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Where to visit pre & post Amsterdam to Bruges cycling/barge trip?

Where to visit pre & post Amsterdam to Bruges cycling/barge trip?

Old Apr 14th, 2024, 09:36 AM
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Where to visit pre & post Amsterdam to Bruges cycling/barge trip?

I am looking for suggestions for a few days to add both before and after a 10-night Amsterdam to Bruges cycling trip. I am a very well-traveled, old(er) solo, female coming from the US and have spent a lot of time in Europe but never the Netherlands or Belgium. I definitely donít party and am not looking for an active nightlife. Also, I am not a shopper and am totally turned off by neighborhoods full of tourist schlock, bars and restaurants. I am not into expensive, fine dining, and after a long day sometimes I might opt for a glass of wine and take-away pizza in my room. Gardens, interesting walks, historic sights, museums and churches in moderation, art, fascinating architecture, and real neighborhoods all interest me. I know from past travels that general overall ambience is what I remember rather than seeing another church or museum full of paintings.

I know that during the bike tour I will be getting a small taste of many different towns, but there wonít be much time for true in-depth exploration.

In the Netherlands we boat from Amsterdam to Haarlem and will have an hour or two to walk around Haarlem in the evening. We bike, and then the boat overnights in Leiden. We cycle through the Hague on our way to Delft where we visit a pottery factory (doesnít interest me) and will have some after dinner time to walk around Delft. We bike through Rotterdam and visit Kinderdijk on our way to Dordrecht and can visit Dordrecht in the evening. We visit Willemstadt and bike to Tholen where the barge docks overnight.

Then itís on to Belgium where we have an afternoon and evening in Antwerp. We bike to Sint Amands for an overnight there. We bike part of the way to Ghent and have maybe part of an afternoon and evening for exploring Ghent. After cruising to Aalter, we bike into Bruges where we have a 2 night stay.

So, lots of quick visits, but other than Bruges not much time anywhere.

Now I need to book flights from the US. I plan to come in so I have probably 3 nights prior to the bike trip so I can recover from jet lag. My only experience with Amsterdam is about a dozen years ago when we had a layover and went into the city for a 3 to 4 hour early morning walk. We strolled some canals, walked by the Anne Frank house and around the red light district, so I have a teeny familiarity with the city.

As I started to research this trip, I initially thought Amsterdam wouldnít interest me much (the crazy party city reputation and all), but now that I have done some research I am thinking maybe I would like itóOur Dear Lord in the Attic, maybe the Anne Frank House, walking around some nice canal neighborhoods, Museum van Loon, the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh museum etc. But, hotel prices are totally ridiculous even if I choose to stay in a quieter area outside the main tourist district. I can afford the prices but am having difficulty swallowing what itís going to cost me. I know many people stay in Haarlem, but I will have an evening there on the cycling tour so I donít know if thatís a great locale for me. Also, I want to stay in a location that is relatively easy to get to directly from the airport. And, I need to meet the boat in Amsterdam at the start of the tour. So, what are your thoughts on what I should do at the start of the trip?

And, then at the end? I know I will definitely have had enough of Bruges. I have read that many people like to spend time in Antwerp or Ghent rather than Brussels, but I will have had a taste of them while biking. And, I have done some research into Brussels and am now thinking that I could probably easily fill a couple days there (I enjoy Art Nouveau architecture). If I did this, I could just fly home from Brussels (fewer flight choices though). Or, instead of seeing more of Belgium I could just leave Bruges and visit more of the Netherlands before flying home from Amsterdam.

I am now at the point in life where realistically I probably wonít be back to the area again, so I canít say to myself Iíll see that on my next trip. When we were younger we did a lot of in-depth visiting of smaller areas; thatís not my life any more.

Do you have any thoughts/ideas for me? Thanks so much for reading through a long post.

(And, I can't seem to find a way to tag this as far as country. That option seems to be missing.)

Last edited by julies; Apr 14th, 2024 at 09:39 AM.
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Old Apr 14th, 2024, 02:32 PM
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Look up the Inntel in Zaandam and see if you like the look of it. It was very comfortable and thoughtfully designed inside as well. Just a hop skip and jump from Schiphol, it’s very easy to commute from there into Amsterdam for sightseeing. I took the train a couple of stops further up to Zaanse Schans, possibly a little touristy but there were craft demonstrations and old buildings, giving some sense of Netherlands traditions.

Brussels? By all means. The Africa Museum is now quite something, I hear, and substantially more honest about the past than the former Royal museum. Something a little lighter? Musťe de la Bande Dessinťe for your dose of Tintin and more. Stock up on Wittamer chocolates. You’ll need to do your own comparison shopping on prices & time for direct flights home from Brussels vs a fast train back to Schiphol.
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Old Apr 14th, 2024, 03:00 PM
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Yes, I have a couple of thoughts - although you can spend your time amply in Brussels (I am a Brussels fan), from Bruges you could also explore the Belgian coast (there is the coast tram (de Kusttram) that runs the length of the coastal strip), staying in Knokke-Heist (so close to Bruges), or you could visit Ieper (Ypres) and get a dose of WWI history. There is a fantastic museum, In Flanders Fields, and tours out to the war cemeteries, plus the very moving nightly performance of the Last Post at the Menin Gate.

If you do get a bit of time in Brussels I would second the Africa Museum, which is in Tervuren, at the end of Brussels' prettiest tram ride, the 44 from Montgomery.

Lavandula
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Old Apr 14th, 2024, 03:56 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I had never even thought of the Belgian coast with its WWI sites. Quite sobering I am sure; I remember all the small towns we visited in France that had the memorial to their many WWI dead.

I had never even heard of Zaandam. I looked at the hotel website, and it certainly is less expensive than Amsterdam. I just don't know if I want to have to take the train every time I want to go back to my room.

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Old Apr 14th, 2024, 04:14 PM
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Nowadays those beaches are all playgrounds for Belgium, the war history is not as prominent there as on the French beaches, although there is a visitor's centre at Nieuwpoort which treats the war. Some of the beaches are built up, like posh Knokke, some are family beaches like De Haan. Ieper and Poperinge are a more sobering reminder of WWI if that is the kind of tourism you are after.

Lavandula

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Old Apr 15th, 2024, 12:05 AM
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The problem is if you don't want to take the train every time to go back to your room and you want to visit the things you do in Amsterdam then it has to be an expensive hotel in Amsterdam I'm afraid. Even staying in Haarlem involves trains back and forth.

Utrecht may appeal if you are happy to travel back and forth. Weesp is a small town, now part of greater Amsterdam sadly, with direct trains to Amsterdam, but you need to change at Amsterdam CS from Schiphol to get there.
I would have suggested Amersfoort but there will be no trains running there all summer.

You can catch a train back from Brussels to Schiphol if a round trip flight is easier for you.
As well as Brussels consider the coast as suggested, or Leuven or Mechelen maybe.
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Old Apr 15th, 2024, 01:23 AM
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Haarlem does have a beautiful train station though, with some wonderful wooden parts made to look like party of a cruise liner and wonderful old ticket hall ceiling
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Old Apr 15th, 2024, 05:51 AM
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I'd do Amsterdam pre-trip and Brussels post trip in a heartbeat. And I'd pay for hotel location for sure. Your time=money.
I'm not telling you anything you did not already know. You are not coming back, so...

Amsterdam: Suggest you...
  • Find some hotel, etc near or not far from the art museums. A good tramline location works in a pinch, too.
  • Make reservations for Anne Frank NOW.
  • Look up special exhibits at the art museums during your visit, and if one appeals to you, reserve it NOW.
  • Your only daytrip should be back to Den Hague to see the Mauritius museum if your cycle trip did not give you time.

Brussels: Suggest you...
  • Consider staying near Grand Place or near the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, which is only a 7-minute walk away from Central Station. That way, if you saw something in Antwerp or Ghent on your cycle trip that you'd like to explore more in depth, you would have that option by easily hopping back on a train for a day trip, OR...
    if you'd like to spend all your time on Belgian history and art, that local option would be easy, too.
  • Find something to do food-related in Brussels or someplace nearby (there's even a Ghent cooking class I considered years ago).
    Disclaimer: We are beer drinkers but detest Belgian beer and we don't eat waffles. But chocolate, now there is something that we enjoy, and a chocolate taste-testing would have appealed to us. Wonder if there's a combo chocolate tasting/local history tour.
  • Research really good Belgian restaurants. Yeah, I know you said your needs were simple, but one splurge might be worth it. As soon as we escaped local tourist traps, we found Belgian cuisine to rival or to best our great French culinary experiences. We are total Francophiles, so we felt guilty.

PS I showed my husband your itinerary, and he liked it. He is boat-averse, and that would not have appealed to him, but he liked it that you weren't stuck with wall-to-wall Americans, either. We both laughed about the pottery tour (but at least it's in Delft--look up "Vermeer landscapes" and carry those images in your mind while you are there). Your comment about shopping put you in our tourist ballpark for sure. We still don't get why people shop--does anyone need any more things in their house at our ages?

AZ


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Old Apr 15th, 2024, 07:16 PM
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Thank you so much for all of the suggestions; my plan is 3 nights in Amsterdam pre trip and 2 nights in Brussels post cycling trip. I have decided that I am just going to bite the bullet and pay for lodging in Amsterdam for the sake of convenience. I am trying to find lodging that is convenient, in a nice walkable neighborhood and outside of tourist central. After I get that issue settled (since the dates are closer), I will try to work on finding lodging in Brussels.

You have all been a lot of help throughout this planning process.
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Old Apr 16th, 2024, 12:51 AM
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We found that Amsterdam has large blocks of student accom that they rent out in the summer, I've lost my details, but the prices were very good and if you base near tram stop it is easy to get into town.

https://www.thesocialhub.co

found it
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Old Apr 16th, 2024, 04:06 AM
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If you are intending to visit the Anne Frankhuis you need to get online asap to buy your ticket.
Probably a good idea to do the same for the Van Gogh Museum too.
Don't forget there is the new Holocaust museum as well. https://jck.nl/en/tickets
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Old Apr 18th, 2024, 07:26 AM
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Netherlands

Consider a day trip to the Kroller-Muller Museum near Otterlo. It's two hours away by train but looks like an amazing sculpture garden.
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Old Apr 18th, 2024, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by kerrymcashman
Consider a day trip to the Kroller-Muller Museum near Otterlo. It's two hours away by train but looks like an amazing sculpture garden.
And paintings including van Goghs and Mondriaans, but with only 3 nights in Amsterdam it is a trek out to the Kroller Muller and you have to pay for entrance to the national park as well as to the museum. On the plus side, if you haven't had enough of cycling you can pick up a free bike to ride through the park.
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Old Apr 18th, 2024, 08:46 PM
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We enjoyed our hotel in Amsterdam , Hotel líAmbassade on the Herengracht Canal. In Delft, even though you didnít like the idea of pottery, go and see the Royal Delft! I am not a shopper but I ended up buying a lot. They shipped it home for us. And I love those pieces from Delft. I preferred the cities and towns in The Netherlands to Brussels and Belgium.
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Old Apr 19th, 2024, 05:50 AM
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I'll second Bilbo's suggestion for the Social Hub, what used to be called the Student Hotel. The one in Wibautstraat is very convenient, on top of the metro, in a nice but not touristy area. I see rates from 153 euro/night for this summer, which is not bad for those rooms and location. I've had young relatives who stayed there during term time.
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Old Apr 19th, 2024, 11:03 AM
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Thanks for continuing to comment. The Kroller-Muller Museum does look interesting, and I will keep it in mind if I run out of things to do in Amsterdam (I doubt it though). I am near to finalizing accommodation arrangements but did take a look at the two recently suggested. Unfortunately, neither one was a good match for exactly what I am looking for. I was seriously contemplating a canal view room but then realized what the cost of a really nice one is--probably more than I want to spend. And, it also dawned on me that be being on a barge and cycling for ten days I will probably have plenty of opportunities for views of canals.
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Old Apr 19th, 2024, 03:37 PM
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I second the Wibautstraat if you want a non-touristy area ... I stay there because I have cousins who live in the area. It is a largely residential area, close to the Amstel. I believe there is another hotel in this area which Menachem (a Dutch Fodorite) used to recommend, the Volkshotel, although I have no experience of it myself, but worth checking out.

Lavandula

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Old Apr 20th, 2024, 04:49 AM
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Hi JUles - Your travel style matches mine to a T. Would you mind sharing the company you're using for the cycling trip? Sounds fabulous. Thanks!
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Old Apr 20th, 2024, 05:40 AM
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Jules--Got a kick out of your canal-view room comment.

You do realize, I hope, that you are going to have to live-blog your cycling trip for those of us with trip envy? Your humor is MADE for it.

AZ
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Old Apr 25th, 2024, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by lavandula
I second the Wibautstraat if you want a non-touristy area ... I stay there because I have cousins who live in the area. It is a largely residential area, close to the Amstel. I believe there is another hotel in this area which Menachem (a Dutch Fodorite) used to recommend, the Volkshotel, although I have no experience of it myself, but worth checking out.

Lavandula
Hi there! Yes, Volkshotel is ok, and not too expensive (for Amsterdam) and it's on top of the Wibautstraat metro stop, which gives you excellent travel into the city (4 minutes by very frequent metro gets you to Waterlooplein or Nieuwmarkt (or Central Station)
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