- Visit Amsterdam's neighborhoods, the Anne Frank House, and the Rijksmuseum
- Experience Dutch classics, from windmills to clogs and Edam cheese
- See Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring" at the Mauritshuis Museum
- Cycle with a guide around three cities: The Hague, Rotterdam, and Ghent
- Graze your way around the chocolate shops of Bruges and enjoy a Belgian beer
|Day 1||Arrive in Amsterdam, Anne Frank House & the Rijksmuseum||Amsterdam|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Marken, Volendam, Edam & Zaanse Schans||Amsterdam|
|Day 3||Transfer to The Hague, Visit Mauritshuis Museum, Private Cycling Tour||The Hague|
|Day 4||Transfer to Rotterdam, Private Cycling Tour||Rotterdam|
|Day 5||Transfer to Antwerp, Discover Antwerp||Antwerp|
|Day 6||Walking Tour of Antwerp with Private Guide||Antwerp|
|Day 7||Transfer to Bruges, Discover Bruges||Bruges|
|Day 8||Transfer to Ghent, Private Cycling Tour||Ghent|
|Day 9||Explore the Museums of Ghent||Ghent|
|Day 10||Transfer to Amsterdam & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Amsterdam, Anne Frank House & the Rijksmuseum
Welcome to Amsterdam! The airport (Schipol) is only 15 minutes from the city center by train, so you'll be settling into your hotel in no time. The Netherlands' capital is a labyrinth of canals and lanes, crowded with its landmark narrow brick houses. Today's self-guided itinerary starts with an important insight into Amsterdam's World War II history at the Anne Frank House. The museum is built around a secret annex, where Anne and her family hid for over two years before their tragic discovery and capture by the Nazis.
Another major Amsterdam landmark is the Rijksmuseum, with its 8,000 artworks across almost a mile (1.5 km) of galleries. This is the place to see a sweep of world-famous homegrown talent, including Dutch Masters paintings such as "The Milkmaid" by Johannes Vermeer and the gigantic "Night Watch" by Rembrandt van Rijn. You'll also find several Van Goghs, such as his 1887 "Self Portrait."
Day 2: Day Trip to Marken, Volendam, Edam & Zaanse Schans
It's time to experience those Dutch classics: clogs, cheese, fishing villages, and windmills, all in the rural, watery landscape that lies just north of Amsterdam. First, your private guide will drive you to the village of Marken, located across a causeway on an island in the Markermeer lake. After walking among the traditional wooden houses, you'll visit a wooden shoe factory and have a chance to buy a pair of painted clogs yourself.
From Marken, a ferry will take you to Volendam, the country's best-known fishing village. The quaint harbor is lined with cafés and fish stands and is an excellent place to enjoy local treats, such as kibbeling (traditional battered and fried fish nuggets), eel, and herring. Next, you'll head to the centuries-old cheese market in Edam. The cheese market is held on Wednesdays in July and August, but the market square and waag (weigh house) will give you a great introduction to the Netherlands' tastiest export.The last stop of your tour is Zaanse Schans. During the 17th century, over 600 windmills were constructed around the Zaanse Schans, creating the country's first industrial zone. 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: Transfer to The Hague, Visit Mauritshuis Museum, Private Cycling Tour
Less than an hour from Amsterdam by train, you'll reach Holland's third-largest city. The Hague is not just the seat of the Dutch government but is known as the judicial capital of the world thanks to the many international courts located here.
However, it's not all law and order—there's also a strong art scene. It's home to one of the world's most famous classical paintings: Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring," which you'll see during a visit to the Mauritshuis Art Museum. Carel Fabritius' "Goldfinch" painting and "The Bull "by Paulus Potter are also unmissable highlights. Other artists displayed in this intimate setting include Rembrandt, Jan Steen, and Frans Hals.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Transfer to Rotterdam, Private Cycling Tour
A 30-minute train journey inland will deliver you to Rotterdam, the Netherlands' second city and a hub of innovation, as seen in its ever-changing skyline and cutting-edge regeneration projects. To explore, it's back on your bike! On this easy-going cycling tour, you'll join a guide for two-and-a-half hours to cycle between the city's most remarkable sights.
Check out Rotterdam center's Cube Houses—39 tilted yellow cubes, each a single-family home. Then, follow the Nieuwe Maas river, a distributary of the mighty Rhine. At the edge of the harbor is Delfshaven, which looks like a miniature Netherlands with its windmills, canals, and little churches.
A short way west, you'll hit the Merwe-Vierhaven district, which was once one of the biggest fruit ports in the world. These days, it's reinvented itself as an area for developers, start-ups, sustainable entrepreneurs, and artists, with the brand of Rotterdam Maker's District. Striking icons include the HAKA building, a 1930s factory that's been redeveloped using recycled materials, and a Floating Farm where cows live aboard a raft.
Day 5: Transfer to Antwerp, Discover Antwerp
Today, you'll cross the international border! The journey from Rotterdam to Antwerp takes around one hour. Upon arrival, you'll find yourself enveloped by the first major sight you'll encounter in Belgium: Antwerpen-Centraal, a magnificent railway station that dates back to 1905. Your hotel will be within walking distance, or you can take a cab.
The day is dedicated to exploring this beautiful city at your own pace. The cobbled medieval streets will take you past countless Renaissance buildings. You can easily wander from one square to the next, ending at the Grote Markt, the city's largest and most important square. Close to the Grote Markt is the enormous Cathedral of Our Lady—inside, you'll find 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 terraces in the city center. If the weather is good, head to one of the river beaches at Sint Anneke or Sint Annastrand, on the other side of the River Scheldt (about a 30-minute walk from the cathedral). You'll find plenty of options for food and drinks at the cafés along the shore.
Day 6: Walking Tour of Antwerp with Private Guide
Now that you've got a feel for the city, you can learn about its history from an enthusiastic local guide. This walking tour begins at Grote Markt, home to the extravagant city hall and numerous guildhalls, many of which were reconstructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries to look like paintings of the old square by Flemish artists. You'll pass the former guildhall Vleeshuis (Butcher's Hall, or literally, Meat House), now a museum, and stroll along the 16th-century Vlaeykensgang Alley, once home to a collective of shoemakers.Next, your guide will take you to the central shopping street of Meir, a grand avenue home to international fashion brands, before exploring the surrounding neighborhood. Along the way, you'll be treated to a few of Antwerp's best-loved food delicacies. The tour ends at Rubens House, the former home and workshop of Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens—although the house is closed for renovation, you can wander around the manicured gardens.
Day 7: Transfer to Bruges, Explore
Say goodbye to Antwerp and zip over to Belgium's most romantic city, Bruges, on a 90-minute journey by train. A city best explored on foot, cobbled streets link countless charming squares, and as the inner city is compact, you'll come face-to-face with monuments every few minutes. The best views to take it all in are from the 272-foot (83 m) medieval bell tower and city emblem, the Belfry of Bruges, on Market Square.
As you stroll among the Gothic and 19th-century buildings, stop at one of the chocolatiers that have become an icon of the city. See if you can snag a table on one of the historic squares to try one of many local Belgian beers, such as the coveted Brugse Zot. Belgium also has a rich mill history. In the northeast corner of Bruges, four medieval flour mills remain. Stroll along the canal for about a mile (1.5 km) to spot them all.
Day 8: Transfer to Ghent, Private Cycling Tour
In half an hour, the train will whisk you to Ghent, the last place on your itinerary, located southeast of Bruges. This port city has a vibrant atmosphere, with the students and young creatives who congregate here helping to make it a cultural hub.In the afternoon, walk or take a bus/tram to the starting point of your small-group cycling tour. The guide will explain the city's history, point out the main sites and landmarks, and show you some lesser-known highlights and street art murals while sharing tips on where to go for dinner or a drink. The tour takes about three hours (including stops), and the roads are flat—so even if you're new to cycling, it will be an easy and pleasant ride. Afterward, you'll hopefully feel at home in Ghent and be able to make your way around to explore the places that most intrigued you on the tour.
Day 9: Explore the Museums of Ghent
Today you'll head off to explore Ghent with a CityCard, which grants you access to all the top attractions, plus free rides on buses and trams. For your fill of contemporary art, head to the SMAK gallery, for the history of the region, choose STAM or go for the Museum of Industry, housed in a former cotton factory that delivers a panoramic view.
Aside from museums, there is also a clutch of historical attractions. The medieval castle of Gravensteen, in the city center, is where the realm of knights in shining armor comes to life. Imposing Catholic cathedral Saint Bavo's is an impressive example of Gothic architecture—and it contains the "Ghent Altarpiece," a famous set of panel paintings by the Van Eyck artist brothers from 1432. Parts of the painting were stolen, and one was never found again—many conspiracy theories persist about the theft and the missing panel's whereabouts.
After a day of sightseeing, it's time to rest your feet and enjoy Belgium's fabulous food and drink. For locally made jenever (the Dutch equivalent of gin), head to 't Dreupelkot, close to Gravensteen Castle. Two elderly men serve homemade jenever in hundreds of flavors in their tiny café, which has a terrace overlooking the canal.