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Need a second city in both Belgium & Holland

Need a second city in both Belgium & Holland

Jul 28th, 2012, 04:03 PM
Original Poster
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Need a second city in both Belgium & Holland

My husband and I have 12 nights in Belgium & Holland in September. We usually like to stay in one place for 3 nights and then move (even a short distance - we just like to experience the flavour and culture of different sizes and styles of cities).

So we will spend 3 nights in Brussels and 3 nights in Amsterdam. I am interested in advice on a 2nd city/town/place in each country to compliment this plan. We generally like at least a mid-sized city so that we do not have to travel far at night in order to find places to eat. We're fine with day trips from wherever we are (but do like to come back and stay put at night).

The itinerary will likely be 3 nights in Amsterdam, followed by 3 nights somewhere in Holland, followed by 3 nights somewhere in Belgium and finishing with 3 nights in Brussels.

This is our first trip to both of these countries for both of us.

I appreciate any of your advice.

PurpleNeon is offline  
Jul 28th, 2012, 04:17 PM
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Sorry I can;t help with Netherlands - have only stayed in Amsterdam.

In Belgium, I would consider Bruges (charming, very walkable and you can easily do a day trip to Ghent). Or you might try going est and stay in Liege which has a wonderful cathedral and some interesting museums and from there you can easily visit Aachen (Charlemagne's capital - just over the borer into Germany and also fascinating).
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 28th, 2012, 04:30 PM
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I would stay in Ghent with a day trip to Bruges. You might want to take a look at the first part of my trip report, even though it is getting old: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...d-brittany.cfm

Here are the pictures from that trip:

Michael is offline  
Jul 28th, 2012, 06:06 PM
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As for Belgium, we've been several times, just recently returned from seeing the first several days of the tour de France. We stayed in liege on this trip since the tour was based there. I do not recommend it at all. It is dismal. Yes, Brugge is wonderful. Just outside of the walls is villa des raisins, a wonderful b&b. They have the best breakfast we've had in Europe, and the rooms are very nice. Owners great.

The Ardennes area of Belgium is beautiful and has much to offer. It would give you a look into the French half, verses the Flanders side.

Brussels traffic is horrible. You can find better ways to spend your time in Belgium. Antwerp is great. It would be a better choice than Brussels. Ghent is under construction. The whole center is torn up so I'd only spend a couple of hours there.

Ypres area is peaceful and rural, full of ww1 sites.

Please don't spend time in liege. It was perfect for seeing the tour, but we'd never return.
Images2 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2012, 06:11 PM
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Not a big fan of Brussels. In Belgium, I'd recommend Brugge, Ghent and Dinant.
joannyc is online now  
Jul 28th, 2012, 06:18 PM
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If you like art nouveau, Brussels is essential.

Michael is offline  
Jul 28th, 2012, 06:37 PM
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In previous posts I have cheered for Rotterdam in the Netherlands if you are interested in Maritimes history and harbours or modern civic planning and ambitious architecture in a city still recovering from WW2. Lots of cheerful cafes for food and drink. By rail, it is almost as close to Schiphol airport as is Amsterdam.
Southam is offline  
Jul 28th, 2012, 06:40 PM
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We like Brussels and have been there twice in the past two years. If you're interested you can read my trip report.


We also really liked Antwerp—we spent one night there but would definitely go back.

We spent two nights in Bruges and even though it's extremely beautiful it was a bit too perfect for me—I doubt I'd go back.

Obviously much of this depends on what your specific interests are—

In the Netherlands we've enjoyed Rotterdam, Delft, Haarlem and the Hague.
outwest is offline  
Jul 28th, 2012, 06:46 PM
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I am with outwest and Images2, I really liked Antwerp. I didn't stay the night but really wanted to. It is fairly close to Bruges, probably about an hour away.

Don't know about Amsterdam, we are heading there ourselves, but I am seeing the suggestions of Rotterdam here on the thread and we are considering a day trip to Rotterdam as well as the Hague. We'll see if it happens.
Tentek is offline  
Jul 29th, 2012, 12:46 AM
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I stayed a few nights in Delft after taking the train from Amsterdam. It is a delightful small town with interesting history and the Delft potteries are worth a visit. The town has a lovely square and plenty of good cafes and restaurants.
I stayed at Hotel Leeuwenbrug on the small canal, it's a delightful little hotel and I loved it there.
I don't see a lot of merit in Rotterdam, I have been there and enjoyed a trip on the harbour for a few hours but there are other cities that are much nicer than Rotterdam.
I concur with some of the other remarks re Brussels, I've been there a few times, it is overpriced and once you visit the Grand Place, and walked the small streets close by that's about it.
golfernz1 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2012, 03:51 PM
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Wow!! Thank you for all of this great advice. I will spend some time thoroughly reviewing all of the suggestions and may possibly ask some additional questions. Thank you so much!!!
PurpleNeon is offline  
Jul 29th, 2012, 10:10 PM
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Rotterdam (disclosure, I live there) is more than the harbour. But it's not a city that sees a lot of tourism, and we like it that way, so the true soul of the city may evade casual visitors. Things I would do in Rotterdam on a day trip:

Walk around the "stadsruit" for a bit to see the fantastic architecture: make sure to inclue Piet Blom's cube houses, but also marvel at the manhattan-like ambitions of the city government. Then have lunch at the old harbor (Oude Haven) or at PickNick on Mariniersweg. A nice spot at Oude Haven is Stockholm, by the way. Make your way to Witte de Withstraat and see what off beat art things TENT has on offer and have a drink at Bazar, a modern Rotterdam institution and walk over to Veerhaven, to take the watertaxi across to Hotel New York to have dinner and or walk across the new Rijnhaven Bridge to once notorious Katendrecht and have dinner at Jonge De Jong or Deli and perhaps see what Kantine Walhalla has on offer as entertainment or perhaps go to Lantaren Venster for an evening of jazz or art house movies.

If you want acomodation in Rotterdam, consider hotel Bazar, Park Hotel, or one of the luxurious one room hotels that have emerged all over town in recent years: Strawberries and Chocolate on Noordereiland is very nice.

Rotterdammers have a fierce love for their scarred but beautiful city, beautiful despite and because of its scars.
menachem is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 03:49 AM
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In Belgium I think Antwerp is a great and somewhat underrated city here on Fodor's. Nice historic city center, but also a very lively city.

In The Netherlands I think The Hague could be a good choice. Big enough to be a 'real' city (around 500.000 people live there), by the sea, some good museums. But on the other hand not as busy and touristy as Amsterdam.

If you want a smaller city; Delft would be a good choice.
TommieG is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 04:00 AM
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I've visited both places a number of times and although I've stayed in other cities in Holland, my first choice really would be stay a full week in Amsterdam and take easy train daytrips elsewhere. I'm not sure of anywhere else where I'd really want to stay for several nights over Amsterdam and travel is SO easy from Amsterdam.

My second city in Belgium would be Brugge. Ghent is nice and so is Antwerp. But day trips to Brugge really don't do it justice as it is so crowded then and its real charm is at night when most of the tourists are gone. I'd rather stay in Brugge and day trip to Ghent than the other way around.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 04:06 AM
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I think Antwerp is another good choice in Belgium. I am also going to put in a strong vote for sticking with your plan to stay in Brussels for part of your vacation. We spent 10 days there last fall and took quite a few side trips, described in my trip report.
Vttraveler is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 09:19 AM
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Thank you again for all of your replies - I'm happy to review any more if there are still more opinions out there!

I'm 99% toward Brussels and Bruges in Belgium but am struggling with Holland! My not-so short list still has Rotterdam, Utrecht, Apeldoorn, the Hague, and Delft on it. Maybe some additional details would help? We are Canadian. I want to go to Holland because my dad was born there (came to Canada when he was 8, in 1952) so I'd like to see some of where he is from plus learn about Dutch culture and history. My husband is very interested in WWI and WWII history. We are foodies in that we like to learn about local culture and traditions while eating out.

Thank you Menachem for all of the tips for Rotterdam, I appreciate it. And to everyone who provided links to their trip reports. We have been to Italy & France before and planning this trip is definitely a little more challenging from a "where do we go?" perspective - but fun!!

Thank you again!
PurpleNeon is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 10:38 AM
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Belgium - Antwerp.
Netherlands - Haarlem.
spaarne is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 10:42 AM
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Definately Bruges,as the old centre is walkable,very pretty,with canal boat trips,chocolate and lace shops and much else.(aka Venice of the north).
What about Marken and Volendamn in Holland or are they too near to Amsterdam for you ?
Denise_Jackson is offline  
Aug 7th, 2012, 03:33 PM
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WW1 hasn't had much of an impact in The Netherlands, but of course Belgium and Northern France are still marked by that tragedy. WW2 and The Netherlands, that's an other matter altogether. You might want to visit Arnhem (beautiful city, disclosure: I worked there) and follow the trail of Operation Market Garden.

A wonderful hotel in the forest of Oosterbeek is the original Bilderberg hotel. Its restaurant, Artusi is exceptional.

The place to visit is


former Hotel Hartenstein, now the Airborne Museum.
menachem is offline  
Aug 13th, 2012, 09:58 AM
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I would like to piggy back on this discussion. We are in Amsterdam right now until Saturday. Wehave been here for 3 days already and are debating whether to do a day trip to Haarlem, the Hague, or Rotterdam. Whatwould you recommend?
We are alsoconsidering an overnight tripto Brussels.
Tentek is offline  

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