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Feb 25th, 2016, 07:26 PM
  #1
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Belgium-Netherlands-Germany-France

I'm planning the below itinerary for 9 days in Europe. I know its packed. Its our travel style. Our goal was to experience a few days in the Netherlands and a few days in Belgium. Then cram a day in for Germany and France. This really comes down to a simple desire of checking them off a list. We'd love to stay longer and come back one day, but who knows if we can. At 35 years old, this is my second trip to Europe. Its been over five years since my first. It will be at least five years until my next.

Sunday- Arrive at 5am in Brussels and take a train to Amsterdam
Monday- Amsterdam
Tuesday- Amsterdam
Wednesday- Amsterdam (day trip to Waterland)
Thursday- Take AM train from Amsterdam to Bruges
Friday- Bruges
Saturday- Take AM train from Bruges to Brussels
Sunday- Brussels (day trip to Aachen on train)
Monday- Brussels (day trip to Paris on train)

Our interests are really just getting out and exploring. We don't typically like museums, or slow paced activities. We like the appeal of medieval towns, street food, and the surprises that come from wandering. For us, the train rides are going to be part of the experience and we're looking forward even to that. Taking my plans into account, would you make any modification? Does Aachen seem like the best German city to visit from Brussels, as far as ease of access, tourist appeal goes?

Also, I know there is allot of backtracking, but the plane tickets are bought. Looking at the map, and train routes, this is the best I could come up with. With the exception of Amsterdam to Bruges, these are all direct train rides.
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Feb 25th, 2016, 09:07 PM
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In Paris, do the bateau mouche from the Ile de la Cité to the tour Eiffel and back. In the afternoon, walk the passages (Panorama to Verdeau) which end close enough to the gare du Nord that you can walk back to it.
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Feb 25th, 2016, 09:13 PM
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Why do you feel the need to visit a "German city?" Just curious. I wouldn't personally pick a city that happens to be in Germany without already having some specific interest in it.

I'm not very interested in museums, either, but Paris is one of my favorite cities, especially at night. It's just a beautiful city - lovely to walk in and explore though it is huge (so hard to explore quickly). Beautiful architecture and a lot of iconic sites to behold. Brussels is pleasant but not somewhere I would ever put over Paris in terms of general appeal - in other words, I would spend at least a night in Paris. I think you won't get a great sense of Paris if you do a long day trip from Brussels. It seems like the big appeal of Brussels for you is the ability to do a day trip to Aachen (where I have never been).

I guess you have your reasons for wanting to spend so much time in Amsterdam on a short trip without being interested in museums?

How about skipping Aachen and spending a few nights in Paris instead? One night in Brussels is probably plenty, actually, if you really want to check it out - maybe your final night.

I loved Bruges too (though very touristy). You might stop in Ghent as a day trip - much less touristy than Bruges, and many people say they prefer the less touristy feel of Ghent. Your train to/from Bruges might pass through Ghent anyway. You can look into dropping bags at the train station and exploring Ghent for a few hours if you like. (There's a tram from the Ghent train station into the center of town; when I visited the Ghent train station was being renovated and not sure if luggage storage there was/is available.)

FYI, Belgium is pretty flat. The Belgian trains are modern and efficient, but don't expect particularly beautiful views from the train. I love train trips myself - almost always a highlight for me of any trip to Europe.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 02:37 AM
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Belgium is not flat but Flanders part of Belgium is.

I also don't see the interest of staying in Brussels for doing day trips. Stay in Paris and go from there direct to Aachen.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 03:09 AM
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Is renting a car not an option? (Not in the cities, of course, but when you leave the city.)
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Feb 26th, 2016, 03:24 AM
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Aachen's main attractions are the Cathedral from 800 A.D. with the throne where Charlemagne was crowned, its treasury and the gothic City Hall. I also recommend having lunch (or at least a drink) in the picturesque Postwagen restaurant which is tucked at the side of the city hall. Besides, in Aachen's city center you find quite a few interesting little shops and boutiques.

Near Aachen, you find Monschau which is Germany's most picturesque historical town. Unfortunately, there is only a bus connection from Aachen which takes 1:12 (€ 5.60). Or you take a taxi (35 min, around €70).

Here pictures of Monschau:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/C...hau?uselang=de

An alternative to Aachen would be Köln.

Köln has the gothic Cathedral, one of the most impressive of its kind at all, with the Shrine of the Three Magi and also a very rich treasury. Then you have the Romano-Germanic Museum, the Roman Palace and walkable sewer, two world class art museums (for medieval art and for modern art), a gothic City Hall, the riverfront and the chocolate museum.

The train ride from Brussels to Köln takes 1:47.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 07:10 AM
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To answer a few questions.

We chose to visit a German city simply because it is within a couple hours reach. Aachen seems to be the closest and easiest based on the rest of our trip. Between Aachen and Cologne, Aachen appealed to us more based on the old world feel of it and smaller town vibe. In the end, it's essentially us being able to "feel" like we've been to Germany, if only for a few hours. Monschau is gorgeous, were afraid it is just a little too far out of reach for us.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 07:13 AM
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We considered a car. At first, our plan was to drive a big loop Brussels-Amsterdam-Cologne-Paris-Brussels but we were highly discouraged not to. All the feedback was that a car was not a good idea.

Regarding Brussels to Aachen, as a day trip it is about an hour. Paris to Aachen is closer to 3 hours, which we wouldn't do.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 07:17 AM
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We really don't have specific reasons to stay in Amsterdam so long. The research and feedback we have received thus far is that there is more to do around Amsterdam than Brussels. This trip could change. The only thing for certain right now is the flight in and out of Brussels and dates.

All that being said, given the time frame, what would you do?

Perhaps 3 days in Amsterdam, 2 days in Bruges area, 3 days in Paris, 1 day in Brussels?
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Feb 26th, 2016, 07:20 AM
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In case you're wondering why I posted 3 times. I've been trying to respond for hours and wasn't being allowed to. Finally figured out it must be some word in my text. I posted a paragraph at a time instead. That being said, the paragraph where I tried to explain the reason for my flight selection and the deal I received was the culprit.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 09:44 AM
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I'd suggest you spend just one night each in Brussels, Bruges and Amsterdam, then spend the rest in Paris, there's so much things to do and see in Paris.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 10:00 AM
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redsoleslady

That is not exactly what OP is asking.
We could also say : go to Rome, there are so many things to do and see in Rome.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 10:28 AM
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>>Perhaps 3 days in Amsterdam, 2 days in Bruges area, 3 days in Paris, 1 day in Brussels?<<

If you want a day for Germany, then you need two days in Brussels and you have to cut one day elsewhere, either in Amsterdam or in Brugge.

You wrote "Bruges area". In fact, it is Brugge alone. In the area around Brugge, there is Blankenberge, a seaside resort. Or maybe you mean Gent, but I would not consider it as belonging to "Bruges area", it is a place of its own.

And of course, you can spend a week in Rome. Or in Buenos Aires.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 10:49 AM
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Hi tartaruga.

Have you thought about an open jaw ticket? Fly into Paris, and out of Amsterdam (or vice versa.)

Oh, sorry, I see you said your tickets were bought.

In that case, I second Andrew: either drop Paris, or try to spend at least 2 nights there. Don't try this as a day trip; make it a short trip if you must, but stay a couple of nights at least.

Amsterdam for 3/4 nights.
Aachen for 1 night, transferring in Brussels.
Paris 3/2 nights, depending on your decision re Amsterdam
Leave mid afternoon from Paris for Brussels for your last 2 nights. Do Bruges as a daytrip from Brussels; it is close enough (1.25 hours) that you can leave it after supper and still get to Brussels not too late. This way you get some of the 'magic hour' in Bruges but are still lined up for your flight home.

In short, just use Brussels as a gateway and forget the city itself this time, except for whatever sightseeing time you have on your last morning/afternoon before heading to the airport.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 10:53 AM
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Oh, one last thing: there are various ways to get to Aachen from Amsterdam; via Brussels is the simplest (one change) but it might be cheaper to try for other itineraries (see google) as these won't involve the slick, but fairly pricey Thalys train.
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Feb 26th, 2016, 12:49 PM
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Bruges is one of those places that's much nicer at night, I think, when it is less crowded, which is why I recommend at least a night there and not doing a day trip. I suppose you could make that case for almost any place you might visit, but the big appeal of Bruges to me is the ambiance, not the museums or anything. Bruges at least is far smaller than Paris and is doable as a day trip more easily than Paris for sure.
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Feb 28th, 2016, 12:51 PM
  #17
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We took all the responses into consideration, and reworked the itinerary. We'll be checking in and out of places more than we wanted, but really only look at them as a place to sleep anyway.

3 days in Amsterdam
2 days in Bruges
2 days in Paris
2 day in Brussels (day trip to Aachen)

Sun- Amsterdam
Mon- Amsterdam
Tues- Amsterdam (day trip to Waterland)
Weds- Bruges
Thurs- Bruges
Fri- Paris
Sat- Paris
Sun- Brussels
Mon- Brussels (day trip to Aachen)
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