Since there are many very well traveled and knowledgeable Dopers out there, I hope some of you can help me out.
I will be traveling to Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam and Paris during the first two weeks of October to celebrate my 50th birthday. We have our hotel booked in Bruges and are renting an apartment in a great location on the Seine in Paris but I am finding myself frustrated with where to stay in Brussels and to a lesser degree in Amsterdam.
From what I can tell Brussels seems rather spread out and has some areas that are possibly a little iffy. We are flying in and out of Brussels and will be spending 3 nights there in total. They are split up at the beginning and end of the trip with our 1st night there and then the last 2 nights. I know the Grand Place is pretty much the center of things so it looks like the last 2 nights will probably be close by. But I would like to experience a different area of the city provided it isn’t too far away from things or unsafe. I realize the public transit is extensive but are the areas of Ixelle and Saint Gilles worth considering as our base for one night or are they too remote from everything? Also, as an urban dweller I’m not normally bothered by neighborhoods that may be a little edgy or in transition but I have seen several comments on different websites saying there are parts of Brussels that may not be very safe for tourists. Is this really a concern or an overreaction on the part of people who haven’t traveled much?
The Amsterdam issue is a bit different. The city looks like it is easy to get around and relatively compact. I have looked around and there are several hotels that have piqued my interest because they are very contemporary or trendy in design but located outside or on the edge of the Canal Ring. Would a place near Vondelpark or on the water near the Amsterdam Centraal train station be a pain?
And I would enjoy hearing any suggestions on restaurants or pubs in any of these cities as well! Also, any offbeat or unique places or things outside the typical touristy items we should see would be appreciated as well!