This itinerary combines the highlights of the Netherlands with the best of Flanders (the Dutch-speaking half of Belgium). Start by exploring the famous art museums of Amsterdam, then head into the Dutch countryside to see small fishing villages, cheese markets, and picturesque windmills. You'll travel to the port city of Rotterdam for a bicycle tour before crossing into Belgium. Finish the trip by tasting gourmet local specialties on a food tour of Antwerp and cruising around medieval Ghent on a boat.

Highlights

  • Discover local delicacies on a food tour of Ghent
  • Sample locally brewed Belgian beers with a local crowd
  • Cycle around Rotterdam on a guided tour
  • Admire the works of famous painters from the Dutch Golden Age
  • See windmills in the picturesque Dutch countryside

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Amsterdam and Visit the Anne Frank House Amsterdam
Day 2 Day-trip to Marken and See the Windmills at Zaanse Schans Amsterdam
Day 3 Visit The Hague and Cycle to the Beach The Hague
Day 4 Cycle Around Rotterdam on a Guided Tour Rotterdam
Day 5 Sightsee and Relax on a River Beach in Antwerp Antwerp
Day 6 Taste Local Specialties on a Food Tour of Antwerp Antwerp
Day 7 Sample Chocolates and Enjoy the Scenery in Bruges Bruges
Day 8 Enjoy a Boat Tour Around Medieval Ghent Ghent
Day 9 See Ghent's Top Markets and Cultural Highlights Ghent
Day 10 Depart Ghent  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Amsterdam and Visit the Anne Frank House

Amsterdam's canals at night

Welcome to the Dutch Lowlands! After arrival at Amsterdam's airport, transfer to your hotel in the city center. You'll start exploring Amsterdam with a visit to the Anne Frank House. Learn about the famous story of a young Jewish girl who lived here during the Second World War; the museum is built around the secret annex where she and her family hid for over two years.

Several other museums are nearby. The Rijksmuseum is the most famous museum in the Netherlands, housing the country’s most important painting, The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn. Besides this masterpiece, you can see The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, plus many other 17th-century works by Dutch Master painters. Right next to the Rijksmuseum, you will find another Dutch highlight: the Van Gogh Museum. The Dutch post-Impressionist painter created more than 2,000 paintings in just over a decade. Later, take a stroll through the picturesque neighborhood of the Jordaan and stop to have dinner there.

Day 2: Day-trip to Marken and See the Windmills at Zaanse Schans

Windmills and natural scenery in the Dutch countryside

After exploring the rich culture of the capital city, 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 north of Amsterdam. 

Begin in the picturesque village of Marken, located on an island in the Markermeer lake. Explore the small town and visit a wooden shoe factory before catching the ferry to Volendam, Holland’s best-known fishing village. The quaint harbor is lined with cafés and fish vendors. It's a good place to sample local treats like kibbeling (traditional battered and fried fish nuggets). Next, your guide will take you to visit the centuries-old cheese market area in Edam. The market happens on Wednesdays in July and August, but the market square and waag (weigh house) itself are very much worth a visit even outside those times. 

The last stop on your tour today is Zaanse Schans. During the 17th century, over 600 windmills were constructed in the area as part of an early industrial zone. The windmills were used to grind spices, produce paint and oil, and cut wood. A number of these windmills still exist and can be visited today, inside and out. 

Day 3: Visit The Hague and Cycle to the Beach

Stately architecture in The Hague

Your next destination is The Hague. Known to the Dutch as Den Haag, it's the seat of the Dutch government and home to one of the most magnificent paintings in the country, Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. You'll have a chance to view it in person while visiting the Mauritshuis. The museum features a few of the 37 paintings Vermeer created during his life, as well as works by Rembrandt, Jan Steen, and Frans Hals.

After your museum visit, you'll go on a short bicycle tour around the city, then pedal over to nearby Scheveningen Beach. A beach retreat for the rich and famous since the 1800s, the area and still retains some of the grandeur from days gone by. The coastline and the long pier are wonderful for walking, and if the weather's warm, you can go for a dip in the North Sea. Relax over a seafood dinner before heading back to town.

Day 4: Cycle Around Rotterdam on a Guided Tour

Modern buildings in Rotterdam

Catch a train from The Hague to the city of Rotterdam. It's a city of many faces, known for its rough-and-tumble port history, trendy nightlife, upscale shopping options, and lively art scene. Above all, perhaps, Rotterdam is an architectural highlight of Holland. Hop on a bicycle and follow a local guide, who will lead you through the historical and modern parts of the city. One highlight of the tour is picture-perfect Delfshaven, home to windmills, canals, and small churches. It's one of the most classically Dutch-looking parts of the city. 

Continue on your tour to the Merwe-Vierhaven district, where a mix of young entrepreneurs and creatives live and work in restored old warehouses. This area forms the so-called Rotterdam Maker’s District. Monuments of note that your guide will point out include the HAKA building, Departure Hall Oranje, and the Europoint Towers. You'll also see the Floating Farm, the world's first offshore dairy farm, in addition to an array of interesting buildings and colorful street art. Finish up at the harbor, where massive cargo ships come and go.

Day 5: Sightsee and Relax on a River Beach in Antwerp

The grandeur of Antwerp's Central Station

In the morning, head over the border to Antwerp, Belgium! The train ride takes just one hour, and upon arrival, you'll find yourself in the middle of a major landmark. The train station, built in 1905, has magnificent interiors and a grand facade.

The afternoon is free for you to explore the heart of this historic city. The city center occupies a relatively small area, so it’s easy to see on foot. Follow narrow medieval streets past countless 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. The construction of this Roman Catholic cathedral started in 1352. Inside, you will find a significant number of paintings by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. 

Afterward, do as the Belgians do and stop to enjoy a cold Belgian beer on one of the many open-air terraces in the city center. If the weather is good, stroll over to one of the city’s river beaches at Sint Anneke or Sint Annastrand on the other side of the Scheldt River. You’ll find food and drinks at the cafés along the riverbanks, or bring your own picnic. 

Day 6: Taste Local Specialties on a Food Tour of Antwerp

Belgian waffles in their place of origin

After breakfast and a leisurely morning, indulge in Antwerp’s cuisine with a walking food tour through the city. No food tour of this area would be complete without a stop at a classic Belgian bakery, where you’ll try the famous Belgian frieten (chips), chocolate, and waffles. Since Antwerp is a port city, the local cuisine is made up of a mix of Belgian and international influences. 

After the tour, walk over to the Rubens House, once the home of the 17th-century painter Peter Paul Rubens. The house is open to the public, offering a great opportunity to see some of the artist’s works and to learn more about the way Rubens lived.

Day 7: Sample Chocolates and Enjoy the Scenery in Bruges

Fanciful buildings in Bruges

Return to the magnificent train station to catch a train to Bruges. This is a city best explored on foot, full of cobblestoned alleys and charming squares. While strolling around the city center, gazing up at colorful facades, take time to stop at one of the many chocolate shops that Bruges is famous for.

Admire the traditional lacework for sale in various shops and boutiques, then sit at a café on one of Bruges' historic squares and try out a locally brewed beer like Brugse Zot. If you're up for a stroll away from the city center, there are four old windmills worth a detour before enjoying dinner at one of the city's many excellent restaurants.

Day 8: Enjoy a Boat Tour Around Medieval Ghent

A striking view of Gravensteen Castle

After breakfast, catch a train to the fairytale-like city of Ghent. The city is home to many wonderful monuments and museums, including S.M.A.K. (focused on modern art), STAM (a history museum), and the Design Museum. Pay a visit to the medieval castle Gravensteen, located right in the city center, and the massive St. Bavo’s Cathedral. The Gothic cathedral is well-known as the home of part of the famous Ghent Altarpiece, a famous set of paintings created in 1432 by a pair of artist brothers, the Van Eycks. Parts of the paintings were stolen in the past, and one was never found again. Conspiracy theories persist 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. Sit back and enjoy the views of this picturesque city. After the boat tour, dine at Pakhuis, a good restaurant housed in a former warehouse.

Day 9: See Ghent's Top Markets and Cultural Highlights

A cheerful waterfront promenade in Ghent

If today happens to be a Sunday, then head to the Kouter to visit the large flower market and indulge in fresh oysters. Another great spot is the Vrijdagmarkt (literally meaning Friday Market). The market is open on Fridays and Saturdays — a great spot if you like seafood — but even if your schedule doesn't match up, the 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 cafés on the plaza. 

You'll have time in the afternoon to visit any museums or sights you didn't have time for on day eight. On the last evening of the trip, enjoy a leisurely Belgian meal in one of the city's many restaurants. Finish your adventure with a nightcap at ‘t Dreupelkot, specializing in locally made gin. It's located close to Gravensteen Castle. 

Day 10: Depart Ghent 

Classic architecture and blue skies in Ghent

Your adventure around Holland and Belgium has come to a close. Wherever you're headed next, have a safe trip!

More Great Netherlands & Belgium Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Netherlands and Belgium? Check out these other Netherlands itineraries, including a 10-day Art Tour of the Netherlands, a 10-day Family Tour of the Netherlands, and a two-week Grand Tour of the Netherlands.

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