Firstly, Benelux is Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. I always wanted to do a 10-day trip to Iceland along with 10 days in Benelux as it fit perfectly together. I wanted to visit Amsterdam in May for Tulips. Moreover, in Iceland May is a shoulder season. So it fitted perfectly month-wise too. In our 10 days in Benelux, we saw a mix of touristy and offbeat places. In 10 days in Benelux, we saw a lot of charming city and towns, endless tulips, churches and square in each city and loved the ease of travel (English is spoken everywhere and vegetarian food is readily available).
Travel Dates – 6th May to 14th May
Day 1 – Fly to Amsterdam
We flew by KLM, and our plane was completely packed. We landed at 8 am, getting out of the airport was a breeze and took a taxi to our hotel.
Make sure to buy the SIM card at the airport. When we were there, there was a vending machine at the baggage claim for Vodafone SIM cards. We didn’t get it as the cheaper ones were sold out. When we searched in the city centre, shops were selling the same card for a higher price. Eventually, we had to go to a Vodafone store to buy one SIM card.
After a red-eye flight, the first day we keep for rest. We are exhausted after a flight as we can’t sleep on the small cramped seat in an upright position. So we ordered some room service and slept for most of the day. Though many people call this a crazy move and prefer to stay awake, the entire day and sleep only during the night, so their body clock gets adjusted. But we don’t have such problems and sleep pretty much the entire day and again in night.
In the evening, we were up and relaxed, so took a tram to the city centre. The first glimpse of Amsterdam blew us away. It was a couple of years since we had been to Europe and loved the fact that everyone spoke English, easy to get a taxi, vegetarian food is available at every nook and corner and fell in love with the beauty of Amsterdam.
Accommodation and Dinner
We stayed at Crowne Plaza Amsterdam South. I mainly chose this hotel as we were Gold members of IHG and in our experience, they have been more considerate than other brands to give an early check-in and inter-connecting rooms. We really wanted to check in at 8 am rather than the stipulated time of 3 pm. It is our worst nightmare to not get a room after an 8-hour red-eye flight. I literally begged them to give us an early check-in over various emails before our arrivals, and indeed they had both rooms ready early in the morning.
For dinner, we went to Indrapura. It is an Indonesian restaurant offering Rijsttafel. It sounded strange, but it was something unique to Amsterdam and we had to try it out.
Day 2 – Amsterdam – Day trip to Keukenhof and Tulip fields
How to reach Keukenhof
1) If you plan to visit only Keukenhof, the best way to get there is by taking the Keukenhof Express bus from the Amsterdam airport (line 858). It takes you directly to Keukenhof in 30 minutes.
2) If you plan to visit tulip fields after Keukenhof, then rent a car for a day and drive to Keukenhof.
From our hotel, we took a taxi to the airport and then rented a car for a day. Being a Sunday, the city centre car rentals didn’t open early in the morning. So we had to rent a car from the airport. Shockingly, we forgot our passports, which is essential for renting a car. We had pre-booked a car on Avis’s website for 75 Euros, but they needed a physical copy of the passport. So eventually we paid around 100 Euros to get a car from Hertz, who accepted a digital copy of the passport. It was a bummer, but travel mistakes are a part and parcel of travel.
Tip – Before planning a trip, check on the Keukenhof website for opening dates and timings.
A Day in Keukenhof
After getting our car sorted, we reached Keukenhof around 9 am (opens at 8 am). There weren’t any lines for tickets and we entered the park quickly. This was something we had dreamt to visit for years. Mom had actually dreamt of seeing tulips for 16 years when she saw it in the movie Silsila. She loves anything to do with flowers. However, before visiting, Kapil was of the opinion that it is over-hyped.
The moment we entered, we were blown away by the first glimpse of it. For a couple of hours, we just spent admiring beautiful, colourful tulips as far as our eyes can see. We strolled through the entire park in our own leisure time; clicking a million pictures. Since we visited late in the season and that year tulip bloom was early, I read on the travel forum that most of them were harvested. I was kind of not expecting much, but it turned out to be in one simple word – AMAZING. They make sure tulips last the entire season. We loved it so much that I’ll say this is one place you have to visit before you die!
In the park, they also have a boat tour which takes you around the tulip fields. We did this too, but most of the tulip fields around Keukenhof was already harvested.
Everyone knows about Keukenhof, but there aren’t many who visit tulip fields in the Netherlands. Without visiting a tulip field, I’ll say your experience is incomplete. I had heard about a couple of them and there is also a tulip festival in Noordoostpolder. I had planned to visit the tulip festival and drive through the 100 kilometres route surrounded by tulips. Also had booked a helicopter tour over the tulips. For dates and all information, check its website. Since tulips got harvested early, they closed the season early and even the helicopter tour got cancelled.
So I was disheartened and had almost given up on seeing tulip fields. But then I read on the TripAdvisor forum, a review from a random person who saw tulip fields, north of Amsterdam, just a few days before our visit. We left Keukenhof at 4 pm and thought to call it a day. But since we took the hassle of renting a car and it was just an hour away, we decided to drive to it and try our luck. In GPS, we key in Schagen and started our drive.
Once near to the place, to our surprise, we saw a lot of colourful tulip fields. We just randomly drove around the area. Indeed, we saw quite a few tulips fields blooming in all their glory. We drove through Schagen, Schagerburg, Sint Maartensvlotbrug, Belkmerweg, Burgerburg, and Petten. A few rows had already been harvested, but still, we saw many gorgeous tulip fields.
It was a dream come to true, and we cherished every moment we spent around the tulips. Around 6 pm, we drove back to the airport, returned the car, took a taxi to the hotel and called it a day.
Accommodation and Dinner
Hotel – Crowne Plaza Amsterdam South
For dinner, we were lazy to go out and just called for delivery of Indian food. We used the Deliveroo app in Benelux, which served us well.
Day 3 – Amsterdam – City Sightseeing
To explore the city, buy a day pass for trams. They are very convenient to get around central locations. But we purchased a 24-hour ticket for Hop on Hop off Bus. We usually love the HOHO bus, but in Amsterdam, I wouldn’t recommend it. The wait times were too long and were overcrowded. Also, didn’t enjoy the route and the seats were uncomfortable too.
Anne Frank House
- We are not into museums, but once I heard about her story, we had to visit it.
- If you don’t know, it is the house where Anne’s family hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and now it is a museum.
- You must purchase tickets online months in advance for a dedicated time slot. It is so popular that they don’t allow walk-in visitors.
- We spent an hour in the museum and were really moved by her story, how they lived and what all they had to go through.
After the visit to the museum, make sure to eat Amsterdam style pancakes at Pancake Amsterdam, right next to the museum.
HOHO Bus and Canal Cruise
From Anne Frank House, we took the HOHO bus. It took a lot of time to arrive and then it was full. We begged them to let us in and stood till the next stop. We took a whole round in the HOHO bus which was about decent and got off at the central station and then took their canal tour as we had purchased the combo ticket. Their canal tour was most boring and would suggest doing it with some other company. Albert Cuypstraat was a stop on their canal tour and we got off there.
- It is a street market with a lot of food stalls and shops.
- I love shopping for souvenirs and trying different food. This is what exactly I did here.
It was already mid-afternoon, and we saw Savarana Bhavan right on the corner of the Albert Cuypstraat market. Eating a South Indian meal in a foreign country is difficult to pass. We had either time to stuff our-self with Idli-Dosa or visit one of the art museums. We were tired to explore a museum and had a sit-down delicious lunch.
Van Gogh Museum or Rijksmuseum
- Both are art museums and if you are a sucker for museums, can visit both.
- We don’t like museums much, still wanted to visit one of them, but skipped it to eat dosas.
- For the Van Gogh museum – The average time of visit is 75 minutes. Take a peek at the third floor, where you can find works from famous impressionists such as Pissarro and Monet. Don’t miss masterpieces ‘Sunflowers’ and ‘The Potato Eaters’. Buy your tickets online and avoid the queue by entering through the priority line.
- For Rijksmuseum – Look at the museum map to make sure you have seen all the famous masterpieces. Could spend days wandering around this magnificent museum, so make sure you plan your visit in advance.
Dam Square (250 meters from Red-Light District)
- It has some places worth checking out – Royal Palace, New Church, National Monument and World war 2 memorial.
- We reached at 5 pm when most attractions close in Amsterdam. Just wandered a bit, saw from outside and moved on.
- You can take a guided tour and learn the history of the area.
- We reached there around 5:30 pm when there was hardly anyone there. From there we took a cycle rickshaw tour for 30 minutes which turned out to be a pleasant way to explore the area and then he dropped us at our next stop.
- This is a relatively newer attraction and a must-do thing in Amsterdam.
- You can visit the observation deck from where you get a panoramic view of the city.
- But the highlight of it is ‘Over the Edge’ which is Europe’s highest swing on their sky deck. You swing 100 meters above the ground, back and forth over the edge of the tower with Amsterdam below your feet.
- Surprisingly, the ticket for the observation tower is 15 Euros and the swing cost only 5 Euros extra. The swing is such a new and a thrill experience, that it can easily cost way more.
- To get here – Get to Amsterdam Central Station, Follow the signs ‘IJ-Zijde’ (IJ-Side) and take the 2-minute free ferry to ‘Buiksloterweg’ and walk 2 minutes to A’dam Lookout. Do not take a cab from the central station, it will be a very long and costly ride.
Accommodation and Dinner
Hotel – Crowne Plaza Amsterdam South
We skipped dinner as we had a heavy lunch.
Day 4 – Amsterdam to Ghent
Train to Ghent via Antwerp
- Make sure to book the train as early as possible to get the best price.
- We booked Thalys from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Brussels and got off at Antwerp as it turned out to be cheaper this way.
- We reached Antwerp at 8:30 am and explored a bit. The highlight is the Antwerp station, which we took some time to explore and ate some breakfast.
- After we were done, we took the next train to Ghent. We purchased the tickets at the station as prices were fixed irrespective of when you purchased it (at least when we visited). We reached Ghent around 10:30 am, took a cab to our hotel, dropped our bags and went to explore Ghent.
- Ghent is a tiny city and can visit most of the places in a day. Also, it is so small that you can walk everywhere.
- First, we did a canal tour. Our hotel was bang in the city centre, so the canal tour was right outside our hotel.
- Out of all the canal tours we did in Benelux, this was the best. In a brief time, it felt like they showed us the entire city from the comfort of the boat.
- The tour also had a guide who kept us entertained throughout the tour.
It was almost mid-afternoon and for the rest of the day, we just walked around admiring stunning architecture and also visited church and bell tower. Ghent is so tiny that within a kilometre radius, you can check out all the sights.
- An attractive building that was formerly the old post office in Ghent.
- You can also go inside, which has now been converted into a shopping place.
- Also, houses a lot of restaurants.
St Nicholas Church
- Built-in the Gothic style, impressive from inside and outside.
- Worth visiting when in Ghent and doesn’t require much time to check it out.
Belfry and Cloth Hall
- From here, you can see the spectacular panoramic view of Ghent.
- Need to climb only 55 steps to the first floor and then there is an elevator to the top.
- Each floor has a small exhibit like the dragon statue and the various bells which ring every 15 minutes.
St Bavo’s Cathedral
- Yet again a beautiful church, free to visit.
- It houses the mystic lamb painting for which there is a small entrance fee.
- They don’t allow photography.
- It was worth a quick visit to see the painting and the church.
Town Hall (Stadhuis)
- A quick photo stop.
- A strange massive building, one side was adorned with large rows of black marble columns, whereas the other side of the building was in distinct Gothic style.
- It is a medieval castle with a lot of history.
- They offer a free audio guide and it takes around an hour to visit.
- We were lazy to walk anymore, hence skipped it. We just saw it from outside during the canal tour.
Graslei and Korenlei
- It is the city centre of Ghent. Graslei and Korenlei are two quays on the banks of the river.
- Here you will find beautiful guild houses lined all along the river.
- Full of restaurants and cafes where you can sit and soak in views for hours. Or just sit around the waterfront admiring the stunning architecture.
- This is also the place from where the canal tour departs.
- Must check out Micheal’s Bridge, which is one of the best vantage points for panoramic views of Ghent
- During the nighttime, it becomes magical. To witness the nighttime views, we stayed in Ghent and did a day trip to Bruges rather than the other way around. It surely didn’t disappoint.
Accommodation and Dinner
We stayed at the Ghent Marriott Hotel. Mostly I don’t choose city centre hotels and stay a little away from the city centre to get a wonderful hotel at a cheaper price. But here I made the exception. Ghent Marriott was right in the city centre, with one side facing the canals (pedestrian only) and the other side being accessed by a car. So we got the best of both worlds. Also, I had a gold membership, so they offered free breakfast but didn’t get an upgrade or an early check-in. Rooms and bathrooms were of a good size with all the amenities.
We were slightly disappointed at check-in. We arrived at 10 am and they informed us that check-in time is 4 pm and was not ready to commit if they could give us rooms early. On asking by when they can give us rooms, to which they mechanically replied 4 pm. Even being gold members didn’t help. Eventually, we got rooms at 1 pm but we could plan things better if they could just give us an approx time on arrivals.
Another reason to stay in Ghent rather than Bruges is that many call Ghent the vegetarian capital of Europe. So I wanted to eat dinners in Ghent. I had an extensive list of places and it was difficult to choose where to have dinner. An Indian lady at our hotel’s reception suggested Holy Food Market, which is like a food court. Our experience was nothing great. Anyway, I guess it closed down permanently.
Day 5 – Ghent – Day trip to Bruges
Most things in Bruges open at 10 am and close by 6 pm. So it is best to reach by 10 am to get an entire day to explore Bruges. Bruges is only a 25-minute train ride away from Ghent. Try to schedule your trip for a Wednesday as there is a farmer’s market on the main square. Like every European city, there has to be the main square, a couple of churches and a tower. Bruges was no different, and we spent the day checking out various sights.
From Train Station to Markt
- From the train station, you can either take a bus or a short 10-minute taxi ride to get to the city centre.
- Once at the centre, everything is within walking distance.
Grote Markt (1.6 Km from the station)
- This is the main square, surrounded by dozens of tourist-oriented gift shops and restaurants.
- For sightseeing, you can do a 30 minutes Horse Drawn Carriage Tour or a 50 minutes bus tour. We chose the former as our taxi driver highly recommenced it. It was a fun way to see the city and would recommend doing it. Make sure to do this first thing in the morning as lines get long later in the day. We did it at 10 am and there were plenty available.
- At the square, there is the Belfry tower where you need to climb 366 steps to get a panoramic view of the city. We skipped it.
- Moreover, on the square, there is a farmer’s market on Wed from 10 am to 1 pm. There are many vendors selling fresh produce. Also, there were a lot of trucks selling all types of food like fries, waffles, chocolates, cheese, meat, etc. For veg, we found a truck selling delicious noodles and rice. We grabbed a box of it, sat on the stairs overlooking the square and relished every bite. Whenever we talk about Bruges, this is the first thing that comes up. Simple things make long-lasting memories!
Historium Bruges (At Markt)
- It’s a museum where you can see how lively Bruges was during the Golden Age.
- You are taken on an audio Tour as a group through rooms where a story unfolds about the old 14th century Bruges. They portray the story through film, backdrops, animatronics, dramatic music and special effects.
- I’m not into museums, but Kapil wanted to visit them. It was an enjoyable experience and didn’t take much time to check it out.
- Also, make sure to visit the balcony for a panoramic view of the Market Square and the Belfry Tower. Here you need not climb steps.
- We also did an 8-minute virtual reality experience, which was a super fun thing to do.
- As the name suggests, it is a museum dedicated to fries.
- It explains the history of the potato and fries and the different condiments.
- Would be a fun thing with kids. We glimpse through the exhibit in half an hour and it was pretty boring.
- In the basement, they have a shop selling fries, but they fry in animal fat, so we couldn’t try it.
Right next to the Frit Museum is the Choco Jungle Bar from where we tried their hot chocolate. They presented in a very fancy way, but within minutes Kapil banged the table and dropped entire hot chocolate on me. They were so kind and gave us a fresh one and even refused to accept payment for it.
- After fries, we had to visit the chocolate museum. Fries and Chocolates are 2 staples of Belgium, so we couldn’t leave without visiting at least 1 chocolate museum.
- First, you walk through the exhibit focusing on the origin and evolution of chocolates.
- Then, we saw a short demonstration of how chocolate is made and even got to try free samples.
- It was nothing great. We have seen better chocolate presentations in the past. Also, it was more like been there done there like things.
- Yet another square worth checking out.
- Houses wonderful medieval buildings, church and souvenir shops.
- Town Hall (Stadhuis) – Beautiful building and can visit from inside to see the impressive Gothic Hall. We just saw it from outside.
- Basilica of the Holy Blood – Church is free to visit. But make sure to pay to visit the small amazing museum.
Church of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk)
- This was yet another popular church in Bruges which we wanted to visit.
- It closes at 5 pm and we reached around 4:45 pm. They didn’t allow us as ticket sales were closed for the day.
St. Salvator’s Cathedral
- If you have some time and want to visit yet another church, you can check this out.
- We had time to visit this cathedral or do a canal tour. We chose the latter.
- After doing a canal tour in Amsterdam and Ghent, we did one here too. Dad loved these kinds of tours and has to do at each place.
- There are 3 different places to board along the canal and they are quite close to each other. If lines are long at one place, you can try others. All tours are the same. When we went, one place had closed for the day, but boats were running from the second boarding point.
- It was a fun way to see Bruges.
- But I’ll suggest doing the canal tour in Ghent and the horse carriage tour in Bruges.
After the canal tour, we had an early dinner at Chez Vincent, a rare place in Belgium serving fries cooked in vegetable oil (not beef fat).
It was past 6 pm when most things close in Bruges. I was looking to do some souvenir shopping, but all shops had closed too.
The Minnewater Lake (near the train station)
- It’s a beautiful lake. The area has a lot of swans.
- There are a couple of restaurants and cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by.
- On the horse carriage tour, they stopped here for a quick 10-minute break. So we didn’t bother visiting again.
We loved our day spent in the charming city of Bruges and saw everything we had on our plans minus the one church. I was satisfied with one day spent in Bruges and didn’t wish to stay any longer. Then we took the quick train back to Ghent and spent the night there.
Accommodation and Dinner
Hotel – Ghent Marriott Hotel
For dinner, we were full from the fries we ate in Bruges and didn’t have dinner in Ghent.
Day 6 – Ghent to Brussels
Obviously, the easiest way is to take a train from Ghent to Brussels. Our initial plan was to rent a car in Brussels and drop it off in Paris. But then we decided to rent the car in Ghent itself and save on the train cost. The entire morning got wasted in renting the car, as the car I had booked turned out to be smaller and took a lot of attempts to fit our luggage. They didn’t have any bigger cars available and said we can change it in Brussels. When we went to their Brussels centre, they informed us that there was a miscommunication and they can’t give us any bigger car as we were returning it to Paris. All this took half a day, and we reached the hotel by 1 pm.
We check in to the hotel and were supposed to leave straight away and check out Atomium and Mini-Europe. But we got hungry and lazy, so just ordered food from a delivery app, rested a bit and left only by 3 pm. Thus, we had time to visit only a church and try some chocolates.
Notre Dame Du Sablon (Church of Our Lady)
- This was one of the most beautiful churches we visited during our 10 days in Benelux and is something you should not miss.
- From the outside, it is a masterpiece with stunning architecture and from inside it is huge with a high ceiling and lovely stained glass windows all around.
- After visiting the church, cross the street and check out the small park with a beautiful fountain.
- Gathered around this square, you will find Belgium’s finest chocolate shops. This is one of the more expensive corners of Brussels, but the quality of chocolate here is definitely worth your money.
- After visiting the church, we wandered around the square checking out different chocolatiers like Godiva and Pierre Marcolini, sampling various types of chocolates and bought boxes to take home for friends and family.
- At Sablon, we spotted a market from where we got some delicious Chinese food.
After that, we were heading to Grand Place Square, but it started raining. Hence we just went back to the hotel and chilled for the rest of the evening.
Accommodation and Dinner
We stayed at Hilton Brussels Grand Place. It is next to the central station and a few minutes from the main square. Since Belgium hotel prices were relatively cheaper and we went in May, which is slightly off-season, I chose to stay here. In terms of location, it was perfect. But the rest of the things were meh.
Firstly, at check-in, we got no helped with the luggage. But during our stay, I saw various people getting help with it. On the bright side, they gave us an early check-in at 1 pm. We got the newly renovated rooms, but it felt lacking in some amenities. We got the interconnecting rooms, but it was for the namesake. It was interconnecting but didn’t have a latch that could keep the doors open. Hence you needed a key to access the inter-connecting door. Also, the room just had a tiny window. However, the bathroom was fancy and good.
I’d separate booking for each night. So they could not give me keys for 3 nights and wanted me to collect a new key each night. This was very painful. After a tiring day, had to go to reception to get new keys and even wait in line when they were busy. Also, each time they would ask for some document and had to explain to them that I’ve already given them. The last night, I encountered a rude staff, and it was tough to deal with him.
Considering, now they have increased prices a lot since I had stayed, I will recommend staying elsewhere.
For dinner, we ordered Indian food on Deliveroo and relished it in the comfort of our room.
Day 7 – Brussels – Day trip to Alkmaar & Windmills (Netherlands)
Every Friday, Alkmaar host a cheese market and they put together a small show. I really wanted to visit it and do a day trip from Amsterdam. Because of work issues, we reached Amsterdam only on Saturday. Also, we couldn’t visit Belgium first and Amsterdam later, as it would be late for the tulip season. I was really sad about leaving this and even at one point wanted to postpone the entire trip to the next year. But Kapil suggested let’s do a day trip from Brussels and he was totally fine driving 500 kilometres for it.
We left at 6 am and reached by 9:30 am. Try to reach early to get a good spot.
Drive to Alkmaar (250 Km, 3.5 hrs)
- There is a Cheese market at the square, Waagplein from 10 am to 1 pm.
- The cheese market is surrounded by a fun art and craft market. This is where you can find real Dutch ‘poffertjes’ (Little Dutch Pancake), herring, farm cheese, a clog maker, craft stalls and much more!
- The Cheese Market is in the town centre. You can use the PRIS (Parking Route Information System) to find directions to the car parks – there are boards with the symbol P, which displays where parking is available. It is better to use one of the car parks rings in the centre. If not available, you can use the P+R parking’s Bergermeer or Oudorp from where you can access the centre by bus.
- On the day we went, it was raining, which took the beauty away. The cheeses are laid out for inspection and then loaded onto stretchers, carried by the Cheese Bearers wearing traditional attire, and then the cheese is taken for weighing. It was more of a gimmick and touristy. The primary focus remained on selling cheese.
- We also checked out a small cheese museum which is worth visiting if in the area.
- From one stall we tried their cheese and veggie sandwich and it was so tasty that we went back for more.
- Surrounding the main square, there are hundreds of sellers selling an endless variety of cheese. We bought some to take home.
Volendam (30 Km, 35 min from Alkmaar)
- Here you can visit the cheese factory and also has a lovely harbourfront area where you can grab something to eat and chill.
- We weren’t done with cheese in Alkmaar and visited the Cheese Factory in Volendam. When we reached, they had just finished the demonstration, so we waited an hour for the next one. We saw big machinery and thought they will show us a live demonstration of how cheese is made. That’s why we wasted an hour. It turned out that in the demonstration they only talked about various kinds of cheese and nothing more. When it came to tasting time, they shoved everyone out of the room and forced them to go upstairs and buy their cheese. Again, it was all about selling cheese and nothing more. However, we got a dip from here, which was so delicious with the cheese that we miss it.
- We visited a stroopwafel factory, but they had no demonstrations available for the day.
- If you want more, visit Alida Hoeve Shoe and cheese factory. We didn’t have time for it.
Kinderdijk – Windmills (117 km, 1.5 hrs from Volendam)
- You can’t leave Amsterdam without seeing windmills.
- Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can see a unique collection of 19 windmills in an authentic Dutch landscape.
- Since we did a day trip from Brussels to Alkmaar, this was en route. If you doing a day trip from Amsterdam to Alkmaar, this will be in the opposite direction. From Amsterdam, you can do a day trip to Rotterdam and Kinderdijk. From Rotterdam, you can even take a 30-minute water bus to get to Kinderdijk.
- While entry to the area is free, you need to purchase tickets for the movie, entry to the two open mills and a boat ride. The boat ride is a fun way to see all the windmills, but we reached late and missed it.
- We walked along the path admiring the beauty of the area and checking out various windmills.
- Do not miss the opportunity to visit the museum and go inside an actual working windmill.
Rotterdam (22 Km, 30 min)
- It was only a 20 km detour on our route. But it was almost evening, so we skipped it.
- Rotterdam is a modern city, worth visiting for its unique architecture.
- Some places to visit – Central Station, Erasmus Bridge, Markthal, Cube house and Euromast tower (to get a panoramic view of the city).
Moses Bridge (65 Km, 50 min from Kinderdijk)
- A random photo of this bridge popped up on my Facebook and aptly captioned it “the sunken bridge”.
- I google its location and found it to be only a 15-kilometre detour on our drive from Kinderdijk to Brussels.
- Our GPS took us to a spot that seemed out of nowhere. From there we walked 2 minutes and spotted the bridge with not a single soul around.
- We spent some time clicking photos and moved on.
- If you are there, can have a look around, else don’t make take any efforts to visit it from Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
Drive to Brussels (90 Km, 1.5 hr from Moses Bridge)
- Drive back to Brussels was uneventful, and we reached in daylight. The benefit of travelling during summer is that you have daylight till 8-9 pm.
In all, we covered a lot of places today. Yes, indeed we drove 500 kilometres but driving through highways, for the most part, didn’t make it tiring. I’ll say the cheese market was nothing special and definitely not worth driving 500 kilometres for it. My family still calls me crazy! But it would definitely be a fun trip if doing it from Amsterdam. The countryside of the Netherlands was good and it would be a perfect thing to do after visiting Alkmaar.
Accommodation and Dinner
Hotel – Hilton Brussels Grand Place
Day 8 – Brussels
Today we spent exploring various sights of Brussels.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral
- It is within walking distance of Grand Place.
- We stopped here for a quick visit.
- It was yet another beautiful church, but by now we were bored with visiting endless churches in our 10 days in Benelux.
City Sightseeing Bus (Hop on and Hop of Bus)
- We love to explore any city by the city sightseeing bus (HOHO). We love to sit at the top deck, listen to the audio commentary, and admire the beauty of the city. It does waste a lot of time waiting for the bus at each stop and you land up covering fewer places. But it is perfect when you don’t want to visit too many sights in a day. Else, the taxi is obviously quicker and direct.
- On the HOHO bus, make sure to just sit and enjoy the full route. That’s why we mainly take the HOHO bus and normally do it when we are tired and want to give rest to our legs.
Blue Route of HOHO Bus
First, we took the blue and boarded the bus from the Central station. We didn’t get off at stops 2 and 3 but managed to get a photo from the comfort of the bus. We got off at Mini Europe/Atomium, which is a must-visit place in Brussels.
Mini Europe – Stop 4
- It’s a miniature model park just behind Atomium.
- There is a similar one in the Netherlands called Madurodam which we have seen in the past and had thoroughly enjoyed. So this time we visited the miniature park in Brussels.
- It is big and well presented. It houses sights and attractions from the entire European Union in miniature form. Whereas Madurodam had only Dutch attractions.
- We loved it and spent a couple of hours.
Atomium – Stop 4
- This featured in Kapil’s textbook, and for many years we thought it is just a fictitious photo. When we found out that it is a real monument in Brussels, we always wanted to visit it.
- It is a symbol of Brussels and Belgium and indeed a masterpiece.
- From the outside, it is unique and impressive and I would highly recommend visiting it during your 10 days in Benelux. But from inside it is nothing special and seemed a waste of money.
- First, we took the elevator to level 7 from where we saw a panoramic view of Mini-Europe and the city in distance.
- The renaming floors have permanent and temporary exhibitions accessible by climbing 80 steps. We saw one on them on level 1 and was quite disappointed. So didn’t bother seeing others.
After having lunch at Mini-Europe, we caught the HOHO again and completed the remaining blue route. We didn’t get off anywhere and admired the city from the bus. At the last stop, we changed to the red route and did this for the remaining day.
Red Route of HOHO Bus
- It was late evening, so we just did the entire route admiring various buildings from the bus and didn’t get off anywhere.
- At stop 2, Royal Place, we saw Coudenberg Palace.
- Sablon, stop number 3, is where you will find Church of Our Lady-of-the-Sablon. We had already seen it yesterday. Else you must get off and see it out from inside.
- Justice Palace (Stop 4), we just saw it from outside. If you have time, can visit from inside.
- On stop 5, you can see various houses.
- Stop 6 is Flagey, a square with plenty of places for food and drinks.
- We wanted to do a 90-minute tour of the Parliamentarian (Stop 7) and even had time, but we were tired and didn’t get off the bus and just continued further.
- Cinquantenaire (Stop 9) houses Autoworld, the car museum which we wanted to see. But we reached there after the closing time. It also houses a Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History. Apart from that, you can just chill in the park (Parc Du Cinquantenaire). Also, don’t forget to go up the lift to the top of the arches for a beautiful view.
- Last but not least, Royal Palace (Stop 11) which is a federal parliament and when we were there, it wasn’t open for visitors. So a quick photo stop.
Do not miss various Tin Tin Mural Paintings located throughout the city.
Finally, after covering both the routes, we got off at the Central station and went to see the main square of Brussels.
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (100 meters from Grand Place)
- This is an indoor shopping place filled with restaurants and chocolate shops.
- Here, you will find half-a-dozen chocolate shops – Neuhaus, Godiva, Marcolini, Mary, Corné Port-Royal, Corné 1932 and so forth. Most places are chain and charge different prices at different locations.
- From inside, it was gorgeous. Worth just strolling around and doing some window shopping.
- We bumped into Haagen-Dazs and had to stop for their extravaganza ice cream at a premium price.
- It is just off the Grand Place.
- Everyone knows, it is a very small and overrated statue, but still, they have made it so popular that everyone just wants to click a picture.
- I was expecting it to be a tiny statue surrounded by a crowd. Indeed, it was much smaller than even my expectation.
- However, on the way to it, you will see many waffle shops and obviously, we couldn’t leave Brussels without eating waffles. We tried both varieties and loved both of them.
Grand Place (Main Square)
- By the time we reached here, we were dead tired and my family wanted to just call the day and crash. I pushed them as I couldn’t leave Brussels without seeing Grand Place.
- Once we reached there, the beauty blew away us. Also, our tiredness seem to vanish away and we just wanted to sit there admiring the stunning architecture all around and watch the world go by.
- If Manneken Pis is the most overrated statue, I’ll say this is the most underrate square.
- Around the square, you will find Town Hall and magnificent guild houses.
- It is filled with restaurants, chocolates, cafes, Belgium fries shops and waffle places.
- We wanted to see it in the nighttime when it looks magical, but the sunset was at 9:20 pm and waiting that long was an impossible task for us.
- This is between Manneken Pis and Grand Place, which you can visit for everything related to chocolates.
- They offer a 45 mins tour which includes a taste of hot chocolate and 4 samples of chocolate.
- Choc demonstration happens only at limited timings, so make sure to check timings on its website.
- We saw the chocolate museum in Bruges, so neither did we have the interest nor time to visit any other chocolate demonstrations. Though, I think we should have skipped the chocolate museum in Bruges and instead visited this one.
Accommodation and Dinner
Hotel – Hilton Brussels Grand Place
For dinner, we ate stir fry at Gatsu Gatsu.
Day 9 – Brussels to Luxembourg to Paris by Car (600Km, 6 hrs)
Our initial plan was to do a day trip to Luxembourg City from Brussels. But then I thought why not just rent a car and instead of coming back to Brussels, drive all the way to Paris. Driving 600 kilometres in a day is crazy and I would have liked to stay a night in Luxembourg City. But it was our last-minute plan, and we didn’t have an extra day. Also, once I started researching, I found a lot of interesting places in Belgium en route to Luxembourg, but we had time only for a few of them.
Namur Citadel (70 Km, 1 hr)
- Drive to the top and be rewarded with an excellent panoramic view of the city.
- Once at the top, we took the mini-train which takes you through the grounds of the citadel. It was a fun way to see the citadel and I would highly recommend doing it if in the area.
- We even did a tour of the citadel where they give you an audio guide wherein you can listen and see through the history of the citadel. It was boring and wasted time on our jam-packed day.
- They also have a tour of underground passages, which we didn’t do.
Les Jardins d’Annevoie (17 Km, 20 min)
- It is a beautiful garden between Namur and Dinant.
- We didn’t have time, so skipped it.
Dinant (15 Km, 20 min from gardens and 30 mins from Namur)
- It is a picture-postcard perfect city in Belgium.
- USP of it is the beautiful Citadelle with a mountain backdrop. It is so beautiful that I would recommend doing a day trip to Dinant from Brussels just to see this.
- Once in Dinant, we found it tough to find a parking spot near the Citadelle. Eventually, we found a pay and park place a few meters away from it.
- We took the cable car to the top and explored the Citadelle. It is a fortress and the best part was the views from up there. I guess you can also skip the cable car and drive to the top and park the car at the top (limited parking spots).
- After exploring the fortress, we took the cable car down and also visited the church.
Other places we wanted to visit but didn’t have time:
- Le Chateau de Lavaux Sainte-Anne – It is yet another castle that you can visit on this route.
- Euro Space Center – Lot of fun things to do here. Really wished knew about it earlier and had an extra day to visit all these places.
- Vianden Castle in Luxembourg – I thought I’ll have time to visit this, but unfortunately, we were rushing things as the long drive to Paris was haunting us. It takes around an hour to explore.
Luxembourg City (136 Km, 1.5 hrs from Dinant)
- We finally step foot in Luxembourg city in the evening. Since we were doing Belgium and the Netherlands, I could not miss out on this small, beautiful country. We had a max of 2 hours to see this beautiful city/country and probably we just touched it.
- Parking is scarce in Luxembourg city and we parked in one of the pay n park garages and then tried to explore the city on foot.
- We had plans to catch the mini-train but landed up at the wrong spot. Then tried to catch the HOHO bus, and it didn’t work out.
- I tried searching for one place I desperately wanted to visit the Corniche but couldn’t find it. The city was hilly and not walkable for us.
- From the old town, we followed the sign to Grund and took the elevator down. It was a picturesque little neighbourhood where we spent 5 minutes before taking the elevator back up.
- Also, it started raining. So we took shelter and devoured some pizzas and waffles.
30-minute Taxi tour of Luxembourg City
- We had given up on seeing anything and almost went back to the car. That’s when Dad came up with the plan that let’s take a taxi to Corniche and tell him to show us a glimpse of the city. We would do these a couple of times in the old days when we wouldn’t drive. Hence, we hired a taxi who agreed to show us around but couldn’t give a fixed price and we have to pay by the meter. We agreed, and he turned out to be a delightful fellow, driving us through this small city in 30 minutes. Also, it was pretty reasonable and didn’t cost a bomb.
- Corniche is arguably the most beautiful balcony in Europe. Indeed, it was spectacular. I could have clicked a million pictures and starred for hours, but our taxi meter was running :).
- He also drove us through the picturesque old town with narrow, crowded alleys.
- There are other places which you check out if you keep time here unlike us – Pfaffenthal Lift, Casemates and many more.
Tip – Fuel is very cheap in Luxembourg, fill the tank.
Drive to Paris (384 Km, 4 hrs)
By 6 pm, when everything closes, we started our long drive to Paris. Most of the drive was on the highway which was quick as the speed limit was 130 km/h. The drive was uneventful but returning the car to Paris was a nightmare that I have written about in the planning blog.
Afterwards, we explored Paris for 2 days, flew to Iceland and did an epic road trip for 10 days and finally flew back to India after 20 days of awesomeness.
That’s it on my 10 days in Benelux itinerary and trip report. We loved Amsterdam, and it is easily my favourite European city. Seeing tulips, which was a dream for 16 years, blew us away. Loved exploring all the charming towns and cities in Belgium. Many say don’t visit Brussels, visit Bruges instead. Bruges now has become so touristy that I’ll say visit Ghent instead. The thing with the advent of the internet is that in no time a beautiful tourist less place becomes overrun by tourists. But that is travel all about and visit a place which interests you. I loved all the places in Belgium and wouldn’t want to skip any. Luxembourg is a cute small country where we had only a few hours. In all, we had an epic 10 days in Benelux and except for having an extra day in Luxembourg, I wouldn’t change a thing.
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Planning a trip to Iceland and 10 days in Benelux?
Check out all the other posts in this series:
Benelux, Paris & Iceland Trip Planning and Booking
Vegetarian Food in Amsterdam: What we ate in 3 days
Vegetarian Food in Belgium: What we ate in 5 days
2 Days in Paris: Trip Report & Our Misadventures
10 days in Iceland: An Ultimate Itinerary & Trip Report – Coming Soon
Accommodation and Vegetarian Food in Iceland – Coming Soon
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