Help me plan my trip… The Netherlands and Belgium

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At the end of May, Mr. Deals and I are leaving the little one with the Grandparents and taking a 5 year anniversary trip to The Netherlands and Belgium! We were pretty open to anywhere in Europe, but with direct flights from Boston (that is where the Grandparents live) and low level awards available on Delta, flying in and out of Amsterdam was the winner. And to top it off, taxes and fees were only around $55/person!

With that being said, I am looking for some suggestions! Places to say, things to do, restaurants to check out, etc. Our primary itinerary includes 2.5 days in Amsterdam, 36 hours in Ghent with a trip to Brugges, and then a roadtrip through the Dutch countryside back to Amsterdam Airport.

Amsterdam: I have two nights here and am currently debating between the the Andaz, the Radisson Blu, and the Park Plaza Vondelpark. I recently applied for the Chase Hyatt credit card so I could use my two free nights at the Andaz, but I am not sure if I’ll be getting the best value – although I am not sure where else I will use them before they expire. The Radisson Blu will require only 50,000 points since I have the Club Carlson credit card and one of the best perks of the card is buy one, get one (when you use points). Or, I could stay at the Park Plaza Vondelpark which is also a Club Carlson property and would only require 44,000 points.

While I do not plan on being in the room much, I do want a nice, clean hotel. More importantly though, I want a great location. Anyone stay at any of the three hotels and want to share their thoughts? One other things to keep in mind is I have Platinum status at Hyatt and Gold status at Club Carlson. While neither is great and will get me much, some hotels are more generous with status than others.

We will definitely be renting bikes and heading out to the countryside and the windmills one morning. We will also make sure to visit the Anne Frank house and walk along the canals. Any other “must-do’s”? We aren’t very big on museums 🙂

Ghent: I already have the Ghent Marriott booked for two nights as it was only $150/night. The reviews seemed great and most importantly people raved about the location. I also have top tier Platinum status, so will receive complimentary breakfast. Although the reviews stated that it is a simple continental breakfast.

While we will be staying in Ghent for two nights, we will be taking a trip to Brugges as I heard it is absolutely beautiful. We are limited on time in both of these cities, so what is your number one suggestion?

Dutch Countryside: This is where I am at a complete blank. While we will have two days in the countryside on our way back to Amsterdam from Ghent, I have no idea where to stay that night. Any suggestions on a hotel (chain, boutique, airbnb), and things to do over the course of the two days.

Thanks all in advance for your suggestions. I will be sure to report back on it and share my suggestions as well.


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  1. I would be happy to share my VERY detailed itinerary of the Benelux trip my wife and I took a few years ago…literally step-by-step, stop-by-stop directions. We stayed in Haarlem instead of Amsterdam and, even though you aren’t big on museums, the Van Gogh Museum is remarkable. We also went to the annual Keukenhof Gardens display — unbelievable! Just e-mail me if you’re interested….

    • Hi Jim,
      I’m planning a trip to Amsterdam, Brussels, and various places in Germany for September, and I’d be very interested in seeing your Benelux itinerary, too! Not sure how to send you an email… Do you have a public Dropbox or something you could host it on? Thanks!

      • Hi, Jeremy! Since prudence suggests neither of us post our personal e-mail addresses publicly, I am happy to post our itinerary here — if “Deals We Like” knows a way to do that.

      • Good afternoon, “Deals We Like”! I will look forward to receiving your e-mail. It is a VERY detailed itinerary with restaurants, train times, and a whole lot more. I only hope Keukenhof Gardens will be open when you travel; it is truly unbelievable. Just getting there on the train and bus moved my wife to tears — brilliant colored fields of tulips as far as the eye can see!

        • Is there anyway I can get the itinerary also– I know it is a pain to send to individuals but with the detail described it would make the trip so much easier. Thank you.

        • Hi Jim and Jen,

          I’d also appreciate to see Jim’s itinerary. We are planning for a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands — this would be very helpful! Would it be possible to have it in email, or has this been posted somewhere on “Deals We Like?” Thank you.

    • I second that vote for the Van Gogh museum. It was one of our favorite stops, along with the Anne Frank house. Definitely rent bikes and ride around. It’s a lot of fun to ride with all the other bicyclists, and neat to have so many bike lanes and bike-specific traffic signals.

      • @Anne – I’ve heard great things about the Van Gogh museum so will be sure to check it out. We are definitely going to ride bikes as well.

    • Hi Jim,
      I am planning a trip for my graduating senior and a friend of his. A portion of their trip will be in Belgium and the Netherlands. I would love to see your Benelux Itinerary, if it’s not too much trouble.
      Thanks so much!

      • @Carolyn – I am looking into finding a way to upload the document to the post. Will let you know when that has been done.

  2. Just did this trip last week (like creepily similar to your trip). If you’re going soon, be sure to go to the Keukenhof outside of Amsterdam, one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

    Bruges was great, if not old people-y. Ghent was awesome because all of the great architecture was really compacted into the middle of the town. Lots of great beers.

    • @Andy – So funny! I am not going until the end of May so not sure the gardens will still be in full bloom.

      Did you go to the Dutch countryside at all? If so, where did you stay?

  3. I just got back from Belgium and have been there several times. I highly recommend spending time in Bruges – it is a charming city. I enjoyed Ghent too, but it is not quite as charming as Bruges. The location of the Marriott in Ghent is perfect – right on a canal. Spending a day in Bruges and one in Ghent would probably work great for you. As far as the Dutch countryside, I recommend Leiden, which can be reached by train. It is a picturesque town with lovely canals and a really interesting museum that has some ancient Egyptian ruins. And most of the Pilgrims who came to Plymouth, MA were from Leiden!

    • @Carol – Fortunately we will be able to visit Bruges and Ghent, but only about 1/2 – 3/4 of a day each.

      I’ll definitely check out Leiden. It seems to be on the way so that could be a nice area. Any hotel recommendations?

      • Unfortunately, none for Leiden – I did it as a day trip from Amsterdam. I’m glad you will be able to spend time in both Bruges and Ghent!

  4. We stayed at the Andaz Amsterdam and it is in a fabulous location. Also, the staff were extremely friendly.

  5. In AMS, Graceland BBQ is the BOMB! Try the Big Elvis Pie. For local flavor try the Cafe Apjen (The Monkey bar) the oldest bar in the city. Do take one to the day tours to the windmills and countryside as they are well worth it and I don’t know if it is still offered, but the tour of the flower auction and Delft factory were amazing! Also if you are my age and falling apart, try a small piece of the local “Spacecake”!
    I have stayed on Hilton points both at the Doubletree by Central Station which was good for location; and the Amsterdam Hilton which is further out, but on the tram line and a beautiful canal and you can get a private tour of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono room where they had a bed in for peace, the room is totally white!

  6. I actually am Dutch, and live in NL and follow your blog! A lot of this also depends on what time of the year you are staying in Netherlands/Belgium.

    I actually stayed at the ParkPlaza Vondelpark last week and was pleasantly surprised. Its a 20ish minute walk through the park to start of downtown. Its a very pretty walk, but much better when the sun is out. If you rent bikes anyway its more like a 5 minute cycle. The room was very clean and recently renovated it seemed. One to note about the room tough, is you’d better be very close to your partner/hubby, as the bathroom is separated by see through glass from the room and the toilet is too. there is a little frosting in the middle but you’d be very able to see your significant other taking a poop… For me and my GF this wasn’t a big problem but I can imagine it could be…

    For a night at the Dutch Country side, I would recomment booking a hotel in “Giethoorn” ITs very pretty and lots of Dutch people go here on day trips. if you like water and boats you can rent a little electric boat. In Netherlands they call it ” the venice of the north” but thats a bit of a overstatement. however I sincerely advise visiting this even if only for a day trip.

    If you need any more info feel free to reach out to my by email! Or if you want to meet up for a drink!

    • @Thomas – Thanks so much for the info! I will be sure to email with some more specific questions. We are going at the end of may, so hoping the weather cooperates!

      That Dutch Countryside area looks absolutely beautiful. However, we are coming from Ghent and it seems as though this area you recommended is north of Amsterdam, so not sure we will be able to swing it. Unfortunately we are limited on time. Any other recommendations south of the city that would be more on the way from Belgium?


  7. We recently spent 3 days in Bruges. I think the best chocolate shop is Dumon Chocolatier (Eiermarkt 6), and the best lace shop is Rosaline (Breidelstraat 20), where four generations have been making and selling lace. We had a very good lunch at Bistro Den Huzaar (Vlamingstraat 36). It’s a lovely place to wander the streets.

  8. Hello,

    I stayed at the Park Plaza Vondelpark in February. It’s a bit out of the way. I would think a hotel closer to the center of town would be better.

    As for what to do in Amsterdam – why not a “touristy” canal cruise? I’ve been to AMS a lot, and did the cruise in February for the first time. I enjoyed it.

    I also recommend The Heineken Experience – very interesting.

    • @FEV7 – Thanks for the feedback on the Park Plaza. I was wondering whether or not the location was ideal and it seems like it is slightly off the beaten path, although not horrible.

      The canal cruise and Heineken factory sounds great too!

  9. We stayed at the Park in Amsterdam a few years ago and loved both the room and the location (& so important to hubby, great breakfast). We’re making a similar trip this year, staying in Ghent and The Hague in June.

  10. I’ve been to Belgium twice, each time for a week.

    Bruges (Brugge in Flemish) is certainly a must-see destination, but it’s only an hour (or less) from Ghent by rail, and probably shorter if you drive there. It would be a wonderful and easy day trip.

    But I actually like Ghent more than Bruges—at least as a place to stay overnight. It’s bigger than Bruges (but by no means as big as Brussels), and quite attractive, but far less touristy than Bruges.

    By the way, if you have never seen the 2008 movie, “In Bruges” (a kind of seriocomic crime drama), see it before you go. I believe it was shot entirely in Bruges. It’s a well-done, highly entertaining movie, and it will probably whet your appetite for going there.

    • @Jim – We are staying in Ghent but traveling to Brugge from there. I’ve never seen (or heard of!) the movie so will make sure to watch it before!

  11. I live in Amsterdam six months of the year and concur that Geithorn is splendid, but a bit difficult to access. In Amsterdam try to see Rembrandtplein with a replica of Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” in bronze statues. The Begijnhof is a hidden gem in the center of the city. The top floor of the Public Library (Openbarre Bibliotheek) east of Central Station has a small cafe with one of the best views of Amsterdam. A good place for lunch. The Keukenhof closes on May 17 this year. Get to the Anne Frank house early or expect a wait. Now for two warnings, watch for pickpockets and even worse don’t even think of taking a cab anywhere in Amsterdam or Schiphol. I 100% guarantee you will be scammed, overcharged and abused. Don’t know much about hotels since our guests usually stay with us. The Hotel Pulitzer on Prinsengracht has an affordable coffeshop with excellent apple pie and a nice courtyard to enjoy it. It is another of my hidden gems. On Wednesday’s at 12:30 the Concertgebouw has a 40 minute casual free concert. Contact me with questions.

    • @David – Great recommendations and I will be sure to watch out for pickpocketers. We will probably walk the entire city so hopefully will not have to rely on a cab. I’ll be sure to contact you with some questions if needed.

      • Hopefully you’ll buy a day pass for the public transportation in AMS. Too little time to attack on foot only.

        Never forget: a “day pass” (or equivalent) gives you the freedom to fail (make mistakes). You can get back on in the other direction, ride just one stop, or whatever. Your time trumps cost when it comes to public transport, which is excellent in AMS.

  12. I went to Belgium last year. I went to Brugge, Ghent, and Antwerp. Brugge was my favorite hands down. Go to the Our Lady church to see Da Vincis Madonna and Child ( the statue that was rescued in Monuments Men) Ghent was just OK. My favorite chocolate was Leonidas. They let you sample. I am not a beer drinker but I loved a cherry beer called Kreik and the waffles are to die for. My only regret is not going to Amsterdam. Oh well, another reason to go again.

    • @Gail – We unfortunately won’t get to Antwerp, but seems like Ghent and Brugge is a must see, so I am glad we are heading there! Sounds like you need a trip to Amsterdam!

  13. Was in Amsterdam late April 2014 and stayed at the Radisson Blu. We have the CC Visas and stayed 6 nights, alternating bookings (his, mine, his) on the 2-for-1 points deal. We were upgraded to a lovely canal view room in the annex – very nice. No breakfast included, but we found several places nearby. It’s close to a lot of things, but still in a quiet area. It’s not on a tram line and almost a mile walk with luggage from Central Station. However, we did cab back to the station the morning of Kings’ Day (to leave before the crowds) and it was 10 Euros which the hotel assured us would be the rate. So, if you stay at the Radisson and want to take a cab there, I’ve been told to confirm the rate before entering the cab. I emailed the hotel with questions before our stay and they were very helpful.
    Unless you are going in early May, as someone posted above, Keukenhof will be closed. It was the prime reason for our trip and was spectacular. We walked everywhere in A’dam, did most of the major attractions (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Anne Frank, Hermitage, Portuguese Synagogue, Resistance Museum, Rembrandthuis, Begijnhof, Our Lord in the Attic, Oude Kerk, Neuwe Kirk), took a canal boat cruise, day trips to Delft, Alkmaar, and Haarlem. If you want to go to Anne Frank House, reserve online ASAP to avoid the wait which can be hours long. There are still things we wanted to do but didn’t get to. You will be spoiled for choice. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
    Was in Antwerp-Bruges-Ghent way back in 1999. Ghent is very nice – even if you are not a museum person, you should see the Ghent Alterpiece – this is the work they were hunting for in the film The Monuments Men. As soon as the movie opened, before they named it, I knew it was the alterpiece they were discussing – it was that memorable. It’s undergoing a major restoration, so I am not sure of the possibility of seeing it, but if you can, you really should. While Ghent is nice, we absolutely loved Bruges and spent 2 days there. Yes, do see Michaelangelo’s Madonna and Child – the only one of his works commissioned outside of Italy. Bruges still holds a special place in our travel memories.
    Long post – can you tell I love Belgium and the Netherlands!

    • @Marilyn – Sounds great, thanks so much for all of the recommendations! It sounds like 2.5 days in Amsterdam won’t be enough which just means we will just have to go back at some point!

      Thanks again!

  14. We recently did a beer based trip to brussels… If you do stop in brussels and like beer, definitely check out Cantillion brewery. Our favorite beer bars were Bison Bar and Moder Lambic.

  15. Try to avoid Bruges on weekend. Apparently there is a German law that you have to go to Bruges on the week-end.
    Also wait to see “In Bruges” after your visit. The 1 st level is all retail but the movie makers perfectly block that out.

  16. Just my two cents, from someone who calls both The Netherlands and the US home:

    The Andaz is great! And a property worthwhile of spending your 2 free CC nights on. Right in the centre. From the other two I only know the Radission. It’s ok, but totally not comparable. Definitely go Hyatt on this one.

    For some info on Holland check out:

    Belgium is really nice too, so good to spend soem days there.

    One other place that’s worth going to is Rotterdam, also has the ‘Windmills of Kinderdijk’ (22 windmills in a beautiful landscape) close by. Rotterdam made many ‘top 10 lists’ lately, google it.

    If you want to know the difference between Holland and The Netherlands…check out:

    Keukenkhof is absolutely must see…as mentioned by others.

    You will enjoy your stay, have fun!

  17. Definitely buy tickets for the Anne Frank House online in advance. You’ll need to choose a time (according to what is still available on the day you want to go). The 30-minute lecture in English is also very worth doing. We were in Amsterdam last October, and I had our pre-purchased tickets, so we just walked right in a separate door. We got there a half-hour before our timeslot, and had time to use the restrooms and have coffee and cake in the cafe. The line was around-the-block long when we arrived, and even longer when we left, and that was after 5:00 pm!

  18. I’m sure you will love my city Amsterdam!

    If you’d like to make a tour through the canals by boat, then I’ll gladly show you around!
    My classic wooden boat can carry up to 10 passengers. Just bring your own food, drinks and friends and I’ll make sure you have an amazing time. 🙂
    Want to hop on board? Contact me on facebook:

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