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Itinerary help: Paris - Bruges/Amersterdam - Rome (15 nights)


Aug 14th, 2015, 11:17 AM
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Itinerary help: Paris - Bruges/Amersterdam - Rome (15 nights)

My husband and I have booked flights for late Spring 2016 - flying into Paris and out of Rome for a total of 15 nights.

We are looking for some ideas/help with putting together an itinerary for our trip. We have done some travelling in Europe - Italy (Rome & Amalfi Coast) & Portugal (Porto & Lisbon) and prefer to travel at a more laid-back pace spending at minimum 3 days in one place rather than trying to cram in a bunch of destinations in a single trip. Highlights of our trips have been getting to meet other travelers & locals, trying a variety of foods + taking local cooking classes, seeing the architecture & sights and visiting some museums/galleries. We do a lot of walking on our trips and enjoy a combination of bustling cities and more laid-back nature hiking.

It's our 1st trip to Paris so we are thinking of spending at least 5-6 nights in the city (typically day 1 is a bit of a write-off due to jet-lag) & we could use some recommendations for either 1-2 additional destinations before we fly to Rome giving ourselves at minimum 3 nights there for the last part of our trip.

Some initial thoughts are:
- Travel to Belgium via. train and spend 2-3 nights in either Bruges or Ghent (or Brussels?) and then continue to Amsterdam via. train and spend 2-4 nights (then fly to Rome)
- Fly (or train?) to Milan and then continue South to Florence before continuing to Rome
- Stay in France and visit other parts of the country such as Normandy, Bordeaux and Provence before travelling to Rome

It's quite difficult to decide what would be the best option - at this time, we are leaning more towards visiting Belgium/Amsterdam (reasons: food, culture, sights, museums & short travel distances between cities) but are open to any suggestions/recommendations from fellow travelers.

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated - thank you!
thekatester is offline  
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Aug 14th, 2015, 11:40 AM
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If you were flying into AMS, then a train to Paris, followed by a train to Rome with a stop in Torino/Turin might have made sense.

But as you are starting in Paris and going from there to Amsterdam, it makes more sense to fly to Rome from AMS IF you are going to Amsterdam.

Personally I would skip Amsterdam this trip and find something in between Paris and Rome. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and Amsterdam in this case is an outlier.
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Aug 14th, 2015, 11:44 AM
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who can say which is best but I like the Bruges-Amsterdam option as those are two of my favorite places - you can take the Thalys train to Bruges (www.thalys.com) and even put your bags in a station locker and look around Brussels for a few hours if so bent - from Bruges to Amsterdam you first take an IC train to Antwerp then change to Thalys trains to Amsterdam or slower IC trains.

Thalys trains are very cheap IF booked WAY in advance - like 34-45 euros or so Paris-Brussels-Bruges if you pay 5 euros extra for the ABS or Any (All?) Belgian stations add-on which lets you go by train from your Thalys arrival station within 24 hours on any train to Bruges and the same when leaving Angtwerp on a Thalys - for 5 euros the ABS fare lets you take any train Bruges to Antwerp - again a nice chance to spend a few hours looking over a unique city.

Paris to Italy is a long haul though there are overnight trains to Milan and Venice (www.thello.com).

For lots of great stuff on European trains check these informative sources: www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

If going to Holland in April or early May you can take in the awesome pulchritudinous flower extravaganza the the Keukenhof -


Easy to get there from Amsterdam via train to Leiden then shuttle bus right to the gardens. Leiden itself is a neat old town to look around.
PalenQ is offline  
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Aug 14th, 2015, 11:44 AM
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We did Amsterdam and Paris this year and thought it was a great combination. Both are beautiful and packed with art, history, and unique night life. They are about 3 hours apart via high speed rail.

Don't let jet lag write-off Day One! There are good ways to minimize jet lag which still let you get something out of your first day in Europe.

My only critique on your initial thoughts is that they are heavy on big cities. Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, and Rome are all great, but their size can grind away at you and they can only give you the big city perspective of their country. Meanwhile, France and Italy have lots of wonderful small hill towns. For example, you could skip Florence and spend 3 or 4 nights in an agriturismo in Tuscany. Using it as a base you could day-trip to Siena, Florence, or the other hill towns in the region.
Edward2005 is online now  
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Aug 14th, 2015, 11:57 AM
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The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and Amsterdam in this case is an outlier.>

shortest but not quickest - 3.5 hours to Amsterdam on a train vs several hours to Italy by train. Not a factor IMO.

Do a day trip from Paris to some regional town - like to Chartres for the great cathedral or Reims for a great cathedral plus Champagne House tours with tastings!

In Amsterdam day trip to Haarlem, Leiden or Delft or any of several sweet regional towns.

In Rome day trip to Tivoli and the Villa d'Este and Hadrian's Villa.

Use cities as bases from which to hop to smaller less tourist inundated towns.
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Aug 14th, 2015, 12:30 PM
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If you like a combo of bustling cities and laid-back nature hiking, then with Paris and Rome already "scheduled," the middle portion of your trip should be in smaller towns or cities. I would suggest Provence.

Though all of your other ideas are easily doable and quite wonderful.
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Aug 14th, 2015, 01:38 PM
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Can you clarify what you mean by "late Sprng"?

In Europe, late Spring is the first weeks of June. Is that when you are traveling?
sandralist is offline  
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Aug 15th, 2015, 06:20 AM
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Hi everyone - thank you so much for the great advice!

We will certainly look into the Thalys train - booking well in advance to save on $ with the ABS add-on. I like the idea of adding some day trips from Paris and Amsterdam to see some of the smaller regional towns.

We know that more than likely we will need to fly to Rome and will keep our eyes peeled for reasonably priced flights.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how many nights to stay in Bruges vs. Amsterdam? We have roughly 6 nights available b/w the 2 cities - would you divide your time up evenly 3-3 or suggest we spend more time in Amsterdam?

To answer your question @sandralist, yes, we will be travelling end of May/early June.
thekatester is offline  
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Aug 15th, 2015, 07:32 AM
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Bruges only needs one night.
Amsterdam I'd say 3-4 ?
pariswat is offline  
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Aug 15th, 2015, 09:00 AM
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I like Lexma's idea of time in Provence. I think it's nice to spend some time in the countryside when the rest of the time is in busy cities. You could take a tgv train to Avignon, rent a car and spend several days in Provence. Flying to Rome from either Marseille or Nice takes just over an hour.
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Aug 15th, 2015, 10:09 AM
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Bruges is a charming city - but if you spend one night - including early am departure form Paris and evening departure from Bruges to Ams - you should have time to see everything.

Be sure to stay in one of the canal side old mansion hotels. There are several with really top notch restaurants that provide some of the best food in Belgium (IMHO the best food in all of europe). Be sure to have the mussels at least once.
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Aug 17th, 2015, 07:17 PM
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We did the Paris / Amsterdam / Harlemm / Bruges / back to Paris trip via rail last October. I agree with Pariswat. We bought into Slow Travel a few years ago and we try to stay at least two nights at each location. With that in mind we spent three nights in Bruges. If I had to do it again it would only be one. Beautiful city, but seemed very crowded with tourists, even in late October.
We traveled to Paris from the USA and stayed one night at a hotel across the street from Gare du Nord (I would stay a little farther away at s nicer hotel if I had it to do again) We took the Thalys train to Amsterdam the next morning. You received excellent advice in getting your tickets early (about the earliest is 90 days). We stayed in Amsterdam for 3 nights. Again hindsight being 20/20, I would stay 4 or 5. We traveled to Harlemm via train (only 2o mins. from Amsterdam) for the weekend. 2 nights was about right, but the street fair on Saturday was a wonderful experience!! Many transfers from Harlemm to Bruges, but it was a good experience. There is an IC train directly from Bruges to Brussels that will connect you with the Thalys train back to Paris. Make sure you are going to the correct station in Brussels to catch the Thalys train. A hotel recommendation in Paris is Jeanne d' Arc (www.hoteljeannedarc.com)in the Marais. It is a small. European style, boutique hotel and is quite affordable (by Paris standards). The rooms are small, but clean. If you want big rooms and the big hotel experience, this is not the place! It is mentioned by Rick Steves, but I've not seen it anywhere else. There are lots of restaurants at Place du Marche Saint Catherine about 1 /2 block away and in the surrounding area. the Metro is only a few blocks away (Saint Paul).
Go on-line and purchase your tickets for the Ann Frank house before you leave home to avoid the long lines. Amsterdam is a very beautiful city. Very different from Paris. I don't say that in a mean way. Paris is our very favorite city. We walked a lot in Amsterdam before trying the tram. Big mistake (except that in strolling you do get to see a lot of a city, but after the 1st day you tend to be exhausted). The trams are very easy to ride and getting a ticket is extremely easy (everyone, and I mean everyone, speaks English in Amsterdam). Tickets are sold right on the tram (front and back). One trip from Paris that I might consider is to Giverny (site of Money's home and garden), that is if you like his paintings. If not, try something else. A wonderful experience we've had in Paris is the Paris Walking Tours - all in English, no reservation, reasonably priced. Last but no least is the Big Bus Tours. If this is your first time in Paris I definitely would take this Big Bus Tour as soon as you can. It will give you an idea of the most scenic things in the city and if you like any of them you can go back. It is about a 2 hour long tour and make sure you get a seat on the top of the open-top bus. I hope some of this helps you in your planning.
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Aug 18th, 2015, 05:49 AM
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Visit a part of Belgium in a way that do not know American tourists.

Some tips from local resident: travel from Paris to Lille with TGV (http://www.sncf.com/fr/trains/tgv)and take the train to Kortrijk (Belgium).

Kortrijk (where I live)is nice small town of 85,000 inhabitants on the river Leie. Book nice hotel (http://www.parkhotel.be)or(www.sandt...otel-broel/nl/) or (www.hotelmesseyne.be/) or (www.hoteldamier.be/). Beautiful hotels, great kitchen, fair price compared to Bruges.

Rent a car. Brugge is half an hour away. Do not forget Gent also a half hour. Brussels 1 hour.

Visit also Ypres (half an hour). Experience an unforgettable visit to the battlefields of world war www.inflandersfields.be/, and the daily last post in Ypres at the Menegate (www.lastpost.be).

Count on three days. Don't spend too much time in Amsterdam. Take more time for Rome. Contact me for further questions about Belgium and Europe.
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Aug 18th, 2015, 02:37 PM
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piet - IF one had to chose Bruges vs Gent what would you suggest- what do you think of Brussels?

dank u wel - I've changed trains in Kotrik several times - saw French Douaniers hassling younger folks on trains as soon as they took off for Lille (started bag checking and questioning even in Belgium!).
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Aug 21st, 2015, 02:24 AM
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I would definitely prefer Bruges or Ghent to Brussels. Bruges is a small town, very typical and unique but it is rather a big museum. Ghent is a larger town and has also a lot to offer in terms of modern art. Personally I prefer Ghent. However, given the short distance between the two cities it is certainly possible to visit both the highlights of Bruges and Ghent in three days. Visit Bruges during the day. The fantastic illumination of the ancient towers in Ghent in the evening, combined with a delicious diner and a visit to one of the many pubs that are a lot less touristic than in Bruges

Kortrijk Gent: 36 min.
Kortrijk Bruges: 38 min
Kortrijk Brussels: 58 min
piet is offline  
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Aug 21st, 2015, 11:25 AM
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Gent, Bruges, Antwerp - 3 really neat cities within such a short distance - Brussels is a large city with some neat things but takes time to ferret its pleasures out - just looking at a Bruges, Gent or Antwerp is so visually pleasing. And at night yes Bruges and Gent shine brightly.
PalenQ is offline  
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Aug 24th, 2015, 07:23 AM
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don't forget the wonderful museum of the Red Star Line in Antwerp.
piet is offline  
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Aug 24th, 2015, 11:44 AM
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Yes thanks for that piet - was not around when I was leading groups thru Antwerp for years but years ago now. Looks neat - English version of site above - love the old waterfront warehouses extant from when the port was in the center of Antwerp - now a vaster one outside of the centrum.
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Aug 24th, 2015, 12:04 PM
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Lots of good options and you're traveling at a lovely time of year. I'm sure you'll have a great time on any of these trips but given that you mention hiking I'd be inclined to agree with the suggestion of going somewhere in France in-between the two big city stops, Paris and Rome. If you haven't been to Provence it is really lovely and (as in many areas of rural France) there's lots of great walking and lots of great food.

Anyway here are some resources that might help.

Paris suggestions including smaller museums, walks etc. http://www.somuchmoretosee.com/search/label/Paris

Rome suggestions including art, architecture and food

A few posts on Provence too

Hope this helps!
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