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1 week in Brussels and Amsterdam

As the retrieval of itineraries from the archive continues, this post features our family trip in Belgium and the Netherlands in the summer of 2014. Long story short, we found cheap tickets for one week in Brussels, and that’s how we ended in that part of the world. Amsterdam appeared later when we were creating a draft itinerary. We were thinking of going on a day trip to Luxembourg and Amsterdam, but even though a day would be enough to explore the major sights in Luxembourg, the same would not be true for Amsterdam. So, we decided to divide our time between Brussels and Amsterdam.

In Brussels, we stayed at the ibis Brussels City Centre hotel, and in Amsterdam, we stayed at the ibis Styles Amsterdam Amstel hotel. The main reasons for choosing them was their price and location (good transportation hubs nearby). We used a Thalys train to travel between Brussels and Amsterdam in just 2 hours.

Length: 8 days

Time of the year: Summer – July

Suitable for: Families with teenagers

Difficulty: 1 | 1,5 | 2 | 2.5 | 3

Highlights: Atomium, Mini Europe, Comics Art Museum, Grand Place, Walibi Amusement Park, Bruges | Dam Square, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Vondel Park, Science Centre NEMO, Anne Frank House, Albert Cypmarkt

What to book in advance?

  • Plane and train tickets to get the best deals.
  • Accommodation to stay in your prefered area.
  • Theme Park tickets to avoid queuing in the entrance.
  • Anna Frank House tickets need to be bought online as early as possible (at least up to 2 months) as they can sell out quickly. In the past, you had to queue outside the house if you didn’t manage to get an online ticket, but now they have changed it and if you don’t secure an advance ticket a small number of tickets will be available online on each day. More information is available on the official website.
  • Van Gogh Museum tickets as they are only available online.
  • Rijksmuseum tickets to avoid long entrance queues.

Day 1 – Arrival Day

Use this day to arrive in Brussels and settle into your accommodation. All the fun starts tomorrow.

Find out more about Brussels here and the city’s public transport here.

Day 2 – Sightseeing Day

Grand Place, Brussels
The Grand Place in Brussels, Source: Pixabay

10:00 Atomium

Spend the morning inside the signature landmark of Brussels, the Atomium. Its story goes back to the World Exposition of 1958 that was held in Brussels. (Learn more about World Expos in this older post I wrote.) Five of the nine spheres are used as exhibition spaces. This 165 billion times maximisation of a unit cell of an iron crystal provides great views over the city.

How to get there?

The closest station is Heysel/Heizel and you can get there via metro line 6, bus 84 and 88 or tram 7.

Find out more about the Atomium here.

12:00 Mini Europe

Mini Europe is a place in Brussels full of miniatures of European cities. It has 350 models of famous landmarks and all of them are constructed in a 1 to 25 scale. 

How to get there (from Atomium)?

Mini Europe is opposite Atomium and, hence, it is a 5-minute walk.

Find out more about Mini Europe here.

15:00 Comics Art Museum

This museum is housed in the Belgian Comic Strip Centre and showcases the history of comic books. The main characters in the exhibition are (who else?) the Smurfs and Tintin, all of them being creations of Belgian artists.

How to get there from (Mini Europe)?

The easiest way is to take metro line 6 from the Heysel/Heizel station towards Elisabeth and then get off at Rogier. From there, walk for 8 minutes before arriving at the Comic Book Museum.

Find out more about the Comics Art Book Museum here.

17:00 Grand Place and Manneken Pis

Grand Place is the main square in Brussels, and it has a place in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The beautiful architecture of its surrounding buildings makes it one of the most popular landmarks in Brussels. A short distance from the square is located the Manekken Pis, the famous fountain of a small boy (hint: it’s even smaller than it seems).

How to get there from the Comics Art Museum?

The Grand Place is a 10-minute walk from the Comics Art Museum.

Alternative: If you have time you can visit the Museum of Original Figurines (MOOF) on the way to the Grand Place.

Find out more about the Grand Place here.

Day 3 – Amusement Day

10:00 Walibi Amusement Park

This thematic park has rides for all ages (my favourite is the thrill ride Buzzsaw). However, the majority of the attractions are for younger children.

Note: The park is closed during winter.

Alternative: Not a theme park fun? Then, head to the nearby Waterloo and learn everything about the homonymous battle.

How to get to the Walibi Amusement Park?

There is a direct train from the Bruxelles-Midi station to Bierges-Walibi. The station is 150m from the park.

Find out more Walibi Amusement Park here.

Day 4 –  EU & Bruges Day 

Bruges
Walking around in Bruges, Source: Pixabay

10:00 Parlamentarium

Parlamentarium is a place to learn about European Union history, politics and operations. It is located in the European Parliament in Brussels, and it is the largest visitor centre of its kind in Europe. The information in the museum is available in any of the 24 official languages of the EU.

Note: Parlamentarium is only open during the afternoon on Mondays so you may need to adjust the order, if visiting on a Monday.

Alternative 1: Not interested in European Union politics? Then, you may want to check out the other museums in the capital, like the Museum of the City of Brussels, the Royal Palace of Brussels and the Town Hall.

Alternative 2: Spend the whole day in Bruges.

How to get there?

The closest station is Luxembourg and can be reached via bus 34, 38, 71, 80, 95, 27, 64,12 or 21.

Find out more about Parlamentarium here.

14:00 Bruges

Magical Bruges is in the plan for the afternoon. Have a stroll in the city centre; taste some Belgian waffles (if you haven’t done it already) and go on a boat tour in the lovely canals of the city. 

How to get there?

Take the train from Bruxelles-Midi to Bruges/Brugge. There are frequent services and the train ride lasts approximately one hour.

Find out more about Bruges here.

Day 5 – Arrival Day II

14:00 Amsterdam

Take a morning train to Amsterdam and allow yourselves some time to arrive at your preferred accommodation.

How to get there?

Take the train from Bruxelles-Midi Station to Amsterdam Centraal Station. Both Thalys and Eurostar trains operate direct services in under 2 hours.

17:00 Dam Square

The Dam Square is the main square in Amsterdam, very close to the central train station. It connects the roads Damrak and Rokin and runs along the Amstel River. If you have time, you can also take an evening canal cruise. (Note that cruises depart from various locations).

Alternative: Go for a walk in the Red Lights District. 😉

How to get there?

Dam Square is easily reached via the Amsterdam Centraal Station. The closest bus and tram station is Dam, where buses 285, 287, 289, 291, 293 and trams 4, 14, 24 stop.

Find out more about Amsterdam here and the city’s public transport here.

Day 6 – Museum Day

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The exterior of the Rijksmuseum, Source: Pexels

10:00 Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is dedicated to the art and history of Amsterdam. In front of the museum, it used to be the “I amsterdam” sign, but recently it has been removed as people gave more attention to the sign than to the museum itself.

How to get there?

The closest stop is Rijksmuseum, where buses 288, 237, 357, 297 and trams 2, 5 and 12 stop. 

Find out more about the Rijksmuseum here.

14:00 Van Gogh Museum

This museum is dedicated to the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh. It houses the largest collection of works created by the Dutch painter.

How to get there (from Rijksmuseum)?

The Van Gogh Museum is a 5-minute walk from the Rijksmuseum (it will take longer if you stop for photos, obviousvly).

Find out more about the Van Gogh Museum here.

18:00 Vondel Park

Relax in the largest park in Amsterdam next to the Museum Quarter.

Alternative: If you finish earlier from the above museums, or they are not of your interest you can also visit some of the other museums in the area like the Diamond Museum and the Stedelijk Museum.

How to get there (from Van Gogh Museum)?

The closest point of the part with the Van Gogh Museum is 5 minutes away on foot.

Find out more about Vondel Park here (in Dutch).

Day 7 – Museum Day II

10:00 Science Centre NEMO

It is the largest science and technology museum in the country and has many hands-on activities. (This one is one of my favourite science museums to date.)

Alternative 1: Visit another museum like the Maritime Museum that is opposite the Science Centre NEMO, the Royal Place or the Rembrandt Museum.

Alternative 2: Visit one of the other attractions in the city like Madame Tussauds, Body Worlds, Amsterdam Dungeon and the Heineken Experience.

How to get there?

Take bus 22 or 246 and get off at Kattenburgerstraat. From there, it is a 10-minute walk.

Find out more about Science Centre NEMO here.

14:00 Anne Frank House

One of the must-see places in Amsterdam features an unforgettable experience in the place where Anne Frank used to live when she and her family used to hide during the WWII. The tiny spaces make one wonder how so many people could live in such a small area for so long. Read the book first; it is going to give you invaluable context.

How to get there (from Science Cente NEMO)?

The quickest way to get to Anne Frank House from the Science Centre NEMO is to walk to the train station (about 15 minutes) and then get tram 13 (towards Geuzenveld) or 17 (towards Osdorp Dijkgraafplein) to Westermarkt.

Find out more about Anne Frank House here.

Day 8 – Market Day

Amsterdam
Wandering in the canals of Amsterdam, Source: Pixabay

10:00 Albert Cuyp Markt

If you have time in the morning, then visit one of Amsterdam’s markets. Here, I mention the Albert Cuyp market, as it was close to our hotel. This market has all kinds of items as well as food.

Alternative: Other markets in the city are Antiekcentrum, Postzegelmarkt, Waterlooplein and the Flower Market.

How to get there?

Bus 285 (stop Van Woustraat) and tram 4 (Stadhouderskade) stop close to the Van Woustraat street entrance to the market. Trams 16 and 24 (Albertcuypstraat) stop at the other entrance of the Market. 

Find out more about the Alber Cuyp Markt here.

Bon voyage! | Goede reis!

P.S. This was our first time exploring two cities in one trip and even if it sounds tiring it wasn’t. Also, feel free to change the order of the museums in Amsterdam and Brussels.

Elina Michaelidou

Elina is a computer science graduate and a traveller enthusiastic. Read everything about her travel experiences here.

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