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How many days for Amsterdam and Brussels?

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Feb 10th, 2013, 01:28 PM
  #1
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How many days for Amsterdam and Brussels?

We're a couple in our early and mid-70s and we've got about enough pep left for one more trip to Europe (we've been lucky enough to have managed a half dozen over the last 12-13 years--based on the philosophy that we don't necessarily need to leave our very modest savings to our grown children and their children, and that we don't want to be confined to rocking chairs someday wishing that we'd made these trips before it was no longer physically possible to do so).

We've always been convinced that Europeans were much crazier drivers than we so we've always traveled by train and independently (I.e., not with tour groups) and we'll do the same in the Fall with this trip we're planning.

Sorry for this long intro, but both of us have been teachers at various times, so we can't easily resist conditional sentences and "setting the scene."

We plan to travel first to Amsterdam, thence to Brussels, and, finally, by Eurostar from Brussels to London for about ten days before heading home to the west coast (we've taken the Eurostar twice from Paris and it's a pleasant short trip (probably shorter overall than some of the economy airline trips from the Continent to lesser UK airports).

To our question(s). We'd like to plan our number of days to be set aside for Amsterdam and Brussels. We're thinking four or five full days for Amsterdam and we're not necessarily thinking of any day trips from there (is it true that the Anne Frank House is now closed?). We're also thinking of four or five days in Brussels with day trips to Bruges and Ghent. Antwerp seems principally focused on shopping events and we're not so interested in that aspect of our trip (except for perhaps a couple of bottles of Stateside-uncontainable Scotch if a nonstop return Heathrow-home destination works out for us).

We'll appreciate any advice re stay times for Amsterdam and Brussels, while we're checking Rick Steve's, Fodor's and Frommers for appropriate center-of-city accommodations. Maybe that question will be a logical one for a future enquiry here.
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Feb 10th, 2013, 01:47 PM
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Anne Frankhuis is open. You are better off booking your tickets for it online for a timed entry so you do not have to spend hours in the queue. They now accept the Museumkaart, which most of the other major museums also accept, but you still need to book a timed entry with that to avoid queueing. At other museums you can jump the queue with the card.

Be adventurous and travel outside Amsterdam too. There are lots of places you can visit by train for a day trip, or even take a guided bus tour if you don't feel up to sorting it for yourselves. with four, or even better five, full days you can take your time exploring the city, and have time for a trip out too.
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Feb 11th, 2013, 04:59 AM
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I think 4 or 5 days in Brussels would work well. there are many easy day trips including the ones you have identified.
Antwerp is a great destination, too, with much to recommend it beyond shopping.

I wrote a trip report in the fall of 2011 describing what we did which includes things to see in Brussels and Antwerp. We had visited Bruges and Ghent on earlier trips

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...etherlands.cfm
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Feb 11th, 2013, 05:51 AM
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I find Brussels a rather hectic city that is much less enjoyable to stroll around then either Ghent or Antwerp, and I'm not sure why you have the impression it is focused on shopping events, unless you mean the Diamond Market, where I've never been. Antwerp has a spectacular cathedral, a highly atmospheric historic center and port area. It has marvelous restaurants and, best of all, it has jenever -- which if you are looking to buy spirits, this is the stuff to buy. Read up on Belgian jenever, which even in Belgium is not easily found outside of Antwerp.

If you have a long list of museums to see in Brussels, it makes sense to "base" there, but otherwise, you might think about basing elsewhere and visiting Brussels to see the incomparable Grand Place and the incomparable Horta House.

Fairy-tale Brugge is too much of a tourist island for my taste, but many other people love it and don't have my complaints, so you might want to check that out. But Antwerp or Ghent would by my pick for a Belgian base.

Regarding places to stay in Amsterdam, check reviews very carefully for information about interior stairs and elevators. Many of the most "charming" lodgings in Amsterdam are in antique houses with exceptionally narrow, steep, spiral staircases and no elevator. I would give this advice to travelers of any age. I was shocked on my first visit to Amsterdam to be an expensive "canal house" hotel where I had to brace myself with both arms inside the stairwell and feel my way down the steps and thought I was going to break my neck every time! (When I returned to Amsterdam for a visit with my mother, more than a decade older than you, I booked the NH City Centre for its elevator. I liked the hotel, but be sure to ask for a renovated room facing the canals, and there are probably equally good and cheaper options elsewhere).

Although I wouldn't miss eating out in Belgium for all the world, you might look at apartment rentals in Amsterdam, and of course London.
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Feb 11th, 2013, 09:42 AM
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We are attempting, where possible, to minimize train changes, hence selecting Brussels as a second base after our few days in Amsterdam. If we would be satisfied with three full days (excluding arrival and departure days, of course) in Amsterdam, that would would useful in helping us to extend the third journey leg, i.e., our stay in London before heading home to the west coast.

We thought Brussels would principally seve as a base because 1) it's a single stop from Amsterdam and the central station is the Eurostar embarkation station as well. 2) the attraction of being able to take two (Bruges twice?), three or four day trips from Brussels and not be burdened by luggage.

In any event, our stay in Amsterdam would probably be too short for an apartment option. However, in our previous three stays in London, we've happily stayed in flats, each time for a week. There's nothing quite like having a washing/drying machine in one's flat, and being able to enjoy a modest American breakfast with good coffee, toast with authentic British orange marmalade, and a leisure read of The London Times, before starting off on the day's adventures.
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Feb 12th, 2013, 03:47 PM
  #6
 
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Spent 2 weeks in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Bruges in late August/early September. I had been to Amsterdam twice before and was wondering if the week we planned there was too much. Not so--that city has so much to do, the dining and bars are fun, and it's a great base for day trips. Have you been there before? I would recommend a week there. Then a couple of nights in Brussels to see the museums and enjoy the food. If you have a third night, I'd do a day trip to Bruges.

Have a great trip!
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Feb 12th, 2013, 04:05 PM
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I was satisfied with 3-4 days Amsterdam We visited Anne Franj house and several museums and took a trip along the canals and ate well. Brussels held no fascination for us and 1 or 2 days was plenty, Antwerp was a different story.e both loved it and spent too little time there a
for 4 days. Of course I have a fiend whi=o lives ther eand we saw things a regular tourist might miss. 2 days in Brugges was plenty.Wespentagreat deal of time in Belgium discovering the WWI battlfields , Ieper was a special place!
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Feb 12th, 2013, 04:18 PM
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Here is a link to our trip to Amsterdam and Bruges plus Brussels.

http://www.rimerson.com/Netherlands0...erlands09.html

I think three or four nights in Amsterdam is probably plenty. Bruges is wonderful and the Grand Place in Brussels is possibly the best square in Europe.
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Feb 12th, 2013, 06:31 PM
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Roblm,

Thanks for the comprehensive covering of your adventures. We've not yet picked up Rick Steve's 2011 book on Amsterdam, but we will when our new local bookstore opens later this month. I could save a few bucks on Amazon or BN, but I'd like to contribute to keeping one of the smaller local ventures in business. Based on our previous travels, we'll use Rick's book to focus on the best general location for lodging (we don't drive in Europe--that's carrying adventure a bit too far for us older folks), and it's usually around the town center. What has worked well for us is to come up with lodging based on Rick's book, Fodor's and Frommers (which I can get from the library, but won't carry with us), and online reading of the three sites, including recommendations by the sites and by the real travelers like you in the forums. We've been pretty lucky coming up with a consensus for each lodging.

Most dining we figure out for ourselves, but usually will try a couple of others' recommendations.
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Feb 12th, 2013, 07:30 PM
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I will write more tomorrow but is VERY easy to day trip from Antwerp and it is a 2 hour express train ride from Amsterdam.
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Feb 12th, 2013, 08:49 PM
  #11
 
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I have been to Brussels several times and always enjoyed it. As you will be traveling in the Fall there will probably be fewer tourists and tour groups to content with. The Grand Place is not to be missed. If you are there when the city hall is open for a tour, its worth a stop to see the tapestries. There are fine museums, and architecture, the area around the grand sablon and petite sablon are interesting with antique shops and restaurants and parks.

You can take a train from Brussels to Bruges and its well worth a day trip. Another nice day trip is to Ghent, go to Antwerp and visit Ruben's House, the Cathedral and other interesting sites..it certainly isnt all about shopping and fashion.
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Feb 13th, 2013, 07:01 AM
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I was looking forward to Antwerp - including seeing the Mayer Van Der Berg Museum and Ruben's House. At the airport, the customs agent told me about the MAS, which is another really nice museum.

I was only in Brussels for the day - loved their art museum and thought the Grand Place was spectacular. But I can't say I felt like missed anything very major in Brussels being there only one day.
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Feb 13th, 2013, 08:17 AM
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I doubt you will want to visit Brugge twice. You can probably find apartment rentals for 5 nights in Amsterdam if you'd like one.

Do read up more on Antwerp. I can appreciate that staying in Brussels eases your trip to London, but Antwerp is a good transportation base for daytrips and also has a variety of interesting aspects.

It sounds like you are very much looking forward to returning to London and would like to maximize your time there, and therefore minimize your time in the Netherlands and Belgium. Probably key to knowing how much time in Amsterdam would satisfy you is knowing which museums you want to see. If it is not many, you may not regret leaving after a few days. Likewise, if what appeals to you about Beligum is the picturesque towns available by train from Brussels rather than its museums or explorations of its gastronomy, it can be easy to fix on the minimum amount of time to comfortably accomplish the day trips that are of interest to you.
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Feb 13th, 2013, 12:30 PM
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Here's an additional question: As I was making my first sampling of Amsterdam hotels, I noted that, of the first four I checked, none were available on September 11, which may be one of the days on our travels. Is there some significant holiday that might be observed in Amerstam on or around that date?
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Feb 16th, 2013, 06:56 AM
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As for Amsterdam, I looked at the Calendar and didn't see any holidays.. I would probably email a few of the hotels or call them directly and find out if there's a large conference or other event that has the city booked.

And I must correct -goldenautumn-... Jenever is everywhere in Flanders!!! Any of the larger supermarkets have a decent selection of flavors and distilleries. Plus in Bruges there's a Jenerver bar, I think it's next door to Beertjes, and in Ghent is the Dreupolkot...where I'm met follow travellers from all over! And also next door is the Bierhuis!

Being over 70,keep in mind that your train tickets are dirt cheap! 5 euro and change, r/t to just about any city in Belgium! Altho now it might be up to 6 Euro, but what a deal!!!!
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Feb 21st, 2013, 05:21 AM
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Hey friends, let "the locals" inspire you. 50 year a belgian So you like our "jenever" but you do not know where to find it. OK, it is hidden here in the province of Limburg ( Belgium), capital of taste and capital of "jenever",HASSELT. Start at the "Jenever Museum", then go for a jenever palette ( one coffee and 3/4/5 different jenevers); Moreover, staying in Hasselt is very luxury but rather cheap. Do not forget the unique "Bokrijk", 3 km out of town in the nature. Suggestion, combine with city of MAASTRICHT ( province of Limburg, but in the Netherlands).
In Antwerp, you do not drink jenever but "bolleke", great beer,real brand name is "De Koninck". In Brussels ofcourse the "grande Place and the small streets with 100's of restaurants ( take your time to choose).Like Golden Autumn says: Bruges is a pearl but kind of "tourist trap". In Hasselt do not forget to eat "speculoos"; For jenever, taste first the real thing (klare) and then the more recent new flavors like "speculoos-jenever", "redberry-jenever", "green cactus jenever". For me only the real thing, but beware it is "strong stuff". Can only be beaten by the home-made palinka of my friends in Magyarorszag (Hungary).
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Feb 21st, 2013, 06:29 AM
  #17
 
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"We thought Brussels would principally seve as a base because 1) it's a single stop from Amsterdam and the central station is the Eurostar embarkation station as well"

The Eurostar leaves from Brussels south (Midi)- not an area of Brussels where you want to stay. You may just as well stay in Antwerp, and catch a train to Brussels Midi from there. As a base to do daytrips to Brugge, Gent, Antwerpen, it's ok, but I'm not a big fan of Brussels, would not stay there 3 days.

Trains between Amsterdam and Brussels are a bit of a mess at the moment, that should hopefully be sorted out by September. Or you can take the reliable but expensive Thalys.

I don't know of any reason why Amsterdam is so busy in September.
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Feb 21st, 2013, 10:03 AM
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really, dear Mohun, believe me. Comparing to London, Brussels will disappoint you. I was also 5-6 times in London. In 1975,
1977,1983, 1995,2000,... In the earlier days it was more exciting, but Sir Johnson ( am i right ?) spoke the truth: when a man is tired of London, he is tired of live. Brussels ?
Ofcourse grand place and manneken pis, theater Toone , rue de Boucher and other "ruelles"; Then "Atomium", and don't forget Tervuren , museum for Afrika, its Royal parks and grandeur from the past. But you will need a personal taxidriver, since Brussels is not build up like Paris or London, where more tourist attractions are concentrated or viewable from the scenic boat on Seine or Thames
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Feb 21st, 2013, 10:14 AM
  #19
 
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As a Belgian I would advice cities like Ghent, Hasselt, Antwerp for Belgium. For the Netherlands: Amsterdam, Leiden, The Hague, Groningen and Maastricht.
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Feb 21st, 2013, 10:57 AM
  #20
 
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>>>There's nothing quite like having a washing/drying machine in one's flat, and being able to enjoy a modest American breakfast with good coffee, toast with authentic British orange marmalade, and a leisure read of The London Times, before starting off on the day's adventures.<<

...sigh.
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