem our base last month and are very happy that we did. It might have been the best decision of our trip. Haarlem has a Dutch small city ambiance, is historic, and has better prices than Amsterdam. The Frans Hals museum is a treat.

Haarlem is only a fifteen minute train ride from Amsterdam (3 stops) and there are 4 trains per hour.

Delft was lovely and we did not find Utrecht to be too big and modern. The Dom and cathedral alone is worth the trip and there is a lively scene along the canal.

You can see our photos at www.flickr.com/photos/basingstoke2/sets

We also posted a trip report of our trip (Paris, Brugge, Antwerp and Holland were there is much more detail. In Brugge we highly recommend B7B Lut and Bruno Setola and in Haarlem, Hotel Stempels - an elegant 3 star with a knockout location at a price that MAY get you a one star in Amsterdam.
basingstoke2 is online now  
Jun 28th, 2008, 02:35 PM
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please read "were" as "where" and B7B as B&B
basingstoke2 is online now  
Jun 28th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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I had looked at Haarlem and was wondering if that would be better. After your comments I'm thinking that might be. The friend who is traveling with me wants to see Amsterdam but maybe I'll try to spend less time there and spend more in the surrounding areas instead. Thanks for the comments and additional references.

Any thoughts on Belgium?
jlbartley is offline  
Jul 30th, 2008, 04:05 AM
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I was in the netherlands in april [for the third time]. Utrecht is a very nice city to visit. it has a lovely town center with 2 old below-street-level canals. there is shopping and tourist sites to see as well [eg. dom church tower, railroad museum]. a walk along the new canal is beautiful, especially eary morning. I didn't find much to do in middleburg. it's a popular destination for dutch vacationers and good if you just want to go somehwhere to relax, but why travel so far? amsterdam is a city of much variety and a lot to do. don't let any negative stories put you off. i think it's a good place to visit offering the sublime to the ridiculous [so to speak]. just keep your street smarts in some of the more seedy areas. delft is a good day trip from amsterdam and a nice city as well. BELGIUM: brugges is an outstanding old town [architecture, food, beer!!!] but it may be swarming with tourists when you go. Brussels has a lovely city center [or grote markt], some nice parks, museums and restaurants. there ain't much in liege to do - it's not the nicest looking city to visit. maybe consider maastricht, netherlands.
utrechtman is offline  
Jul 30th, 2008, 05:23 AM
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Haarlem is great to stay in and the station is fantastic.

Don't miss middleburg and if poss any of the other towns along that canal. I've spent some great weekends alng this area. Fine mixture of affluence, history and water

Bruges oh yes

Might even add Luxembourg city
bilboburgler is online now  
Jul 30th, 2008, 07:37 AM
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<Haarlem is great to stay in and the station is fantastic>

If the station looks familiar it is because the platform area has often been used as a movie set. It is a beautiful piece of work.
basingstoke2 is online now  
Jul 30th, 2008, 07:39 AM
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I assume you are driving? If not investigate the Germany-Benelux Railpass
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 30th, 2008, 08:25 AM
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We are a family of four, and we spent 5 nights in Amsterdam and really loved it. Here's my trip report:

"LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Amsterdam! You always hear of the Red Light district and the coffee shops and the laissez-faire attitude, but you don’t hear how open and friendly the people are, how lovely the canals and side streets, how wonderfully trendy the restaurants and cafes, how people are out strolling at all hours of the night and you feel safe everywhere. I think I’d expected it to be quaint and charming (which it is), but in a dark wood-paneled cliché way, not in the young and contemporary way it is.

The standard reply we were given in Amsterdam, when we asked for anything, was always “Of course!” How refreshing.

We stayed in a fabulous location, at The Hotel Residence le Coin, which was directly across a small street from the Hotel de l’Europe, down the street from the Hotel Doelan, on Nieuwe Doelenstraat (sp?). A great neighborhood in the heart of old Amsterdam.

The hotel has a lift and A/C, also free use of the hotel’s washing machine and clothes dryer in the basement (which was welcome as we’d been traveling over a week when we arrived there). Each room has a little kitchenette, a nice-sized bath, large rooms with wooden floors and a sitting area. It’s fairly new, so everything sparkles. Very friendly front desk, too.

Two cafes on the same block as the hotel were wonderful: Café Katoen for a university atmosphere, and Café le Jarden, for great table seating on the canal.

Amazing dinners at two restaurants in particular:
“Stout!”, at Haarlemmerstraat 73 (www.restaurantstout.nl). Fabulous ‘foamy asparagus’ soup with shrimp, chateaubriande, fresh fish, dessert course, wine list. Very trendy lighting. Great service. We’d gone to the neighborhood in search of a restaurant called “Lof” which we’d seen written up. We didn’t like its atmosphere, but were lucky that Stout! was just across the street.

Also at “Restaurant Dining Eleven” we had a great dinner. It’s at Reestraat 11. Also trendy and contempory, well-presented and beautifully-served meal.

Another nice dinner at “frenzi”, at Swanenburgwal 232. Very simple and contemporary. We arrived shortly after 10:00p.m., when most restaurants close in Amsterdam, and persuaded the owner to sell us any left-overs they had in the kitchen! They put together a nice Caesar salad with cooked-in-the-shell shrimp and mango. Very nice.

Also a good brunch at a place across the street from frenzi—called “Puccini”. Creative salads and sandwiches. Very nice also.

We took a canal cruise one evening. Toured the Anne Frank Huis and the Van Gogh Museum. Visited the Nieuwe Kerk (sp?) Our teens went to a concert at the Paradiso and loved it.

One afternoon we did the 2:30 “Best of Holland” excursion to Volendam and Marken, with a stop to see wooden clogs made, Gouda cheese created, and to visit windmills. It was by bus, with a boat from Volendam to Marken. A lot of fun. Even our two teens liked it.

Our teens also liked shopping at one street in particular, between our hotel and the museum district. Also a Zara shop there, and many others like it. They thought the selection and prices were better in Amsterdam than what they’d seen in London and Paris even.

A detail about Amsterdam if you go there-- carry enough Euros in cash, because many places won't accept a credit card for a 'small' purchase (i.e. under 25 EU)."
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