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ohara23 Jan 11th, 2015 09:27 AM

Paris , ?, Amsterdam
My husband and I are planning to arrive in Paris the morning of April 15th (2015). We will be spending 4 nights in Paris and 3 nights in Amsterdam. We would like to add 2 nights in between those cities to see maybe another small town . We are considering Bruges. Any suggestions on what would be easily accessed by train and not too far off of the route to Amsterdam? We are casual travelers. We usually spend our time enjoying the outdoors, a couple museums, pubs and restaurants. We do not usually care to spend a lot of time in the really touristy areas.

Man_in_seat_61 Jan 11th, 2015 09:49 AM

Brussels or Bruges are the obvious choices.

Just book Paris-Bruges or Brussels and Bruges or Brussels to Amsterdam at with print-at-home tickets.

Paris-Brussels starts at 29 euros if you book 2-3 months ahead, Brussels-Amsterdam from 25 euros.

2010 Jan 11th, 2015 10:17 AM

Last September, my husband & I went from Amsterdam to Bruges and then to Paris. We traveled from city to city by train as you are planning to do.

Bruges is a touristed city and for good reason. It is very picturesque & charming. But when you stay there, you get to enjoy the city early in the morning before the day trippers descend and later in the afternoon & evening when they leave. And during the day, there is a variety of things to see & do ... at least enough to keep us engaged for 4 days!

If you care to see what we did in Bruges, just click on my name above to go to my trip report <i>Notes on Amsterdam, Bruges & Paris</i>.

Happy planning!

ohara23 Jan 11th, 2015 12:14 PM

^ 2010- I read your trip notes.. So helpful ! As stated above as well , Bruges does seem like the most logical place to add in ! I love that you mentioned "Reed" in Paris! Very high on our list of restaurants already.. If you have any other suggestions for quaint cafes/ restaurants in Paris that would be great! We too will be missing our Bulldogs while we are away .. Maybe we will be lucky enough to get a dog fix somewhere on our journey!

PalenQ Jan 11th, 2015 01:18 PM

Bruges is exceptional - Brussels is a downer for many (not saying it has to be but comments here say they were not very impressed - big loud modern city that has done little to retain an old look in its historic center at least)

Antwerp would be my other choice.

Two ways to get to Bruges by train from Paris-Nord station - 1- take a TGV train to Lille Flanres and change to IC train direct to Bruges - takes 2.5 hours

2- Take the Thalys train Paris to Brussels and change for a train for Bruges - takes abpout 2.5 hours - but this way you could put your bags in a station (Brussels-Midi) and spend the few hours most say is enough to see Bruges marquewe site - the Grand' Place - one of Europe's most ethereal town squares and the Mannequin pis - statue of a little boy peeing! - both are close together - then go onto Bruges for the night and the whole next day.

Fares for these routes can vary widly depending on how far in advance you buy your tickets mainly - on a walk up basis the route via Lille is much cheaper because the fare structure is more flat - Thalys has a Byzantine fare structure of say from 29 euros Paris to Brussels that I once booked to about $200 walk up fare!

For lots of great info on these trains and trains in Belgium and Netherlands I always spotlight not only Man in Seat 61's commercial (extremely commercial!) site and also and

I bought my Thalys tickets directly from the Thalys web site - - 29 euro Brussels to Paris and same back and 39 Amsterdam to Paris - and that was only a few weeks in advance during high season but these deep discounted tickets do sell out typically months in advance. For the Paris-Lille-Bruges routing try or - same trains same prices but much easier to use folks report than fickle And try the commercial link on to Rail Europe as well as at times they can be low as well but usually much higher or

el13207 Jan 11th, 2015 01:39 PM

Love, love, love Bruges, which we also combined with a larger trip including Amsterdam, entirely by train as described by others- quite easy to do. Can recommend the Grand Hotel Casselburghe in Bruges which was well situated, lovely, and had a fabulous breakfast (and by booking directly we got a very good price). I thought we might want to day trip to Ghent one day in addition to the day trip we did to Brussels, but there was so much to explore in Bruges itself we never got to Ghent (I believe we had four nights in Bruges). Be sure to taste some chocolate at both Dumon and the Chocolate Line!
And we too have enjoyed Reed in Paris, although we didn't get there on our last trip in October. Can recommend Le Souffle after visiting the Louvre, as well as Le Relais de l'Entrecote in the 6th for a great steak frites (no menu, no choices except for how you want your steak cooked and what kind of wine or dessert you want). Breizh in the 4th is great for crepes/galettes as is Little Breizh (unrelated but both refer to Brittany in their name-Breizh meaning Brittany I think). I would also suggest you check David Lebovitz's blog for his recommendations in Paris, which I find quite reliable.

2010 Jan 12th, 2015 06:16 AM

Hi ohara23:

Glad you found my trip report useful! Let us know if you decide to add Bruges to your itinerary. Come back with any other questions you might have.

I suggest that you start a new thread asking about quaint cafes/restaurants in Paris. You may get more replies. (Unfortunately, the search function on this site hasn't worked for a long time or you could have done a search yourself!) But for now, I also recommend Breizh in the 4th arr. If you go on a weekend, make a reservation since it is a popular spot!

Tulips Jan 12th, 2015 08:50 AM

Why does almost everyone say 'Brugge' as a default answer whenever anyone asks about Belgium?

For someone who wants museums, cafes and restaurants in a not too touristy setting en route to Amsterdam, Antwerp fits the bill better than Brugge.

PalenQ Jan 12th, 2015 12:58 PM

Antwerp is no
Bruges and you'd have to be a foreign tourist to realize that perhaps.

Like I've said before in the past I took over 1,000 Americans on a trip thru Bruges, Gent and Antwerp in Belgium and overwhelmingly they loved Bruges much MUCH more than Antwerp, which to me is really a more interesting city.

It's the exceptional ancient look of Bruges in its historic core that is unduplicated in Angtwerp or nearly any city north of the Alps.

I would never recommend Antwerp over Bruges to the average foreing tourist - never ever and again I actually prefer much bigger, busier and whatever a huge city has that Antwerp has to offer.

I understand locals do not share this hoopla about Bruges but I believe they are looking at it from a different view than a foreign tourist who may be on their first tour of Europe.

Tulips Jan 12th, 2015 10:15 PM

You're absolutely right Pal that Brugge is more beautiful than Antwerp. I just don't see it as the 'one size fits all' recommendation. Especially for someone who doesn't want to spend time in really touristy areas, like the OP.
Gent, with a daytrip to Brugge, would be better.

I've seen questions from people interested in architecture, hip cafes, nightlife, students in their early 20s... Still everyone tells them to go to Brugge. I wouldn't recommend Antwerp over Brugge to the average tourist either, but not everyone is average.

kja Jan 13th, 2015 01:44 AM

Bruges is glorious and well worth you consideration. But do you actually have time for it? 4 nights in Paris is VERY little and 3 nights in Amsterdam is, IMO, just skimming its surface... It really depends on what YOU want to see and experience.

bilboburgler Jan 13th, 2015 02:03 AM

I naturally chime in with Tulips and Palanque on their Bruges/Antwerp/Brussels discussion, then I thought I'd look at a map

Three other places jump at me
Arras (with 2 massive market squares and the command and control centre for WW1 allies underneath it, not all accessible but interesting)
Reims (Champagne, a Roman forum and a cathedral to die for)
Luxembourg (remains of a cliff fortress)

A quick check of timetables at (always an easy test of a route) whoe that this is not impossible.

Reims is a bit touristy but outside of high season it is big enough to suck it in and spit it out,

PalenQ Jan 13th, 2015 08:52 AM

Well I would consider Brussels as a stop too along with Antwerp for folks not wanting museum-like towns like Bruges and again Antwerp is great but a half day there won't be enough to appreciate all that varied stuff, some of which is out of the center.

Do see Antwerp Centraal train station though - a veritable cathedral as it is dubbed I believe by locals - inside and out one of Europe's finest train stations.

suze Jan 13th, 2015 11:08 AM

If it were my trip, I'd do 5 days in Paris and 4 in Amsterdam.

PalenQ Jan 13th, 2015 12:36 PM

And consider doing a day trip from each if tired of just big cities - like Paris to Chartres for the great cathedral and Amsterdam to any of several sweet regional towns that are really Dutch as opposed to cosmopolitan Amsterdam in the tourist-filled historic centre.

ohara23 Jan 17th, 2015 05:28 AM

Thank you for all the suggestions. Really helpful! ^ PalenQ, day trips out of the big cities are definitely something we will do. We have just found out we may have to shorten our trip to only 7 days on the ground. ( Spring and summer are very busy for my husband) . So with such limited time we are going to focus on just one area with some day trips. We do have a longer trip in the fall to plan where we can cover more ground, but for now we will pick one country to visit. Considering Paris, London or Amsterdam. As I said above, we would really like to spend some time out of the city's. If we were to choose London we would definitely rent a car and spend a couple nights in Chipping Camden. Any other suggestions?

PalenQ Jan 17th, 2015 08:41 AM

London has so many great day trips - if renting a car you mauy want to swing by Stonehenge or Oxford or Windsor Castle on the way to Chipping Camden, a delectable Cotswold Hills town.

2010 Jan 17th, 2015 02:22 PM

How unfortunate that your plans might change BUT I can't think of 3 more diverse, interesting & fantastic cities to choose from for a one week visit!

For some ideas of daytrips from Paris, check out a book called <i>Paris to the Past: Traveling Through French History By Train</i> by Ina Caro. We were going to Saint Denis and it was interesting to read the historical context of the cathedral in advance of our visit. A few years ago, we went to Chartres which is also described in this book. Here, we were lucky to take part in a tour of its cathedral with Malcolm Miller. You can take the metro to Saint Denis. Chartres is about a hour train trip from Gare Montparnasse.

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