Brussels, Bruges & Amsterdam travel questions

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!


I have no help to offer but an bumping this because my wife and I are planning a very, very similar (oddly similar) trip later this year.

I’d heartily recommend Antwerp as a place as an alternative to somewhere else in Brussels. Try and stay away from Antwerp station, and closer and if possible, near the Cathedral. Its one of the nice real cities in Europe, less touristy than Bruge and more of a real city.

I lived up near the diplomatic district in Brussels, its not really anything special to go and stay in…

Personally, I’d never really do Amsterdam again, did it a couple of days and never really enjoyed it. Still, I guess if you are over that way, you have to say you’ve done it. I suspect that will be my attitude to LA when I visit next month…

I’ve been to all three places, though not for very long in each.

Bruges - Only spent about a day here as a side trip from Brussels. Ate and had beers outside at some little cafe near the Brugse Zot. Had more beer and did the tour at Brugse Zot and did a little sidewalk shopping in that area as well. Went to the Church of Our Lady to see the Michelangelo sculpture, Madonna and Child. Before heading back to Brussels we took the train out to Oostende to get a look at the sea and just kind of walked around for a couple hours.

Brussels - Only spent one night here and didn’t see much outside of the Grande Place. Stayed at an Ibis hotel a few blocks from the GP. We came in by train in the early afternoon, got the hotel and then walked around a bit. Had mussles and frites from a small sidewalk cafe just off the GP and shopped around for some chocolate to bring home.

Amsterdam - Arrived by train and checked into our B&B. Toured the Van Gogh museum and did the Heineken Experience. Then coffee shop, dinner, canal cruise, red light district, back to B&B around 4am. The next day we’d heard there was a annual festival happening up in Edam, so we checked out of the B&B and took a bus up to Volendam and found a hotel there. From there we walked around Volendam and over to Edam for the cheese festival. An interesting experience with folks dressed in traditional garb and weighing big wheels of cheese. Next morning back to Amsterdam to see the Poezenboot (aka cat boat, a floating cat shelter) and more walking around before catching the train to Brussels.

Looking at Google Maps and checking out some things online I’ve gotten the same impression about the diplomatic district in Brussels. It doesn’t look very interesting to me at all. The old city center though looks interesting and since I enjoy a wide variety of Belgian beers I’m not worried about keeping myself entertained for the short time I will be there. Plus the Magritte Museum, the Atomium and the Belgian Comic Strip Center (Tintin!) should keep us entertained. I’m more interested in hearing about neighborhoods and great places for food & drink.

You’re the first person I’ve heard not recommend Bruges though. I would love to spend time in Antwerp and Gent as well but there is only so much time. We really don’t like running in circles when we travel so 4 cities in 14 days is plenty for us.

And Amsterdam? Well, it’s Amsterdam. Plus they have the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum and Rijksmuseum! That is really quite a lot to take in.

But again, I would love to hear any suggestions about great places for food & drink in any of these cities as well as answers to the questions about the best neighborhoods in Brussels and Amsterdam.

Be aware that the Van Gogh Museum in the Museumplein is closing for renovations just before you get there! The paintings are being temporarily rehoused at the Hermitage Amsterdam. Details here:


Thank you very much for the heads up on that Baron!

I just spent May 14-28 in, you guessed it, Brussels, Amsterdam and Bruges (and Delft, Ghent and Utrecht as well).

Brussels is a giant yawn; 2 full days and you have everything there is to see. The Grand Place, the Mannekin Pis, the Royal Gardens, and that’s pretty much it. It’s also sort of Euro-sketchy and dirty like Paris.

Amsterdam seemed more interesting- we only spent a day and a half there, but it seemed like a neat place, if a bit touristy, and with all the touristy crap being sex or pot oriented. Still, it seemed like a fun and pretty place that I’d like to spend a few more days in.

Bruges/Brugge is cool, but crowded and hyper-touristy as well. I much preferred Ghent, Delft and Utrecht myself. Maybe not quite as over-the-top touristy, but not tourist traps either, and every bit as pretty.

One thing- you’d better love fried potatoes. You can’t buy any food in Belgium or the Netherlands without it coming with a pound of frites!

That is pretty much what I’m thinking. Where in the city did you stay? Other than the near the Grand Place did you check out any of the other parts of town like Ixelles or Saint-Gilles?

Since we are spending our first night there and then heading out to Bruges I’m not worried about getting bored with it. The last two nights we are back there and by then I imagine we will be happy to take it easy for a couple of days.

We will only be in Bruges for two days. It looks like Ghent would be close enough for a day trip if we got bored after one day in Bruges. Also, being there in October I am confident the crowds and tourists will have eased up quite a bit.

I prefer Ghent to Brugge, the alter piece in the cathedral in Ghent is by Van Eyke. They have the canals too. Antwerp cathedral is gorgeous ( some of my ancestors are buried there:D)

Brugge does have a pieta by Michaelangelo, though.

I’d skip Brussels altogether and do Bruges and Ghent.

Amsterdam’s a great city - despite being touristy, I’d urge you to check out the Anne Frank House. You won’t regret it. And the Van Gogh museum’s a must, no matter where it’s housed. Also, eat some of the pancakes. Don’t think it will matter much where you stay - it’s pretty easy to get around. We enjoyed the Hotel de Filosoof when we stayed there the first time wevisited.

Public transport is good in Amsterdam, watch your valuables though, yes and eat herring too.

Eh, I never found Amsterdam to be any more dangerous than any other major city.

Wow, I am a bit shocked about the lack of enthusiasm for Brussels, which is one of my favorite cities in the world…

I have spent a considerable amount of time there (a week here, a week there, on 6 or 7 separate visits) and always had a blast just walking around, stopping in any random place that looked interesting and enjoying a grain-based beverage or three before heading to the next spot.

I guess it’s all a matter of personal preference, but Brussels is 10x more enjoyable to me than Amsterdam is, and I say that as someone who likes Amsterdam.

I’m happy to finally have someone show up who feels this way. We are flying in and out of Brussels so we will be spending some time there without doubt. I also enjoy the beers and am eager to visit the Mort Subite Cafe. What other cafes would you suggest?

Also, if we stayed near the Botanic Gardens would we still be reasonably near the old city center? That is really my major question, as I have mentioned several times. The trip is set so we will be spending our time as follows - Day 1 in Brussels, Days 2 & 3 in Bruges, Days 4, 5, 6 & 7 in Paris, Days 8, 9 & 10 in Amsterdam and back to Brussels for Days 11 & 12 with our flight out on Day 13. The last two days will probably be near the Grand Place. The hotel we are looking at for those nights doesn’t have rooms in our price range for the single night at the beginning of the trip. Most of the nice looking hotels available on that date look to be further out so I am looking for info on how remote some of these other areas actually are from the center.

They must be thinking of Ostend hoverport.

Don’t you think you should restrict that sort of remark to something artistic?

A must for anybody remotely interested in comics.

Fucking Bruges…

True, but it’s just a caution, ASM seems to draw a bit more of a unsavory element(I found)