This itinerary combines the highlights of Holland with the best of Flanders (the Dutch-speaking half of Belgium), which makes for a grand tour of the Low Countries! Start by exploring Holland’s capital, Amsterdam, and experience its famous museums as well as small fishing villages, cheese markets, and windmills in the surrounding countryside. Next, travel south to the booming harbor city of Rotterdam to enjoy some modern Dutch architecture. Then, cross into Belgium, where you’ll start by visiting the city of Antwerp, known for its diamond trade and opulent Renaissance architecture. Your final stop is the lovely city of Ghent, characterized by its many canals, squares dominated by massive cathedrals, and even a medieval castle in the heart of the city center!

Highlights

  • Discover local delicacies on a foodie tour of Ghent
  • Sample locally brewed Belgian beers
  • Gaze upon the works of famous painters from the Golden Age
  • Experience the picturesque Dutch countryside near Amsterdam

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Amsterdam - Anne Frank House Amsterdam
Day 2 Amsterdam - Daytrip to Marken, Volendam, Edam & Zaanse Schans Amsterdam
Day 3 Amsterdam - Rotterdam via The Hague - Architectural Walking Tour Rotterdam
Day 4 Rotterdam - Antwerp Antwerp
Day 5 Antwerp - Food Tour Antwerp
Day 6 Antwerp - Ghent - Museums and Boat Tour Ghent
Day 7 Depart Ghent - Market Day  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Amsterdam - Anne Frank House

Amsterdam Canals

Welcome to the lowlands! After arrival at Amsterdam airport you will have 2 options: to take a 15-minute train ride to your hotel in Amsterdam or alternatively, you can choose to be met by a taxi outside the airport which will take you to your hotel (30-60 minutes, depending on traffic). 

Your hotel will be located in the city center, which is an amazing labyrinth of canals and small streets, dotted with historic houses and other buildings. The center of Amsterdam is relatively small, so most places can be easily reached on foot or by bike. For longer distances, you can alternatively use the city’s tram network or taxis. We will arrange a public transport pass for today in case you would like to travel by tram.

Start exploring Amsterdam at the Anne Frank House. This is a city landmark where you can familiarize yourself with the world-famous life story of a young Jewish girl during the Second World War. The museum is built around the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid for over two years before their tragic discovery and arrest.

If time permits, you could also pay a visit to one of the museums of Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum is the most famous museum in the Netherlands, which houses the country’s most important painting, The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn. Besides this gigantic painting, you can also see The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer and many other 17th-century works by Dutch Master painters. 

Right next to the Rijksmuseum you will find another Dutch highlight: the Van Gogh Museum. Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890) was a dutch post-impressionist painter who created over 2,000 paintings in just over a decade. The Van Gogh Museum houses some of his most famous works, like The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Almond Blossom, and one of his very last works, Wheatfield with Crows. In case your time is limited today, you can also save a visit to this museum for tomorrow morning before your departure.

If you are interested in seeing more of the city, we recommend taking a stroll through the picturesque neighborhood of the Jordaan. Situated on the west side of the city center, the Jordaan is full of beautiful arched bridges, cobbled streets lined with trees, and numerous Dutch “bruin” cafes, where you can spend a cozy evening enjoying the typical Dutch pub snack “bitterballen” and an assortment of local beers.

Day 2: Amsterdam - Day Trip to Marken, Volendam, Edam & Zaanse Schans

Dutch Countryside

After exploring the rich culture of Amsterdam, it is time to check out some other Dutch icons: wooden shoes, fishing villages, cheese, and windmills! Today, you will experience the beauty of the countryside to the north of Amsterdam. Your private guide/driver will take you first to the picturesque village of Marken, located on an island in the Markermeer (once a bay of the North Sea, but now a lake). Here, you will explore the small village and visit a wooden shoe factory. From Marken, a ferry will take you to Volendam, Holland’s best-known fishing village. The quaint harbor is lined with cafes and fish stands and is a good place to enjoy local treats such as kibbeling (traditional battered and fried fish nuggets), eel, and herring.

Next, your guide will take you to visit the centuries-old cheese market in Edam. The actual cheese market is only held on Wednesdays in July and August, but the market square and ‘waag’ (weigh house) itself are very much worth a visit, even without an actual market taking place. 

The last stop of your tour is Zaanse Schans. During the 17th century, over 600 windmills were constructed in the area around the Zaanse Schans, creating the first industrial zone. The windmills were used to grind spices, produce paint, saw wood, and produce oil. A number of these windmills still exist and can be visited today, allowing you to see how these wind-powered machines work, inside and out. After a busy day of sightseeing, your driver will bring you back to your hotel in Amsterdam.

Day 3: Amsterdam - Rotterdam via The Hague - Architectural Walking Tour

Rotterdam Skyline

Today, you will head south to explore the city of Rotterdam. You will take a train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, which takes less than an hour. Along the way, it is also possible to make a quick stop in Den Haag (known in English as The Hague), the seat of the Dutch government, and home to one of the most magnificent paintings in the country: Johannes Vermeers ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’.

Rotterdam is a multifaceted city. It not only is the largest port in Europe, but also is home to swanky food markets, underground clubs, and amazing contemporary art museums. Above all, Rotterdam is the architectural hotspot of Holland that stimulates innovation. Its skyline is always changing!

In the afternoon, a local architect will pick you up at your hotel and take you on a 2.5-hour private walking tour of Rotterdam. From the newly-built Central Station, your guide will lead you through the city, stopping at iconic architectural sites such as the post-war modernist shopping area known as the Lijnbaan, the Theater Square, the Timmerhuis, St. Lawrence Church, and the Markthal. All along the way, your guide will share his expert knowledge about the fascinating history and the future plans of the city. Then, you will walk along the river and view the “Manhattan on the Maas”, a new high-end architectural development on the South Bank. The tour ends at the biggest landmark of Rotterdam, the Erasmus bridge.

Day 4: Rotterdam - Antwerp

Antwerp Central Station

In the morning, you will head over the border to Antwerp, Belgium! The train from Rotterdam to Antwerp takes 1 hour. Upon arrival in Antwerp, you will find yourself smack in the middle of the first major landmark you will explore today. The railway station in which your discovery of the Belgian region of Flanders begins was built in 1905 and has magnificent interiors as well as an impressive facade. From the railway station, you can either walk to your hotel or take a taxi. 

The afternoon is free for you to explore the heart of this beautiful, historic city. The city center is situated in a relatively small area, so it’s easily seen on foot. The many narrow, cobbled medieval streets will take you past countless amazing Renaissance buildings. You can easily wander from one square to the next, ending at the Grote Markt, the biggest and most important square in the city. Close to the Grote Markt is the enormous Cathedral of Our Lady, which should not be missed. The construction of this Roman Catholic cathedral started in 1352. Within its interior, you will find a significant number of paintings by the famous Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. 

While in Belgium, do as the Belgians do and stop to enjoy a cold Belgian beer on one of the many cozy terraces in the city center. If the weather is good and you really want to relax, head to one of the city’s river beaches at Sint Anneke or Sint Annastrand on the other side of the Scheldt river (about 30-45 minutes walk from the Cathedral of Our Lady). You’ll find food & drinks at the cafes along the shore, or bring your own picnic as many locals do.

Day 5: Antwerp - Food Tour

Belgian Delicacies

After breakfast and a leisurely morning, you will indulge in Antwerp’s cuisine with a walking food tour through the city. No food tour here would be complete without a stop at a classic Belgian bakery, where you’ll try the famous Belgian frieten (chips), chocolate, and waffles. The smell alone is sure to make you drool! As Antwerp is a harbor city, the local cuisine is not only Belgian but has international influences as well. 

The tour ends near one of the city’s foodie hotspots, so you can continue to taste on your own if you’re not too full already! From here, it is a 10-minute walk to the Rubens House, the home of the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens in the 17th century. The house is open to the public and offers a brilliant opportunity not only to see some of the artist’s works and incredible architecture from the era but also to learn more about the way Rubens lived and view many additional works from his students.

Day 6: Antwerp - Ghent - Museums and Boat Tour

Gravensteen Castle

This morning, you will return to the Antwerp railway station to catch a train to the fairy-tale city of Ghent. The train ride will take less than 1 hour.

You will have a pass for the day that gives you free entry to all sites, monuments, and museums in Ghent. Ghent is home to many wonderful monuments and museums such as S.M.A.K.(modern art), STAM (history), and the Design Museum (design, of course). We would suggest you pay a visit to the medieval castle Gravensteen, located right in the city center. The world of knights in shining armor comes to life here! Also, the massive St. Bavo’s Cathedral is a must-see. The Gothic cathedral is well-known for the famous Ghent Altarpiece (The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb), a famous set of monumental paintings from 1432 by local artist brothers, the van Eycks. Parts of the paintings were stolen in the past, and in fact, one was never found again. There are many conspiracy theories about the theft and the whereabouts of the missing panel.

In the late afternoon, head to the Leie river near the Grasbrug bridge. Here you will board a boat that will take you through the canals of medieval Ghent. Just sit back and enjoy the views of this picturesque city! The tour is roughly 40 minutes and will drop you back at the Grasbrug. Just over the bridge is the city center where you will find plenty of tasty restaurants. Our suggestion, if you like mussels and oysters, is the Pakhuis. This former warehouse still has a distinctly industrial feel and great cuisine.

For locally made jenever (gin) head to ‘t Dreupelkot, close to Gravensteen castle. Two elderly men serve their own jenever in hundreds of different flavors in this tiny cafe.

Day 7: Depart from Ghent - Market Day

Streets of Ghent

Today is your departure day, but before you say goodbye we recommend that you check out the Vrijdagmarkt. Literally meaning Friday Market, this fresh market is not only open on Fridays, but on Saturdays as well, and is a great spot if you like seafood. Even if your departure does not fall on one of the days that the market is open, this square is still worth a visit. Take a stroll and gaze up at the magnificent old buildings, and enjoy a drink at one of the many cafe terraces. 

If by chance you are departing on a Sunday, be sure to head to the Kouter in the morning before taking off. Each week there’s a large flower market here. In addition to many stalls selling flowers and plants, another sells cava and oysters. Many locals head here for a drink and snack.

Once you are ready to say goodbye, head back to the railway station to catch a train to the airport or onward to your next destination.

Map

Map of Highlights of Holland & Flanders - 7 Days
Map of Highlights of Holland & Flanders - 7 Days