Two nights in Amsterdam vs Amsterdam and Brussels?
March 17, 2017 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Flying into Amsterdam, and working making my way to London within the span of a few days. Trying to decide between staying 2 nights in Amsterdam, versus one night in Amsterdam and one night in Brussels, en route to the UK. Advice?

Asking for a friend who is traveling next week and has not been to either Amsterdam or Brussels. He is flying in from the U.S. on Monday and isn't sure if it's worth trying to hit up both cities. General advice on train travel between those countries also welcome as he has not booked those tickets yet, and does need to be in London sometime Thursday afternoon. Thank you!
posted by NikitaNikita to Travel & Transportation around Amsterdam, Netherlands (15 answers total)
Best answer: Two nights in Amsterdam, without question. It's a terrific, very explorable city (one of my top-10) with enough to keep you occupied for weeks and while travel between the two isn't very complicated or expensive, your friend will have a far more enjoyable time devoting his already quite limited visiting time to a single city and saving the other for another time. Spend the time visiting the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum or the Anne Frank House or just walking around any of the wonderful neighborhoods in the historic city. It'll be far a better use of time than the easy but uneventful train journey between Amsterdam and Brussels and splitting a mere two days between both cities won't give any real chance to experience the charms of either.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:07 PM on March 17, 2017 [8 favorites]

Ditto, takes a day to get the feel of the city, second day= wnderful.
posted by Freedomboy at 7:19 PM on March 17, 2017

Yeah. I once spent several days in Amsterdam and loved it; I also once took a day trip from the Netherlands to Brussels (roughly what your friend would be in for on a AMS-BRU-LHR train trip) and thought it was meh. This is not anything against Brussels, but more against trying to see either city in a day.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 8:07 PM on March 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Brussels is beautiful. But you'll spend 2-3 hours on the train to Brussels. By contrast, the flight to London from Amsterdam is 45 mins. Stay both days in Amsterdam, for sure. Source: I lived there up until six weeks go. Even just one museum visit will take up a good portion of one of your friend's days.

Sidenote: if you want to go to the Anne Frank try to buy tickets online beforehand. Otherwise, the line is pretty massive. This is good advice for the Van Gogh and Rijksmusem too, but the Anne Frank is BY FAR the most popular museum in the Benelux region.
posted by Brittanie at 8:56 PM on March 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, one of the most popular things popular Amsterdam is the nightlife. Splitting the trip between two cities would cut into that nightlife quite a bit.
posted by Brittanie at 8:57 PM on March 17, 2017

I live in Amsterdam. One year I decided to go to Brussels for a birthday treat. At the train station ticket desk I said, "I'd like to go to Brussels!" And the man replied, "Why?"

Later that day, I puked into a bin.

So my advice would be to stay in Amsterdam.
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:12 AM on March 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

Definitely stay in Amsterdam. Brussels is 2+ hours each way and there could be train delays.

If you want to day trip, consider Utrecht (25 minutes by train) or Den Haag or Rotterdam (both 45 minutes by train). If you want to visit a tourist attraction, try Zaanse Schans (20 minutes by train) or Keukenhof (40 minutes by train + bus).
posted by neushoorn at 1:50 AM on March 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I haven't been to Amsterdam but I have been to Brussels. You know that thing you get where you visit a new place and you're like "wow I can't wait to get back here" well Belgium is the only place I've ever been where I don't think that.
posted by The Monkey at 2:43 AM on March 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

There are better towns in Belgium then Brussels. Amsterdam to Ghent seems pretty straight forward on the train and Ghent is great, lots of history from being a massive player in the middle ages wool trade. Their city museum is fantastic, as are the many bars selling long lists of belgian beer and gin

If your friend is desperate to get their Belgium on, go somewhere other than generic-euro-town of Brussels.

That said, I'd stlll do 2 days in Amsterdam.
posted by fatfrank at 2:55 AM on March 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Going to both cities is in this case pretty much like ordering two fancy desserts when you know you cannot eat more than two spoonfuls, and eating just a spoonful of whipped cream off of the top of each of them.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:53 AM on March 18, 2017

Best answer: Having lived close-by Amsterdam for 24 years now (and close to Belgium for the other 18 yrs) my answer would be Amsterdam for two days: no hurries and two days will give you the chance to see a bit of the different sides. For museums I can recommend the smaller FOAM and Huis van Marseille (bot photography), nice for an hour or some more. And walking around the horseshoe part (you'll see that when you look at the city-map), and next to it the Jordaan neighborhood, is just beautiful to see the old canals, and the small-ness of Amsterdam you don't get to feel in the red light part, behind the Dam and around with the big shops and (drunk/stoned) tourists. Amsterdam has neighborhoods with a different atmosphere. And of course lots of boutique shops. You could take a covered canalboat around the Grachten, to relax (if it's raining especially).
Also there is the Eye and around where you can look over het IJ which is the harbor-part, for a nice walk or having lunch/drinks overlooking that.
I like Amsterdam for just walking around (in the not so busy parts) looking at things and people (on my way to something). And I would say 2 days for Brussels as well, European cities are really walkable or tram-able etc and great to explore and need more than a day to enjoy to taste the atmosphere, absolutely.

- Also, Brussels is absolutely not the most interesting town in Belgium. Antwerp or Ghent are great.
- travel: from Amsterdam to London I'd take a flight, bus travel through the tunnel is loooong, so is train for the same reason. Blablacar app is a flexible, interesting and cheap option if you need to go from Belgium to Amsterdam, it lets you carpool with people driving those distances regularly (for instance: Brussels-Amsterdam 2-3hrs for 15 euros).
posted by Litehouse at 4:57 AM on March 18, 2017

Best answer: The fastest train trip from Amsterdam to London is just under 5 hours: Thalys from Amsterdam to Bruxelles Midi, then Eurostar to London St. Pancras. However, if you fly, you have to account for not only the flying time but the time to get to Schiphol (which isn't that much), getting through security, and then once you arrive in London, getting into the city center from whichever airport you land at. By the time you land at Heathrow, clear immigration and customs, make it to the tube station, then ride the tube into central London, you'll have spent an hour and a half or more; if you take Heathrow Express, you can get from the central Heathrow station to Paddington in 15 minutes, but that's pricy, and you still have to allow transit time from Paddington to your destination.

Also bear in mind that luggage allowances on inter-European flights are less generous than on transatlantic flights, so if your friend flies, he might need to pay a luggage surcharge. Personally I hate flying, so I would take the train. Since the UK is not part of Schengen, he'll need to pass UK immigration and customs at the Brussels train station, and there is a metal detector and baggage screening, but it's still much less of a hassle than flying, IMO.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:28 AM on March 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't forget there is an easy ferry option from Amsterdam to London. Yes, it requires an overnight trip, but that's part of the adventure (and you can have your own cabin). I really enjoyed it and would recommend it for sure!
posted by lettezilla at 11:16 AM on March 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

SO great advice here and I agree with everyone, but just out of principle, I feel I need to defend Brussels. It is not an easy city, and I would never recommend it for a day trip. But it is also not a horrible place. There are amazing museums, restaurants, street food, markets, architecture and art. And a special vibe unlike any other place. I miss Brussels
posted by mumimor at 12:19 PM on March 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I second the ferry option (the cabin comes with its own bathroom!), and also thumbs up for Brussels, which has loads to do (although a lot you can do in one day).
posted by mollymillions at 4:58 PM on March 18, 2017

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