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How to maximize one week in Netherlands & Belgium

How to maximize one week in Netherlands & Belgium

Old May 30th, 2022, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by HappyTrvlr View Post
“Delft for the day” Delft does not need a full day and easily combines with a visit to The Hague which I recommend.
While in Rotterdam, it is easy to visit historic Kinderdijk with it’s 19 windmills still in their original locations.
I love The Netherlands but I did not care for Brussels except for the mussels!
Yes! The relatives have insisted we visit Kinderdijk AND Gouda, where we can not only visit cheesemaking but also a stroopwafel maker, to see how these are made AND taste, of course!

Brussels is our base for the second part of the trip but now we will probably do mostly day trips to other Flemish villages. I'd been encouraged to use Brussels as a base and this way we are close to the major train station.
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Old May 30th, 2022, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by mike1728 View Post
Susan,
Any way you can change your flight and fly in and out of Amsterdam? Not sure that you would want to if your mind is made up about seeing Belgium. But the Netherlands has so much to offer in way of beautiful towns and villages, museums, biking and hiking trails, castles, ect. Don't get me wrong, I love Belgium (although not a fan of Brussels) and are currently planning a trip around Christmas (Fly in and out of Brussels-stay in Namur, Maastricht (NL) and Antwerp with select day trips via rail) In my opinion Amsterdam alone deserves a minimum of 3-4 days to fully enjoy the city and to appreciate the wonderful museums and just the beauty of the city. From Amsterdam via rail there are some excellent locations to visit and all with under an hour by rail-great day trips: Haarlem (10 min), Utrecht (25 min), Muiden Castle (40 min) Amersfoort (35 min), Delft (45 min) Rotterdam (45) min. Even Antwerp is an easy day trip from Amsterdam being only a little over an hour by rail. Remember July will be very busy with large crowds and hot weather-not ideal conditions to be continuously on the move. If you kept your original flight you could a) take the train from Amsterdam to Brussels Airport (2 hours-no problem with an 11am flight) or b) plan your last night in Antwerp and take the train the morning of your flight to Brussels Airport (30-40 min).
Thanks! You make we wonder if we should just base ourselves in ANTWERP instead of Brussels for the 3 nights we are in Belgium. Perhaps we would enjoy having more leisurely time in Antwerp, and still be able to day-trip to Ghent and maybe somewhere else, but also see Brussels? I'm very open to this idea. My kids are really adamant they want to see some of Belgium, and not just the part of the Netherlands we will be able to visit on this trip. I'd rather just choose a base in Belgium for this reason. Would Antwerp be a better place to stay than Brussels?

We now have 7 days/6 nights in the Netherlands (basing 4 nights in Amsterdam and 2 nights in Rotterdam). We have booked 3 nights at an apartment in Brussels but we are OK as long as within one hour of the airport. We are nervous about staying too far from our flight home, given the strikes that are happening this summer. My mother-in-law was supposed to fly to Amsterdam today and had to re-route to Brussels and then get a ride from family back to the Netherlands, as apparently there will be massive strikes throughout the region (not just at Schipol, as has been the case recently) beginning tomorrow. I'm hoping all of this resolves in the next few weeks!

Thanks so much for this new food for thought.
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Old May 30th, 2022, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Tulips View Post
Sir Albert Hotel is very nice, great area. They have a good Asian restaurant. Gerard Douplein has some nice restaurants; Petit Caron for French food.
Don't know if I would cross the IJ to go to the Sir Adam hotel. The swings look scary!
The Nine Streets is not thrift shopping; very nice boutiques and mostly clothes.
If you are going to the red light district, visit Our Lord in the Attic.
Kroller Moller is a full day trip - maybe decide this once you are in Amsterdam if you want to do that. Alternatively take a trip to Haarlem, or to the coast at Bloemendaal. If the weather is good there are some good beach bars there. Maybe nice to have a relaxing day, and good cycling near Bloemendaal.
I
This makes me so happy! Thanks for these good builds to the current plans for Amsterday and a better day of cycling with asmosphere.
I will also take your advice and keep the cycling to The Netherlands and not Belgium. We will have our kids' former au pair with us when we are in Belgium so I am starting to rethink how we really enjoy that time and not be bored by government buildings... some how I imaged the EU to magical but clearly that was my error. Thank you for sparing us!
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Old May 30th, 2022, 03:01 PM
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Brussels still makes quite a good base as it is a rail hub, particularly if you want to go anywhere east, like Leuven. I would not be dissuaded from using Brussels myself, and particularly so if you have a guide in the form of your au pair, who will show you what is hip and happening there. A guide makes the city come alive for you. But if you prefer Antwerp I won't stand in your way - it's a nice city, a different vibe to Brussels, although Tulips is the person to advise you there. I don't know Antwerp as well as she does.

Brussels will still be there for your day trip - be sure to see the Grand' Place and Galeries St.-Hubert as a minimum!

Lavandula
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Old May 30th, 2022, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by lavandula View Post
I do like the market at Midi - let me be frank about this, the area around Midi is not very nice, but the market is a cultural phenomenon. It has more in common with big Middle Eastern markets. It has fruits and vegetables and food (heaps of sorts of olives) and a specialty, the Moroccan pancake with a middle eastern cheese and honey, but you can choose your toppings. You are right about the clothing there (awful), but the whole experience in total is an interesting one and tells you something about the lives of ordinary people in Brussels. If you get bored with it, a short walk away is the flea market at Place du Jeu de Balles, which feeds all the antique shops in the Marolles, but it only goes until 2pm. Then you are not far away from Midi and can still catch your train to Ghent.

Lavandula
Dear @Lavandula, your advice is so detailed and helpful I feel the need to ask you... do you suppose we would be happier basing ourselves in ANTWERP and then doing all the day-trips to BRUSSELS and GHENT and maybe another place in Flanders? The only person in our family interested in the EU is my 17-yo son, and he would gladly give up staying in Brussels for more charming/historic atmosphere, especially if it involves unlimited frites and chocolate. He just wants to SEE the EU buildings and you've provided good information that will help me plan out our visit to that area.

I actually think your description of the Midi Market makes it more appealing - we are not afraid of gritty locations. The idea of a flea market nearby makes me think we should definitely plan at least one day in Brussels on Sunday , so that we can do them both and still enjoy other parts of the city as well. Would one day in Brussels suffice? And if so, perhaps we just adjust the plan to spend more time in Antwerp.

I should have clarified that our former au pair is Colombian and now lives in Valencia teaching English to soccer stars! As part of her summer holidays she is coming to join us in Belgium, so now I'm thinking of our 29-yo "daughter" as well as the 19- and 17-yo sons. We love walking, eating local foods (not necessarily fancy), shopping in funky stores, and basically exploring places/trying things we cannot have at our respective homes. I thought Brussels (staying near the train station) would be ideal, but maybe ANTWERP might be a better base for the region? We are going to be going and doing, not sitting in a cafe all day. In fact, a long meal at a Michelin starred restaurant would be amazing for my husband and me, but the other 3 would be bored to tears.

Thanks so much for your perspective and ideas!

Last edited by susansweet8756; May 30th, 2022 at 03:33 PM.
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Old May 30th, 2022, 04:11 PM
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Look, it is very hard to counter the people who do not like Brussels here on Fodors, they are very vocal, and the people who do like Brussels (there are quite a few covert fans) don't say much. This is not the case on other fora such as TripAdvisor, but it is an ongoing argument here. I still like Brussels in spite of this because I lived there and got to know it quite well, and I plan to return to live part-time in Brussels when I retire. It is a city which has beautiful and ugly side by side. Even Antwerp has its gritty side. However people here do not recognise that (ie. beautiful and ugly) because they don't know what Brussels does well (Art Nouveau, food and drink and living well, chocolate, elegant areas, good museums). If you are more comfortable picking Antwerp, it won't disappoint. It's a pretty city with a nice, together sort of vibe which is a good distance from Brussels and Ghent. You will get as much historic atmosphere as Brussels, maybe a bit more of the Flemish architecture. There is a lovely shopping street, the Meir, which culminates in a square with the cathedral. You can walk it from the station, which itself is worth seeing.

If your son wants EU (and I know this area reasonably well because of my activities and work when I lived there), the Hemicycle, as I said, is iconic and the inside is worth a visit/tour, but perhaps combine the visit to this part of the city with a visit to the museums in Parc Cinquantenaire. You can walk from the Hemicycle to Schuman, take in the buildings there (they are clustered there and won't take much of your time) and from Schuman through the park to the museums, and then from the museums, catch the metro from Mérode back to Gare Central metro. I think cdnyul advised something similar. Have a look at his advice, his daughter lives in Brussels and he travels there for leisure frequently.

If you are interested in funky stores, the Dansaert area might be up your alley. Likewise Rue Blaes and Rue Haute, near the flea market I mentioned - lots of antique/ second hand shops shops but they may not be open on a Sunday, I don't know. The flea market is there daily.

Finally, if you base in Antwerp, see Antwerp and maybe one other city. It makes no sense to base there but spend two+ days in Brussels, you might as well be in Brussels for that time.

Good luck!

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Old May 30th, 2022, 08:49 PM
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If you stay near Central Station in Brussel, you are near the beautiful Grand Place. Sablon is another very nice area.
Antwerp is lovely but small, and also has some less lovely areas. With Lavandula's advice, Brussel sounds good for you.
A daytrip to Gent is easy from there. 15-24 July is Gentse feesten; it's a large festival throughout the city, so maybe don't go then (unless the festival is of interest).
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Old May 31st, 2022, 12:42 AM
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Originally Posted by susansweet8756 View Post
We now have 7 days/6 nights in the Netherlands (basing 4 nights in Amsterdam and 2 nights in Rotterdam). We have booked 3 nights at an apartment in Brussels but we are OK as long as within one hour of the airport. We are nervous about staying too far from our flight home, given the strikes that are happening this summer. My mother-in-law was supposed to fly to Amsterdam today and had to re-route to Brussels and then get a ride from family back to the Netherlands, as apparently there will be massive strikes throughout the region (not just at Schipol, as has been the case recently) beginning tomorrow. I'm hoping all of this resolves in the next few weeks!

Thanks so much for this new food for thought.
There are no strikes in the Netherlands that I know of, nor have there been recently. There are no plans for strikes in the Netherlands either that I could find.
There have been problems at Schiphol due to staff shortages, mostly affecting outgoing passengers.

There is a massive general strike in Belgium today.

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Old May 31st, 2022, 08:06 AM
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Any Rotterdam tips I can start to give?
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