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London, Paris, Brussels/Bruges, Amsterdam itinerary help

London, Paris, Brussels/Bruges, Amsterdam itinerary help

Oct 7th, 2017, 01:03 PM
  #1  
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London, Paris, Brussels/Bruges, Amsterdam itinerary help

Hello!

I am just at the beginning stages of planning my first trip to Europe with my mom. We are planning on staying at least 10 nights, if not a couple more this June 2018. We are not sure how many nights we should stay in each destination, and if we are choosing too many destinations for our time there. We were thinking 3 nights London, 3 nights Paris, and 4 nights in Brussels with day trips to Bruges and Amsterdam from Brussels. Or, maybe a couple nights in both Brussels and Amsterdam, or staying in Amsterdam and taking day trips from there. It is also a possibility to take one destination off of our itinerary.

We are interested in soaking up all of the culture, lifestyle, architecture, and history of all of the places we visit. We also love good food and beer and wine so that is high on our list of stuff to do as well. We love nature, so visiting gardens, cruising canals, biking, and visiting the country side is also very appealing to us.

A few questions we have....
The best website to buy affordable plane tickets?
Affordable places to stay in each of these destinations?
Recommended restaurants, pubs, bars?
Any tips on must-see's in these destinations.
Should we buy train tickets in advance?
In these cities, how do people typically get around? bus, train, bike, rent a car?
lknisle1 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2017, 01:22 PM
  #2  
 
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What a nice thing to do with your mom. At the beginning stages of planning guidebooks are the thing. For yourself you need to get an idea of what's where and pick out places to go and things to see based on your interests. All the destinations you mentioned are loaded with more "must sees" than you can accomplish in your trip. Planning is the first fun experience of any successful trip. Enjoy!!
Envierges is online now  
Oct 7th, 2017, 01:47 PM
  #3  
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We are thinking 12 days now... so 10 full days with 2 travel days. 3 days Paris and London, 2 days Amsterdam and 2 days for Brussels/Bruges.
lknisle1 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2017, 01:56 PM
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In my experience, rookie travelers to Europe tend to plan too much and focus on the big cities. My first trip was London and Paris for ten days, so I kind of did the same thing then, but I didn't have as much packed in as you plan to even in twelve days. I have since learned to appreciate the smaller towns more than the big cities in Europe.

So I would suggest you pare it down even with twelve days ("how many nights do I have locally?" is the real question I care about when planning trips.)

Consider Paris, Belgium, and Amsterdam (open jaw into one city, out of another). Add more day trips to smaller towns.

Or, London and Paris with day trips.

Of course, you CAN do all four of those cities - but do you really want to on a first trip?

I actually travel faster than I used to, but I have gotten to know my own travel style. Some people like to travel slow, some fast. But I do think there's a danger in planning too much for a first trip.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 02:03 PM
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Answers to questions:

I have lately come to like Google Flights for tracking airfares. You can add fare alerts to email you when prices go down. I'd pick the ideal flights now that you would choose if they were cheapest, then put a fare alert on them. Last fall, FYI, Delta had a huge sale on great flights to Europe, under $500 RT from the US to Europe. If you're lucky, they will again!

Do your best to "open jaw" into one city, out of another - often about the same price as a round-trip ticket.

Yes, buy train tickets in advance for the train trips between the big cities, as soon as your plans are pretty firm.

Before you decide the best places to stay, figure out which PART of each city you want to stay in - then narrow down choices for places to stay. These are huge cities. Everyone has an opinion on the best place to stay in Paris in particular, it seems, but there is more than once good choice. I like the website Booking.com to search hotel prices (use the map feature), and many reservations have free cancellation up to a few days before arrival, just read the cancellation policies carefully! This to me is way too early to book hotels you can't change without a fee, but if you want to start by booking a few places and researching more, then changing later, that's OK.

All of these cities have excellent transportation systems - buses, subways, trams. I would never rent a car in Europe in the cities, only in rural areas or near small towns. Driving in Paris or Amsterdam is a pain and pointless for most tourists. Use a smart phone to navigate the public transportation systems if you can; I use Google Maps myself.
Andrew is offline  
Oct 7th, 2017, 02:13 PM
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For airfares I look at Skyscanner and Kayak to find good airfares, but also look at the websites of individual airlines that I like because it is always better to book through the airlines if possible. Having said that, if you book through a travel agent it is incumbent upon them to notify you if the airline has made changes to schedule. We fly from Sydney, often through Singapore, and on one trip found it was cheaper to buy a SYD - SIN return ticket and a SIN-Frankfurt return ticket. So you might think about splitting your trip into two one ways or similar if it is cheaper. I also look at major travel agents in my country to see if they are offering anything good, but some are tied to particular airline partnership programs which does not always suit us.

For affordable accommodation: if you use www.booking.com that will give you indications of price and also allow you to book and cancel for free in many cases. Others have their favourite website.

Let's work on must sees and restaurants after you have settled on your destinations. I would advise maybe London 3 - Amsterdam 2 - Brussels 2 - Paris 3 in that order and an open-jaw ticket into London and out of Paris, for maximum convenience.

Lavandula
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Oct 7th, 2017, 02:33 PM
  #7  
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Thank you for all of your advice so far! It is so hard to narrow down destinations, but don't want to bite off too much for our first trip. We are discussing possibly going for 14 days therefore 12 full days. We are thinking of maybe doing 4 days London, 3 days Belgium, 3 days Amsterdam, and maybe just 2 days in Paris based on our interests from this trip. If we can't afford to go for 14 days, we will probably take Paris off of our itinerary.

We will definitely be looking for the cheap Delta tickets!! That would be awesome. We will also be looking into booking.com as you two recommended.
lknisle1 is offline  
Oct 7th, 2017, 02:33 PM
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Oops, I think I might revise that a little - do you have travel days between those destinations? Otherwise 2 days will dry up pretty quickly into 2 half days, which is a bit short. Plot it out on a calendar with transit days factored in.

Lavandula
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Oct 7th, 2017, 02:37 PM
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For what it's worth, I thought Paris was the most beautiful of these four cities - I absolutely fell in love with it the first time I visited. Not everyone loves Paris and maybe you won't - but I wanted to point out that there's more to a place than "interests." Sometimes you visit a place that takes your breath away and it have a big impact on how much you enjoy a trip.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 02:39 PM
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I'd cut out Brussels and go to Bruges for 2 nights from Paris and stay in Amsterdam - a city that is gorgeous during day but sublimely gorgeous after dark when canal bridges and facades are wonderfully illuminated.

Plus Amsterdam has major museums and Anne Frank House. Brussels' charms are harder to seek out and many find the city just too modern for their taste - it's a nice place but you have limited time so that is where I would cut first and IMO be sure to stay 2-3 nights in Amsterdam.

Anyway book Eurostar 'Chunnel' train tickets very early to nab deep discounted fares and also Thalys trains Paris to Belgium and onto Amsterdam if you do those routes - www.eurostar.com and www.thalys.com. For lots on trains check www.seat61.com - great info on discounted ticketing yourself online; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

And yes I'd put a stop in Bruges way above one in Brussels for the average first-time European tourist - Bruges will seem so so romantic - especially after day-tripping bus tours have left.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 02:44 PM
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That is a good point we should also consider. Do you think 3 days in each city would suffice? Of course with traveling each would end up being 2 full days and one half day with traveling.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 02:48 PM
  #12  
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PanelQ, thank you for the links! I think we will cut out Brussels and go straight to Bruges! We have heard a lot of amazing things about Bruges.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 03:19 PM
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Bruges is lovely - I loved it, anyway - but it also tends to get very crowded with tourists, and some people hate it because of that. Then again, most of these places are touristy. Brussels is worth a stop at very least if you have time (even an afternoon if changing trains there anyway - leave your bags in a locker at the train station), but I much prefer Bruges. Brussels does have its fans, however.

Bruges is also a lot smaller than the other places on your agenda, so it might make a nice counterpoint to big metropolises.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 03:30 PM
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OK -- >>We are interested in soaking up all of the culture, lifestyle, architecture, and history of all of the places we visit.<<

At the pace you are contemplating you won't 'soak up' anything

Since your questions are so wide ranging, I'd suggest you get a couple of guide books and study up a bit.

To answer even just >>Affordable places to stay in each of these destinations?
Recommended restaurants, pubs, bars?
Any tips on must-see's in these destinations.
Should we buy train tickets in advance?
In these cities, how do people typically get around? bus, train, bike, rent a car?<<

Would require a LOT. How do people typically get around -- each city is a little different so you need to nail down you itinerary first and then we can give you the details. 'Must see's'? There are scores so again decide which cities and we can point you in the right direction. Affordable accommodations - what do you consider 'affordable? What is your budget per night?

Now a bit of a reality check: Lest play w/ your 10 days on-the ground. The first day is at most half a day - even if you land in the morning. And it will be jet lagged so IRL you will have 9 days for heavy duty sight seeing/enjoying the cities. But not really because every time you move from one city to another it eats up at least half a day. So if you want to stay in 3 cities that takes up another full day - leaving you 8 free days.

or less than 3 days per city. London Is the largest city in western Europe by a mile . . . and with 3 days you can't even scratch the surface. It is very spread out takes time to travel around. Paris is smaller and many sites are closer together/within walking distance but it also takes time.

I would SERIOUSLY consider picking two cities -- can be any two London/Paris, Paris/Amsterdam, A'dam/London - whatever. And leave it at that. I would also allow an extra day in your arrival city because of the jet lag factor -- so something like 6 days in London and 4 in Paris.

If you try to squeeze in too many places you will spend more time moving around and just getting acclimated than actually seeing/doing/enjoying.

You will be spending a lot of time and money on this trip - you don't want it to end up a blur of packing and unpacking and train stations.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 03:43 PM
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>Brussels' charms are harder to seek out and many find the city just too modern for their taste

I see this differently - the modern parts of the city are contained in the European Quarter and the area around Madou - both of which you would only see if you deliberately sought them out, as they are away from the centre, where most tourists are. Many European travellers come expressly to the European Quarter to see buildings like the Consilium, to see where their laws are made. I live somewhere where there are skyscrapers so don't see a great deal in this area myself but I don't know what might be interesting for the OP.

In any case most of the attractions are within the centre of Brussels. There are certain attractions such as the Horta Museum (well worth it) or the Atomium which are outside the centre, but most things are within a stone's throw of the Grand' Place, and the others accessible by Brussels' excellent transport system. And if you missed the Grand' Place you would be missing one of the great squares of Europe. I have nothing against Bruges but I do not discount Brussels either, because I think it has merit of its own.

Lavandula
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Oct 7th, 2017, 03:54 PM
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This is where the forum gets fun. I would scrap Bruges and Amsterdam and devote all my really little bit of time to London, Paris and Brussels. Bruges is lovely, but there isn't much there besides lovely . . .and lots of tourist while you are there. IMHO Brussels is one of the most underrated destinations in all of Europe . . .along with Vienna. But for a first trip, I suppose you have to spend time in Bruges. Tough decision. Good luck with it
Envierges is online now  
Oct 7th, 2017, 04:53 PM
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hi there

we are off to Amsterdam and brussels next june
I got good deals through accor in brussels..staying near the Grand Place and near the station at the Novotel Brussels off Grand Place..average 138euros per room pernight
Chose brussels because I figured its central..can go in any direction and can still get to Edinburgh our next stop
we will stay five nights and will be coming from Amsterdam (booked the hotel residence le coin through the hotel itself for 285 euro per night..it has a access to a free washing machine for the guests which ive learned is important when your travelling for over a month)

ive been to bruges ..travelled from paris for a daytrip
it is fairybook gorgeous with plumed horses dragging tourist around in little carriages but it adds to the effect
I loved the Flemish art too

I think I will go back om a daytrip agaon from brussels
also see Ghent and Antwerp

the hotel in brussels suggested I just buy tickets for the train from Amsterdam..theyre frequent and quite cheap
I know booking from Australia always costs us so much

I think its important to be near a train station if youre planning daytrips
I was told here that Ghent is lovely but the station is far from the centre


in paris we stayed near napoleons tomb...convenient location
the room was tiny but the people were extremely helpful..hotel Eiffel Turenne 20 avenue Tourville
close to a metro ..we used the L'ecole Militaire stop mostly
lots of bakeries don't have seats .. we found one and became regulars at Rue st Dominique bakery opposite an irish pub
this was winter time so it was lovely to have warm quiche and good coffee
Paris is easy to walk if you have no problems walking far distances and getting lost!
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Oct 7th, 2017, 09:49 PM
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London is truly enormous and the attractions you will want to see are spread out.
Paris is a walkable city, by contrast. The major attractions are contained in about a 3 km by 2.5 km rectangle.

I'd pick either London or Paris - you can't do justice to both.
You might need an air conditioned hotel in June, though.
fuzzbucket is offline  
Oct 7th, 2017, 11:36 PM
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As for getting around by train, you have a whole lot of time.
This website is valuable:
www.maninseat61.com

It will explain how to get from country to country, and the timing involved.
Plan on purchasing tickets 90 days in advance.
If you can go at "off times", you'll save money.
I would look for refundable tickets, in any case.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 11:43 PM
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Most people would opt to stay in the 6th arrondissement because that's what they think what Paris will be like.

Open-air markets, Sainte-Chapelle on a sunny day, the Catacombes, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and Eiffel Tower come to mind.

You might have time to take a river cruise at night - it's wonderful. Wouldn't buy advance tickets, it might rain and you won't see anything.
http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/home/
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